Friday, December 30, 2016

S&S Meets SS

Simon & Schuster took over the publication of a book DZ and I did once. So I guess I'm an S&S author, although I haven't made any money from them in many years.

Right now, their big sellers are Bruce Springsteen's autobiography (which I liked!), Amy Schumer's autobiography, and A Man Called Ove. They are doing fine, as publishing companies go.

But they may have signed their death warrant with this purchase: $250K to Breitbart Nazi Milo Yiannopoulos. Publishers have signed villains before, but I can't remember any who have received this reaction from a major review of books:
In response to this disgusting validation of hate, we will not cover a single Simon & Schuster book in 2017.  —Chicago Review of Books

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Pessimist's Guide

These folks were remarkably prescient in 2016, foreseeing Brexit, Trump, and Putin's rise. Here's their list of predictions for 2017. I'm not going to say "Enjoy," but definitely "Read."

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Family That Votes Together

There was surprisingly little political discourse around the holiday festivities this year, despite the fact that every one of us, from youngest to oldest, is on the same Not Trump page.

Four of us are heading to DC in January for the Women's March on Washington.

One of us is avoiding media as much as possible in the hopes of staying sane.

One of us has just moved to a new community and hopes that the bias of the people there is not too Trump-heavy.

Several of us are feeling disoriented and sad and worried about our children.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Offline for a Bit

Heading east for the holidays (Rexford/East Chatham). I leave you with this, courtesy of my friend Will, who sent it to remind us all.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Step Two

Listening and figuring stuff out. Probably a lengthy process.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

That Time When Donald Trump Drove Us All Barking Mad

Barkley Mug Shot (Ithaca Journal)
In the early morning hours of December 8, in the parking lot of the Ithaca Walmart, a former social worker from Varna named Justin Barkley shot and ran over a UPS driver from Candor named William Schumacher. Barkley fled to his home, firing a round in the direction of the police who tried to pull him over, and was arrested after a long standoff.

The killing was a mystery, because the men appeared to have no connection. They had not known each other prior to December 8, nor had they battled at Walmart. It looked like a random act.

Then this: During his arraignment, Barkley pled guilty, saying, "I shot and killed Donald Trump purposely, intentionally and very proudly."

After trying unsuccessfully to get Barkley to agree that he might have mistaken Schumacher for Trump, Judge Rowley declined to accept the guilty plea.

Stay tuned on this one, as the Trump Defense becomes a thing.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Step One

All politics is local, especially now. I envision lots of local laws that aim to get around national moves on the part of the Trump administration and the GOP Congress. It can work with sanctuary cities. It has worked with fracking prevention. So join your local committee.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Things That Won't Happen

1. The Electoral College will reject Trump and magically place someone else in the Presidency (Clinton, Kasich, Biden).
2. The CIA will grant the ordinary citizens who are electors access to classified files about Russian hacking.
3. Congress will suddenly wake up to Trump's conflicts of interest and threaten impeachment or delay his inauguration unless he cleans them all up.
4. The general population will rise up against Putin's interference in the electoral process and demand retribution.

Things that might happen: The Senate might conceivably block one or two appointments, and several, surely, will not achieve the unanimous consent that's traditional. My choices this week are the Ambassador to Israel and the Secretary of State. Letters of protest to Senators may be worthwhile. But even this is a long shot—cabinet appointees who have lost confirmation bids number in the single digits, although others have withdrawn rather than fight a losing battle.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

North Carolina's Blueprint for America

They kicked out reporters and reconfigured their government to make it close to impossible for the new Democratic governor to govern. In secret session, they subverted the will of the electorate and disenfranchised African-Americans in the legislature the way they'd already disenfranchised them across the state.

And as Eddie Glaude, Jr., suggests, they gave the Trump administration a blueprint for minority rule.

This is chilling stuff.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Those Irritating Disabled Kids

We know that Betsy De Vos's kids went to private schools. We know that Barron Trump does, and so did his half-siblings. We know that Trump's AG pick thinks that those irritating disabled kids make life hard for teachers. Jeff Sessions went to public school, but did his kids? I don't think so.

More and more, the political elite in both parties divorce themselves from the few institutions that still define middle America: public schools, labor unions, the military. But we still expect them to oversee those institutions, despite their lack of experience with them.

The problem overlaps parties. Arne Duncan's kids went to private schools. So do John King's. We have had a generation of Secretaries of Education who went to public schools themselves, but whose children did not. What will the next generation bring?

I wonder if Trump worries about Sessions's dislike of rights for children with disabilities. Or does he imagine that a kid whose tuition rivals that of an Ivy League freshman will be safe?

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Aging Well

I like Jerry Brown better as the elder statesman he's become than I did when he was Governor Moonbeam. And he was wonderfully outspoken yesterday in a way few Dem leaders have been on the topic of climate change and the horrible EPA/Energy picks Trump has made. Secession talk?
Not only is California the world’s sixth-largest economy, “we’ve got the scientists, we’ve got the universities, we’ve got the national labs and we have the political clout for the battle. And we will persevere, have no doubt about that.”

