Monday, September 25, 2017

Whom Shall We Fear Today

My parents lived through the Great Depression and learned to fear the Nazis, who they thought might finish taking over Europe and head for the U.S.

I was a child toward the end of the duck-and-cover years, when we were taught to fear nuclear war, specifically war with the Soviet Union.

Today we are taught (although not in school) to fear climate change, with its accompanying floods, droughts, crop loss, famine, and potential civil unrest.

I just never thought I'd had to fear both climate change and nuclear holocaust at once, or that the Soviets would come roaring back, or that Nazis would again find a place in German politics. Can't we just fear one thing at a time, please?

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Who Is a Son of a Bitch

Apparently, in Trump Nation, it's football players who kneel when the National Anthem plays, not white supremacists who kill in the name of racism.

I hope Steph Curry and the Warriors take over the freakin' Mall.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Bizarre Logic of Anti-Con-Con

We are all used to fake news by now, and we are all used to propaganda. But I have rarely been subjected to the barrage of bizarre logic that typifies the anti-Constitutional Convention folks, some of them rather sensible in person, who inhabit the internet.

1)
THEM: Failing to vote "No" on the Con-Con ballot is an automatic "Yes" vote.
ME: Our ballots are read by optical scanners. How would that work?
THEM: ....

2)
THEM: No one but elected officials will run as a delegate to the Con-Con.
ME: (1) All the elected officials I've heard from are against the Con-Con. (2) My husband and I are battling it out over which of us will quit our jobs and run as a delegate. He has the list of expensive stupidities in the existing Constitution; I have the political will.
THEM: ....

3)
THEM: Billionaires like the Mercers are sponsoring the Con-Con.
ME: Why is every sign and ad I see opposed to the Convention? How much are the public unions spending?
THEM: ....

4)
THEM: We can get what we want changed via legislation.
ME: How's that working so far? (1) Ballot resolutions in NYS must be put forth by legislators, not by a petition of the general public, another thing we could change, if we wished, via a Con-Con. The last time anyone tried to get that changed legislatively was in 2013, and it died in committee. Which legislators do you imagine will put forth resolutions involving redistricting or ethics reform or campaign finance reform or even fair education funding? (2) Why do you trust legislators to do your work for you legislatively when in #2 above, you don't trust them as delegates? (3) The last time any resolutions made it out of committee and onto the ballot was in 2014. We voted to approve all three. Of those, proposal 2 is working pretty well. The success of proposal 1 remains to be seen, and the notion of an "independent" redistricting commission was knocked off by a judge. Proposal 3 is pretty much a failure.
THEM: ....

More to come. It's exhausting.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Tracing School Failure Back to Reconstruction

Well, this looks like a book I need to read.

As HRC tours with her own book (as Carrie says, "She needed the money?"), I read more and more posts about how it wasn't Russia, it wasn't racism, it was sad white working folks with legitimate grievances. And that's fine, but it does nothing to answer the question "Why Trump?" The answer to "Why Trump?" is his answer to the legitimate grievances: "If we get rid of all these brown people who are taking your jobs and those Asian people who are screwing us, you can go back to mining coal or building Buicks."

So, racism. Sorry, but that was the bottom line in 2016. Our schools are more segregated than they were 50 years ago, and that's still not good enough for some people, who are now seceding from their own school districts in order to maintain a white majority.

Here's a thought: If you keep the races apart as children, do you imagine they will magically grow together as adults? How'd that work out in South Africa?

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Dear Ethicist

Dear Ethicist:

Lately I have noticed a number of online friends gravitating toward the candidacy of one particular person running for Congress in our district. Because I have done my due diligence, I have determined that this candidate, although quite reasonable on most issues, leans anti-choice. The candidate believes that abortion should be legal but is not an "enthusiast" about the right to abortion. This makes me incredibly nervous, given the perilous balance on our current Supreme Court.

I have never been a one-issue voter, but... My daughter recently tweeted:  I would rather my money go to fund Republican candidates who support our ideals than Democrats who do not.  I buy that argument.

My question is: Do I "out" this candidate? The candidate's views are there on the internet for all to see, but what if people don't bother looking? So far, I've only mentioned it to a couple of people who have asked my opinion directly. I would certainly ask the candidate about this if we were in a situation where questions were possible.

