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.