Diatribes of Jay

This is a blog of essays on public policy. It shuns ideology and applies facts, logic and math to economic, social and political problems. It has a subject-matter index, a list of recent posts, and permalinks at the ends of posts. Comments are moderated and may take time to appear. Note: Profile updated 4/7/12

26 August 2015

A Dozen Reasons for a Global Bear Market

[For an update on gene editing as the possible source of a transformative new industry, click here.]

1. China really matters
2. China is slowing down
3. The other BRICs are slowing down, too
4. Slow growth is developed nations’ destiny
5. The oil glut will continue
6. Global trade is slowing down
7. Whole new industries are unlikely to appear soon
8. Sustainability is lurking, if not starting now
9. The chickens of our bloated and lawless financial sector are coming home to roost
10. Fear of inflation precludes a regulatory correction
11. The fear stampede already has begun
12. Fear stampedes come in waves, as in 1929
Update on Gene Editing (8/30/15)

Is the recent global stock-market crash a temporary blip or a trend? As always, it’s hard to tell. But there are a number of reasons why we all may already be in a sustained, global bear market. Here they are, in rough order of importance:

1. China really matters.

China matters a lot, probably even more than we Yanks do. China has the world’s number-two economy, and it’s still on track to become number one. It also comprises nearly a quarter of our species.

With China’s growth slowing, its becoming number one may take a few years longer than now expected. But growth is still stronger at 7% than at 2.8%. And remember, we’re talking about exponentials. Since before the Crash of 2008, China has been, by far, the chief engine of global economic growth.

2. China is slowing down.

There are five reasons why China is slowing down. First, it has to. Consistent growth at 9% is unsustainable, not to mention extraordinarily hard to manage politically. Second, China is aging, in part due to its now-weakening one-child policy, which (by the way) has been, and still is, absolutely necessary for China’s economic rise.

Third, China is turning inward. Its primary economic policy today is converting China from dependence on international trade to a modern consumer economy like ours, in which our own Yankee consumers account for 68% of GDP.

Fourth, China’s entrenched and intractable culture of corruption is holding it back. Xi is making some progress in fighting corruption, but it’s still not enough.

Finally, while Xi is enlightened in some respects, he is centralizing power, and the instincts of the people he has put in charge of China’s economy seem retrograde to genuine market reforms. The reflexive “prop it up” reaction to the first big stock-market crash in China is probably just the tip of the iceberg. With all these problems, China’s growth may be even slower and more erratic than now expected.

3. The other BRICs are slowing down, too.

They have different reasons, but the trend is marked. Brazil is corrupt and mismanaged. Russia is not as corrupt but equally mismanaged, and Russia is far too dependent on oil, which is in glut.

India is perennially a nation with an “enormous potential” that is proving highly resistant to realization. There are reasons for this: before 1947—less than 70 years ago—India wasn’t much of a country. It was a collection of vastly different rajas and principalities, with different languages, cultures, histories and governments. It’s still trying to pull itself together, and Narendra Modi’s history of tribalism doesn’t help much.

4. Slow growth is developed nations’ destiny.

Developed nations’ economies are “mature.” Their populations are rapidly aging. So slow growth will be their fate for the foreseeable future. This includes us Yanks.

Some growth can come from smoothing out growing economic inequality. But developed countries have nothing like China’s (or India’s) potential in this regard. China alone has several hundred million poor peasants waiting to be urbanized and integrated into a modern economy. The only possible sources of renewed growth in developed nations are: (1) financial Ponzi schemes like the one that caused the Crash of 2008; (2) recovering from catastrophes, for example, a nuclear war or environmental catastrophe; or (3), on the good side, massive investment in sustainability, which may be starting but hasn’t yet taken hold.

With developing nations slowing down, and developed nations basically stagnating, where’s high growth going to come from? Mars?

5. The oil glut will continue.

It’s a simple matter of supply and demand. Supply exceeds demand. With global growth slowing, that fact will likely persist for some time.

OPEC, which still controls the global market, might cut production, but it has developed a habit of discipline. More important, only a few nations—Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran and Russia—have sufficient reserves to affect global pricing all by themselves. Russia and Iran can’t because of political sanctions and foreign antipathy. Iraq is still fighting a civil war and a war with IS. And the Saudis don’t want to cut production.

If the Iran deal is consummated, and if Iran observes it long enough to see the back of sanctions, another huge flow of excess oil supply will come on the market in about six months. Then oil prices will tank further. Or, as that moment approaches, oil markets may adjust, and prices may drop more gradually.

6. Global trade is slowing down.

Generally speaking, international trade is a good thing. Besides war, trade is the only way foreign cultures deal with each other on a sustained and daily basis. Of the two, trade is more pleasant.

But global trade is succumbing to powerful modern trends: sustainability, localization, protection of jobs, and protection of food security. It wasn’t the abomination that I call “pay for rules” that has killed the TPP. It was the slowly increasing craving for more local control over jobs and food, among other things.

Today the “locavore” movement is not just a matter of upscale restaurants. In an era of increasing angst about energy and food security, it seems more sustainable and efficient to grow food and make heavy things like cars closer to where they are used.

There are more reasons than just jobs and food security to source things locally. Centralization is generally bad human social organization, as the collapse of Chinese and Soviet Communism proved. In contrast, diversity is the general rule of biological health and survival.

So doesn’t it make sense to grow and make things all over the world, in distributed farms and production facilities, rather than growing and making them in huge, centralized industrial complexes and then shipping them all over the world? Isn’t the latter approach like the old, Soviet centralized heating system for the whole City of Leningrad, whose failure, not too long ago, froze heroes?

7. Whole new industries are unlikely to appear soon.

Among our species, sustained global growth spurts have come from radically new technologies, which spawned whole new industries and industrial clusters. Coal power and assembly lines sparked the Industrial Revolution. Oil, electricity, automobiles and aircraft, as well as electromagnetic communication (telephone, radio and television) sustained it for another century. So did modern medicine, which vastly increased our population and longevity and is still doing so.

Yet despite our species’ massive recent investment in R & D, there’s nothing comparable happening today. Few, if any, of the “innovations” of the last thirty years are “transformative” in the same way that those mentioned in the previous paragraph were. Even the Internet is not.