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Solution is Dissolution

Big Fish Eat Little Fish (Bruegel)
Trump was never much good as a corporate raider. His short-term attempt to take over Bally resulted in a resale of his shares at a profit (AKA greenmailing), and his takeover of the Eastern Airlines shuttle netted him little and may have landed him in bankruptcy a short time later.

He's back with a vengeance now, though. Trump's hostile takeover of the Republican Party has succeeded beyond his wildest dreams, and he's set now to infiltrate all of his least favorite cabinet offices and liquidate them from within.

His role model is Carl Icahn, a public supporter who backed Trump expressly in hopes of his eliminating regulatory agencies, which are the bane of the corporate raider's existence. In case you think cabinets in the federal government are too big to fail, consider Icahn's prior success with TWA or T. Boone Pickens's destruction of Gulf Oil.

I don't doubt that the federal government is overstaffed and less efficient than it should be. But if you dump all those folks in the Departments of Education (a mere 4,500) and Energy (around 110,000) and Commerce (around 44,000) and Veterans Affairs (around 235,000) onto the job market, what do you suppose that will do to your unemployment figures?

Of the federal employees in executive departments, 3/4 work for the Department of Defense. I suspect that their labs are already working on a poison pill to prevent any kind of raid there.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Stumbling Forward

We've decided to put forth a facilitated meeting for all local Dems to vent, listen, and make suggestions for the way forward. More to come as we work out details.

Fun fact: We may lose our Congressman to the Trump administration. What a joy THAT would be.

Sunday, December 11, 2016


Indonesia. Congo. Brazil. Dominican Republic. Cuba. Chile. Greece. Nicaragua. Libya. Panama. Iraq. Afghanistan. El Salvador. Haiti. That's just a short list of nations where in my lifetime, the U.S. has interfered with elections or leadership.

So before we get too high-and-mighty about Russian hacks throwing our election to Trump, let's acknowledge that this is not just a one-off. This sort of thing has gone on for decades. It's just that now it's so easy! No need for military interference or even sly handoffs of envelopes. You can sit in a garret in Moscow and do all the work while sipping a Raf and texting your girlfriend.

Yes, there should be investigations. Yes, there should be repercussions. Yes, the American people should be much more horrified than they apparently are by the ease with which another nation can influence the future of ours. Just don't pretend we don't deserve it.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

No, Really, You Shouldn't Have

On the twelfth day of Christmas, PEOTUS gave to me
Nature hater Pruitt
Superhawk Jim Mattis
Hang ‘Em High Pompeo
Coma Victim Carson
Automate-‘Em Puzder
School killer Betsy
N-word Jeff Sessions
Haaaalf Gooooldman Sachs!

Crackpot Michael Flynn
Teabag Price
Smarmy lapdog Reince
And a wife-beating Breitbart Nazi.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Corrupt AF

First, let's acknowledge that there are plenty of people who go into public service middling well off and come out filthy rich. Some get caught in the process; cf. especially NYS elected officials. Some wait until they leave office, become consultants or lobbyists, and rake it in then.

Trump is just the most blatant personification of this trend to date. A new website,, covers all the many ways in which he's already gaming the system to line his pockets. It even includes a clock so you can time his corruption. It's fun stuff, made all the more so by the rules that exempt presidents from even the most modest of ethical decisions.

Meanwhile, back in our world, I met last night with the Lansing Democrats, who have two new members and more in the pipeline. We talked about how growing the party could be a natural phenomenon this year, with so many disaffected Dems and progressives needing a place to go. And Chuck told me today about attending a meeting of several hundred in NYC, where he says "it feels like the city is preparing for a siege by an enemy army."

Thursday, December 8, 2016

My Bad

Silly me for thinking that a meeting with Al Gore might portend something good. The NYT said it better than I could:

Had Donald Trump spent an entire year scouring the country for someone to weaken clean air and clean water laws and repudiate America’s leadership role in the global battle against climate change, he could not have found a more suitable candidate than Scott Pruitt...
Pruitt quickly goes to the top of my growing list of worst choices ever for Cabinet positions.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016


At the same time that a Buzzfeed poll discovered that people believe fake news 75% of the time and real news 83% of the time, HuffPo notes that 56% of Trump supporters would believe Trump over a news source that said he was lying. Meanwhile, Trump is (of course) TIME's Person of the Year.

A secondary danger of fake news (where the primary danger is that it brings fruitcake would-be heroes bearing guns into pizza shops) is that it raises the possibility in people's minds that all news is potentially fake.The effects of that attitude cannot be good for democracy.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Four Weeks In

Yes, it's been a month. Because I don't want to linger on the bad, I'm putting forth two glimmers of hope that have emerged this week. 1) Ivanka wants to make climate change her "signature issue." That could mean that she's putting out a jewelry line with a theme of melting ice caps, but I prefer to think that she has the power to move her daddy in a positive direction, despite the climate change deniers running the EPA transition team. Meeting with Al Gore might just be step one. 2) More and more women on Pantsuit Nation are writing that they are looking for a local office to run for in 2017. This is a FB community of 4 million people, most of them seemingly apolitical before November 8. Newcomers to the system, local insurgencies, women running for office—I like the possibilities.  

