Sunday, April 23, 2017

Con Con-Con

If one theme emerged from the Democratic Rural Conference other than, "We're fired up!" it was the anti-Constitutional Convention fervor from our elected officials. I have become used to it from assembly members, but it was disheartening to hear the warnings from Comptroller DiNapoli (a former assemblyman), whom I usually admire.

I've written before about the anti-Convention propaganda line: The convention will eliminate Forever Wild in the Adirondacks and will destroy public schools. The message has not changed, but now it is accompanied by anxiety about the cost, estimated at over $50 million. Much depends on how long the convention lasts; six months seems typical, and delegates must be paid the same amount as elected state representatives. So yes, that can add up.

Could this be what our elected officials really fear: Term limits? Ethics reform? Removal of pay to play options? Redistricting?

DiNapoli got a lot of applause for his con Con-Con message, but it was not unanimous. Don't tell me that in this Trump era we're going to lose control of the Convention and then tell me in the next breath that we will prevail in NYS elections in 2018. Both cannot be true.

P.S. The state's love of charter schools is putting public schools in danger even without a constitutional change. The state is perfectly able to create bad laws all on its own. Let's give the people a chance to clean some of it up.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Why We Are Democrats

After November, my #1 priority for the local party was to create a video of interviewees answering the question, "Why are you a Democrat?"

As the all-too-often quoted George Lakoff said in "Understanding Trump,"  "Values come first, facts and policies follow in the service of values. They matter, but they always support values."

Thus for Marchers for Science, it may be better to stress a belief in exploration and invention rather than to argue against cost-cutting to the EPA. For decarceration supporters, it may be better to talk about liberty and justice for all than to quote statistics.

I don't know whether Lakoff is right that this appeal to unconscious thought is necessary, or whether Americans are just lazy thinkers. Probably both are true. It's part of the reason I'm framing the Dryden solar issue as Paul suggested: "What do we want our town to be remembered for?" rather than "We can provide cheaper electricity to 7,500 households." But it's rough going for someone who actually likes facts and details and was always taught to support opinions with strong evidence.

But back to the initial question. Because in order to support values, one ought in fact to have values, our Political Action Team is coming up with a sort of definition/manifesto that clarifies Democratic ideals as we see them at the local level. As you can imagine, it has not been an easy process—but it has been a good one.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Off to DRC

Olivia and I will take off midday tomorrow for the Democratic Rural Conference, where we are presenting on Saturday. We will probably get there too late to hear from Senator Gillibrand, but I look forward to a spirited discussion of the Constitutional Convention. Once again, the pro side is from Hank Dullea, and the con side is from a sitting assemblyperson. Here is the schedule of events.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Building a Coalition

The list of like-minded organizations, familiarly called L-MO (el-mo), is up to 50. Last week I shared the list with everyone on the list. The idea is that we now can reach out to each other to share events, volunteers, information, and ideas. I immediately received materials about the Working Families Party's application to share with our candidates plus queries from developers of the local March for Science about which elected official might make a good speaker. No one has opted out!

Thursday, April 13, 2017


Our local solar power kerfuffle is starting to look like a reflected microcosm of every 2016-17 communications problem between left and right. It really doesn't break down along partisan lines—some Democrats who love solar power in theory are unhappy with the size, location, and avian interference of the proposed solar farms, and some Republicans are quite gung ho. Nevertheless, a session last night indicated a strong division between what you might call utilitarians and libertarians. It's not exactly a battle between green development lovers and climate change deniers, although there's some of that; it's more like people who envision a greater good vs. people who assume that everyone is motivated by personal profit. It's also a bit about people dreaming of a better future vs. people bound to a beloved past. And neither side can possibly understand the other.

The developers deserve credit for making significant changes to the plan to accommodate views, wildlife, water protection, and so on. Although they are allowed to build in a wetland, they won't. Although they are allowed to operate tax-free in NYS, they are working out a PILOT. Meanwhile, there were those in the room who insisted that the town was being bilked and should charge utility taxes (which they cannot), or site the thing on Mt. Pleasant and hook into transmission lines rather than distribution lines (also not possible by law, although it seems to be a bad law), or give Dryden residents first dibs on power (which the town can and probably will do). The rumor is being floated that certain board members are personally benefiting from the solar project. Because why would anyone do anything if they were not getting kickbacks?

I left early so I wouldn't stove in the head of a noisy nearby naysayer, but I left thinking that a significant number of people were feeling better about the project, and the ones who were not would never be happy and would continue to scrabble for new reasons why. Last night it was mostly about the PILOT and how the whole thing was a scam. Earlier it was about the placement and water and the view. Tomorrow it will apparently be about graft. Impassioned statements from citizens about leaving our children a more hopeful future were greeted with great scorn, and strong complaints that "you people" were coming into "our town" to do something "we don't want" were met with mystification.

(I remain unsure why acres of gas wells are attractive, but acres of solar panels are hideous. To be fair, not everyone against the solar projects was for fracking, but several in that room were. It really must come down to dollars and who gets them.)

We live in a liberal county that has managed in the last decade or two to sink fracking, a pipeline, and two wind projects. Our penchant for saying no to everything would make us fit right in as members of Congress. Paul says it's time our town stood for something, and he's right. He and I gave a patch of our land so that a broadband tower might serve the greater good, although to be fair, we were among the recipients of the good, so it was not a grand sacrifice. At the moment, though, our town seems to be content to line its streets and highways with storage units. They provide lots of tax revenue for zero services, but are they really what we want as our legacy?