Sure, the Internet makes commerce and industry more efficient. But it’s likely to be far more disruptive in politics, international relations and the arts than in industry. Uber and Airbnb don’t create whole new industries. They just steal trade from cab drivers or hotels and short-term apartments, respectively, plus expand those businesses and make them more efficient. They are variations on a theme. Even the Tesla is similar: it’s just another automobile, albeit one which has a more flexible and ultimately sustainable source of energy.

Really transformative new industries are still on the drawing boards. One might be affordable private space travel (SpaceX and Virgin Galactic). Another might be nuclear fusion in a bottle. A third might be genetic modification of children, so-called “designer babies.” Some day we might design children smart enough to support sustainability, and not to watch Fox!

On our species’ way up from fire to sustainable energy from the wind and Sun, we’ve often charged ahead only to discover serious unintended consequences. So far, unforeseen consequences have included (among many other things) the “Silent Spring,” Chernobyl, Fukushima, the global spread of atmospheric radioactivity before the nuclear test ban treaties, and massive air pollution in cities, the worst of which today probably lurks in Beijing and Shanghai. Today, even little things also harass us, like the nanobeads used in soap and perfume that are now cluttering the bottoms of our lakes and rivers and appearing in the fish we eat.

Unintended consequences were a lot less dangerous when our technologies were less powerful and we were much less numerous. But now that we number over seven billion, and now that we can raise about a billion people out of poverty in one generation, we have to be more circumspect. A wrong turn—for example, a reversion to coal power—could spell horrible suffering for our species. Add to that the fact that we’ve already eaten the low-hanging fruit of species-wide, radical industrial transformation, and it’s hard to see how “innovation” is going to sustain otherwise unsustainable growth.

Don’t get me wrong. Innovation will continue and probably accelerate. But it will become more and more “technical” and incremental, i.e., smaller scale. We’re unlikely to see, at least anytime in the next decade, new industries as economically and socially transformative as steam engines, electricity, electromagnetic communication, the automobile, the computer, or the airplane.

8. Sustainability is lurking, if not starting now.

One of the oddest things about our species is our quaint notion that we can keep growing, in population and economic impact, virtually forever. Biologists know what happens when any species outgrows it habitat. There is a euphemistically-named “population crash,” caused by disease, starvation, predation, environmental disaster, ecological collapse, or conflict, which in our case means war.

Despite having Sir Thomas Malthus’ only-partly-right prediction for well over two centuries, we humans still think the normal rules of biology don’t apply to us. In that respect, we’re all sort of like Hillary Clinton and her private e-mail system as Secretary of State.

But perceptions are changing. They are changing so slowly they’re like watching grass grow or paint dry. But changing they are, especially among the young, and especially in big cities in developed nations.

There are so many aspects to the change that it’s hard to name them all. But here are a few: (1) population control in China and slowing of the population explosion elsewhere, (2) the push for renewable energy and conserving fossil fuels (which the present oil glut will counteract), (3) the slow transition to non-industrial-scale and sustainable agriculture, in part to escape food-borne diseases (4) the “locavore” movement for sustainably sourcing food near where it’s eaten, and thereby enjoying fresher and tastier food, (5) the trend of “hip” young people to live in cities, in smaller dwellings with more walkable amenities, and (6) the trend among young urban dwellers toward using public or shared transportation, including shared bicycles and cars, instead of owning personal vehicles.

Many of these trends, of course, will spawn or promote new industries. Renewable energy is perhaps the most salient example. But, generally speaking, they reflect a desire of our globally aging population, and even our young, to “downsize.” Once these trends reach fruition, if they ever do, the result will probably be a “smaller” global economy, with smaller GDP numbers and less frenetic international trade, but with generally happier, safer and healthier people. People’s lives will become richer and better, at the cost of less impressive economic statistics.

9. The chickens of our bloated and lawless financial sector are coming home to roost.

We Yanks and developed economies put far too much money, effort, brainpower and people into financial “products” and investments and their automation, which do little but exacerbate volatility. Someone should do a study of the increase in financial-“industry” employment since the Crash of 1929. It would probably look like the hockey-stick graph of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide: a slow and steady increase for decades, followed by an inflection point and an exponential rise, probably beginning somewhere in the mid to late eighties, just before the orgy of deregulation that led to the Crash of 2008.

What do all those people do? Do they assist so-called “capital formation,” funding new real businesses and startups with new ideas to do real things? Not hardly. The vast majority of what they do is speculation, which our tougher-minded Yankee pioneer forbears would call “gambling.”

Even we geezers are in on the game. With interest rates at rock bottom, we can’t just put our considerable collective cash hoard in banks. And there aren’t (yet?) enough public venture-capital firms for us to assist in capital formation. So we participate in the general orgy of speculation, directly through investments in stocks or bonds or indirectly through mutual funds.

Two very, very smart people have warned us about all this, one just two days ago, and one eighty years ago. Two days ago, Mohammed El-Erian, under interview on PBS, pointed out that all the extra “liquidity” our Fed and other central banks have injected into the global economy has raised the prices of assets (stocks and bonds, and even real estate) artificially. (His view does not contradict my view that central-bank generosity has not sparked inflation in the prices of goods and services, because goods and real services are different from financial assets and act differently.)

Eighty years ago, the great economist John Maynard Keynes penned a short essay absolutely nailing what drives the financial “industry.” It’s not long-term investment in real business, which is difficult and risky and gets no one rich quick. Instead, it’s speculation.

The financial minions all work on a single principle: they can get rick quick, or have a decent chance of doing so, not by predicting economic growth or industrial direction, or by investing in startups, but by beating small investors like you and me, or each other, to the punch.

It’s all reminiscent of the old joke about two men in the wild threatened by a bear. “I don’t have to outrun the bear,” one says to the other. “I just have to outrun you.” And so it is with bear markets.

That’s the basic principle on which the financial “industries” operate, and which Keynes articulated eighty years ago. Today the people who feed this beast are more numerous, more powerful, and more wealthy than ever before. They make money as bulls or bears; they thrive on volatility. And they have all the tools of modern computers, high-frequency trading, lax (and sometimes clueless) regulators, and favorable tax rates. You think all this is going to end soon or well?

10. Fear of inflation precludes a regulatory correction.

What saved our species from the Crash of 2008—besides our various central banks—was a vital, practical distinction between real goods and services, on the one hand, and financial investments on the other. I have written a whole, long essay on why the central banks’ largesse didn’t spark inflation. In essence, geezers like me, plus corporations, absorbed the excess liquidity but didn’t spend it, at least not on goods or services, which would have raised their prices. Instead, the hoarders invested in financial instruments, raising their prices. That at least, is what Mohammed El-Erian says.

