In which I predict the future

I’m putting this in print now, so that I can point at it later: Assuming it makes it to its Lagrange point fully functional and successfully accomplishes all the various complicated unfoldings and such necessary to start receiving data and transmitting it to Earth, the James Webb Space Telescope is going to discover evidence of extraterrestrial life at some point, and probably at many points, during its lifetime. A slightly inaccurate story about NASA hiring a bunch of theologians to discuss the possibility of alien life blew up on Twitter over the weekend, which led to everyone speculating that NASA already knew about alien life Out There Somewhere and was scrambling to figure out how it presented it.

To be clear, when I say “life,” I’m talking about microbial life, although discovering evidence of intelligent life would be a lot easier, relatively speaking, especially post-the-alien-equivalent-of-the-Industrial-Age life, which would involve a planet emitting a lot of light from its dark side on a tight band of wavelengths and would be difficult to explain as anything other than artificial life. Microbial life is going to involve lots of hypothesizing about chemical analysis and will have people arguing about it for decades, if not longer.

I have actually said this part in print before: I think that ultimately we’re going to discover that there’s a pretty high probability of life anywhere liquid water exists, and I think there’s probably half a dozen or so places just in our solar system where life exists or existed at some point outside of Earth.(*) Remember, 20 years ago we didn’t even know if planets existed outside our solar system– one of my finest moments in Divinity School involved an argument with an actual astrophysicist about the Drake equation, where I argued that we would eventually discover planets would be common, something I was absolutely right about– and I have the same level of certainty that 20 years from now we’ll have had the same sea change about extraterrestrial life.

(*) Including, but not limited to: Mars, Io, Enceladus, Europa, Venus and Titan.

Go ahead, bookmark the page. Y’all can come back and laugh at me in 2027 if I’m wrong.

On predictions

I did not watch the debate last night, and I have, I think, more experience with Mike Pence’s peculiar brand of affectless sophistry than most, but not in a million years did I think insects would compose a substantial portion of the discourse the day afterward. And if it wasn’t the insects, it was what appeared to be pinkeye, a twin to his boss’s nearly swollen shut eye in his drug-induced, semicoherent frenzy video from yesterday.

I have no idea if this dude has Covid or not. He was supposed to be in Indiana tomorrow to vote; that’s been abruptly cancelled and he’s been recalled to DC. I am refraining from guessing what that might be about, as I suspect there are plenty of utterly boring reasons why the Vice-President might have to cancel a purely optional trip to attend to something else in DC. There are a bunch that aren’t boring, too, but I’m utterly done trying to predict what is coming next, ever.

I had a brief text conversation with my brother earlier today about Nate Silver, who is currently predicting that Biden wins the election. Frankly, everyone is predicting that Biden wins the election, and we are at least edging into “but by how much?” territory. I saw a poll today that had Biden up by sixteen points. This is what an eighteen-point win looks like:

… so, good news, right? Nah. I’m not predicting a god damn thing. I still haven’t voted, but I’ll attend to that as soon as I can; it’s only a suddenly somewhat more complicated schedule that has kept me from doing it already, since my wife for various reasons isn’t able to work from home as much as she has been recently. That’s what I can control. I’m going to vote, and I’m going to make sure everyone I have even the slightest influence over also votes, and then I’m going to do my best to stop worrying about it. I’m making no predictions of any kind. I’m barely even allowing myself to be hopeful. I’m gonna vote. I’m gonna tell you to vote. And I’m probably going to take the day after the election off, no matter what, and I’m gonna make sure I’ve got a supply of emergency brain meds laid in.

And that’s all I can do right now.

Let’s be clear about something

I was gonna put this on Twitter, but suddenly I feel like putting it somewhere I can link to it later might be useful.

I have grown excessively tired of the (somehow, surprisingly) large number of people who are claiming that “no one could have predicted” COVID-19. In general, actually, I’m tired of the phrase “no one could have predicted” altogether, which generally means that plenty of people already did predict it and you just weren’t paying attention.

Y’all, damn near any educated person could have predicted this, and most of them have at some point or another. You don’t have to be an epidemiologist or even a doctor to realize that the most dangerous kind of virus for causing a pandemic is the type that 1) has a lengthy period where you are contagious but not symptomatic and 2) has a relatively high mortality rate once the symptomatic period begins. Literally everyone who has ever read The Stand or seen a movie about a disease could have put this together. Fucking Dan Brown predicted it in his last book, and he’s a damn idiot. It’s not that fucking complicated.

Furthermore, if the person currently running our country into the ground is able to fire something called a “pandemic response team” and if there is something called the Center for Disease Control whose budget he is able to cut … what that means is that yeah, people predicted this. There are entire fucking literal organizations composed of people whose actual fucking job was to predict exactly this and to notice it as early as possible when it (inevitably, because viruses evolve, which is also something no educated person is surprised by) does actually happen.

If something terrible were to happen and everyone were to look around and no one could figure out whose job it was to help fix that thing? That might be something that nobody predicted.

This? Everyfuckingbody predicted this was going to happen, sooner or later. Everybody who was paying the slightest bit of attention, at least.

Fucking stop it.