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

NYS Budget News

The good news for schools: The budget was almost on time, allowing schools to budget more accurately. More $ than the governor originally suggested. Foundation Aid maintained.

The bad news for schools: More $ for charters. No lift on the cap on aid for Career & Tech teacher salaries. Really lopsided aid. (In Tompkins, % change in total aid runs from +0.03 for Trumansburg to +9.53 for Lansing.)

It will be interesting to see whether ride-sharing services upstate lead to fewer cars on campus and more parking everywhere. Wouldn't that be nice.

No Escape

If I'd thought that a seder with octagenarians would be a good place to escape politics, I was sorely mistaken. We did not use the Resistance Haggadah, but it didn't matter.

Speaking of Haggadahs, I was amused by this version via McSweeney's.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Time Warp

So we bombed Syria because it turns out dead babies can melt the hardest heart. And then we confirmed Judge Gorsuch because frozen truckers can't melt the iciest heart.

Ann Coulter's tweet is typical of the alt-right reaction.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Immigration Issues Hit Home

We learned at last night's TST BOCES meeting that ESL numbers in our adult ed programs have dropped precipitously, because people are afraid that showing up for classes puts them in jeopardy. The refugees we had counted on getting are stalled, mostly back in their home countries or in camps somewhere. Meanwhile, the state, via rulings from the feds, has decided that to get $ for ESL, we must be training people for particular jobs in the workforce. In Ithaca, at least, many ESL students are grad-student spouses or relatives of visiting professors—people who do not have work visas but hope to learn the language to be able to survive grocery shopping and parent-teacher meetings.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Like-Minded Organizations

To gain some sense of who's out there, I've been working on a list for the Dems of like-minded organizations in the area. So many have sprung up in the months post-election that it's just about impossible to keep track of events and actions. A master list that gives me contact info will let us start to share information, volunteers, etc.

I came up with 44, from Activated Ithaca through Youthful and Progressive Ithacans. I'm sure there are some that I inadvertently omitted and others that will crop up in the coming months, but it's a start. It sort of feels like a community....

Friday, March 31, 2017

Happy Birthday to a Resister

I don't have the energy for a new post, so I'll share the poem I wrote for DZ's late-February birthday. It celebrates all resisters, really.

 With Apologies to S. T. Coleridge

At Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump
A tacky pleasure-dome decreed:
Where gilded port-a-potties stood
Near wardrobes of endangered wood
            On carpets gone to seed.
A golf course and a salad bar
With shrimp imported from afar
And there were sycophants with noxious tones,
Inventing policies to screw the common man
And neo-Nazis on their private phones
Delivering to Trump whate’er he’d need.

But oh! that sleazy Mafioso fortress
Atop a swamp mosquito-bit and rotten
A slimy place! As fiendish and as hopeless
As e’er upon Floridian coast was buttressed
By fake flamingos and goods ill-begotten.
And in this sewer, with ceaseless turmoil boiling,
Steve Bannon with demonic helpers toiling,
The plan for deconstruction was affirmed:
It would not take more than a four-year term
To make insolvent agencies galore
And prop up corporations by the score
So with a flippant pen stroke did his boss
Confirm the fact he did not give a toss.
For miles around the people stood defeated
And wondered why they’d voted for the man
Whose rage and bluster seemed to mask a plan
To injure most those people most mistreated.
And ‘mid this tumult Trump heard from afar
Town hall protestors prophesying war!
            The shadow of old Mar-a-Lago
            Blackened half the sun-baked earth
            Where was heard the jingling laughter
            Of the one-percenters’ mirth.
It was a miracle discussed by scholars,
A pleasure-dome supported by tax dollars!                        

A damsel with a cellular
In a vision once I scanned:
It was a Dutchess County maid
And on her mobile phone she played,
Calling her Congressman.
Could I just clone her daily
Her energy and ire,
In time my own inertia’d fail me
And with phone calls loud and long
I’d bring down that dome of Trump’s,
That irksome dome! those hideous fans!
And all who’d been down in the dumps
They all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His pig-like eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round the man,
And beam him to his Russian friends
For this is where the nightmare ends,
And we begin to breathe again.    


Wednesday, March 29, 2017


Sometimes crowdfunding appeals just make me happy.

College for All, but Not a Cent for Most

So the Gov is all over the airwaves encouraging the legislature not to add those millions to the budget on behalf of P-12 schools, because the federal budget is likely to be so lousy for NYS. Nevertheless, his "college affordability plan," being that it's a "modest outlay," can stay in.

College for all, if that were really what this was about, is just fine with me. But let's think about the failure of the state to live up to its required commitment to community colleges, not to mention its consistent and illegal failure to fund our elementary, middle, and high schools. For those who think that government should budget the way households do, this seems like saying, "Well, we don't have enough to pay the mortgage, but this vacation cottage costs a pittance, comparatively, and it will make everyone think we're super cool and ready for a national race!"

BTW, it's just us and North Carolina left in the pantheon of states-that-treat-16-year-olds-as-adults. Can we please stop that?

Monday, March 27, 2017

Running for Local Office

We pulled off 90 minutes on "Running for Local Office" despite all three presenters' being seriously under the weather. Over 40 attendees, about 35 of them new to me. Many eager to run, maybe, some thinking about it in the future, some looking at school board, some just there to learn.