But now the central banks are out of ammo. They have no room to lower interest rates to spark real economic activity because interest rates are, already and artificially, at rock bottom. They’ve been there since the Crash of 2008. On the other hand, central banks can’t raise interest rates, as Janet Yellen has been threatening to do all year, because doing so would exacerbate the deflationary trends driven by Points 1 though 9 of this essay.

Raising interest rates would not only deflate the asset bubble. It would impair credit for real goods and services—the lifeblood of commerce and international trade.

So the Fed and other central banks are stuck, helpless, without ammo. All they can do now is what used to be called “jawboning,” leaving The Markets to the same conditions of lawlessness and caprice that ruled in 1929 and 2008. The Fed can prevent the Masters of the Universe and their “too-big-to-fail” banks from taking on excessive risk, and it is doing so. But that doesn’t prevent the rest of us sheep from stampeding.

11. The fear stampede already has begun.

In an earlier essay, I introduced the notion of financial “stampedes,” as a better metaphor than a “bubble.” Financial catastrophes entail two kinds of stampedes. The first is a greed stampede, which inflates the prices of assets.

Greed stampedes are usually slow. They build up over a long period of time, as regulations get lax and more and more people besides financial professionals join the get-rich-quick party.

The great financier Bernard Baruch saved his fortune by selling out in 1929. Why? He detected the near-climax of the First-Gilded-Age greed stampede when his cab drivers starting offering him stock tips.

What follows the greed stampede, as night the day, is the fear stampede. In it markets plummet, some sell out, and many are ruined. That, I think, is what started happening a week or so ago.

Now fear stampedes happen much faster, and are much more dangerous, than greed stampedes. They are nearly impossible to stop. At least they were in 1929 and 2008.

Today we have three relatively new phenomena that make them even harder to stop. First, financial investment is far wider spread than ever before; reportedly half of us Yanks own stocks or bonds individually or through mutual funds. Second, financial professionals are more numerous, more powerful and richer than ever before. Whether right or wrong in fact, they all believe that they can profit from beating you and me, or each other, as the bear approaches. Finally, we have the utterly new phenomena of multiple parallel electronic markets connected to secret and antagonistic trading algorithms, which which the pros now try to beat each other, you and me.

12. Fear stampedes come in waves, as in 1929.

One reason the “stampede” is a much better metaphor than the “bubble” is that financial crashes and panics depend first of all on human perception and reaction. They’re like a bit of smoke or small flames in a crowded theater. Some nervous folk smell a whiff or see small flames and head for the exits. Some sit in their seats, thinking “it’s just some bozo lighting up” or “a grip will appear with a fire extinguisher.” Others just wait and see, while still others fear the risk of being trampled or hope someone will save them until they start to feel high heat. Then they bolt.

And so it is with financial stampedes. The pros—at least those who want to be out—are already out. Others want to ride the inevitable successive waves of “bottom-feeding”—buys by optimistic folk amongst the generally downward trend. No doubt they have tuned their trading algorithms accordingly.

The rest of us are individual and corporate small investors lacking our own proprietary trading algorithms. Some of us have smelled strong smoke and sold out already. I’m among them. Others are waiting and seeing.

Sure, there will be rallies. There are always optimists, and transient opportunities to profit on the upside will appear. But markets can take time to reach bottom. After 1929, it took about four years. Today, with far wider ownership, a 24-hour news cycle, and electronic, algorithmic trading, it could happen a lot quicker.

Some still credit the near-universal advice of pros: in the long run, markets revert to the mean, and stock and bonds make money. But as that selfsame John Maynard Keynes once said, in the long run we are all dead.

Right now, an unquantifiable but huge hoard of cash is in a geriatric money pit. Like me, its owners are closer to, and more conscious of, the truth of Keynes’ point. Their “long term” is shorter than others’. Some of them will no doubt heed the pros’ incessant calling for patience and fortitude as they race to win. A lot more, in my view, will sell out. They will do so in waves, depending on their awareness, risk aversion, and attention, as the bear approaches.

Not everyone, even in small and medium-sized businesses, reviews his or her portfolio every day. But people are doing that now. You can tell by the long waits and occasional “busy signals” you get when you try to access your broker or mutual fund online. But as more people do review their wreckage, and as more awareness spreads, you can expect more selling. That’s just human nature.


Notwithstanding alleged improvements in governance, we’re not really much safer than in 1929. Like military leaders always fighting the last war, the regulators can’t ever catch up. Sure, we have limits on margin buying—the most obvious and immediate cause of the Crash of 1929. Sure, our markets are generally better scrutinized by regulators and more orderly and systematic.

But our regulators and even pundits are way behind in two respects. First, no one has come to grips with multiple, parallel, electronically-connected markets, let alone the automated, high frequency trading algorithms that now run them.

No one, least of all regulators, has the big picture. In the real world of computers, a system like that, with multiple, antagonistic programmers constantly throwing software out, mostly in secret, would have to be tested for months or years before being allowed to “go live.” If that’s happening, or even beginning to happen, in our electronic markets, I’m Napoleon. Regulators, including the SEC, just don’t have the time, patience, staff, technical expertise or situational awareness.

So the law of unintended consequences is now the most important law governing our collective financial future.

The second big risk is derivatives. They’re still out there, to the tune off somewhere between $500 and $700 trillion. No one knows for sure, not even the Fed. Many of these transactions are still secret, with no public accounting; they are made in so-called “dark pools.” Due to heavy lobbying by bankers and the general obscurity of the subject, Dodd-Frank hardly touched them.

Our only real bulwarks against a repeat of the Crash of 2008 are the pros’ own greater awareness and risk aversion and the Fed’s higher capital-reserve ratios. If turmoil in stock and bond markets bleeds over into the huge and largely secret market for derivatives, we may have a Second Great Depression. If so, it will be global.

So sleep robustly, my children. By “robustly,” I mean with courage. There is no wise and benevolent regulator looking after your interests. As in 1929 and 2008, you are mostly on your own.

I’m writing this essay as an exercise in thinking out loud, and to reward the small cadre of faithful readers of this blog. I have mostly put my money where my mouth is: I’m now about 85%-90% in cash, guaranteed funds and a single, ultra-low-volatility non-REIT real-property fund of directly owned properties.