Monday, December 5, 2016

No Democrats Need Apply

Oh, by all means, hire a Secretary of HUD who thinks, as Carrie points out, that the safety net keeps people in poverty.

The other day, I asked whether the County Dems might put up a table at a Celebrate Diversity event and was told very kindly that although Dems' missions and goals often paralleled the event, "a large population in Ithaca would be alienated" if the group were to align themselves with the Democrats. P.S.: These were high school students.

I am hearing locally and nationally from otherwise sensible folks that the Dems' mistake was to ally themselves with social justice causes that separated them from the white working class, and that what we must do to succeed in the future is abandon those causes to activists and find ourselves a smart economic message.

My question is this: Who will fight electorally for those social justice causes if we do not? Because linking arms in a gym somewhere is not going to take us where we want to go. Putting up tents in the plains of North Dakota is effective specifically as pressure on the government.

Direct action + electoral action = change.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Sleight of Hand

Because I have trouble believing that Americans would elect a complete dolt, or maybe because my Ivy League snobbery tells me that someone who went to Wharton/U Penn (after two years at Fordham) cannot be as clueless about history and economics as Trump appears to be, I prefer to believe the current trope that he is an evil genius. If you start to accept that all of his craziness, whether he's going after Alec Baldwin for portraying him cruelly on Saturday Night Live or doubling down on Build-a-Wall Workshop, is just a mask for truly awful, permanently damaging things such as privatizing the public sector and making rich people even richer, it all starts to make a sort of sense.

Misdirection is used by magicians, by strategists in warfare, and by pickpockets. We seem to be in for a lot if it.  

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Change Is Not Always Progress

A while ago, I wrote on my other blog about Oklahoma's loudly touted plan to rip up the Common Core Standards and create their own. At the time, I wrote:
My feeling is that the process is and always was the same when it came to the creation of standards, and the more Oklahoma closes its eyes and pretends not to look at anyone else's standards, the more its will resemble everyone else's. 
Well, I read recently that any Republican revision of the Affordable Care Act is likely to look just like the Affordable Care Act, since there are only so many directions in which one can go when dealing with health insurance and the private sector. So I thought I'd take a look at how Oklahoma fared in its "By Oklahomans for Oklahomans" revision.

Luckily, I didn't have to do any work at all, because it turns out that Achieve has already done a side-by-side analysis. Granted, Achieve, as a partner in the Common Core, comes at this with a built-in bias, but then again, so do I. And they have a lot more people who can sit and parse standards phraseology, down to missing punctuation(!).

Whereas I expected the OK standards to duplicate the CCSS with altered wording, Achieve found instead that they represented a reactionary return to earlier "mile wide and inch deep" state standards, lacking in rigor, focus, coherence, and specificity, albeit offering reasonable clarity/accessibility and measurability. There is still plenty of overlap, as you can see in the side-by-side ELA or math documents. It's not as though Oklahoma suddenly came up with a brilliant new way to teach Oklahomans to read—but then, the point was never really about teaching or learning.

It's a huge report, fascinating only to those of us who deal with learning standards in our daily lives, but perhaps suggestive of what happens when you try to redo, at enormous expense and for political reasons, a fairly decent plan that was done at enormous expense and with good intentions. To me, it highlights the thoughtfulness that went into the original plan.

I am relatively sure that legislators and parents and even educators who were unhappy with what they perceived as the federalizing of Oklahoma standards will not read the report and will sleep contentedly in their beds, satisfied that the new standards represent all that Oklahomans require. I am equally sure that if Republicans uproot and reconfigure Obamacare, many will just be glad for the change, whatever it might be. The cost may be up front. The damage, if it occurs, will happen down the road.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Required Reading

A couple of academics projected exit-poll data onto turnout figures in the Rust Belt and concluded that contrary to popular belief, white working-class voters didn't flip Republican. They just sat this one out.

Relative to the 2012 election, Democratic support in the Rust Belt collapsed as a huge number of Democrats stayed home or (to a lesser extent) voted for a third party. Trump did not really flip white working-class voters in the Rust Belt. Mostly, Democrats lost them.
That doesn't mean Democrats don't have work to do in  IA, MI, OH, PA, and WI. It's just different work than we thought.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Why Be a Democrat?

Our county executive committee will meet tonight and discuss a path forward. Although we seem to be good at winning local elections, we are an aging committee that could use a jump start. Since the election, we've had a bunch of people come forward, wanting to join.

I am reminded of this piece I wrote several years ago for our Dryden Democrats' website. It pretty much sums up the reasons to keep on with this Party, however damaged it may seem right now.

In these contentious times, it sometimes seems needlessly quarrelsome to admit to a partisan bias. We Dryden Democrats have thought long and hard about why we chose one party over the other. We believe that there is an essential difference between the major parties--not an insurmountable barrier, but a distinct difference in how we view the world and our place within it.

As Democrats, we believe that the problems of our neighbors are our problems and that the future of any child is our future, too. We believe in that “more perfect union” promised by the preamble to our Constitution; we are eternal optimists. We believe in open government and personal privacy. We believe that the people are the government, and that participation is crucial to the preservation of freedom.