We covered petitioning, caucusing, how the committee helps with finances and messaging, and how to deal with voter lists and door-to-door. It was a lot of information, but most people seemed interested rather than frightened.

Friday, March 24, 2017


You know the kind of book that is SUCH a thriller, you can't put it down? The kind that you read into the wee hours and can't wait to open again in the morning?

That's the kind of book we're in.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

As Homer Goes, So Goes the Nation?

In the Village of Dryden, which is probably 3-2 Republican, the GOP stayed home for the village election, meaning that our two Democratic trustee candidates won handily.

In Homer, a Democrat unseated the incumbent mayor.

In Interlaken, a Democrat won the mayor seat, and a Green was seated on the council.

Groton did not fare as well, but the numbers in Groton are hard to overcome. It remains to be seen whether this is a trend or a blip.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Cry Bullshit, and Let Slip the Dogs of War

It's not just the President. Any number of people, it seems, are coming up with long diatribes backed by the flimsiest of "facts," and in this world of instant news, the diatribes go viral in minutes. The worst offenders, it appears, are generally labeled "Copy and paste, don't share," presumably so no clue of the dubious origin remains.

So, no, security for Melania and Barron will cost a lot, but not $184 million a year. And no, the budget doesn't directly eliminate Meals on Wheels, though it does cut block grants that may occasionally be used by states to fund programs like Meals on Wheels.

The point is that it's exhausting and honestly impossible to keep up. But everyone who copies and pastes these items reduces by a smidgen any credibility that our side has in facing up to the genuine, reprehensible actions going on daily. We have to call bullshit on the bullshit as we can; stop imagining that just because a trusted friend posted it, it's real; and fight the power, not each other. Plus do our own research whenever possible. It's hard. If we could run the country just by retweeting bullshit, we'd have no problem with the president we've got.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Beating 'Em Back in Europe

It may take months to put together a governing coalition, but at least the Dutch seem to have learned something from our troubles.The defeat of PVV and rise of GreenLeft can only be good news.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Drain the Swamp, Uproot the Reeds

It can't have been easy, but Congressman Reed waded into the thick of it at four town halls this weekend, starting at Southside Community Center in Ithaca. This Sun article describes the hour he spent there. He did talk to those left outside in single-digit temperatures on his way out, but his overall message was: I'm working for Trump voters, not so much for you.

Meanwhile, back in DC, the GOP needs to get its act together, because the message coming from Paul Ryan (Yes, some people will lose coverage) contradicts that of the HHS Secretary (I think even more people could be covered). But whether anybody notices or cares is another matter.

On to March Madness.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Trump Fires Bharara

Preet Bharara is one of the few heroes of NYS politics, a prosecutor who goes wherever the wind blows him and is responsible for the downfall of many a corrupt pol.

Now the most corrupt pol of all has ordered him to resign.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Okay, Who's FOR It?

Even Breitbart hates TrumpCare. Even Ann Coulter hates it. Who likes it? Possibly author Paul Ryan. Trump, who hasn't read it, despite its lack of length. Pharmaceutical companies? My congressman, whose reading skills are similar to Trump's. Anyone else?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Happy International Women's Day

Except that the TrumpCare plan, which is bad for everyone, is especially horrid for women.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Pollyanna Trumps Debby Downer

A brief sojourn into optimism occurred in my monthly column.

Happening this week: A Tech Committee meeting Tuesday to talk about better voter lists, snappy websites, and even an app for driving voters to the polls. An Action Plan meeting on Thursday, in which we assign roles and set more detailed goals. And a mailing party Saturday to get postcards out to village voters for the March 21 election. Plus playoff hockey!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Step Up Step Back Step Away

So our Congressman is coming to do a Town Hall at Southside Community Center, at 8 AM on Saturday. He has been raising money on being the Brave Guy Who Stands Up to the Angry Mob, and it's totally working for him. We will no doubt have a ginormous crowd there, mostly outside, as the venue is again too small for the level of interest. Meanwhile, there's lots of grumbling about who should get to speak and who should just provide background chatter, and way too much in the way of attempts to control the event. I'm talking hours and hours of blather for a one-hour event in which Reed will probably field half a dozen questions.

I will head to Dryden and run a mailing party for the village election instead. Sorry if that makes me seem like a cranky old white person, but I'd rather do something tangible than be part of the news cycle. If I want to talk to my Congressman, I will go talk to my Congressman. In DC, if necessary.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Creeping Closer

Simon pointed out this desecration of a Jewish cemetery less than two hours from here.

Cheering from the Sidelines

Who isn't beside himself with schadenfreude at the sight of Sessions twisting slowly in the wind? The Washington Post hasn't been this dog-with-a-bone since pre-Reagan, and it's lovely to see. Trump's put-downs of CNN have even caused that frilly "news" center to return to its roots. I could not be happier.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Speech

You know what a low bar we've set when just the fact that the Prez doesn't veer off text and start ranting about himself earns him plaudits from left and right.

You know what a low bar we've set when George W seems like a model of sense and sanity. Or when McCain seems moderate.

But that's the world we live in.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Snopes on Speed Dial

I'll tell you who won't win the revolution for us: Young progressive conspiracy theorists. The fake news coming out of the right isn't enough for you? Two lies don't make a truth. Thank god for fact-checking sites, but they can't possibly keep up with the bushels of bullshit per hour. Stop. Or at least think before you post. Life is too damn short, and this is too important.