I would not be so conflicted if the other candidates were better than they are. Please advise.

Sincerely,

Conflicted

Monday, September 11, 2017

Before I Forget

I am wildly uninterested in reviewing/reliving 2016, but Ta-Nehisi Coates's piece in the Atlantic is an absolute must-read. I posted it everywhere, but the length (daunting) seems to have kept people from reading it.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Welcome Back Speech

So I tried not to give a political speech at BOCES this morning to welcome back staff and faculty, but this came out.
 


Saturday, September 2, 2017

Hillbilly Bleh

The NYT thinks it's one of six important books that will help people understand why Trump won. Ron Howard is making the movie. I thought it was one of the most look-at-me self-congratulatory whinefest memoirs I've read in a while. I wanted to like it. I really, really didn't. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

You've Got to Be Carefully Taught

My former publisher is apparently distributing this children's book with "conservative values," featuring a meme from the Anti-Defamation League's list of hate symbols, a secondary character whose nickname mimics that of certain Trumpists, and a villain named Alkah.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Plenty of Good Strong Hating

Driving home from the Chesapeake through Gettysburg on the day after events at Charlottesville, I mused on how the entire Civil War was just a skirmish in the long, long conflict that is race in America. Save for a few months in West Virginia, I have never lived in the South, and what I know of the South I learned from Faulkner, who was a flawed but always interesting lens through which to view the long conflict, the original sin of Native American slaughter and African slavery that underlies and undercuts this nation.

I lived in Chicago when the Nazis marched in Skokie. As a longtime ACLU proponent and a first-amendment lover, I defended their right to march while hating them for marching, and I feel the same way this week about the cretins who marched in Charlottesville. March, but I'm allowed not to acknowledge you in any way. March, but I'm allowed to turn my back, or countermarch, preferably without being killed in the process.

As Faulkner wrote (in Absalom, Absalom!), "When you have plenty of good strong hating you don't need hope because the hating will be enough to nourish you." That's where we're at. It's not that long ago that I could honestly say there was no one in the world whom I hated. No longer. When one of Olivia's former music teachers is on FB spouting European nationalist blather and blaming Soros and Obama for Charlottesville, I have plenty of good strong hating to go around, and I'm remembering how the school put up a Christmas tree and wanted my child to sell Easter candies with crosses on them to raise money for a class trip and belittled her complaints until she won an essay contest with a strong piece about their failure to act on behalf of kids like her. And I recognize, as Faulkner knew in his bones, that the past is not even past, and the hatred that caused my father to have to bypass Irish and Italian neighborhoods on his way to school, because some immigrants were ascendant while others were forever impure, remains bubbling under the surface 80 years later. By stirring the caldera with his hate-speech stick, our president has encouraged the molten crud to erupt and drive furiously right smack over us all, leaving us blinking stupidly in the sunlight and mumbling, "How could this happen?"

Today I'm hating all the people who are talking about Nazis but not about Jews, and all the people who are still convinced that 2016 had nothing to do with racism or misogyny, and all the moms who thought their sons were going to a Trump rally but surely not to a white supremacist rally, and all the Republican leaders who think a tweet is good enough when it comes to standing up to the fascists in the White House. I'm even, a little bit, hating the gentle folks who are opining online that "Hate isn't the answer," and "If we hate, they win."

At the end of Absalom, Absalom! the Canadian Shreve, who has quizzed Quentin Compson many times about his feelings about the Civil War and the postwar South, asks Quentin why he hates the land of his birth.
"I dont hate it," Quentin said, quickly, at once, immediately; "I dont hate it," he said. I dont hate it he thought, panting in the cold air, the iron New England dark: I dont. I dont! I dont hate it! I dont hate it! 
I get it now.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Who Run the World?

Beyonce notwithstanding, the answer is mostly men in suits. Occasionally mad men in suits and uniforms. Right now we face the unlikely nuclear-powered dyad of Trump v. Kim, with the rest of us mere pawns in their completely nutty chess game.