We may be Democrats because our parents were or because we changed our minds after years of living and learning. Some of us are lifelong Dryden residents; some of us chose Dryden from a wealth of options; and some of us just landed here, looked around, and liked what we saw. We are Democrats because the phrase “justice for all” speaks to us, because we believe in fairness and family, because we believe in the right of all Americans to live in dignity and in the people-driven potential of government to see that they do.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Life in the "Post-Truth" Era

Yes, the OED just listed post-truth as its word of the year, beating out alt-right and woke. I don't have the strength to list the many ways journalism failed us in 2016, but Christiane Amanpour gave a pretty good speech the other day on how threatened our media should feel in Trump Nation.
I believe in being truthful, not neutral. And I believe we must stop banalizing the truth.
Yeah, me too.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Privatizing Washington

The Trump transition just looks like chaos. There is clearly an underlying theme: privatization. You have a Secretary of Education who wants to privatize education. You have a VA Secretary who wants to privatize VA hospitals. You have potential choices for Secretary of the Interior who are all for developing public lands and a Health and Human Services Secretary who wrote the bill to overturn ACA. You have a guy in the running for Transportation whose specialty is private-public partnerships.

Oh, and you have the serious mention of David Petraeus for Secretary of State—although maybe he's just a red herring? Because when you just won an election by threatening to jail a former Secretary of State for failing to secure possibly classified materials, why not give the job to a guy who was convicted of doing just that (and is still on probation, btw)?

Meanwhile, back home, people are coming out of the woodwork to join the Democratic committees. Safety in numbers? Doing something is better than doing nothing? Motivation doesn't matter; it's a slight stirring of rebellion, and we'll take it.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Mired in Ire

I seem to have taken a left turn from Depression and landed back in Anger, which I'm taking out on family, friends, and random tire salesmen. Chief on my irklist, in no particular order:

  • Trump trolls
  • mansplaining misogynists
  • Bernie canonizers who believe without evidence that he could have won
  • Cornell Review and most alumni commenters on the Cornell Daily Sun
  • people who won't admit that the GOP has no answer for the white working class, either
  • professor watchlists
  • apologists who apply Good Nazi language to Trump supporters
  • anyone who thinks Giuliani would make a fine Secretary of State
  • people who are cool with the Great Migration but can't imagine uprooting coal miners or small city white folks
  • people who say, "the Party's elitist, but I'm not" or "Trump's racist, but his followers aren't"
  • emboldened racists and antiSemites
  • many of the hideous families described in Pantsuit Nation
  • everyone mentioned as a possible Trump cabinet member

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Civics Engineering

There's been a lot of blather about Party hegemony this election season, and while I don't entirely discount it, I also know that it's a lot harder to be elitist on the local level. Every newly registered voter in our county is invited to join the local committee. What we haven't been good at is educating people about what that means. And of course, it's hard to get past the fact that upper-class, educated elites are society's joiners, which perpetuates that kind of hegemony. I carried baby Olivia in a car seat to committee meetings, but not every parent can do that.

I just took the opportunity to do some of that initial, critical educating in my first column for Tompkins Weekly. They reached out to me post-election, probably feeling sorry for us, but offering me 800 words monthly, which I happily accepted. It gives me a chance to do the kind of outreach and education (what's a caucus? how do I run for office? when do I need to re-register to vote?) that we as a committee have not been able to do because local media have been generally loath to help us do it. (When I've advertised for potential candidates, the response of the Ithaca Journal has typically been: "That's your job, not ours.")

We'll make the effort, but again, it comes down to how many people take the time to read 800 words on civics in a local paper with modest readership. Many other steps will be necessary to reach the people who should be included but currently are not.

Most people have no clue how the electoral process works; that was evidenced by how many otherwise educated people were flummoxed by the primary system in NYS (which is stupid and exclusive but really very simple). Paul thinks it's because we no longer teach civics (we do, but not terribly well).  I think it's because people don't much care how the sausage is made until it makes someone sick.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Required Reading

Matt Taibbi may have been as wrong as anyone else, but he was worth reading every step of the way. Two days post-election, he railed at himself and his elite media colleagues for their failures.

We were too sure of our own influence, too lazy to bother hearing things firsthand, and too in love with ourselves to imagine that so many people could hate and distrust us as much as they apparently do.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Dear Rest of the World, Sorry

I heard from two people today about the joys of explaining Trump Nation to foreigners. One mentioned the difficulty of predicting what will happen next to people who are genuinely afraid of the possible effects on their U.S.-allied nations. One said that in the countries he deals with, people recognize that governments are f*cked up and don't represent the populace, and only idiot Americans would imagine that the system should work.

So it's a matter of perspective. Nevertheless, the grotesquerie of the Romney v. Giuliani feud should probably make all nations on earth duck and cover. Romney "looks the part." Giuliani is a raving lunatic with dubious international connections. The whole transition employment plan
seems like a casting call for a horror film.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

DeVos in de Henhouse

If you want to rid yourself of a pesky Department of Education, put someone in charge who never attended public schools, whose children never attended public schools, who basically doesn't approve of public schools, whose public work has all been about moving money out of public schools and into charters and private (especially religious) schools, whose husband made his billions on a pyramid scam and whose brother founded America's most successful mercenary group.

