If Bernie Sanders cares about the country, he will withdraw from the race as soon as possible and throw his support to Liz Warren

When discussing policy, we can divide the 10 credible candidates who participated in all three Democratic debates into three categories: The unabashed progressives are Warren and Sanders. The centrists who look left for solutions are Castro, Harris and Booker (and maybe O’Rourke). The centrists, all of whom seem to cozy up to corporate interested more than the other candidates, include Biden, Buttigieg, Klobochar and Yang (and maybe O’Rourke). If we want to include the 11th candidate to qualify for the fourth debate, Tom Steyer, we can place him with Biden and Buttigieg, only more enamored of the right.

Since I’m a progressive (actually a socialist), at this point in the campaign my main concern is who I and other progressives should support: Bernie or Liz. While their programs are very similar, they come from vastly different ideological starting points. Sanders is a democratic socialist, which means he wants a democratically elected government to control most of the means of production. Warren is a capitalist reformer, who essentially believes in capitalism, but wants government to reign in free market abuses and achieve an equitable distribution of wealth. In a real sense, Warren stands in the tradition of Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, Barack Obama (the most conservative of this group) and Hillary Clinton. Like LBJ and unlike Obama and Clinton, Warren has absolutely no interest in using the free market to solve problems that the free market has created, which brings her much closer to Sanders than Obama or Hillary were on a variety of issues, including the environment and education.

I have put together the scorecard I used for evaluating the two most leftwing candidates running for the Democratic nomination.  The variables include electability, competence, ability to bring the party together for the fall campaign, debate skills, relative immunity from Trump’s smears, and possibility of getting something done once president. Their stand on issues is not one of the variables, because their programs are so similar. 


Rather than discuss the various elements that go into being more or less electable or rehashing the unproven speculation of the many mainstream media pundits, let’s head straight for the numbers. The most recent polls show both Sanders and Warren beating Trump way beyond the margin of error. As I wrote a few weeks ago, barring voter suppression and manipulation, Trump is probably doomed no matter which Democrat runs, mainly because the electoral stars are not likely to align perfectly for his election a second time around—no FBI investigation of his opponent’s email, no ignoring of three key states by his opponent, no long-standing, deep-seated hatred for the other candidate by large segments of the electorate, a more general knowledge of Trump’s history of incompetence, corruption and racism. Warren and Sanders, plus Biden, do better against Trump than other Democratic candidates do, so let’s call it a tie between Bernie and Liz, based on the polling numbers alone. 


Bernie Sanders is a very competent individual who has achieved a lot in his life, primarily by running as an outsider. But while he can excite crowds and win votes, no bill for which he was a primary sponsor has ever been passed into law. By contrast, Warren has always excelled working within the system to make the system fairer and provide more to the average person. For f—‘s sake, she virtually single-handedly created one of the departments of government! Both are among the most competent candidates to run for president in recent years, certainly with more on the ball than Trump, Bush II or Gore. I am reluctant to declare a winner in this category since both are highly intelligent, experienced and skilled. But then I think that one of the first jobs of whomever we elect to replace the Trumpster Fire will be to undo all the harm that Trump has inflicted on the government—restaff departments and reinstate regulations—all the small bore stuff that Warren knows so well. Let’s give Bernie one point and Warren a point and a half.

Likelihood to bring the party together

Once the candidate, which of the two will be able bring together the party after the fight for the nomination? Warren has always been a party animal. She enthusiastically supported Clinton and worked her butt off to help Democrats up and down the ticket in 2016 and 2018. By contrast, Bernie did the bare minimum to help the Democrats in 2016 and is known as an outsider. Warren’s demeanor is one of an empathetic cheerleader-school teacher, someone who encourages and guides. Bernie’s personality has been a veritable motherlode of jokes for Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers and others, who have established Bernie’s image as a crotchety, if somewhat loveable, old eccentric, a variation on Larry David’s television persona. Clearly, Warren seems to possess more conciliation skills and can call on a deeper reserve of good feeling among those who didn’t support her. Moreover, because of her party allegiance, her personality and her disavowal of socialism, most of the many subsegments that compose the Democratic Party are likely to support her enthusiastically against Trump, except for the “Bernie Bros,” by which I mean those white men of the left who will never vote for a woman. Warren wins this category hands down.