Nothing new here; Charles VI was crazy as a loon, and Richard II had some kind of unfortunate personality disorder (some have suggested schizophrenia). They faced each other (not directly, but via their combatant soldiers) in the Hundred Years' War, but mostly they enjoyed beheading local enemies, suppressing rebellions, and fending off the treason of close advisers and family members.

The two did manage to negotiate a truce that lasted several years, headlined by Richard's marriage to Charles's seven-year-old daughter, Isabella. Could that work here? Tiffany's single....

Monday, August 7, 2017

Petition Challenges

And we think we have problems. Here in Ithaca, there's a brouhaha over an Independence Party petition filed by a guy who doesn't particularly fit the category of Independence Party, but who has gotten GOP and GOP lite folks to rally around him anyway. I got in a little trouble for saying that it was standard practice to check each other's petitions; around here, it hasn't really been standard practice for a while, because our side learned after a challenge some years ago that went up to the Supreme Court that it was worth getting 1/3 more signatures than we needed just to stave off a challenge. Since that time, the Republican Party in the county has mostly shriveled up and died, and the last challenge they made (unsuccessfully) was to the Certificate of Acceptance in a Dryden village election four or five years back.

But Chuck reminded me today why challenges may prove critical, at least in the Big City. A certain uptown City Council member has a challenger who has mounted a fierce, anti-Semitic campaign. Tenants' Association members in the incumbent's camp gathered signatures from a certain housing project and later were quite surprised to see the same names appear on the petitions for the challenger. Yesterday, Chuck got to go door-to-door with the Tenants' Association folks getting affidavits from tenants stating that their signatures had been forged by someone on the challenger's campaign, presumably by tracing signatures from the voting rolls. There were even signatures from dead folks and people who had moved out. Now it's in the courts. It remains to be seen whether there's enough obvious fraud to toss the challenger off the ballot.  

Being clueless probably shouldn't get you tossed off. But being a crook—an incompetent racist one, at that—surely should.

Keeping the Lights On

My newest TW article, all about how we must rely on local gubmint when the feds no longer represent our interests.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Petitioning

I had a couple of good conversations today on the petitioning trail. We're trying to get our town and county candidates on a second ballot line (the opposition is going for three this year), the object being to give Republicans and non-Dems a place to vote for our people.

Very few people like to carry petitions; the ones who do tend to be candidates, which I guess is good. It always feels like door-to-door sales, which, in a way, it is. But occasionally you meet new or old like-minded people and have a lively chat. Today's were about solar projects, the east-west divide in Dryden, and our wacky weather.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Monday, July 31, 2017

Dizzying

Priebus is out, Kelley is in. Spicer is out, Scaramucci is in. And now Scaramucci is out. Whee!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Not a One-Way Street

I'm not stupid. I've written about resegregation often enough to know that when Dr. King quoted Theodore Parker in saying, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice," he was talking about faith, not about some fundamental good in the heart of humankind.

When we teach about civil rights in the US, we tend to teach it as a forward-moving arc. We skip merrily over the pushbacks of Reconstruction and the development of school vouchers as a means of bypassing Brown v. Board of Ed and other such slips that cause us to backslide.

That's why things like Trump's tweet about transgenders in the military can come as a shock. Far more meaningful this week, although not nearly so widely discussed, is Sessions's Justice Department's decision on Title VII—that it does not cover discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Obama's Attorney General Holder disagreed in 2014, and the EEOC disagreed in 2015, but today's Justice Department is taking a step backward. Since today's Congress is surely not going to amend the amendment, nor would today's president approve it, we'll probably have to see this settled by the Supreme Court, and that could take a good long time.

The erosion of our civil rights can be slow and unrelenting, as in public school resegregration, or it can be sudden and surprising, as in the DOJ ruling. We can reclaim what we lose and forge onward, but it doesn't happen quickly, and it takes hard work. What's important is to keep our eyes open to the chipping away and to resist where we are able.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Scaramouche

We are not talking about Russia. We are not talking about health care. We are talking about the new communications director and his attacks on the chief of staff and his potty mouth.

I'd call Anthony Scaramucci ("the little skirmisher") a rousing success. Straight from central casting.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

BSA

Boy Scouts of America—not my favorite organization, although I was briefly a Girl Scout. But I feel for them after Trump's horrible display of verbal diarrhea at their Jamboree yesterday. I am loving the response on their FB page.

