Monday, May 7, 2018

Extreme Ithaca Liberal BS

Our Congressman avoids our county as much as possible, knowing that the center of the county is majority Democratic, and that he has few fans here. Nevertheless, his insistence that all of his enemies and rivals are "extreme Ithaca liberals" is just obnoxious. Here is my response. I sent it to western papers, but so far, only our local paper has bothered to print it. There's a surprise. 

Monday, April 30, 2018

No More Nice Guys

A young DC reporter I know was trolled hideously for 24+ hours after posting his displeasure at Michelle Wolf's remarks at the White House Correspondents' Dinner.

Other journalists and talking heads are walking away from the comedian's most pointed lines.

I'm not a fan of that kind of Don Rickles/Kathy Griffin humor; I avoid roasts and dislike that uncomfortable feeling of not being willing to look around at the person in the room being skewered. It feels bad.

But stop. If you think we can counter Trumpism with hearts and flowers, you are clinically insane. If you believe we should turn the other cheek to people who are trying to destroy America, I no longer want to know you.

The #WHCD is supposed to celebrate the First Amendment, yet its president and many of its members seem to think that free speech means speech that is polite, deferential, and limited. They give evil doers screen time in exchange for ratings and dollars. They encourage the drawing of false equivalencies by using "balanced" panels. They are entirely complicit in the septic mess we're in, even as they tut tut about Congress's lack of courage.

You hired a known bad girl comic with an attitude and threw her under the bus when she did what you expected her to do. You dressed up and drank champagne in celebration of a principle you clearly don't support. Look in the mirror and give me a break with your faux indignation.   

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Shadowing Trump, Channeling Nixon

If you're on social media and even slightly into politics in New York's 23rd Congressional District, you are no doubt being hounded by "Extreme Ithaca Liberal" posts by the Tom Reed Campaign. Reed used this to good effect back in 2014 when he ran against Martha Robertson. It did not matter to him, his campaign, or his Republican voters that Robertson was not from Ithaca but rather from sprawling, rural Dryden. Same county, very different vibe.

Not one to let a winning strategy die, Reed is currently using the same phrase to label candidates from Penn Yan, Jamestown, and Owego as well as the two candidates vying for the Democratic nomination who actually live in Ithaca. The Peter Max lettering on his web page is meant to remind us of the evil '60s and is particularly reminiscent of Jim Trelease's 1968 posters of Nixon's rivals that year.

In 1968, Tom Reed wasn't even born. So why is he channeling Nixon's fearmongering campaign of 50 years ago? It seems especially off-putting from a founding member of the so-called Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of U.S. Representatives who purport to work toward bipartisan solutions. If you believe in bipartisanship, how can you trash your own district's Democrats? If you are "fighting for jobs," how can you disdain the one county in your district where jobs are being created? 

Reed is nothing if not contradictory, however. Despite positioning himself early on as a moderate, Reed was one of the first NYS House Republicans to endorse Trump and even served on his troubled transition team. Despite professing to stand for New York, Reed supported a tax plan that will increase taxes for many New Yorkers as they lose their state and local deductions.

Donald Trump borrowed from Nixon's playbook to win in 2016, and Tom Reed is scuttling hard after both of them. Focusing on fear is a successful way to swing a progressive era backward. You don't even have to posit a real threat. Just mention "hippies" and let the voters' imaginations run wild. If Trump can draw false equivalencies between Nazis and anti-Nazi protesters, Reed can pretend that all Democrats have extreme views, and that no matter where they live, they come from Ithaca. The only danger of such oversimplification is that it starts from the assumption that your electorate is stupid.

It is possible to disagree with Tom Reed on the Second Amendment and not be extreme. It is possible to be a Democrat and be a former military officer. It is possible to be from Western New York and espouse progressive views. We are able to hold all these things in our heads at once. If Congressman Reed respected the people of his district, he'd credit them with the brains to see through his Extreme Ithaca Liberal hogwash. Unfortunately for us all, and for any hope of thoughtful debate, he doesn't.

Friday, March 30, 2018

The Short Legacy of Brown

When Linda Brown died at age 76 last week, it marked 64 years since her central role in her dad's case against the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. In the three decades that followed the Brown decision, schools in the U.S. became increasingly integrated, achieving a high in 1988, when 45 percent of African-American students attended majority-white schools.

Then came the '90s, and the courts' quiet but rapid reversal of that progress. Oklahoma City was allowed to revert to neighborhood schools (a quiet name for segregated schools). The Supreme Court set a goal of local control (a quiet name for the racial divide). By the beginning of the 21st century, schools were described as "resegregating" by a project at Harvard, and in a 2007 Seattle and Louisville case that I noted at the time, the Supreme Court narrowly found that schools could not assign students to schools on the basis of race. School integration was effectively killed, 53 years after Brown. Today it is estimated that school segregation is equivalent to what it was in 1968, the year Martin Luther King, Jr., was killed.