ON THE OTHER HAND, if you want to contemplate a real conspiracy theory that will curl your hair, try this one. The Guardian has been consistently fascinating this year.

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Solution Is Dissolution, Redux

Back when I wrote this, it seemed evident that Trump's cabinet was being filled with antis whose main goal in life had always been to dismantle the agency they were now tapped to lead. And now that plan for deconstruction is confirmed.

Let's think about what's going on right now. Arizona voted to treat protest like organized crime. The administration told public schools to ignore existing law protecting trans students. De Vos is on record calling for the cutting of her own budget. Freshmen Congressmen, eager to get made, introduced bills to eliminate the Department of Education and the EPA. Trump has signed memos constructing pipelines and reducing regulatory burdens—and freezing federal hiring outside of the military.

Our Congressman is raising money on local protests at his town hall meetings:
I wanted to make sure you saw these reports from the Buffalo News, ABC, Fox News and the New York Times covering our Town Hall meetings on Saturday.
As many of you already know, Tom has held over two hundred Town Hall meetings since taking office and is one of the most accessible members of Congress. It's great to see national and local media recognize his efforts in spite of the liberal extremists who tried to stop us from having an honest conversation about the issues facing our country and district. According to the Buffalo News, activists with ties to Washington organized and trained protestors who took over our meetings with demands including single payer healthcare, citizenship for illegal immigrants and an immediate stop to fossil fuel production.
I know that these extreme liberals do not represent our values and that is why we need your help.
The campaign is already up and running to combat these efforts and defend our record against distortions. As we work to unite this district there are liberal groups attempting to drive us apart and bully us into supporting their extreme agenda.
A contribution of $10, $20, $50, $100 or more will help us fight back and show the Ithaca and the Washington Democrats that their destructive tactics aren't going to work here in the Southern Tier, Finger Lakes and Western New York.
It is hard to imagine how our "trained protestors" could possibly have a more extreme agenda than the Trump administration has.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Clarification, Plus Another NY Action

Chuck points out that to get the clever age-linked lists they used for their phone bank, they spent some money and used a service.

And another old publishing contact send this message:
Yesterday, I read an article or post (can't remember) about how our State AG, Eric Schneiderman, Trump's Enemy #1!, is planning to take down Trump using the emoluments clause, so I called the office in support and to find out more and left a message with my name and number.
This morning, I just got a call back from a woman in his office, who said she has been going through the call log since 7:30am, calling people back to urge us to call AND send an email to him, voicing our support for further investigations into Trump's conflicts of interest and potential violations of the emoluments clause of the Constitution, so he can bring a suit! 
She said she is logging the calls and emails so PLEASE DO BOTH! Her name is G ("as in Girl, easy to remember") and if she doesn't pick up, leave a message with your name and number and she will call you back. Phone 212-416-6218 Email: Be sure and put your name, address and number in the email. Thank you!!!! 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Calling Republicans

Chuck writes of a successful phone bank on the West Side—30 Dems calling registered Republicans over 65 in the 19th District (Faso land). Mostly seniors calling seniors to say that they were worried about the future of Social Security and Medicare and urging them to call Faso (on the Budget Committee) to share their own concerns and encourage him not to cut SS or Medicare.

According to Chuck, "The elderly Republicans we called were surprisingly responsive. They were suspicious if they thought we were calling about Obamacare, but once we mentioned Social Security and Medicare, they were willing to talk... We got over 20 promises to call Faso."

Sounds like a good plan for any of several groups here in Tompkins, whether they call within the 23rd (Reed is on Ways and Means) or call Claudia Tenney's district, the 22nd (she's on Financial Services, which really isn't connected, but she ought to be getting heat from all directions, because she is one of the most vulnerable Congresspeople in NYS). Major towns in the 22nd include Binghamton, Rome, Utica; Cortland and Norwich are in there, too. Phone lists are available at boards of elections, or Citizen Action Southern Tier can probably help.

I like the idea of reaching out to Republicans. We don't do that often enough.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


I took a break to have a birthday, try unsuccessfully to get over my illness, drive northeast to spring my mother from the hospital, and welcome O for winter break, but that doesn't mean things weren't happening. The photo shows me at the far right of the TC Progressives' event at GreenStar—we gave the room four minutes on Running for Local Office and got a lot of interested volunteers and a few potential candidates. And Sunday, our Listening Meeting committee met to hash out an action plan for 2017.

Our Congressman, who ran the first time as a Tea Party guy, tracked to the middle and was threatened twice from the right, and now is a fervent Trumpeter, got more press than he's ever received thanks to progressive groups from our county and beyond ferrying protesters to his four town halls on Saturday and alerting the media. He had, to everyone's surprise, shown up in Ithaca at 11 PM to talk to the Catholic Workers sitting in at his Ithaca office. It appears, in the short run, anyway, that the fact that he stood up to the protests rather than running away (or refusing to hold town hall meetings, as some of our neighboring Congresspeople have decided to do) will make him something of a hero, which was surely not the intent of those who brought media coverage to the 23rd District. He was even on NPR again this morning—now he's everyone's go-to guy for this topic.

Meanwhile, it turns out that you can spout whatever bile you like about women, or transgendered folks, or immigrants, but when you cross the line into deviant sex practices, you're out.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

I Can't Hear You

NPR reported today on a gay journalist whose experience with trolls after he published an article on Milo Y turned him into a conservative. Our Trump-enabling Congressman is holding a series of Town Hall meetings (well outside of our liberal county) on Saturday, and amid the calls for polite discourse are plenty of people claiming that their intention is to shut him up and drown him out.