So I’m out in the fresh air, away from the smoke and flames, with a fire extinguisher in my hand, standing aside from the likely path of the nascent stampede. Where are you?

Update on Gene Editing (8/30/15)

I wrote the foregoing post before reading The Economist’s review of the nascent science of gene editing, The Economist, Aug. 22, 2015, at 19-22. The new CRISPR-Cas9 technology, which permits selective gene editing, has potential applications well beyond “designer babies.” Indeed, designer babies are its most difficult and most controversial application and therefore among its least explored. More pedestrian applications include: (1) discovering the functions of human, animal and plant genes, the vast majority of which are unknown, (2) modifying food animals and crop plants to improve their yields, resistance to pests, growth efficiency, nutritional value and taste, (3) modifying disease vectors and other pests, such as mosquitoes, so they cannot carry diseases or are otherwise less harmful, and (4) correcting genetic deficiencies in humans, other animals and plants, i.e., curing genetic diseases.

Already at least half a dozen startups have formed to explore and exploit these techniques, and they are fully capitalized. And already there is a battle royal over patenting, with a patent application for the basic technology vying against an issued patent for its use in animals and plants. For technology historians, this titanic battle will recall the contest among Alexander Graham Bell and other alleged inventors for control over the telephone. (At the Supreme Court, The Telephone Cases spawned an entire volume of the Supreme Court Reporter (with that title)—the only single legal dispute ever to have achieved that distinction.)

In the long term—perhaps even in the medium term—this technology could become transformative. It could change agriculture, medicine, industry and society as much, for example, as did the Bessemer converter to make steel, or the discovery that you can make electricity by rotating a coil of wire inside a magnetic field (or vice versa).

What are its implications for employment? At first glance, it might seem that the principal beneficiaries would be PhDs in microbiology, a relatively small group. But we humans have 20,000 genes each, and every animal or plant has a similar order of magnitude. It’s unlikely, although possible in theory, that the process of gene editing could ever be fully automated. So this nascent industry will need plenty of skilled and semi-skilled labor, including: (1) lab technicians to do the editing, test the results, and (if successful) bring them up to industrial scale; (2) industrial workers to effect industrial-scale gene editing and the distribution of its products; (3) farmers to test and exploit the results in agriculture; (4) engineers and industrial workers to produce the enzymes and genetic chemicals, and the laboratory equipment, to practice the technique, and (5) all sorts of guards, inspectors and monitors to ward off unintended consequences, such as a modified crop seed or food animal getting out prematurely into the wild, or into a productive, non-experimental farm.

In a mere four years, this burgeoning field has exploded from around 100 to around 1,000 scientific papers annually. It could easily produce new industries within the next five years, almost certainly within the next ten. Then gene editing might become the new computer programming—another way to manipulate information, this time genetic information—to improve our lives and our control over ourselves and our environment. Indeed, we might eventually come to think of gene editing as biological programming.


20 August 2015

Defending the Indefensible

Advocacy and science
The adversary system and so-called “think tanks”
Conclusion: the rise of ideology


There are reasons why I retired from teaching law “early,” at 66. Some were personal. I had health issues that modern medicine subsequently managed to fix. But there were professional reasons, too. I was beginning to see my chosen profession—the most recent of three—as part of our nation’s fundamental structural defects.

The foundation of Anglo-American law and our legal structure is the adversary system. The abstract idea is simple. Two zealous advocates make the best possible arguments for each of two sides. Then a smart, well-trained, impartial and independent judge evaluates their arguments and makes a decision.

The truth—or the closest approximation to it of which humans are capable—will emerge from the neutral judge’s observation of this verbal gladatorial combat. So the widely accepted notion goes.

From the moment a student enters law school until he or she graduates, praise for the adversary system resounds in his or her ears. There is virtually no critical analysis. There is no exploration of deficiencies or limits. In law school the adversary system is like God to believers. It’s much like the alleged self-curative powers of markets before Alan Greenspan’s public recantation.

The vast majority of our political leaders underwent just this sort of indoctrination. After all, they were trained as lawyers. Many of them entered public service through lawyering, often as prosecutors, public defenders, or private advocates. Even one of our key (but less celebrated) Founders was John Adams, a consummate advocate who cut his legal teeth defending the British soldiers accused in the Boston Massacre.

So bit by bit, willy nilly, the adversary system has crept out of the courtroom and permeated our entire culture. It has captured our politics, in which so-called “think tanks” don’t think at all. Instead, they zealously advocate for predetermined ideological positions. It has co-opted business, for which zealous advocates in “public relations” vie for favorable customer and public opinion, and zealous legislative and regulatory advocates vie for governmental favors in lobbying.

Finally—and most tellingly—our adversary system has subverted science. Today, advocates for this or that scientific “truth” vie for influence on legislative and regulatory bodies and public opinion. So the health effects of various artificial substances and environmental issues like global warming have become less subjects of observation and experiment and more matters of public advocacy. In practical effect, what scientists say, calculate and think doesn’t matter as much as what zealous advocates say, and in what forum.

The adversary system’s reductio ad absurdum is Citizens United. That supremely misguided decision has replaced our representative democracy with a bizarre form of adversary system. Rich people and their political minions commission propaganda from hired guns (the zealous advocates), who then present the propaganda to the people and their elected representatives for judgment, mostly on TV, but now also over the Internet. May the best propagandist win!

Don’t get me wrong. The adversary system is a powerful one within its proper realm. When two contrary subjective views of a specific point of evidence collide, it can help reveal which is more credible. When two witnesses offer contradictory testimony, cross-examination can help discern who is lying or mistaken. As a modern expert on legal evidence somewhat immodestly pontificated, cross-examination is “beyond any doubt the greatest legal engine ever invented for the discovery of truth[.]” (Emphasis added).

But do these uncritical paeans to the adversary system hold true outside the courtroom? What if the evidence is objective, as well as subjective? What if there are more than two sides to a story? What if both are wrong, or simply incomplete? What if the issue is not which witness is more truthful or credible, whether plaintiff or defendant should win, or whether a jury should convict a criminal defendant, but which of several paths a whole society should take to solve a very pressing practical problem? What if the issue is the direction of an entire society’s culture?

This essay attempts to answer these questions. It does so against the background of the adversary system’s worst recent abuses. It concludes, not surprisingly, that we Yanks have applied the adversary system so far beyond its proper competence that it has become a structural defect of our American culture and political life.