Monday, July 24, 2017

How We Propel the Narrative We Prefer

This sad but fascinating story from Homer (Alaska, but it could just as easily be New York) tells of one guy's attempt to prove to himself the connection between immigration and violent crime. It shows how tangled we can get when we try to trace facts through sources that lead us to like-minded sources, and so on, ad infinitum.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Believe Nothing

It was bad enough when I heard people on the left regularly quoting Bannon's acolyte's Clinton Cash on the topic of the Clinton Foundation and donors. Now every time I get a post about that horrible DNC or how the Russian collusion hysteria is just to cover the Democrats' transgressions, all I can think is that I'm reading Russian propaganda.

This must be what it's like to be a conservative Southerner reading the WaPo or NY Times.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Rural Schools

Commissioner Elia
The Rural Schools Conference this year was surprisingly quiet politically. Speakers would make a veiled reference to the election of 2016 and go no further, merely smirking or looking off into the distance. The Commissioner was clear in her displeasure about the planned budget, but that's as far as she went.

More surprising was the fairly widespread opinion that because the election shone a light on rural America, all of this will somehow be good for rural communities. I heard several times that this was an "opportunity" rather than the national death spiral the rest of us see.

This Pollyanna attitude became particularly surreal when one otherwise clever fellow remarked that climate change would be good for the northeast and might even allow NYS to reclaim the 10 million acres of farmland we've lost over the past few decades. The words "the new breadbasket" were used. PZ informs me that the northeast is simply too wet ever to be America's breadbasket and in its new, warmer climate will be better suited for growing okra, sorghum, or persimmon. Or collard greens.

Otherwise, the trip to Cooperstown was lovely and helped me to get into the rural mood (Dryden really is part of a micropolitan statistical area, and it's good to remind myself on the drive up what real rural looks like). One speaker, the national rural teacher of the year, was from a town in Arizona that was a four-hour drive from the nearest city. One presenter spoke of visiting a school of eight students in Montana where the kids were called in via cowbell whenever a wolverine appeared on the playground.  

So, yes, there's a part of the country we really don't see, or talk about, or (sometimes) fund. It's a part of the country where graduation rates are far higher than they are for urban districts (nationwide, over 80% of rural low-income students graduate), but where there are no local jobs for students once they achieve that goal. In 13 states, half the public schools are rural. In two states (Vermont and Maine), more than half of all students are enrolled in rural districts.

We think of rural communities as being set in stone, but one in nine rural students changes school districts in any given year, and in Nevada it's 17.3 percent. We think of rural communities as being poor and white, but one-quarter of rural students are students of color, and in New Mexico, it's 85.6 percent.*

It's still hard for me to see how any aspect of the 2016 election can move the needle for these kids and their communities, but it's certainly true that if we don't see you, we can't care about you. Maybe just the fact that we're talking about rural communities means that they will start to get the attention they deserve.

*All figures courtesy of my new friends at the Rural School and Community Trust.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

If You Run Unopposed, You Will Win

I thought I'd look at some random 2015 election results from a baker's dozen of larger communities in the 23rd. I looked just at city and town results, which may have been a mistake—county legislature results may be more meaningful. Most of what I found is logical: towns tend to go Republican, cities tend to go Democratic. More Republicans won than Democrats, which is also unsurprising. In 2016, out of all 23rd CD voters registered with the two major parties, 46% were Democrats and 54% were Republicans. That's about as close as you could get to the results on this chart.

The xs in color are positions for which people ran unopposed. Look at all the red xs! In general, the blue xs appear in city wards, but the red xs are all over the place.

We will know in a week or two who's running on party lines for county, town, and ward positions. I am hoping that there are more contested races than there were in 2015. If we're serious about seeing progressive change, especially in the hinterlands, it has to start with people stepping up to contest these local races.


Friday, July 7, 2017

Toto, I've a Feeling We're Not in the American Century Anymore

Watching Trump march through Poland with his imported applauders and his white nationalist message reminded me that empires don't take long to crumble once they start falling apart around the edges. I thought I'd have a look at some classic empires and see how we compare. I'm figuring that we didn't really count as an empire until about 1846, when we started grabbing stuff from Mexico.