My father's favorite phrase, which he attributed (wrongly) to Voltaire, was "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." (Voltaire's biographer, a woman named Evelyn Beatrice Hall, was the real author of the quote.) This philosophy has been strangled to death by a society in which we value safe spaces and bubbles over a free exchange of ideas.

The danger is that if you drown out Milo Y and the congressman, you make them into heroic, wronged victims, whereas if you let them spout their claptrap, noxious though it may be, they eventually drown themselves out. If it's too painful for you to listen, don't go. But don't let your sensitivities allow people like Milo Y to portray himself as abused and bullied. That way, he wins.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Great Unraveling

The unraveling of the Trump regime continues apace, and reporters aren't even disguising their pleasure. Twenty-seven days was all it took.

Meanwhile, this most Ithacan of Ithaca stories took place yesterday. Only in Ithaca could our boy mayor marry a couple during a sit-in at a Congressman's local office.

And tonight I'm on this agenda down at Greenstar for the first of many such scheduled meet ups:

This is What Democracy Looks Like!

Please attend! Wed. Feb 15th, 5 to 7 pm

(a meet up with 12 round table discussions, at the Space at Greenstar...)
The topics and their facilitators are:
1. Environmental Organizing. Lisa Marshall, Mothers out Front
2. Healthcare & the NY Health Act. Susan  Beckley, Finger Lakes for New York Health
3. Safe spaces for the LGBTQ community.  Anne Koreman, business owner in Trumansburg
4. Progressive Radio.  Will Burbank, TC legislature
5. Perfecting the Progressive Pitch.  Ann-Marie Adams, public affairs specialist
6. Unfunded Mandates & Property Taxes.  Don Barber, former town of Caroline supervisor
7. Advocacy on Behalf of Refugees.  Laurie Konwinski, Catholic Charities
8. Affordable Housing.  Theresa Alt, Democratic Socialists of America
9. Running & Helping in Local Elections.  Kathy Zahler, TC Democratic Committee
10. Saving Cayuga Lake.  Walter Hang, Toxics Targeting
11. Getting to know Tom Reed.  Katy Nicholson, TC Progressives
12. TC Sanctuary Resolution.  Kathy Bergin, immigration lawyer

Monday, February 13, 2017

Sneaking in via the Back Door

It's good I'm following about 110 small protest groups in town, or I might have missed H.R. 610, which will remove federal funding from education and put it all into block grants to states. The repeal of the Hungry Kids Act is just gratuitous meanness, but the bill itself would mean the end of any attempt at equity or diversity in schools, pulling the civil rights rug out from under the kiddies.

Caucusing and Listening

My latest TW column is about what's happening in the local Party right this minute.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Local Campaigns

I attended a candidate training (really for chairs and campaign managers rather than candidates) in Auburn yesterday, where I learned that Cayuga County folks are miles ahead of many of us in their scientific approach to campaigns. They take the target vote seriously and spend zero energy or money reaching voters who always vote the Dem line in every local election. I didn't learn anything new, but I was fascinated by their seriousness. They have already lined up town board candidates for the whole county and will start canvassing and doing door-to-door in June. It's exhausting! Meanwhile, we have a little village race that will occupy all of our time till late March. But I will try to apply some of the Cayuga tactics to reach those voters who are tough to reach in tiny local races. And I will make sure our candidates know their Win number.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Nonpartisan Contempt

At last night's Legislative Forum on educational issues/budget at BOCES, Assemblyman Chris Friend (R) and Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton (D) were alarmingly in sync on every issue--keep foundation aid, fold restricted aid into foundation aid, take the tax cap off BOCES capital projects, allow schools to increase reserves.... It turns out that partisan politics don't hold a candle to mutual dislike of the governor.

Which gives me a glimmer of hope for the national scene. If the GOP can rid themselves of the fantasy that if they just feed the monster and pet it occasionally, it will grant all their wishes, they, too, might unite with the Dems against a common enemy, and we might actually get something done. Or not.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

You, Sir, Sorta Suck as a Nominee

The Senate whipped out some courtly rules about not maligning fellow members to shut Elizabeth Warren down last night. Oh, for the days when you could rip an old Senator in half and reject him for drinking and womanizing. Life was simpler then.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017


It's a sad day when I agree with neocon David Frum about anything whatsoever, but he is absolutely correct here. Pick two things: Taxes and Russia. Go for them full out.

The amount of irk I am starting to build up from the onslaught of "My uncle has a barn, let's start a political movement" posts and emails I'm receiving is threatening to erupt in my skin again. I love a good political movement; don't get me wrong. And I am the first to agree that action beats inaction. However....

The Left has never been able to focus. Think back to any protest event you've been to for the past umpteen years. There's the Women's Issues table, the Environmental Issues table, the Latino table, the Socialist table, the Anarchist table, the Tshirt and Bumper Sticker table... It's like a village bazaar instead of a focused political action. Do you think the Tea Party had a Christian table, an NRA table, a RTL table, a KKK table? No, they just went for it, figurative guns blazing. And blazing guns beat scattershot sniping every time.

The Women's March on Washington was different, because it really managed to wrap all the causes up into one big ball of expressive anger and point it like a cannon down the Mall toward the White House. That's the kind of focus we need.