Advocacy and science

Perhaps the most egregious example of the adversary system’s expanding beyond its Peter Principle is its misapplication to science. That’s not surprising, for science proceeds from entirely different basic postulates than does law or any courtroom.

In a legal trial, there are two opposing parties and opposing witnesses. The job of the truth finder—jury or judge—is to determine which of them is more honest and whose perception is more reliable and, in criminal trials, whether the difference lies “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

It’s all relative. The parties and their opposing witnesses are the entire “universe” of truth. All the judge or jury has to do is decide which side is more credible. Then the job is done.

Science is entirely different. It’s wholly based on a fundamental assumption: that an external, objective reality exists, apart from any of us and our perceptions. That reality is distinct from Mind, consciousness, personality, society and culture. In fact, it subsumes all those things. It goes without saying that such an assumed reality is distinct from, and subsists beyond, any witness’ testimony, or indeed any one person’s views.

The assumption of such a reality has a corollary. We humans can approach knowing it through careful observation and experiment. But we can never get there. We can never know or understand external reality fully because our brains are too small. (Can a brain the size of a grapefruit comprehend the Universe, or even our own planet, which is inestimably bigger?)

Like the existence or nonexistence of God, this assumption of an external, objective reality, apart from Mind, must be taken on faith. No one can prove or disprove it. At least Kant couldn’t.

Although unproved, the assumption of an external reality has been very useful indeed. Since the time of Galileo, when we humans made it, we have become infinitely greater masters of our environment and our world, including ourselves. Now we can cure or prevent most diseases, fly though the air, go to the Moon, and communicate nearly instantaneously around the globe. We can even extinguish ourselves with nuclear fire, as we almost did in 1962. We could do none of these things in Galieo’s day, a mere four centuries ago.

This big assumption, and the science it spawned, has worked wonders in the meantime. It has made us, as a species, more powerful than we have ever been in all the hundreds of thousands of previous years of our biological evolution, and in all the 10,000 pervious years of our recorded history.

But today, in America, science has met its match and its Nemesis in the adversary system. It’s simply a matter of numbers.

In order to approach knowing an assumed external reality, you have to make observations and do experiments. Or you have to have read about and understood them. Doing either takes a lot of specialized education and training. In many cases, it takes a Ph.D.

And that’s not all. Science today is highly specialized. Generally speaking, someone with a Ph.D. in physics is no more an expert in endocrine physiology than is the average non-scientist. So the number of specialists able to speak authoritatively in any specialized field of science is minuscule compared to our species’ now seven billion population.

Even so-called “climate scientists,” in all their myriad actual scientific specialties, number no more than 5,000 worldwide. That’s 0.0000007% of our global population. Convince just 10,000 ordinary folk that the scientists are crazy, and you’ve got them on the run.

Unfortunately, that’s all too easy to do. Scientists sometimes tell us things we don’t want to hear. They tell people addicted to nicotine that smoking is bad not only for them, but for their loved ones, too. They tell us that the fossil fuels to which our entire energy infrastructure is addicted are irrevocably (and rapidly) changing our climate and also running out . They tell us that an ingredient used in food cans’ liners, called biphenyl A, is an endocrine disruptor that is changing and likely harming our children’s sexual development.

These are things ordinary people don’t want to hear. So it’s easy for people who profit and live off the status quo to turn ordinary people against scientists.

Machiavelli wouldn’t even work up a sweat. With modern propagandists (ad-making and PR folk) shilling for him, he wouldn’t have to do much himself, just direct and supervise the propaganda.

I don’t mean to make light of the problem. There is a serious, intrinsic conflict between democracy and science. In science, not everyone gets to vote. You have to know something.

Most scientists don’t mind this because they recognize others’ good work. They also can see and admit when other people are smarter than they are or know more than they do. Very few, if any, lawyers or pols do that. I guess you might say that, as a professional class, scientists share Pope Francis’ humility.

In the best of all possible worlds, only the scientists who actually made—or tried to duplicate or refute—the relevant experiments or observations, or who developed useful and relevant predictive theories, would get to vote. In a democracy, everyone gets a vote, no matter how uneducated or ignorant. No specialized training or acquaintance with that assumed external reality is required. Hence widespread denial of global warming.

I’ve been writing a book on this key difference between science and democracy for nine years. So far, I’ve found no general solution, only a few practical ways to make democracies work better with science.

But one thing is clear: the adversary system is no way to resolve issues of scientific fact. Only the scientific community itself can do that. And if observation, experiment or useful theory is absent or inadequate, you just have to be patient and let them grow. If you make a decision based on incomplete knowledge and evidence, as both civil and criminal trials often do, you will just be rolling the dice.

In addressing scientific issues, the adversary system has two fundamental and fatal deficiencies. First, it often assumes a controversy where none exists. More than any other human institution, science works by consensus. It achieves that consensus rapidly, especially as compared to law or politics. Where consensus is absent, there is usually no controversy, but rather a low-key understanding that “we just don’t know yet.”

For example, there is no controversy within the scientific community about global warming or its anthropogenic origin. In the United States, there hasn’t been since 2007, when our National Academies (plural) of Science issued a joint statement on the subject . Subsequent promulgations of various Intergovernmental Panels on Climate Change have made clear that the consensus is global and has been for years.

The second flaw of the adversary system is largely the fault of our media. They look for controversy to sell “news.” In looking for controversy where none exists, at least within science, they aggrandize the value of non-scientific opinions and devalue the hard work and lengthy training of scientists. When a news organization sits a corporate shill (usually a lawyer) or untutored ideologue next to a Nobel Prize winner in the relevant scientific specialty and has a “discussion,” it’s not just promoting the adversary system far beyond its Peter Principle. It’s also promoting caprice and irrationality in public policy.

This is a common practice, especially on TV. Far from “objectivity” in journalism, it’s an assault on reason. Some “controversies” don’t really have two sides: there are right and wrong answers. Two plus two really does equal four. And the Earth really does orbit the Sun, despite persistent surveys suggesting that significant fractions of Americans don’t know or understand that basic fact of astronomy.

You wouldn’t have someone without medical or surgical training take out your inflamed appendix, would you? Nor would you have someone with no flight training pilot the Dreamliner you fly in. So why credit someone with no scientific training or relevant expertise on matters of science?