Well, we beat the Mongols and Aztecs, so that's something. Just a tiny droplet in the shifting kitty litter of time, though, really.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

More Civics for Grownups

Image result for king george III 1776Of COURSE my favorite story of the year involves the plethora of Trump supporting tweeters who found dreadful parallels between King George III and the president and made their displeasure known to NPR, which had taken the radical step of tweeting the Declaration of Independence on Independence Day.

It is a radical document, designed to foment passion and revolution. And indeed, there are parallels.


  • But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. 
  • a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states
  • his invasions on the rights of the people
  • He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.
  • giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation
  • He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us
  • A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Plus there's the mental illness. But Georgie, unlike Trump, had one wife and no mistresses and was by all accounts both thrifty and pious. Not a big brain, and a weak leader, but still in some ways better than what we've got.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Civics for Grownups

Here's this month's column—teaching political process to adults, candidates in city and three towns, plus a civics test for the Fourth of July.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Trumpcare and BOCES

Medicaid reimbursement for certain BOCES services—occupational therapy, psychotherapy, physical therapy, skilled nursing, speech therapy—is available to school districts for kids preschool to age 21 who are deemed eligible. Without that reimbursement, two things could happen: 1) Districts could cough up more funds at the taxpayers' expense, payable via regressive property taxes, or 2) services could be removed from students' IEPs.

It's not just Grandma or the homeless guy on the streetcorner who will be effected by cuts to Medicaid. It's also medically and/or developmentally fragile children.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Amy Siskind's List

I don't know how I missed Amy Siskind's list, but it's great to know that someone has the time to keep track of the craziness. Here is the link to start following her week by week. I'm adding it to the left column, too.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Bitter Care

Vox has a good condensed version of the bill, which has next to nothing to do with health care. In a nutshell, people will spend more for less, and redistribution of wealth will return to the American trickle-up norm. Old people and chronically ill people will be harmed most. It is mean-spirited legislation that seems to have no goal but to reverse all that our First Black President tried to accomplish.

Meanwhile, some GOP senators are already out opposing it because it is too "liberal," by which I think they mean it costs too much and doesn't lower premiums, which is certainly true. So expect amendments, some of which may make matters worse.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Democracy in Action

Jim called it "democracy in action at the local level." Last night's Dryden Democratic Caucus brought out 70+ people, a record in my time on the committee, to ask questions, hear from candidates, and ultimately to return the incumbents to the ballot for November's election.

I got complaints on social media from people who said they would have come to the caucus if they had known about it. Our local media will not advertise our caucuses (except via legal notices that no one reads), so we can only promote them via the website and FB and word of mouth and flyers at town hall. There was talk after the caucus about the need to get all Dems' emails, but that is such an impractical notion—voter lists don't include email addresses, so we'd need to collect them one by one as we go door-to-door. And although there are many of us, we never get to all the doors. I'd be interested in knowing how other committees deal with push marketing—if they do.

Monday, June 19, 2017

GA on Everyone's Mind

The 6th District is north of Atlanta, and west of Athens, and tomorrow it holds a special election that you may either see as the bellwether of bellwethers or as nothing much to care about, depending on your current state of mind. It features a slightly carpetbagging guy who isn't much of a progressive vs. a woman who is to the right of Attila the Hun. Early voting is very high, and nobody has a clue what that means. (I would guess that it means that more people vote when you publicize a race every hour of every day.)

Remember, this was the home of good ol' Newt Gingrich before Tom Price landed there. It is a pretty conservative place.

My favorite story to come out of it all may be this one, about a single source's manipulation of what people see on Twitter about the race. Who needs Russia? I've already seen local progressives spouting some of this stuff, although others are wildly working on Ossoff's behalf. My big concern is that we've gotten so far away from the question, "Who's the best person to do this work?" When every candidate is just a symbol, does it matter down in the dirt of the district who wins?

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Next Week in the Resistance

Chuck's off to picket Scott Pruitt at the Harvard Club. People are rallying against Reed's lie-filled response to people who wrote to him about his stance against Planned Parenthood. There's an overnight vigil at Trump International Hotel Wednesday to save health care. HCAN is planning a National Day of Action that same Wednesday. Busy week. What are YOU up to?