Choose someone who has sat on the board of a group that advocates bringing back child labor.
You can talk about the dangers of coal mining or selling newspapers on the street. But let’s not pretend that danger is something that every young teen wants to avoid.
Choose someone whose husband almost single-handedly made Michigan a right-to-work state.

This is a pretty good compilation of articles on the DeVos family's work to eradicate public education and destroy public unions.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


As we plunge into the Thanksgiving holiday, starting with tonight's traditional lobster-fest via Marblehead, MA, I am truly thankful that we don't have to ban politics from the table, because we're all more or less on the same page.

Yes, there's the millennial who scoffs at the likelihood of public protest affecting change, and the occasional hopeful bleat that maybe things won't be so terribly bad... but at least we don't have to contend with family members who are gleeful and giddy as all of us sit in that big old melting pot waiting for the water to boil.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Impeach Pence First

Click here to see...
Mike Pence never met an unborn child he didn't want to protect. He served 12 years in the House and 4 as governor of Indiana, so he, unlike Trump, has a long voting record. When he took the Political Courage Test as a Congressman in 2008, he wanted to greatly increase spending on intelligence operations and national missile defense and greatly decrease UN expenses. He wanted to slightly decrease all taxes but greatly decrease inheritance and capital gains taxes. He supported no principles regarding campaign finance and government reform. He wanted mandatory sentences for drug sellers and supported the death penalty. He wanted to increase development of fossil fuel energy sources, eliminate federal education standards, and let individuals carry concealed weapons. He wanted English as the official national language. He opposed the creation of a Palestinian state and rejected same-sex marriage, but he was fine with privatizing Social Security.

And then he became governor, and lots of bills passed his desk that met his standards. He signed bills authorizing the possession of sawed-off shotguns and bills prohibiting the government from "burdening the exercise of religion." He authorized concealed weapons on school property, repealed the Common Core Standards, and signed that famous bill requiring women to determine the final disposal method of their aborted fetuses.

In short, Mike Pence is exactly who you might expect him to be: a super conservative, minimal-government guy, except when he's in your bedroom or womb.

Be careful what you wish for, those who are hoping for an early Trump impeachment based on violation of the emoluments clause. Pence is a theocrat and a super-scary guy. Just ask the few surviving Indiana Democrats.

Monday, November 21, 2016

I'm Not an Anti-Semite; I Love Israel!

There are plenty of reasons for an alt-right anti-Semite to be a Zionist, as Steve Bannon purports to be.
  1. It keeps 'em all in one place.
  2. At present, Israel leans far right.
  3. Israel is a U.S. ally against other Middle Eastern powers.
  4. Israel is good at building physical barriers to prevent ethnic mixing.
But would you want your daughter to marry one? Or go to school with a bunch of them?

To quote peace activist Uri Avnery:
Can a person be an anti-Semite and a Zionist? Indeed, yes. The founder of modern Zionism, Theodor Herzl, already tried to enlist the support of notorious Russian anti-Semites, promising them to take the Jews off their hands. Before World War II, the Zionist underground organization IZL established military training camps in Poland under the auspices of the anti-Semitic generals, who also wanted to get rid of the Jews. Nowadays, the Zionist extreme Right receives and welcomes massive support from the American fundamentalist evangelists, whom the majority of American Jews, according to a poll published this week, consider profoundly anti-Semitic. Their theology prophesies that on the eve of the second coming of Christ, all Jews must convert to Christianity or be exterminated.
Bannon's not evangelical; he's Catholic. But let's be clear: He is also a white supremacist who happens to be mounting a PR campaign claiming that he's not. Far worse than his protestations or those of his PR folks are those of the multitudes of Trump supporters who are doing that job for free.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

In a world gone mad, who is the true madman? 
Steve Bannon runs the asylum
Cabinet is one of those French words, like bureau, that refers not only to a physical space but to people who occupy a physical space. It used to confuse me when I was a child; I would read about the President's cabinet and picture a wooden cupboard.

In Robert Wiene's 1920 The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, the cabinet is a coffinlike box where a sleepwalker spends much of his time, when he isn't called upon by Dr. Caligari to answer questions from fairgoers and kill at the doctor's orders. In From Caligari to Hitler, theorist Siegfried Kracauer connected themes in the film to the rise of tyranny in the Third Reich, with the sleepwalking Cesare a stand-in for the German people, unable to resist their manipulative puppet-master.

Of course, the twist in the film is that all of the characters are shown to be residents of an asylum, with Dr. Caligari its director.

Which brings me to the Trump transition and the proposed cabinet appointments. Is Bannon Caligari? Is Trump the somnambulist? Or, as Kracauer suggested, are we all sleepwalking through our own destiny, content to be hypnotized and lulled into an acceptance of evil?

All I know is that we have Jefferson Beauregard Sessions from Alabama proposed as Attorney General. As befits a man named after two Confederate leaders, Jeff stands firm against even legal immigration and could not hate the Voting Rights Act more.