Yet that’s what many pols and our media try to get us to do every day, in service of a gross misapplication of adversarial principles and reason. That’s why, for just one example, Senator Inhofe (R., OK), whose highest academic attainment was a 1944 undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Tulsa, should keep his mouth shut on matters of global warming, and snowballs on the playground where apparently he belongs.

The adversary system and so-called “think tanks”

The adversary system has perhaps its most pernicious effect where it interacts with ideology. Unfortunately, that is where it has its widest application today.

Once upon a time, so-called “think tanks” actually deserved that name. They were groups of very smart, well-educated people, assembled to tackle difficult problems and recommend intelligent, well-considered solutions to leaders. Like scientists (which some of them were), they tried hard not to go beyond their proven and recognized expertise.

Today, think tanks are quite different. How do you know? Because each is identified with a particular political ideology. Their job is not to solve problems, but to promote their respective ideologies.

That, in itself, is a bad thing, for reasons that we’ll explore further below. But it gets worse. When you espouse and defend a particular ideology, you have to be reactionary. When a rival think tank—or anyone—comes out with a report or study that affects your fixed ideological position, you must respond.

So it was with Thomas Piketty’s pathbreaking, multi-year study of economic inequality in America and other advanced nations, entitled Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Within weeks of its publication, the Heritage Foundation (a so-called “conservative think tank”) had come out with a paper purporting to “refute” the book’s basic conclusion—that inequality is severe and getting worse in advanced capitalist nations.

Never mind that it’s hard (to say the least) to match in a few weeks a multi-year exercise in collecting and analyzing real data globally. Never mind that the refuting “study” collected no data of its own, but just tried to poke holes in Piketty’s data and reasoning. That was in fact its purpose: providing talking points for ideological advocates to counter the import and political effect of Piketty’s study. It was an exercise in public relations and political propaganda, not independent research or thinking. Some “think tank”!

And so it goes. For decades, we had fringe doctors, paid by tobacco companies, producing studies suggesting that smoking is not harmful to your health. All the while, secret reports in the companies’ own files not only suggested the contrary, but sought ways to mitigate the harm. Then we saw the CEOs of five big tobacco companies, standing in a line before a committee of Congress, all testifying that nicotine is not addictive.

For about two decades, we have had “studies” casting doubt and confusion on the near-universal scientific consensus that global warming is real and caused by burning fossil fuels. Now, unsurprisingly, we have “think tank” propaganda purporting to “refute” the vast and growing gulf of economic inequality that we can see all around us just by reading newspapers.

Denying reality is never a good survival strategy, whether for organisms or for nations. As a nation, we Yanks didn’t use to do that. Instead, we took reality as it came and tried to work with it, albeit perhaps from different perspectives. Denial was not our first approach to policy. Yet today, denial is what many of our so-called “think tanks” now spend their time doing, at least if reality seems to favor an opposing ideological view.

To understand what real think tanks used to do, you have to go back a few decades. Then, one of the best was Rand Corp., based in Santa Monica, California.

You can tell just by its name that it tried to be an honest, independent thinker. It’s named for a founder, not a particularly ideology.

But there’s much more than that. I recently spent a long lunch with a very old acquaintance, now retired, who had worked for Rand Corp. and a spinoff for most of his career. The subject of much of our lunch was the President’s putative nuclear deal with Iran.

For a while, we discussed technical issues within the core of my friend’s scientific expertise: how to verify Iran’s compliance with the agreement, and how hard it might be for Iran to circumvent it. My friend pointed out that no agreement of that kind can be absolutely uncircumventable, and he noted some ways Iran might get around it.

But then he surprised me. After a long discussion of technical/strategic issues, I asked him whether he supported the President’s deal. He said he was agnostic. He recognized that technical issues and theoretical means of circumvention weren’t the only issues, or perhaps even the most important ones. Like any broad thinker, he recognized that Iran’s intentions, its prospects for future development and diplomacy, possible alternatives to the deal (including war), geopolitics, domestic politics and even Israeli politics also matter.

That’s what real think tanks do. They think deeply and comprehensively about issues within the core of their expertise, using highly educated and well-trained experts. Then they look broadly at all the other considerations that might affect the solution or an outcome. They don’t, like most think tanks today, start with a predetermined ideological conclusion and justify it. Nor do they serve primarily to provide talking points for ideologues or media pundits. Like a good advisor to a CEO or the nation’s president, they lay out all options and their probable consequences as fully and honestly as they can, without bias or preconception.

Conclusion: the rise of ideology

Many things are structurally wrong with our nation and our culture. Our infrastructure is decaying rapidly and drastically, but no one, least of all the GOP, wants to pay to repair it. Our private bankers have far too much power over our economy and take far too much unsupervised risk with it. Our Senate is grossly malapportioned and will only get more so as time goes on. Our filibusters, Senate holds and our “Hastert Rule” in the House give us permanent minority rule, or at least an unconstitutional minority veto over legislation and Executive appointments. Our police, virtually nationwide, are over-militarized and under-communitized; they have a siege mentality and are far too prone to abuse minorities. And last but not least, gross and growing economic inequality is destroying our optimistic culture, our social cohesion and our “American Dream.”

Expansion of our adversary system well beyond its Peter Principle is not responsible for our decaying infrastructure. But its relates to our other structural flaws as both cause and effect.

Our political adversary system creates rage and polarization by defending the indefensible. One example is our bankers. They set up the greed stampede that led to the fear stampede of the Crash of 2008. They did it by massively violating their own written credit standards to issue liars’ loans. Then they packaged the liars’ loans as securities and sold them to unsuspecting rubes and each other. Their excuse for the disastrous result? The government did it, by encouraging home ownership and failing to supervise them. Isn’t that like a murderer blaming police for failing to stop him from killing?

Another example is the spate of abuses and murders of African-Americans by police. Sandra Bland was head slammed and died in jail after being stopped for failing to signal a lane change. Freddie Gray suffered mortal injuries in a police van after being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Eric Garner died in a choke hold after selling cigarettes without a license. And then there’s the blatant murder of the fleeing man, shot in the back on camera in South Carolina.

Of course the perpetrators of these police atrocities deserve fair trials for crimes, with a presumption of innocence, just like any accused criminal. They even deserve fair hearings for administrative and internal discipline, but without a presumption of innocence or proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

But the system is not an individual, with individual rights. It’s a self-evidently broken system that needs fixing. Blaming the victims by arguing so-called “deficiencies” in African-American culture, speech or upbringing may be zealous advocacy. But it’s defending the indefensible. Only in a police state do citizens have to accommodate to the police, rather than vice versa.