What's happening now is that I'm snowed under by groups that are largely doing the same kinds of things under different names. Sorting them out, or even telling them apart, occupies way too much energy that should be going to honest-to-god action. I don't want to read your new newsletter; I'm already reading two perfectly fine newsletters and would like to cut back to one. I don't want to share your ideas for saving ACA; I just shared someone else's ideas for saving ACA that were honestly just about the same as yours only maybe a little bit clearer.

How's this: Join forces with an existing group. Merge your followers with their followers. Pick a thing. Do it. Don't talk about it fifteen different ways. Just do it. It's fine to invite others to do it, too, but don't waste a lot of time on that. Doing it is the important part. Then start again the next day. Do a related thing. Don't go off on a tangent because you read a cool article. Pretend there's a target in front of you, and your only goal is to hit the bullseye. Possibly 100 times. Maybe until the target shreds, and you have to find a new target.

Oh, and while you are making your super nice FB event page for your thing, consider that people you might wish would join you, those rural folks or working class folks who live outside of town, don't even have broadband and won't ever see it. Maybe that could be a thing... oops, don't get distracted.

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Dishonest Media

This is actually the most chilling thing I've seen this week: Trump's hinting that the media, for its own unnamed reasons, is failing to report incidents of terrorism.

So now we are in the post-truth realm where we have a choice—to believe our Commander in Chief or to believe our mainstream media. Apparently the two are mutually exclusive. How dangerous is that?

Choler in the Blood

I've taken a break from blogging, or indeed from thinking about much. If I could characterize my mood over the past few months, it might range from somewhat depressed to murderously enraged, without much of a break for joy or pleasure. The result has been, as the Greeks would say, choler in the blood. I haven't been sick in 21 years, minus the occasional cold or mild flu, but last week my virus morphed into shingles, and it hit me like a truck.

No, I didn't get the vaccine; it has neomycin in it, and I'm allergic to most antibiotics. Still, I'd rather have hives for a day than this. If childbirth was 10, and a botched root canal was 9, this was an 8—and it lasted a lot longer than either!

I honestly haven't thought about shingles since the height of the AIDS epidemic, but it seems like a singularly perfect metaphor for my toxic mood. I'm healing in body and must work harder on the spirit.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

About Frederick Douglass

"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I noticed."  
                       —Donald Trump on Black History Month

I wonder which of these represents the amazing job Mr. Douglass "has done":

"The life of the nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful, and virtuous."
"The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress."
"Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground."
"To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker."
 "Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe."
                                 —Frederick Douglass

That's Our Girl

Not really ours, but she did eat dinner with us monthly while she was a student here! Olivia pitched the story of her defense of a Qatari detainee to the Sun, and they ran with it.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Executive Actions to Date

It's hard to keep track of what's happened since Trump declared his own inauguration a National Day of Patriotic Devotion (borrowing from the North Korean, apparently), but I knew I needed a list when I realized that yesterday there was a really egregious regulatory order that got ignored in the immigrant chatter.

Luckily, USA Today has done my work for me. In sum:

Friday he sought the repeal of Obamacare and froze all new regulations pending review. Monday, he withdrew from TPP, restricted foreign aid money to family planning organizations, and froze hiring. Tuesday, he restarted the pipelines, fast-tracked high priority infrastructure, and asked Commerce to streamline manufacturing regs. Wednesday, he declared the week National School Choice Week, directed Customs and Border Patrol to build a wall, and cut off funding to sanctuary cities. Friday, he banned entry from seven countries for 90 days and called for a review of military readiness. Saturday, he banned former lobbyists from lobbying again for five years after leaving the administration, restructured the NSC to add Bannon, and called for Defense to come up with a plan to defeat ISIS. And yesterday, he declared that for every new regulation, agencies must get rid of two old ones (and fired the acting AG who would not enforce Friday's order).

All in a week's work.

Monday, January 30, 2017

La Nausee

Whether it's dread about the human condition or just a virus picked up at TC3, I've been flat on my back for a couple of days and haven't felt much like writing, dealing with people, or even trying to assimilate all that's gone on in the last 48 hours or so. But I'm upright now, if unhappily so, and I'll try.

Our adopted Cornell student, Molly Lauterback, was one of the many heroes who rushed to the aid of stranded immigrants at JFK. Her story was in the NYT. Molly left Cornell thinking she'd go into museum management somewhere, got a job with the ACLU, and ended up in law school, to her great surprise. She graduated in May from NYU and is already applying her expertise in immigration law, a skill she probably didn't expect to need so immediately and so close to home.

While all that was going on, we held our Listening Meeting for Dems and friends on Saturday morning. I spent the entire event outside the door, keeping officials at bay and turning about 50 would-be attendees away. We signed up 185 folks, only a small percentage of whom were already involved in party politics. Next we will go through the dozens of comments, both oral and written, and try to put together a political action plan for 2017.

Friends have written about protests they've attended since Trump closed the borders to refugees. There was one in Ithaca, one in Syracuse, one in Albany, one in Battery Park, one at JFK, one at Logan....

It seems that this is the new normal. Wake up, shake off the nausea, and decide what and where to protest today.
Les jours s'ajoutent aux jours sans rime ni raison, c'est une addition interminable et monotone.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Signing Up for the Long Haul

At the overflowing Town of Ithaca Hall last night, just as I was thinking, "Where the hell were all these new people when I was desperately trying to get anyone at all to canvass Ithaca for John Plumb's campaign?" a new 20-something member stood to give an impassioned prepared statement to the Democratic Committee. She admitted that her generation had taken us (meaning the aging grunts of the committee) for granted, but begged us to make a place for them, because they truly wanted to be Democrats.