Debate skills

Both have good debate skills. They both can turn a memorable phrase and both have command of the facts. Neither is going to back down to either Trump or a pro-Trump moderator such as Matt Lauer. My sense, though, is that with all that aging, if in Trump’s case probably enhanced, testosterone flying around, Sanders-Trump debates might devolve into a shouting match between two grump grandpas. Warren’s coolly passionate style may contrast more positively with the bombastic Trump than Bernie’s would. I give the point to Warren

Ability to withstand Trump’s smears

No matter who is nominated by the Democrats, Trump is going to spend a lot of time insulting the candidate, distorting their record and accusing them of all sorts of unsavory, stupid or unpatriotic nonsense. The big questions are whether the fact that Warren is a woman will make her more of a target, as it did Hillary Clinton, and whether the misogynistic segment of the electorate will be as big this time as it was in 2016. Apart from her sex, all Trump can do to smear Warren, or to make her look small and ridiculous, is to call her “Pocahontas,” which has the dual effect of issuing a racial invective while reminding us of the one small scandal on Warren’s record—the fact that her family always thought they had native American ancestry. On the other hand, Trump has three enormous cudgels with which constantly to beat Bernie: 1) He’s Jewish; 2) He’s a socialist; and 3) He’s old. Right or wrong, these are large wedges between Bernie and different parts of the electorate. Trump will lie to smear any candidate, but he doesn’t have to lie to call Bernie Jewish and connect with anti-Semites. He doesn’t have to lie to call Bernie a socialist and frighten the millions of people who have been fed negative propaganda about socialism for decades. He doesn’t have to lie to call Bernie old and thereby deflect attention from his own age-related mental enfeeblement and the fact that his heart is a ticking time bomb. That I find these potential smears against Bernie to be repugnant doesn’t prevent me from giving this point to Warren as well.  

More likely to get something done in office

Warren and Bernie present similar programs, especially when compared with other, more business-friendly Democrats. 

But if the question is which of the two would get further, faster in implementing their program, the answer is a no-brainer—It’s the candidate who has worked within the party and knows her way around both the federal bureaucracy and Congress. It’s the candidate who is owed big time by elected officials for whom she campaigned. It’s the candidate whose sunny disposition and friendly demeanor will make it easier for her to bring opposing sides together to work out compromises. 

Like most Democratic socialists, I love what Bernie Sanders stands for. But it’s time for him to yield the field to another leader of the progressives, one more likely to be elected and far more likely to implement key portions of the progressive program than Sanders ever could.

If Bernie Sanders really cares about the country more than he cares about his own power and self-aggrandizement, he will quit the race and throw both his support and his treasury to Elizabeth Warren.   

Leading expert documents the 7 reasons we shouldn’t use nuclear generated electricity to replace fossil fuels, but will many people ever read about his work?

The way I ran across the very important article discussed in this column exemplifies how ideas disseminate in the age of social media. The article is a technical think piece by the very reputable Mark Z. Jacobson, the director of the Atmosphere/Energy Program at Stanford University, on the website of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, which supports projects that address climate change and clean up the environment. The admirable and usually bullseye-accurate feminist writer Rebecca Solnit put it on her Facebook page, which my wife views on a regular basis. My wife downloaded a hard copy and gave it to me.

At first blush, the amazing thing is the series of interchanges that got the article from the author to me. In the past, one media outlet typically served as a conduit, although sometimes two or three were involved; for example, an article would first appear in a scholarly or industry journal, where a reporter for a major media outlet like the Washington Post, Economist, Week or New York Times would see it and decide to conduct an interview of the author, which then appeared in your local newspaper. Instead, Jacobson’s article went straight from the think tank to an influential consumer to the consumers she influences, all via social media, with no participation of traditional news media.

We should also note that celebrity culture is implicated in many of the steps that brought the article to me. The DiCaprio Foundation deserves many kudos for its work, but it wouldn’t exist without the celebrity status of Leonardo. Solnit is not exactly a celebrity, which I define as someone who is known for one of the following reasons: being rich, spending garish sums of money on conspicuous consumption, being an entertainer, athlete or aristocrat, or just for being famous. Solnit has done something of substance that doesn’t involve vamping for the camera. On the other hand, her role in getting the article to me follows a process built primarily by interactions between celebrities and their fans. I hold nothing against either DiCaprio, a good guy, or Solnit, a seminal thinker in American culture. They are playing by the current rules as best they can and they work on the side of the angels.