When the Gestapo, Stasi and Savak did like things, no one in America came to their defense. Nor should the police and their trade associations band together like tribal gangs, resisting trials and discipline for perpetrators, as well as systemic reform by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and others.

The police are not all personally on trial, just the individual perpetrators. Police are the experts and the front-line troops. We all know they have hard jobs. Of all people, they should not be zealous advocates for a broken system that makes their jobs even harder. They should be on the front lines of those trying to improve it. Police who use their professional groups to argue against reform are defending the indefensible.

Besides defending the indefensible, spreading the adversary system outside the courtroom has two general pernicious effects. First, it distracts people from cooperating to solve problems and turns them into opposing and largely unthinking tribes.

That’s precisely what the “controversy” over militarized policing and excessive force has done with police and their unions. It has turned them—who have the greatest stake in popular trust and good community relations—into advocates for indefensible militarization, excessive force and even brutality.

Similarly, it has turned bankers, who once were paragons of probity and prudence, into advocates for excessive risk taking and getting rich quick. Both of these groups have intelligent, thoughtful, highly trained people. But defending themselves and the sometimes indefensible behavior of a few has turned the best of them, or at least the most prominent, into irrationally zealous advocates.

The second pernicious effect of a rampant adversary system is that it entrenches ideology. Ideology is not thinking; it’s an excuse for not thinking.

Let me give just one example, which I’ve elaborated in a previous post. Our species has tried Communism twice, on a large scale, in Russia and China. It failed both times. Our own nation tried laissez faire capitalism in the last century. It produced the First Gilded Age, the Crash of 1929, the Great Depression and (indirectly) the most horrible war in human history. Now we have suffered the Crash of 2008 and are in the midst of our Second Gilded Age, with economic inequality rampant and growing rapidly.

How often do we have to make mistakes in order to learn from them? How many times must we experience Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity: trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results?

Neither right-wing nor left-wing ideology is going to help us. Only thinking can. We need to find something to replace Henry Ford’s unprecedented (at the time) $5-a-day wage, which jump-started our Yankee consumer society, and collective bargaining, which consolidated and maintained it for half a century but is now under siege.

Raising the minimum wage can be a temporary expedient, but it’s like fixing a watch by moving the hands to show the correct time. We need new thinking and new solutions to the age-old conflict between labor, management and owners.

We don’t need more zealous advocacy for ideas and systems (Communism and laissez faire capitalism) that have twice undergone large-scale tests and have failed both times. We need to start thinking again, and to stop defending the indefensible, lest China, Germany, the rest of Europe—and maybe even the rest of the BRICs—start eating our lunch.

We Yanks have no monopoly on thinking. But at the moment, we seem to have a near-global monopoly on simplistic ideology. We also have a surfeit of zealous advocates willing to defend it, themselves and their actions, heedless of reason, consequences and often common sense. If we want to remain a global leader, or even a respected and influential once-imperial power like Britain, that must change.


15 August 2015

Bernie’s Moment, and His Test

Julian Bond

The post below was up and published before I heard the news of Julian Bond’s passing. Perhaps the best I can do to explain his meaning in my own life is to link my post from the day after Barack Obama’s first election as President.

To progressive whites of my generation, Bond was both an inspiration and a disappointment. We all thought that he, not Obama, would be our first “black” president. And we thought it would happen back in the seventies or eighties. We were optimists.

The disappointment, of course, wasn’t Bond’s fault. The nation simply wasn’t ready. Nixon’s dreadful “Southern Strategy” had drawn all the racists into a single party and made it theirs, vastly increasing their political clout and longevity. The counter-revolution had begun the same year, 1968, that Bobby Kennedy and Dr. King were shot down.

Yet there was Bond, nevertheless: attractive, intelligent, soft-spoken, moderate, and relentless. His life and his work were constant reminders of how great this nation could be—and what leaders we could have had—if only we all had taken Dr. King’s advice to value content of character over skin color.

One thing I didn’t realize until today. Bond had been president of the Southern Poverty Law Center for twenty years. That marvelous organization in the heart of the Deep South has attracted my donations for four decades and is now in my estate plan. Yet Bond kept such a low profile that I didn’t know of his major role in it until today.

Bond’s passing is a sad day for all of us. But it’s also a reminder. Economic equality is a sine qua non for a healthy and prosperous society. But so is equality of people. We can’t have the society we’ve dreamed of since our Founding while some of us are head-slammed, choked or shot down just because of the way we look and who our ancestors were.

Sure, we’ve made progress. A half-black, half-white man sits in the White House. He is our best president since JFK, maybe since FDR. Gays and Lesbians now can marry.

But we still have a way to go. Despite all their political genius, “blacks” are still profiled, mistreated and murdered. Hispanics are still organizing, and peaceful Muslims are just beginning to realize that they have a voice and a political role to play, too.

Bond’s passing reminds us that we are all in this together. Up to now, the 1% and the bosses have always found a way to divide us.

But now the inequalities are so stark and raw they affect everyone. If Bernie can just catch the wave, and attract a few darker faces in the sea of white supporters behind him, maybe we can win. Maybe, just maybe, the horrible era that began in the sixties with three great leaders shot down in their primes can end at last. And maybe Bernie can be the instrument of its ending.

It now looks as if Bernie might win New Hampshire. That wouldn’t mean much, as he hails from neighboring Vermont. What matters is how he plays in the rest of the nation, far from New England.

As I’ve blogged before, Bernie Sanders is my candidate for president, and the one to whom I’ll contribute for the time being. Although he has an attractive, optimistic personality and unusual energy for someone his age, neither trait has much to do with my support. It’s all about policy.

Hillary, in my view, just doesn’t get it. She wants Wall Street’s power and money behind her campaign. So she temporizes and kowtows. She kowtows to the very folks who, just seven years ago, destroyed the global economy and, with it, our nation’s theretofore valid claim to global economic leadership.

Hillary seems blissfully unaware that, having suffered no meaningful sanctions whatsoever, Wall Street is poised to do the same thing again as soon as another prospect of quick, obscene riches arises and the Fed—if just for a moment—lets down its guard. Maybe she and her staff believe those ads on PBS’ streaming services, asserting that Goldman Sachs has become a venture capital firm heavily invested in women’s micro-financing.