2:55 PM, Saturday April 11: 514,415 confirmed infections and 19,882 Americans dead.

In which I STILL don’t know anything

I got asked in comments earlier if I thought Bernie Sanders should drop out yet. The interesting thing is I was already thinking about writing this post when the question came through, and as I’ve thought about it a bit more I’ve decided that the answer is that I think Bernie should drop out, but there is an as-yet somewhat reasonable case to be made that Bernie should not yet decide that he should drop out.

Allow me to explain.

Biden is ahead in the delegate count by 154 delegates, with another 94 pledged to candidates who have endorsed him. Democratic rules mandating proportional allocation of delegates make coming from behind more difficult than it is in the Republican primary, because you can eke out close wins in three states and then have those gains wiped out by losing badly in another state. You might remember a lot of talk about Bernie’s surprise win in Michigan in 2016, which was interesting in a “here is how polls can be wrong sometimes” sort of way but ultimately irrelevant because Hillary blew Bernie out of the water in Mississippi on the same day and her gains from Mississippi were a lot bigger than his in Michigan. He ended the day farther behind than he had when he started.

I’m not going to crunch numbers right now on what states are left and what might go for Bernie and what might go for Biden, except to note that the polls for this Tuesday’s contests look very, very bad:

What I have crunched the numbers on– I did it just now, as a matter of fact, because I was curious and I am exactly that kind of nerd– is that Bernie has gotten a lower percentage of the vote in literally every single contest than he did in 2016. Every single one. The average drop is just a hair over nineteen points, with a median just over 16, and there are five states where his vote total was less than half of what he got in 2016:

This is the clearest evidence that we’re going to get, I think: Sanders’ support has cratered since 2016, and there is no evidence at all that this will get any better. None. And he lost badly in 2016 once all the shouting was over. This will be worse. Stick a fork in him, he’s done. Time to quit. He has literally persuaded no one who he didn’t already have to come over to his campaign.


You may have heard of this Rona shit we got going around, I dunno. They’re starting to talk about it on the news a lot.

Who are Biden’s people, broadly speaking? Voters of color and older voters. Who are Bernie’s people, again broadly speaking? White folk, especially younger ones.

One group is more likely to have fewer polling places, meaning longer lines and longer waits (how long did that one dude in Texas wait on Super Tuesday? Seven hours?) and one group is also a lot more vulnerable to the novel coronavirus, meaning that they really ought to be spending as little time in possible doing things like waiting for hours in lines around shittons of other people.

One group is more likely to consider themselves basically invincible and not be as concerned about waiting in those same long lines, and that group is also (again, broadly speaking; college students have been screwed in this respect in some places) going to have easier access to a quick ballot casting than the other.

It is, in other words, entirely possible that the coronavirus is going to work out in Bernie’s favor. Will it be enough to make a difference, given the fairly large margins currently showing in the polling? I have not the slightest idea. Especially since, again, he needs blowouts right now, and shaving a 44-point ass-beating in Florida down to 20 or even a narrow victory is not really going to do him a whole lot of good. But it might provide a slim thread of hope to hang onto, and a reason to stay in the election.

Do I want him to do that? No; in fact, I think the more responsible thing to do would be to drop out precisely to drive down the number of people who want to go out and vote, because I don’t think he can win at this point. Which seems odd to say, but it’s true. And I should make something clear: I’m not mad at Bernie about this, and I don’t think he’s off in Vermont cackling and gleefully rubbing his hands together at the idea that Biden’s supporters might be proportionally less likely to vote because of a global pandemic than his are or anything like that. But I think it’s a real difference between the two populations.

Again: do I think it’ll make a difference?

No fucking idea. Like I said, I don’t know anything about politics.

A couple of mild predictions regarding tomorrow’s debate

kaine-pence-759.jpgIN full accordance with basically every single word I’ve said about the arc of this presidential campaign, the polls have been moving rather decisively back toward Clinton since she wiped her ass with Trump’s hairpiece in the first debate.  Which I also knew she was going to do.

I will be liveblogging the debate tomorrow night as well.  I expect the general spin afterward to be that Pence won, mostly because Pence is better than Trump at seeming to not be a rat-turd of a human being and Trump’s performance is what he’s going to be judged against.

And, if I’m being honest, Pence is less of a rat-turd of a human being than Trump.  He would be a historically awful Vice President, but Trump will be the worst President currently imaginable and Pence, thank God, doesn’t rise to that level.  Make no mistake, Pence is a deeply stupid human being– he makes George W. Bush look well-educated and intellectual by comparison– but he’s generally trainable and he doesn’t have enough of a personality to come off as as psychotic as his boss.  Kaine is almost irrelevant to the proceedings, honestly; he’ll do fine, he’ll probably get a couple of decent jabs in at Trump, but the story’s going to be how much better Pence looked than Trump did.  I expect the polls to, if not tighten, at least stop moving so impressively in Clinton’s direction for a week or so, and then the townhall debate will hit and it’ll start all over again.  If Trump even shows up; I’ll give even money that he doesn’t, and I’d be genuinely surprised if he appears for the third.

Anyway.  More Luke Cage to watch.  See you tomorrow.