When I was a kid, there were a couple of things that seemed to guarantee a sort of equity across households in America. One was Brown and the guarantee of a sound, basic education in our public schools. The other was the half-hour evening newscast on the big three TV channels, which gave everyone who watched the same general view of the world.

What are our sources of equity today? Fast food, Facebook, and TV sports?

Monday, March 26, 2018

Required Reading

These supporters will not change their minds, because this is what they always wanted: a president who embodies the rage they feel toward those they hate and fear, while reassuring them that that rage is nothing to be ashamed of.
There is very little in this analysis with which I disagree. Not economic hardship. White backlash.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018


I know, I haven't had anything to say in a long while. Although so much has happened, everyone else has said so much that there doesn't seem room to opine. We are living at an adrenaline level that can't be good for anyone; thus, the worst flu season in years. I'm going to posit that a lot of this Ohmygodding is unwarranted, because as bad as things are, it's not like it's a shock.

Omg, Trump!  Sorry, but this is like Ohmygodding over that teenage boyfriend who told you up front he wasn't looking for something serious. Donald J. Trump has told you who he was since he played the short-fingered vulgarian playboy and wrote The Art of the Deal. He has been that same guy for at least 35 years.  "Controversy, in short, sells," he told you.  "A little hyperbole never hurts." "I play to people's fantasies." "Sometimes, part of making a deal is denigrating your competition."

Omg, the Republicans in Congress!  When were they last NOT craven? Certainly not since before Newt Gingrich, and before him, you have to go back another 40 years to find a Republican Speaker. Did you think Paul Ryan would be a good guy? The guy who said, "We don't want to turn the safety net into a hammock that lulls able-bodied people into complacency and dependence"? That guy?

Omg, the Trump voters!  Are you surprised that a hate-filled message works in America? The America of the Klan, the Know-Nothings, the John Birch Society, the Chinese Exclusion Act, Executive Order 9066, the White League, Joe McCarthy, and the Patriot Act? Are you really surprised that Americans would cast a vote out of fear and racism? The Americans who elected Millard Fillmore, James Polk, Calvin Coolidge, Andrew Jackson, and FDR?

Omg, the Russians!  Look, the Russians were better than we were at the satellite launching thing, too, for a while. They have been masters of disinformation since Stalin. If you want a good analogy in the US, try Fox News. On the other hand, if you want to see some serious election interference, study the history of the CIA in Iran, Guatemala, Congo, the Dominican Republic, South Vietnam, Brazil, or Chile. I'm not saying such interference isn't serious. I'm just saying it's unsurprising. 

Omg, Facebook!  What did you really imagine was happening when you responded to online quizzes or compared your face to a famous artwork? Did you notice how the minute you ordered shoes from Payless, ads for shoes started popping up on your Facebook feed? Now, why would that be true?

Omg, the Democrats!  Well, it's painful to say, but while we're busy arguing over the use and meaning of the word progressive, the world is going down the tubes. But really, did you expect the Democrats to save you? Which Democrats? The Democrats of Nancy Pelosi or Claire McCaskill? The Democrats of Amy Klobuchar or Kamala Harris? Do you want to follow Democrats who are over 70 or Democrats who are under 45? The Democrats who ousted Franken or the ones who welcomed Jones? I would love to believe that we can rally and fight as one, but I have seen no evidence of it thus far. We're pretty good at fighting among ourselves, though. I guess that's easier.

Being in a constant state of angst is exhausting. Waking up each morning to some new horrific or stupid or humiliating or potentially life-threatening event is debilitating. Maybe we can take a few deep breaths and count at least some of what's happening as the inevitable culmination of a lot of bad decisions, unheeded signs, and blithe miscalculations. Take a little responsibility. Don't assume that our current situation was and continues to be someone else's fault. Change the things you can. Reach out to the people most likely to be harmed. Fix some stuff. March. Read history. Support the vulnerable. Vote. Educate. Don't panic. Repeat.     

Thursday, March 1, 2018

So Many Crooks So Little Time

Nixon was a crook, but on such a tiny scale. If the month of February taught us anything, it was that it's all about the money. Did Manafort and Kushner promise people jobs in return for loans? If they got the quo without coughing up the quid, is it still a crime? The hustling, the shady deals, the adrenaline expended in running just paces ahead of bankruptcy or arrest. It's a wonder anyone in the White House ever got a top secret clearance when it's clear any of them is easily purchased.