Friday, June 16, 2017

OMG AHCA

Friend Jeff Stein and other VOXites went around and asked eight Senate Republicans what their new bill would do to fix problems in health care/insurance. Their responses are clear as mud but well worth the read. If you were in good health before, you'll be ill after reading this.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Something for Everyone

There's something for everyone in the VA primary results. Moderates can be glad that moderates won. Trumpites can trumpet the shockingly close Republican vote, and progressives can be pleased that the Democratic turnout was historically high.

Or maybe it's not enough for a progressive candidate not to take big money. If NARAL's against you, and NRA has backed you in the past, Bernie and Liz's endorsements may not be enough. Some lines may not be crossable.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Outreach

I've been connecting to people from other counties who have questions about how to recruit candidates for the many upcoming local seats. We've done so many different things in the past, when finding candidates was hard, but what seems to work best is (1) educating potential candidates on the process, from petitioning to getting out a message to door-to-door and (2) having one-on-one conversations between existing board members or legislators and potential candidates, even to the point of sharing door-to-door duties. It's easy to forget that people who haven't been involved before can be daunted both by the unfamiliar work of campaigning and by the actual work required by a given position.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The WTF Moment

Scariest part of Comey's testimony, hands down, was Senator McCain's questioning. I am not the only one who thought he was having a stroke on-camera.

It's a terrible shame if one of the few Republicans to stand up to the Prez in these long six months is actually out of commission. Bad for our side.

Friday, June 2, 2017

All Politics Is Local

While the top spins out of control, the base is still solid. Mayors and governors are stepping up as the administration steps away from the Paris Accord. It's like a slow-motion coup.

Even my Republican friends can't imagine Trump's lasting through 2017.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

How About Living Our Values?

Lunch with CB today was one long rant, much of it about the people who should be on our side, who talk a good game, but who turn around and stand smack in the way of everything when pressed.

Example 1 (mine): TST BOCES can only build or repair buildings if all nine districts agree. Eight of the nine, including the one that cannot raise money except from donors, have agreed to a minor HVAC/safety renovation. Which one hasn't? Can you guess? It's the one that advertises itself as in love with its own equity. It has the nerve to cry poverty in the face of reducing its own tax rate and paying its superintendent downstate wages. One board member even said in public, "But if we do this, we can't pay for the things our parents want." As if BOCES kids don't have parents. Or aren't that district's kids.

Example 2 (hers): Another district, known for its squishily progressive board, decided to cut Head Start because they didn't want to be "limited" to helping poor kids.

Example 3 (mine): Some of the loudest voices against solar farms in Dryden are coming from the people who are typically loudest about climate change. Because, apparently, if we can afford to put panels on our roof, so can you. Meanwhile, Republicans in Lansing are crowing about and taking credit for their new solar initiative.

Example 4 (hers): A principal complained that Head Start kids in the building ("your kids") were noisy. CB suggested that he get to know those kids and their families, who were actually his kids and their families. Even if they were poor.

We could have gone on all day. The homeless: Help them, but house them far away. Drug addicts, ditto. Section 8 housing: It's important, but it's icky.

I look forward to reading Richard V. Reeves's book, The Dream Hoarders. A Brit at the Brookings Institution, Reeves was struck by the fact that, in his words,
[Americans] protect our neighborhoods, we hoard housing wealth, we also monopolize selective higher education and then we hand out internships and work opportunities on the basis of the social network – people we know in the neighborhood or meet on the tennis courts. And so to that extent we are kind of hoarding those things that should be more widely available.
And this is how it happens: We pretend that we don't have a class system, we don't admit to (or even begin to apprehend) our own privilege, and we turn a blind eye to our communities, except for those residents whose lives are like ours. We run for office without having any sense of where we actually live. We talk about needing a new message as though a message is all we need or all that matters.

There is something refreshing about communities that don't lie about who they are. I've written before about the racism of Ithaca, but people find it hard to believe that a place that talks so much about values would fail to live up to them.

Monday, May 29, 2017

What Are We Doing Wrong?