National Security Adviser will be Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, who does not distinguish terrorism from Islam and calls both "sick."  And Tea Party member Mike Pompeo, a supporter of Guantanamo and more, not less, domestic surveillance, will be CIA chief. The two Mikeys don't even require Senate confirmation, but any cabinet member looks likely to skate through, thanks to the so-called nuclear option.

"Darkness is good," says Dr. Caligari.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Buy Nothing

November 25, 2016
Last year I went to a lovely workshop by Barry Derfel at TST BOCES on MLK and the process of nonviolent protest. It was for teachers, really, getting them ready to handle the new Social Studies standards, but it was a great review for me on the three prongs of successful protest: education, politics, and money.

You start with educational acts of witness, narratives designed to change people's beliefs. Sit-ins, demonstrations, teach-ins, marches—all are designed to show that a given system is oppressive and violent. Acts of witness require discipline on the part of the participants and willingness to suffer (for example, to be arrested or beaten up). Media play a big role in documenting this suffering.

This leads to the second prong, politics. King's theory required that enough people be arrested for performing legal acts of protest that the jails would become full, causing tension between police and politicians. Police then pressured politicians to change the laws so that they no longer had to arrest protestors at the expense of doing their regular jobs arresting actual criminals.

But neither step works without the third, money. Without the boycotts of bus companies, Woolworth's, Newberry's, and other businesses that acted in hurtful ways, MLK's protests would never have worked. Withholding dollars had to lead to companies' making less money, paying fewer taxes, and laying off workers. As citizens saw services dwindling, they pressured companies to change policies and politicians to change laws.

Buy Nothing Day, established on the traditional Black Friday after Thanksgiving, is a global day of protest against consumerism. What better way this year to protest, from the comfort of your home, the ascension of Trump? For the man who exemplifies conspicuous consumption, a day of no consumption at all must be unimaginable. For the rest of us, it is a reminder that without monetary pressure on the system, all the marching, writing, protesting, and FB posting we do will have zero likelihood of effecting substantial, lasting change.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Segregation by Political Class

Clinton's America, NYT 11/16 
It's pretty easy to tell when you look at NYS that people settle where they are comfortable with the values of the people around them. Ithaca is an enclave of liberalism. The big cities. Most of NYC with the exception of Staten Island. When I consider moving to Madison County to be closer to Paul's job, I think Cazenovia and Hamilton, not Oneida and Chittenango. I even fudge the reasoning for that—Cazenovia is charming, Hamilton is a college town—when what I mean is "My kind of people."

Liberals are beating themselves up over the results of this election and blaming themselves for neglecting the working class that got them Democratic majorities in earlier decades. There's a lot of thoughtful contemplation of what a non-elitist left might look like, as in this piece by failed state senate candidate Sara Niccoli. Sara is an island unto herself in the Town of Palatine, population 3,240, halfway between the seen-better-days cities of Utica and Schenectady. She got 24% of the vote in her own county, despite being a known town supervisor. Against Trump, Clinton got 34%.

Sara ran on issues that one would think everyone in her county could get behind—better funding for schools, fighting the effects of globalization on farmers. But in addition to being a farmer, she runs a nonprofit and has a Master's from NYU. She isn't just a churchgoer, she's on the executive committee of the NYS Council of Churches. Neither fish nor fowl, she managed to be both homegrown and elitist—in lifestyle if not in her heart—and it did not help her cause.

I had a productive talk with our Chair yesterday about the flaws in our committee and how we might address them, and I was happy to find that we were on the same page. More about that as we move forward. It's easier to do locally, even when you live in a place that's 10 square miles surrounded by reality. But look at that map! Clearly secession isn't an option. We can't all pack up and move to Red States. How do we reintegrate?

Thursday, November 17, 2016

What About Russia, or No Time Like the President

I like the thought of Melania as a Russian spy, if only because it's a far better role for her than the one she's currently assuming. Certainly her accent is reminiscent of Natasha Fatale's in "Rocky and Bullwinkle," and she has the slinky wardrobe for it, as well as the unruffled demeanor.

And little else explains the ease with which Russia hijacked the U.S. election and flew it into Trump Tower. I just can't buy the argument that "Putin said great things about me, so I'll say great things about him."

One of my greatest fears about our having an all-Republican government is that we might never get to the bottom of the Russian intervention. But only Republicans of a certain age seem to recognize the danger. John McCain and Lindsey Graham are not my favorite senators, but at least they are stepping up.

I was a child of the Duck-and-Cover years. Mark and I had a fourth-grade teacher who held the Russians (then the Soviets) responsible for all that was wrong with the world. We were lucky not to live in Russia, we'd be told, because if we behaved the way we were behaving, we'd be lined up along the wall and shot. (This is not an exaggeration. Imagine a teacher saying that today! The president-elect, on the other hand, would admire the un-PCness, not to mention the implied defense of the Second Amendment.)

Putin was a KGB agent. He wants to Make Russia Great Again. His foreign policy is increasingly arrogant and aggressive. It seems as though manipulating Americans is part of his master plan.