Like many progressive men, I would love to see a woman in the White House. I would love to see a Yankee counterpart to Queen Elizabeth I, who turned a small island nation wracked by testosterone-fueled internecine wars into the democratic, scientific, business-oriented culture that dominates the world today. I would love to see Elizabeth Warren in the White House, and I will support her with my voice and money when she is ready.

But Hillary is no Elizabeth Warren, let alone a modern Queen Elizabeth I. She just isn’t that smart. She isn’t even smart enough to foresee the many unintended consequences of our Secretary of State running her official communications through a private e-mail server in her private home.

I hate to say I told you so, but I did, right on this blog . “E-mail-Gate” is a story with legs. It’s not going away, no matter what a review of previously or subsequently classified e-mails later discloses.

Our Secretary of State is the perhaps the most distinguished officer of our Cabinet, and fourth in line for the presidency. If Hillary didn’t understand that an official at that level having a private e-mail server in her private home for official business would cause many unintended technical, security and political consequences, she should have had someone on her staff who did. And she should have listened to that person. Her not having done so was a dumb move incompatible with qualification for the Oval Office.

And what about women’s issues themselves? Women’s autonomy, control over their bodies, health care and equality in pay are all in play in this campaign. That’s all true, as Hillary often reminds us. But do you think Wall Street’s total control of the economy and politics will advance any of those causes? will slow the disappearance of our middle class? Aren’t virtually all the “Masters of the Universe” men?

Hillary just doesn’t seem to have grasped that the problems facing women and our nation generally are all of a piece.

What brings me back to Bernie. So far, he has been a one-trick pony. Cut our gross New-Gilded-Age inequality, he seems to say. Then the middle class will magically rise from the dead, and everything will get better.

There may be a germ of truth in that. Bernie is not the only one to recommend breaking up our “too big to fail” banks. Elizabeth Warren has done so. So has a good Republican, Jon Huntsman, Jr., back in 2012.

If only it were that simple.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot more to sitting in the Oval Office than understanding the vile corrosive effect that extreme and rapidly growing economic inequality has on our American experiment. Last Friday, David Brooks—one of the most reasonable conservative commentators—likened Bernie to Donald Trump in what most voters will conclude upon visualizing him in the Oval Office.

I don’t agree with that assessment. Not at all. But there’s a germ of truth it it. If Bernie really wants to be president, he’s going to have to stop being a one-trick pony and take some serious campaign risks.

In my view, there are two things he must do to realize the dreams of progressives like me, the sooner the better. First, he has to catch the wave of nationwide disgust and revulsion at the manhandling and killing of unarmed African-Americans for no or minor offenses.

I’m white and just turned seventy. Since our useless, costly and losing War in Vietnam, nothing in America has made me angrier, more disgusted and more disappointed in my country than reading about Sandra Bland—a woman!—being head-slammed and dying in jail for failing to signal a lane change, or seeing the video of a South Carolina cop killing an unarmed, fleeing African-American by shooting him in the back.

My first reaction to these (and many similar) events was, “This can’t be my country.” But it was and is.

When I was a kid, my Dad, a writer, made friends with the then police chief of Los Angeles, a man named Tom Reddin. We had him over for dinner, and my Dad got to know him. Maybe I’m naive, and maybe my memory is faulty. But I don’t believe Tom Reddin ever would have have tolerated anything like that kind of police action on his force.

On this issue, I don’t want politics. I don’t want to see another academic study. I want to see a candidate who will come out and shame every police chief in the country, and keep shaming all of them, until all the rotten apples are thrown out of the barrel. I want to see an immediate suspension, preferably without pay, in every such incident and a fair and speedy trial, by zealous prosecutors, for crimes or internal discipline. I want proof that that every police officer knows he or she will pay a price for rash action or excessive force, not tomorrow, not in some utopian future, but right now.

I know, I know. Lots of white people have bought racist stereotyping without much thought. They fear black people and don’t think much about why.

But isn’t that what leadership is for? This is not a “black” issue. It’s an issue of justice and humanity. It’s an issue of who and what we Yanks are. If Bernie can explain that as well as he explains how economic inequality is destroying our middle class, I think he can win. If not, I’m not sure his winning will make much of a difference.

Dr. King understood. Towards his end, his restless mind was discovering the link between violence and inequality. If too few have too much, and the rest have too little—and as the excuses for excessive inequality wear thin—only one thing can maintain the growing inequality: violence. Virtually alone among our political thinkers at the time, Dr. King saw the links between our senseless and unnecessary violence in Vietnam and what was happening at home.

Some say that fundamental discovery was why Dr. King was martyred. I don’t know. There’s enough racism afoot still today to have motivated his murder, let alone in 1968.

But Dr. King was onto something. If you have a just society and a just world, there is much less need or justification for violence, whether at home or abroad.

And so we come to the second thing Bernie must do to win. He must stick his neck out and support the President’s nuclear deal with Iran.

In the general election, no one is going to vote for a presidential candidate with no experience or expressed views on foreign and military policy. If Bernie is serious, he’s going to have to take a stand sooner or later. Why not now, when it matters most?

There is no credible alternative to the deal that the President and Secretary Kerry have spent many months laboriously negotiating with Iran. There is only further bullying—with the prospect of Russia, China and the EU bailing out—and the likelihood of war.

Again, Dr. King would have understood. He would know that what is at stake here is a vital inflection point in world history—a key step in human social evolution.

Iran is absolutely no threat to us. A single one of our many nuclear submarines, against which Iran has no defense whatsoever, could take out all of Iran’s major cities in fifteen minutes. So what is at stake is not our national security, or even Israel’s. What is at stake is whether the world’s leading superpower and putative global pathbreaker takes the path of peace and diplomacy or continues to base its foreign policy on bullying.

Progressives like me understand these points. They know that over two-thirds of our people want single-payer health insurance and want to expand Medicare and Medicaid, not starve them. They know that Obamacare is a small, incremental step in the right direction, against entrenched and well-funded opposition.

But they also know that a lot else in the world, and in our nation, has not yet seen even that tiny level of incremental progress. People my age already have seen three unnecessary wars—in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan—in our short lifetimes. We want a well-rounded progressive president, not a one-trick pony. We want a leader for all seasons, not an economic Gene McCarthy.

Can Bernie be or become that leader? The answer, as Dylan sung, is blowin’ in the wind. But it’s pretty clear right now that he doesn’t have a serious chance to win unless he can.