Now, our committee is different from other county committees in NYS in that it is by-and-large further to the left than most. I couldn't toss a spitball and not hit a Bernie supporter in that room, many of them older than I am. He won by 4,000 votes in our county's primary. Even in our most conservative districts, he beat Clinton.

So we are not the middle-of-the-road, stodgy Dems that some millennials expect us to be based on our gray hair and mom jeans and inability to manipulate Google Docs. We're a bunch of old hippies and feminists who fell into Party politics through the back door and stuck around because it was a way to have intelligent conversations about issues and do some good at the local level.

That being said, the new faces are exciting to see. I hope they won't be bored to tears by grassroots local politicking, which tends to focus on bridges and water mains and potholes rather than immigration and foreign policy and trade. We do important stuff. Hell, we turned Dryden into a Democratic town and got Democrats onto the perennially Republican town boards of Newfield and Groton! It's a slog; it takes time. But it's worth it.

In other news, our speakers from the ACA presentation are taking their show on the road, first to Owego. I'd like to get them out all over the state; they were wonderful!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

This Is What Resistance Looks Like

Like Kirsten Gillibrand's rejection of most Trump nominees. Like Jerry Brown's defying the Trump administration in his State of the State. Like American scientists planning their own March on Washington. Like America's mayors (including Ithaca's) saying, "Fuck you, feds, we'll do the right thing on sanctuary cities without your damn money."

The American presidency lost a lot of ground in the Nixon years and has been steadily shedding its trappings of dominion, but this hourly pushback seems designed to topple it entirely.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

More Misdirection

So while we're all looking over here at the meaningless babble about lies v. falsehoods, the EPA is frozen in a media blackout (and forced to scrub climate change from their website), committees have approved many of Trump's nominees (with Democrats' apparent obeisance), pipelines are back online, and some horrible picks are in the mix for Scalia's seat on the Supreme Court.

I never thought things would move so quickly. Trump may not be up to the job, but someone behind the curtain clearly is.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

What It Wasn't

The March: It wasn't an anger-fest or a celebrity-led event. Maybe 0.5% of us could even hear the speakers (we weren't in that percentage). It wasn't a scattergories mess of unrelated topics. Black Lives Matter was there, but it fit organically. It wasn't a pushback against government workers or cops. I saw no law enforcement until the end, and there are photos of cops posing in pink hats.

Instead, it was the kindest, friendliest, most positive protest I've ever attended in the 48 years since I went to my first Mobe event. It was the physical manifestation of love of country.

Friday, January 20, 2017


As O and I drive down to Washington today, I look forward to listening to her music rather than following the inaugural news. That's the kind of denial I'm in.

Homeland Security reports for Saturday are such that I'm putting cards with contact #s and drug allergies all over my person. But the weather looks good! This will be my first march on Washington since 1992.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Analyzing Trump

Politico sat down with three biographers of the 45th Prez and came up with this fairly interesting/terrifying analysis. Trump as sleeper Yippie is my favorite image.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Perusing De Vos's Statement

I have in front of me a copy of Betsy De Vos's statement before the committee yesterday, and it reeks of the sort of noblesse oblige that I feared was her motivating force.
When Dick and I became parents, education took on a whole new meaning. We recognized that other parents were not able to make similar decisions about their children’s education, based on their income or the zip code in which they lived. 
Goodness, what a shock that must have been.
Why, in 2017, are we still questioning parents’ ability to exercise educational choice for their children?  I am a firm believer that parents should be empowered to choose the learning environment that’s best for their individual children.
A sweet thought, but here's a roadblock. In my rural community, there is one school district. Choosing a learning environment isn't really an option. Unless I provide my own transportation, I can choose among my public school, Cortland Christian Academy, or the K-8 Catholic school in Ithaca. And many, many rural communities are far more isolated than mine.

The press release that accompanies De Vos's remarks says that she is "a stalwart advocate for students, especially low-income and special needs children." Yet she's fine with students' signing away their IDEA rights and seems to think states can do a perfectly lovely job of deciding who gets what kind of education.

I like her house, though.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Finding a Way Forward

Following our successful ACA/Medicare event, we're looking forward to the listening meeting a week from Saturday.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

ACA Medicare "Learn-In"

We had to turn people away from the Learn-In today—they locked the door at around 150, and late attendees cycled into and out of the standing-room only space in the UU Annex. People are fired up and eager to learn. Plus, Progressives and Dems were pretty nice to each other!
Jim Gustafson MCs the event

Friday, January 13, 2017

You Say Somaylia, and I Say Somahlia

I'd been wondering why proposed Sec. of State Tillerson's POV seems so far removed from Trump's on everything from Iran to Russia. Turns out they didn't really talk about much.

I guess there's precedent for having a President and Sec. of State who disagree on foreign policy. Washington and Jefferson, for example, mostly because the former listened to Hamilton. Wilson and William Jennings Bryan. Truman and George Marshall over Israel. But it's probably not a good model for the nation to put forth to the world.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

News/Not News

The news is rushing at us fast and furious, and it's a challenge to sort out what's important, if anything. News: Trump isn't really divesting. Not news: Everything else in the "press conference." News: Trump and Obama were briefed on apparent Trump bad deeds. Not news: Buzzfeed's dump of what may or may not be disinformation. No longer news: Democratic institutions have failed us. Would be news: Any suggestions of fixes.