There's a lot of stuff on the intertubes this week about how Our Revolution and the current progressive movement make lots of noise that does not translate into votes. There's this about the failures in important races (vs. relatively unimportant ones like the LI state assembly race), and there's this about the failure of the Democratic message or lack thereof. And there are attempts to rebrand the left, and equal and opposite attempts to insist that rebranding is stupid. Lots of sound and fury, signifying very little in the face of a world knocked off its axis, a nation without a sense of its own history, and a Congress that makes House of Cards look like the height of rectitude and solidarity.

The notion that we can swim like a school of fish to the next special election that needs us, knock on doors, and win the day is simply ludicrous and belies what we know about politics and people:

1) You need a candidate worth voting for. If having Bernie on stage with you makes you a true progressive, then I guess Andy Cuomo is the real deal. Rob Quist was in a band. He once served as student body president. He employed 15 people. What did he know about running for Congress?
2) Getting people out to a rally means nothing. Chris Brown can get 20,000 people to show up at Rockefeller Center, but I wouldn't vote for him for dogcatcher—nor would most of his fans. Producing something people like to hear and leading or legislating are not the same thing.
3) Developing a candidacy takes time. If you could parachute in with a good message and win, we'd currently have Teachout instead of Faso in the Hudson Valley. If you've spent any time working local campaigns, you know how important it is to make a name for yourself at ground level, as a volunteer with the fire district or school, as a deacon in a local church, as a coach or employer, as a board or committee member. People want to see your name in the paper as part of the community, not just because you have suddenly erupted like a mushroom to run for office.
4) Know what you're for, not just what you're against. Everyone says this, but not everyone can articulate it in a way that resonates with the people who will vote. It's invigorating to be an anti-; I've spent most of my adult life arguing against one thing or another, and it keeps me going. But it doesn't convince anyone that you offer anything other than anger, disdain, or negativity, and those aren't attractive (or winning) qualities.

So, yeah, we need a new message. We need to remember why we are who we are, what we stand for, and why it's important. That means digging into our history and taking a hard look at our economic, social, and political values. It means being able to tell everyone we see why being on our side will make their lives better—and then living up to that promise. It's not an overnight thing, no matter how bad the other side looks.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Biden at Cornell

I cringe when he talks to or about women, because he just can't help his old school ways. But he's really good on human rights in general, and he was the perfect speaker for Cornell's convocation yesterday.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Special Elections

Chuck worked to get out the vote for Brian Benjamin, who won with 90% of the vote in his special State Senate election in the 30th (Harlem/Upper West Side). That one wasn't a surprise the way Christine Pelligrino's was in Long Island's deep red 9th Assembly District. And then there was Edie DesMarais in NH, winning a seat that has always been Republican.

It may be too soon to say something's happening here, but it seems like something's happening here.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Mitch Landrieu

Who would have thought that this scion of organized Louisiana politics would end up giving the best speech on race of 2017?
...I want to try to gently peel from your hands the grip on a false narrative of our history that I think weakens us...

Monday, May 22, 2017

Oh, the Hypocrisy

Bad Clinton Foundation, taking $ from despots. But it's okay for Ivanka.

Bad Michelle Obama, failing to cover her head in Arab lands. But it's okay for Ivanka.

Bad Huma Abedin, staying married to a criminal. But it's okay for Ivanka.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

I've Got a Secret

Turns out I could have run for higher office, after all.

I'm what's known as a security risk. I can't keep a secret, I turn red when I lie. Not a good combination. But apparently good enough to be president.

And now the president claims to have the absolute right to share other states' secrets. But best of all is the hypocrisy.


Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Craven GOP

Really, the story of the week has to do with the complicity of the GOP in every insane blat or tweet or action of the president they allowed to carry their banner. Some have suggested that we need a squeaky clean fellow like Howard Baker to take up the cry, "What did the President know, and when did he know it?"—forgetting that Baker may have been trying to protect Nixon, not to throw him under the bus. I agree with Schiff that this is John McCain's finest hour, but it's a hell of a burden for an octogenarian to bear. I count 290 Republicans in the Senate and House—where are they? Do they imagine that hiding under their beds will make things turn out right for them?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Comey's Dismissal Had Nothing to Do with Russia Probe, Trump and Aides Say

Although screaming at the TV is sort of amusing, this is my favorite image from the debacle of the Comey firing:
Image result for cigar dynamiteStone declined to comment Tuesday night but said he was enjoying a fine cigar.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Talk v. Action

A Cornell-sponsored anti-poverty forum at the end of the month will use World Cafe techniques to envision working together to eradicate poverty. And then there's the grand opening of Anabel's, a collaboration created and built by students to fight food insecurity on campus. Article by Olivia, grocery by two other former Dryden students, among others. Although I'm sure a lot of talk went into Anabel's, which took two years to come to fruition, at the end of the day, the action's what counted.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Not My Party

Megyn Kelly, Greta Van Susteren, and now George Will. I'd love to believe that the jump from Fox to MSNBC/NBC meant a change in attitude on the part of these talking heads, but I suspect it's more about abandoning a sinking ship for one that hopes that a tack to the right might assist its ratings.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Executive Action Word Cloud

Business Insider did a nice roundup of all of the President's executive actions and memos and proclamations from his first 100 days. Leaving out the 30 proclamations that declare special days and weeks and months, I classified these as to category and created a pretty word cloud. There's some overlap; obviously, certain anti-regulatory items can be pro-business or anti-environment. What surprised me was the number of items that shifted roles or took away duties or added duties or created departments or subdivisions in the "reorganizing government" category. Click to view in a more readable form.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Big Vote

It looks as though the Prez managed to bully two no voters to vote yes, which is all the House needs to call for a vote. All of our Congressman's voicemails seem to be full. He is playing hard to get. If I were Reed, I would keep not telling how I'm gonna vote, wait to see how the roll call goes, and if it looks like it will be a "yes," vote "no," just to flummox his constituents.

On to the Senate, most likely. I liked this rant in Mother Jones. "How is it possible that 90 percent of House Republicans are happily voting in favor of this moral abomination?"

Monday, May 1, 2017

Andrew Jackson

I'm not sure how AJ feels about it, but I'm pretty happy about the number of people Googling him today (50,000+). One sort of wishes that the Prez had done that prior to his interview. Trump's understanding of history doesn't say much for Kew-Forest Prep School, or the NY Military Academy, or Fordham, or Wharton.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

No Progressives Here

There may be progressives running for County seats here, and there are lots clamoring to run for Congress, but our local school board is woefully progressive-free when it comes to candidates running for the May 16 election. Nobody wants to start at the local level. It bodes ill for later town board elections; our town already has a progressive board, but many do not.

I'll be bullet voting on May 16 in an attempt to keep the worst of the bunch off the board. *sigh*

Thursday, April 27, 2017

A Nation of Neophytes

Once upon a time, I worked on the campaign of a very nice, very smart man who wanted to run for Congress. He had never run for elective office before. I will never work on such a campaign again.

We currently have a President who never ran for elective office before running for President. We see how well that is going.

In my Congressional District, we have five potential candidates to run against Reed, only one of whom has any legislative and executive experience. In my county, we have multiple candidates primarying for County Legislature, few of whom have ever done anything at the village, town, or county level.

In my world, you don't wake up one day and say, "I have lots of ideas; I think I'll run for Congress!" I know people do it all the time, but to me, it makes no more sense than applying to be CEO of Dell because you own a desktop. There are skills involved; you'd better have done serious board work, run meetings, developed policies, and raised money. You'd better be good at communicating, consuming large quantities of verbiage and retaining key points, compromising, and delegating. You'd better have won an election if I'm going to take you seriously.

I know, I know—that's just not FAIR. It's not as though the Congress we have is so great; maybe a horde of newbies would improve things. Maybe not knowing the rules is a plus! Maybe seeing things through new eyes is an asset!

Or maybe I just don't have time for you to get up to speed.

If you have great ideas and want to run for office, pick a town position and go for it. Go door to door. Win an election or two. Learn how laws and regulations are made. Work together with other municipalities. Deal with people on both sides of the aisle. Listen. Make friends and do good deeds. Then we'll talk.


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

Reflection

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.    

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO A RESISTER.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

SearchInternetHistory

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

Pageturner

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.