But what does alarm me is the elephant not in the room: the mass media. Even in today’s shrunken pages, national media outlets should have found room for Jacobson’s ideas. For decades, the news media have been ignoring research that disproves their cherished myths. Research that proves unionized work forces leads to higher wages for all workers. Research showing that wind energy could generate all the world’s electrical needs. Research substantiating that lowering taxes on the wealthy does not stimulate the economy or create jobs. Research demonstrating that students in public schools learn more and perform better than their peers in private schools. Or sometimes the news media pulls out the wrong findings from research. One example: a few years ago the major media ignored that a study showed most women live in a romantic relationship outside of marriage sometime in their life, instead blasting out headlines that couples who live together first are slightly more likely to be apart 10 years after marriage than those who just get married.

When the media publishes a bogus study, it’s likely to support right-wing notions, as when they went gaga over a George Mason University finding a few years back that 50% of TV weather personalities don’t believe in global warming. The deception in the survey hinges on the fact that only about half of those who deliver the weather forecast are meteorologists and none are climatologists. In other words, they have no standing or expertise, except to the unknowing consumer or those addled by celebrity culture, since Weather personalities are often local celebrities, available to appear at 10K runs and charity auctions.

Technology optimists will celebrate that this article might never have reached me before the age of the internet and social media. The more cynical, however, will realize that the information is staying within the relatively small left-wing, pro-government intervention, pro-diversity, internationalist silo that comprises the social media networks of Jacobson, Solnit, myself and whoever else links or clicks to it. The centrists and social conservatives need to hear what Jacobson is saying, and unless his article somehow goes viral, they never will. Moreover, as little as the news media has traditionally covered scientific research that contradicts public myths, they do so less today than ever before, primarily because there are fewer media doing original reporting than in the day before the internet and social media. So while social media has given thinkers and analysts like Jacobson and Solnit (and myself) a new conduit to preach to the choir, it has severely obstructed the traditional channel to a larger audience.

The article, ”The 7 reasons why nuclear energy is not the answer to solve climate change,” is straight-forward and very easy for the non-engineer to read. In it, Professor Jacobson refutes the growing number of scientists and environmentalists who believe that nuclear power represents our best short-term substitute for the fossil fuels with which we are rapidly destroying the Earth’s biosphere.

For each of the seven reasons why nuclear-powered energy will not solve our environmental problems, Jacobson does the math and cites important research or pertinent facts. Each of the seven is a good reason not to pursue nuclear but to go to wind and solar immediately. Cumulatively, they demonstrate what a disaster ubiquitous nuclear power would be:

1. There is a long lead time between planning and operations, from 10-19 years, which seems like a dawdling waste of time considering how critical the global warming crisis is and the continued rapid rate of development of solar and wind energy.

2. The cost is prohibitive, especially when you consider that after the plant closes, as all electrical generating plants eventually must, the owners will have to spend money for waste storage for hundreds of thousands of years after the plant’s revenue stream has ended.

3. The risk of weapons proliferation, which has happened in several countries that started first with nuclear generation of electricity.

4. The risk of meltdown. To date, 1.5% of all nuclear power plants have melted down to some degree. That disaster rate would be unacceptable for automobiles, airplanes, ovens, lawn mowers, assembly lines or any other product or production process.

5. The risk of lung cancer from uranium mining.

6. The carbon and other noxious emissions caused by mining and refining uranium and yes, operating power plants. Whereas nuclear power increases heat vapor flues into the air, solar panels and wind turbines reduce heat. Jacobson estimates that pursuing nuclear instead of straight wind and solar resulted in an additional 69,000 deaths from air pollution in China in 2016 alone!

7. The risk of pernicious levels of radioactivity escaping from waste storage, which to my mind is a deal-breaker all by itself. We need to develop storage for hazardous wastes that will outlast the danger of the radioactivity, or at least 200,000 years, roughly 20 times the span of recorded history. Only a handful of people alive today can read the first surviving handwriting of our ancestors. How can we expect to be able to warn people 180,000 years from now not to open a thick steel vault buried in a mountain cavern—that is if earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes and other changes to the earth haven’t ripped it apart first.