Others may be pointing at China and the likelihood that, absent an agreement with the U.S., it will take over all Asian markets without anyone to berate it about human rights. But I was raised to worry about Russia, and worry I shall.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Everything's for Sale

When you see Ivanka flexing her wrist on "60 Minutes," it turns out that she's advertising a $10,800 bracelet. When you hear surrogates rehabbing Steve Bannon's career ("That antisemitic piece was written by a Jew!"), you can bet that they are paid staffers of Breitbart. U.S. Government? QVC? It's all the same in Trump Nation.

Of course, the selling of the White House is nothing new. Ask any major donor to a winning political campaign. State dinner? Check. Night in the Lincoln Bedroom? Check. It was only a matter of time before the First Lady stood in the lobby hawking tshirts and signed photos.

A quick aside: I love this graphic in the NYTimes today; it's both beautiful and terrifying. And Ithaca and environs are specially called out.

Meanwhile, this whole Glenn Beck vs. Breitbart feud starts to look like a ratings war. Which is some consolation for those of us who really did not want to see Glenn Beck as a good guy.

Everything's for sale! Tweeters have mansplained to me for the past several days about how paid protests work: Someone gets hired, and then the other people follow him or her, even though they get nothing out of it. Sort of like the presidency, I guess.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Manning the Barricades, Checkbook in Hand

There are members of our town and county Democratic committees who do the work of writing, organizing, leafletting, walking, and calling. Then there are members who fund the work. Occasionally, but rarely, do those groups overlap. Clearly, both are needed.

One fascinating outcome of the election has been the enormous outflow of donations to groups that are either in trouble under a Trump regime, figure to counter Trump policies, or both. My favorite, of course, is donating to Planned Parenthood in Mike Pence's name, so that he gets the notifications and thank-yous. Jezebel has a vast and useful list.

We once thought that conservatives gave more to charity than liberals did. Luckily, MIT came along and debunked that. Conservatives give bucketloads to their churches, but beyond that, donations are not greater than those of liberals. I do wonder whether Obama's election in 2008 led to a flurry of contributions to conservative causes or if this is a peculiarly liberal trait. Gotta do something, so let's give money!

Back home on Day 7, it appears that every woman I know here is at least contemplating going to the Million Women March on January 21. Extrapolating out from that, I end up with a figure vastly larger than a million. I've scored a place for DZ and Olivia and me to stay. And I'm starting to envision a new role for myself if I stay with the local Party. More about that after I meet with our Chair on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Giuliani as Secretary of State? The man who, when asked about using nukes against Iran, said, "You shouldn't take any option off the table"? The one who supported Bush in Iraq and loves waterboarding and domestic surveillance? That guy?

Monday, November 14, 2016


Berlin Artists Turn Swastikas Into Lovable Figures
I read once that if insomnia involves being unable to fall asleep, that's anxiety. If it involves waking in the middle of the night and being unable to fall asleep again, that's depression. Apparently I have both. It culminated in a Twitter war with Trump trolls late last night. It turns out that all these protests are fomented by paid agitators. I used Carrie's sister's great line—"I was there, where should I send my timecard?" It was not well received. My phone blew up! Apparently I'm a naive idiot; there are videos proving this! (By the man who brought you the ACORN scandal.) Oh, and if I believe all that stuff about Bannon, I'm not really a Jew. Couldn't figure that one out, but it was late, and I was tired.

Olivia informs me that she has a fake Twitter account for just such purposes. She can get her anger out without fear of direct reprisal. Probably a good idea, though I don't intend to go there again.

So let's talk about Steve Bannon, former Breitbart ruler, who will be chief strategist in Trump Nation. Media Matters (AKA "leftist porn site," according to my new Twitter friends) says it best: This is a white nationalist who hates Jews.

For most of his campaign, Trump quoted Breitbart conspiracy theories. Indeed, the whole birther nonsense may have arisen on that site, although they've denied it vigorously.

Okay, Nazis in the West Wing. What else we got?

Well, there's Rudy Giuliani for Attorney General (or Sec of State, though I doubt that). Never met a black guy he didn't want to lock up. Proponent of stop-and-frisk. Sure to impose federal law over all those naughty states who legalized pot. Plus, freakin' nuts.

Secretary of the Interior? An oil executive, or Sarah Palin (because she hunts, I guess?) Secretary of Energy? An oil executive. Health and Human Services? Sleepy Ben Carson. Homeland Security? Self-important, recently defeated Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Agriculture? Texas ag commissioner Sid Miller, famous most recently for calling Hillary Clinton a cunt. (He also founded a church for cowboys, so that little slip of the thumb was surely an aberration.) Secretary of Commerce? Maybe NYS's own homegrown sleazebag, Carl Paladino, he of the X-rated emails. At least that would take him off Buffalo's school board. State? How about John Bolton, who hopes to stop Iran's bomb by bombing Iran? Seems like a good way to launch a new foreign policy agenda.

That's not even all of it. I would say it was cartoonish if it were at all funny.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Voting for Your Degrader

Day 5: Lesson learned. It is 100 percent sexist to assume that women, or even white women, are some kind of homogeneous voting bloc. That being said, 53 percent of white women voted for Trump? Really?

FDR was a known anti Semite, a fact that certainly led directly to the death of would-be Jewish immigrants from Europe in the late 1930s-early 1940s. Yet Jews in America voted for Roosevelt again and again, in numbers unprecedented and not repeated until Johnson ran against Goldwater.