Chuck's Three Parks Dems had a visit from the NYC Comptroller, who shared with them figures on what the city could lose in federal funds (up to $7 billion in social services) plus a report he'd done on the contributions of immigrants to the city's economy (they own half of all businesses in NYC and pay billions in taxes). Not news, but it might be news to the anti-immigrant folks in the general population and in Congress.

I can't watch more than a minute at a time of any of the confirmation hearings, and I will avoid Ben Carson's entirely lest I fall into a coma. I note that the lights went out on Pompeo's hearing just as Senator Warner started talking about Russian hacking. News or not news? Who the hell knows.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Stop the Presses, Reset the Doomsday Clock

WARNING: Plenty of unsupported speculation ahead.

Remember when the worst we had to worry about was oral sex in the Oval Office?

Pity John McCain. Presidential hopes dashed through a combination of fate, tradition, hubris, and a bad VP pick. Party hijacked by a braggart with no military background who disses you out of the gate for getting captured and tortured. So you put out a few feelers—you're looking for something, anything, that will torpedo this asshole's election. And lo and behold, you are handed a dossier by a British agent filled with salacious details. Because you are a man of strong faith in your own morality, you hand it over to the FBI instead of broadcasting it all over the Sunday talk shows. (The FBI actually has the materials already but has declined to act on them.) But maybe once the guy actually wins the election, you have a staffer leak the info.

Here's the thing: It's all unverified, because what are you going to do? Track down the prostitutes? Hold a gun to the heads of the Russian mobsters? Putin's not going to talk. Trump can't.

I told you Russia was going to be the big story. Good lord—the Kremlin Trumpists took support for Ukraine out of the party platform! We have a Russian agent about to be sworn in as leader of the "free" world! And I'm starting to rethink my feelings about term limits, because if it weren't for the guys who remember the Cold War all too well, all of this would have been swept under the rug.

UPDATE 1/26: They actually DID reset the Doomsday Clock!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Upstate 2050

I don't have time to write a whole story for Simon's Upstate 2050 site right now, but I'm thinking a lot about how things look when the public sector is entirely privatized per the desires of the Trump cabinet. It's easy to imagine what systems like schools, post offices, jails, and libraries look like. It's harder to see what happens to shared infrastructure like roads and bridges and transportation hubs. And what's hardest for me is to picture societal structure when absolutely nothing but money determines how one lives. (I know the picture is downstate, not upstate, but it's a perfect illustration of what I'm thinking.)

Monday, January 9, 2017

Slapping Down De Vos in 16 Pages

Good for Elizabeth Warren.

De Vos might not be the most nefarious of Trump's cabinet picks, but she is entirely representative of all of them—a billionaire with radical ideas who thinks the private sector should be responsible for everything.

In 16 pages, Warren explains exactly why I hate this choice.


Worked much of the weekend on our local response to this call from Schumer, Pelosi, and Sanders:
Working with the Tompkins County Progressives, we'll hold a "Learn-In" Sunday around the issues of ACA and Medicare, with a little Social Security thrown in, featuring a couple of experts, a Q&A, and ideas for direct action. I'm looking for one more speaker, and then my job is done.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Asking with Humility

A friend posted this excerpt from a May 2016 graduation speech by the Dean of Education at Harvard, and although the whole excerpt is excellent, this piece speaks to me about some of the problems we have had as organizations, parties, and even individuals in solving the problems of others.
But how we help matters as much as that we do help. And if you ask, "How can I help?" you are asking with humility for direction. And you are recognizing that others are experts in their own lives....
A worthwhile lesson, I think.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Resist Locally

I've written before about how we will need to act locally to counter radical right policies at the federal level. Ithaca's mayor agrees.
City Attorney Ari Lavine will be working on a new project called the New Federalism, modeled after the Federalist Papers, which states that local and state governance should check the a federal government's excess of power. 
Meanwhile, we are working with the Tompkins County Progressives to put together a quick rally (because not much lead time, Bernie!) for January 15.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Our Liberal Bubble Makes National News

From the Toronto Star comes the story of Cornell's nonbinding call to make the campus a sanctuary for undocumented students.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Oppression Envy

Driving home from Wegman's today, Olivia and I were talking about a phenomenon she's seeing more and more on campus, especially post-November 8: Acquaintances who are identifying as oppressed minorities. Not content just to be sympathizers with or in solidarity with fellow students of color or minority sexual orientation, some students are "coming out" as POCs on their FB pages and reidentifying as queer without any notable previous history of queerness. She titled it "oppression envy."

O wonders whether her scoliosis allows her to identify as a person with disabilities, probably more because she wants a better parking space than that she wants to join the parade of oppressed people under the Trump regime. We agreed that this was probably not a good plan; neither of us feels comfortable borrowing her grandmother's handicap placard, so the fakery wouldn't be appealing.

I see two ways to think about this new tendency. On the one hand, if we are all oppressed, how can any of us be singled out for persecution? On the other hand, doesn't the usurpation of someone's authentic identity devalue honest-to-god oppression of the oppressed class?

I know plenty of white middle-class folks in Ithaca who identify with people of color in ways that are helpful and sincere. But I don't know any of those adults who claims to be the minority he or she is trying to assist. If this is a thing, it's a new thing, and it remains to be seen whether it's a good thing or just a meaningless or even destructive thing.