In sum, nuclear energy costs from 2.3 to 7.4 times as much as onshore wind power, depending on the location and other factors. A nuclear plant takes 5 to 17 years longer to build than a wind farm. On average, nuclear powered electricity will generate from 9 to 37 times more carbon and emissions as renewables. All this bad stuff, and we don’t know how to safely store the waste!

The public needs to know this information, but paradoxically, while it is easier than ever to get it if you are seeking it or are part of the right social network, the likelihood of it distributing it into the more general public marketplace of ideas is lower than ever.

New book on demographics seeks to explain why population growth in the industrial age always leads to a stagnant or falling population

A human tide hit Earth’s beaches, prairies, desserts and mountains like a tsunami at about the turn of the 19th century and will subside only at the turn of the 22nd. That human wave is the population explosion that started in English-speaking countries at the beginning of the industrial revolution, but quickly spread to Europe, Asia, Latin America, and now finally to Africa.

But as British demographer Paul Morland details in The Human Tide, the expression “human tide” not only describes 300 years of unprecedented growth in the population of humans, but also the mechanism by which that growth was achieved. 

Morland begins by listing the limited number of variables that determine if a country’s population will rise or fall:

  • Average number of children born to each woman
  • Mortality rate of infants
  • Average life span of individuals
  • Immigration and emigration.

For centuries before the industrial revolution, human populations tended to grow extremely slowly, sometimes shrinking or stagnating. The population had hit its Malthusian limits, named after Thomas Malthus, an English theologian who postulated that population growth would always run into the limits imposed by Nature. Scarcity of resources would always lead to the misery of famine and poverty and thus place a natural limit on human population.

Of course Nature’s limits expanded tremendously when humans started to transition to the use of carbon power (coal, oil, natural gas and the electricity created burning these hydrocarbons) instead of human, animal or rudimentary forms of wind and water power. At about the same time, the increase and spread of scientific knowledge reached a critical mass leading to improvements in sanitation, medical care, transportation, tools, agriculture, engineering, safety standards and dozens of other aspects of human existence that gave people more material possessions while increasing their lifespans and decreasing the number of babies dying before one and five years of age.

Greater abundance leads to the human tide, first in Great Britain and the United States: the average life span increases and infant mortality declines while women begin having more children—in some countries, many more children, spurred on by society’s greater wealth. This rising tidal wave causes both the population and its rate of growth to soar, sometimes aided as in the case of the United States and Canada by large numbers of new arrivals from countries experiencing rampant population growth. The average age at death increases, usually by decades, but the average age of individuals declines. The population becomes better educated and the standard of living rises, sometimes marginally and sometimes in spectacular fashion. The country is more able to find soldiers for war and industrial workers for factories, and thus often sees its ability to project power regionally or globally expand. People begin to depopulate rural areas in favor of cities.

But then something funny happens. Educated women tend to have fewer babies, so the average number of births per woman falls, often under the level at which the population starts to shrink. Infant mortality and life expectancy rates stabilize. Population growth stops and even turns negative. Meanwhile, because generations of an expanding population are followed by generations of a declining population, the overall population ages. The result: the population no longer expands and in many cases starts to contract. Only nations that continue to have large numbers of immigrants continue to grow after native-born women start having fewer than the replacement number of children, e.g., the United States from the 1970’s until the installation of the Trump anti-immigration project. 

The human tide thus consists of precipitous population growth which creates a much younger nation followed by stabilization and decline of the population, now much older. The later in history a population experiences the tide, the faster it plays out: it took much longer in the United States and England than it did in Russia and Germany, which likewise underwent a chronologically longer wave than China and Latin America have.

BTW, Morland reports good and bad news about an aging population. The good news is that an aging population is less likely to go to war and will usually experience lower rates of crime. The bad news is that older populations tend to produce fewer innovations. Morland, among others, also worries needlessly that taking care of a very old population is a major challenge to society; these so-called experts don’t seem to realize how easy it is to reroute working adults from taking care of children to taking care of seniors. Almost as easy as rerouting people from oil fields and coal minds to solar panel and wind turbine manufacture, installation and maintenance. All it takes are the funds and the collective will to educate and reeducate—something the United States had after World War II and China seems to have now. 

According to Morland, the human wave—a large increase in population followed by stabilization and some decline—explains much of the history of the past 200 years, for example, the global rise and fall of Germany, the Soviet Union and Japan, the current tensions in the middle East and the looming rise of China, Brazil and Africa, the last continent to experience the wave.