During the primary season, we saw the appeal of Trump to aspirational Latinos, even when Trump was pitted against actual Cuban-American candidates. Lesson learned: Latinos aren't a homogeneous voting bloc.

It is reminiscent of a story I like to tell about my volunteer history at Harlem Hospital, where I worked for a while with gunshot children. One day I offered to bring a book for a 13-year-old artist kid I liked, thinking he might choose something about an African-American hero or an important artist. His choice: The Art of the Deal. "I love that Trump guy," he told me. "He's SO RICH." The girls on the ward wanted Sweet Valley High books, those super-saccharine romance/mysteries set in the whitest of suburban towns.

"They don't hate Trump; they want to be Trump."

In What's the Matter with Kansas, Thomas Frank tells about the way certain politicians and special interests used cultural issues to compel wage-earning Americans to vote against their own self-interest. Do we believe that millionaires Bush, Romney, or now Trump want to share a beer with working-class citizens from the hinterlands? Hardly. But they're happy to get their votes. And thanks to issues of gay rights, abortion, and "religious freedom," those hinterlanders happily vote for slates of candidates whose tax cuts benefit their bosses and whose trade policies eliminate their jobs.

Not all women want to work for a living—especially when the kind of work they might attain is low-wage drudgery. Not all women are offended by wolf whistles. At the same time, women seem just as likely as men to fall for Trump's dog whistles: taking your guns, rigged election, terrorism threatening our way of life. And those dog whistles managed to drown out pussy-grabbing and name-calling. I even heard women talk about "family values" when referring to a man who has five children by three women and is famous for his playboy wannabe ways.

Last night, DZ and family marched with 25,000 others in Manhattan. Meanwhile, the president-elect started to put together the worst-looking cabinet since I don't know when. More about those choices tomorrow.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Blame Game

Racism, sexism, arrogance, assumptions about women, assumptions about Latinos, globalization, Islamophobia, stupidity, ignorance, meanness to Bernie, lack of transparency, DNC, Russia, Wikileaks, the media, bad polls, FBI, hubris, complacency, white working class, elitism, TV, millennial women, lack of a message, populism, machine politics, boredom, Weiner, inertia.

Meanwhile, in the real world, Day 4, Olivia's on the Ivy League Snap Story comforting U Penn freshmen who were targeted with a "lynching calendar" out of somewhere in Oklahoma (or to be honest, anywhere on earth—we watch enough TV to know that you can hack or send messages and bounce them around the globe). And in Trumansburg, the Facebook Event page for a new group of Ithacans Against Trump was trolled by someone threatening gun violence, leading to police patrols for a little organizational workshop at someone's house.

Friday, November 11, 2016

What to Do?

BLM Rally, Ithaca
Day 3. My mom wrote to ask about political volunteer opportunities near the retirement community she's moving to next month. Like me, she had heard Elizabeth Warren tell us all to "Volunteer and stay connected."

Everyone is wondering what to do. Yesterday I tried (unsuccessfully, for now) to step down from the Democratic Committee, because that kind of top-down, exclusive organization seems inauthentic right now, plus I'm so very mad at the national committee. (The state committee is barely functional—it's an arm of the governor's office and completely irrelevant.) The BLM Anti-Trumpism rally, on the other hand, felt organic and authentic, yet lacking in purpose. So I guess I'm looking for something authentic and goal-oriented, because marching around or listening to badly-miked speeches is not going to do it for me.

I am willing to go to the Million Women March, though, because I understand the comfort that kind of solidarity can bring.

At this very moment in my world, people are posting about a parade of trucks with Confederate flags driving down the main drag in Watkins Glen. And Cornell students have left their classrooms and gathered on the Arts Quad to protest the election results. The comments on the live Cornell Sun video include "How many of you didn't vote?" to "Grow up!" to "Poor snowflakes."

I think there will be a lot of milling around for a while.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Like a Death in the Family

We got to sleep around 4 AM Wednesday morning. Up at 5:30 as usual. In that hour and a half, I managed to have an extensive nightmare involving pieces of my body falling off. "I need you to take me to the hospital!" I encouraged some shadowy figure. No help for me. Maybe my Obamacare had been repealed.

Those first moments after waking are easy; the edges of the room take shape, dog bodies are imposing on parts of my body or leaping ecstatically at the thought of breakfast. And then comes the realization, like a slap in the face, and it's Election Night all over again.

I am the biggest pessimist in the world, but the worst I anticipated was our losing the Senate. That we would lose everything didn't enter my mind. Here are the losses that could immediately impact the people in my little world:

  • Money for environmental work in Afghanistan and Pakistan
  • That coveted internship at the Department of Education
  • Retirement investments and Social Security
  • Affordable health care and decreased pharmaceutical costs
  • Access to birth control and women's health care
  • Some kind of a fair tax code
  • Incentives for solar and geothermal energy
Not to mention international accords and, oh, the planet. And the work we've been doing around the state on developing a plan to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act seems to have been a genuine waste of everyone's time.

Sleep, wake, slap! Sleep, wake, slap! Day 2 of Life in Trump Nation.