In The Human Tide, Morland labors to make sure his history doesn’t come across as supporting the view that Europeans and Americans are superior to other people because of their technologies and values. Anyone who takes the long view of human history knows that Europeans have dominated politically and economically only over the past 200 or so years and that the rest of the world has almost caught up, and done it faster than it took ancient Rome to catch up with Greece, or Europe to catch up with the Arab world and China in medieval and early modern times. It’s a bit of a challenge, however, to argue against European superiority if you limit your history to 1800-2016. Morland succeeds, and that’s to his credit.

Unfortunately, Morland falls victim to that other great irrationality proffered by right-wing pretending to present well-researched truth: he believes in the invisible hand of the marketplace, which he extends to population growth. Morland reveals his bias inadvertently when discussing China’s decades’ long efforts, now apparently ending, to limit its population by mandating a one-child policy. 

Morland berates China both for the one-child policy and it harsh implementation, which evidently included jail time, taking children from parents and forced abortions. His argument is that the invisible hand of the human tide would have lowered the population without China’s draconian policy.

Two enormous logical errors. The first is easy to explain—if China had not enforced a one-child policy, its human tide would have lasted longer and crested higher. The policy did work, although it has resulted in the same problems faced by all rapidly aging nations. 

The second error has to do with the very idea of the “invisible hand,” whether in economics or in the natural growth of human populations. Let’s first remember that if we postulate, as right-wingers always have, that the invisible hand emanates from the natural order of things, then we have to conclude, based on the evidence of paleontology and the laws of physics, that the invisible hand’s goal is the extinction of humanity. After all, upwards of 95% of all species ever to exist are now extinct, thanks to the invisible hand of evolution. Moreover, the laws of thermodynamics predict a state of complete entropy in which it would be impossible for life to exist. So instead of accepting any invisible hand, humans should intervene to protect and extend our species, for example through population control or laws that offset the unequal distribution of wealth that all unimpeded markets quickly produce.

The other thing to keep in mind is that the human tide has washed across the shores of different nations in different ways precisely because of dozens of interventions made by societies and their leaders: Build up an army or not? Support rising fertility or support population control? Outlaw or encourage abortion and birth control? Educate women or not? Welcome immigrants or shut the borders? Negotiate trade agreements or invade other countries? Make masses of people move or engage in ethnic cleansing? The invisible hand consists of many conscious efforts, which is why the human tide has not played out the same way everywhere, the way in which an experiment involving the release of a heavy and a light object from a tower would always yield the same results.

China had the right idea. We should promote one-child policies everywhere, although I am opposed to any kind of physical coercion like jailing or forced abortions. Rather, societies can encourage lower birth rates as follows:

  • An active campaign using all media and public education advocating a one-child policy
  • Continued education of women and their integration into all levels of the economy and government.
  • Free birth control and abortion and the removal of most restrictions on abortions.
  • Financial penalties for ignoring the one-child policy. I would propose that when a woman gives birth to more than one child, both the woman and the father of the baby should be assessed an additional 5% on their gross income and an additional 5% on their net assets from the birth of each additional child until it turns 30. 

If every woman had one child only, the population would be cut in half in one generation, which would go a long way towards solving many of the world’s problems, including the global environmental disaster we face. I know I’m an extremist, but we are seriously taxing the carrying capacity of the Earth and if we fail to reduce the human footprint, the four horses of the Apocalypse—natural disasters, famine, epidemics and war—will surely do it for us.

The problem with any kind of population control strategy, be it extreme or mild, is that most economists have refused to consider how to structure a growing or stable economy delivering a high quality of a life to all when the population is shrinking. Economists have also refused to consider how to make sure that the hidden costs of economic actions are assumed by the producer, the seller or the buyer; think of the medical cost to treat people suffering from diseases caused by air pollution as an example of a hidden cost unpaid by manufacturers or car owners.

Morland fails to take a stand on whether the enormous growth in the population of humans over the past 200 years represents a threat to the continued existence of the human species. Maybe he hopes that by the time the world stabilizes its population at nine or ten billion people we will have developed the technologies needed to sustain such a heavy load of wide-screen TVs, private motorized vehicles, plastic straws and air conditioning. Of course to think otherwise would require him to admit that the invisible hand of the human tidal wave has to be controlled and directed, as does the invisible hand of the marketplace.