Thursday, December 28, 2017

Musings re Citizen Lawmakers

Back in 2010, it was the Tea Partiers—lots of previously unaffiliated folks coming out of the woodwork and asking, as this Times article suggests, "Why not me?"
The new class of lawmakers will contain the highest number of members with no experience of elective office in decades, likely since 1948, when there were 44 such House members elected....
The NRCC gushed, "Their lack of political experience was and is their best asset." The Times mused that "It remains to be seen how much impact the new class of inexperienced politicians will have on legislative matters." And Norm Ornstein suggested, "A lot of the members coming in believe what they've seen on television, that all you have to do is do the right thing and it will happen."

I'd posit that we may now be paying the price for that cluelessness. The Congress we have now is as dysfunctional a bunch as I remember seeing, and surely part of that comes from a complete lack of knowledge about how to legislate. Allen West may have been correct about the original intention of the Founders to have citizen lawmakers who serve and return home, but the Founders never pictured representatives who relied so much on their staffs. Congress starts to look like certain embassies, where the Big Name is simply for show and the little people behind the scenes do all the work.

Now we're facing a similar "Why not me?" from the other side of the aisle, as dozens of would-be representatives leap into the fray. In the 19th, there are six Dems eager to take on Faso: a deacon, a lawyer, a small business owner, a former Cuomo press aide, a teacher, and a cyber security entrepreneur with a degree from West Point. In the 23rd, we have a retired cardiologist, a retired Air Force colonel, a teacher, a small business owner, a cyber security entrepreneur, a lawyer, a minister, and a guy who worked for the Congressional Budget Office. If they sound interchangeable, well, there you go. Theoretically, citizen lawmakers come in all types, but apparently there is some crossover.

I won't broadly state that you shouldn't run for Congress without some legislative or executive experience. Elizabeth Warren did it, and she's done just fine. It may have helped that she'd spent two years chairing a Congressional Oversight Panel and knew a bit about Washington ways, or that she's a Big Brain and a quick study, but it is certainly true that she walked into the Senate without ever having served in a village, town, county, or state government.

However, she may be the exception that proves the rule. When I look at candidates, I want to know their opinions about problems and issues, sure. But I also want some sense of how they might perform at their job. That's not just about public speaking, although that's a piece of it. It's about understanding where the divides are among federal, state, and local law and how the three fit together. It's about constituent support and reading skills and ability to draft legislation without leaving the brunt of it to some staffer.

It's great that a handful of the candidates in 19 and 23 have done some committee or planning board work. It's nice that a few have lobbied for pet issues or are married to policy analysts. And it's absolutely true that we haven't done that well even when we've had longtime legislators in charge.

I liked Matt McHugh, who was never a legislator, although he served as Tompkins County District Attorney and as a State Democratic Committee member before running for Congress. I also liked Maurice Hinchey, who was a member of the State Assembly for many years before his time in Congress. I respected Amo Houghton, who walked into Congress from the business world. And I can't stand Claudia Tenney, who was an assemblywoman before winning the Congressional seat from the 22nd.

So maybe there's no reason for me to get my back up over the number of people running for Congress without having paid their dues and learned the ropes. Maybe it's fine to have citizen lawmakers fresh off the boat from whatever profession they currently occupy. After all, I'm for term limits; I don't want people overstaying their welcome in government.

But I'd feel so much more comfortable if I had a little more to go on than just "What I believe is what you believe." Bad enough that it's amateur hour at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Hypocrisy, Venality, Cynicism

I have nothing much to say about the Tax Act, except that the flipflopping of the one-time no voters is at least as egregious as the amaurotic ignorance of the constant yes voters, one of whom represents me in Congress. This op-ed is a pretty good summary.
How could nearly every Republican representative — and all 52 Republican senators — support the tax bill? The best answer may be the most cynical: because it benefits key leaders, their friends, their heirs and their donors.
Our governor is on record as threatening the four NYS members of Congress who voted for the bill. He is also making news for his plan to have the state divest from the fossil fuel industry. These are fine ways to appeal to progressives, although he could have called for divestment, I suppose, in any year that wasn't leading up to his re-election. However, these moves are overshadowed in my mind by the fact that last Monday he vetoed a bill that would have made a technical adjustment in the tax cap by clarifying that a school district's costs related to BOCES capital should be treated in the same way as the district's capital costs, which are currently excluded from the tax cap calculation. This is something that has twice passed the Assembly and Senate, because it is a no-brainer, but because it might be misconstrued as loosening the tax cap, Cuomo cannot bring himself to support it.

The result is very simple. No group of districts can afford to pay the millions required to update and upgrade BOCES facilities without state assistance. Any BOCES facility (including ours) that needs to expand or make major improvements can forget about it. Students who attend regular public schools are assured of regular fixes, but their sisters and brothers with disabilities, special needs, or a desire to learn a trade will have to make do with failing buildings, be crammed into overcrowded spaces, or end up shipped to faraway BOCES that can accommodate them. But hey, they don't vote.  #kidslivesmatter

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Roll, Tide

The best part of Doug Jones's squeaked-out win is watching Alabama women on Pantsuit Nation post about their pride at being a part of it—and then reading all the Thank yous from all over America. Black women made this happen, assisted by young people.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

No Statute of Limitations

Look, it took me a while, too. But you can't say the GOP is acting egregiously by trading a vote in the Senate for their souls and then turn around and say "But we need Al Franken's vote and voice!" You don't get to put bad actors on a sliding scale of moral dysfunction unless you've been personally victimized by each of them in turn. You can't say that our side is eating its own while the other side is getting off scot free; you have to say that our side is doing the right thing, and their side is doing the wrong, evil thing. You can't suggest that a person's youthful shenanigans aren't relevant if that youthfulness is defined as that person's 30s or 40s. There's no statute of limitations on being an asshole.

And of COURSE we should be going after Donald Trump. And Justice Thomas. And Woody Allen. And Roman Polanski. And Ted Kennedy should be glad he's dead.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

The GOP Plan, Personalized

NPR has been especially good at providing charts and information about the contents of the enormous GOP tax plan. Although we don’t yet know what a reconciled bill might look like, I’ve used some of their information on the House and Senate proposals to guesstimate the effect on our household.

There’s not a lot of change for us here. Under the House bill, we may stay the same. Under the Senate bill, we might go down a percentage point. If we made $50K more a year, we’d see a much bigger drop. (Note to self: Make more money.)

We don’t take the standard deduction, so this is moot. I am self-employed and typically pay quarterly taxes and itemize. If we did take the standard deduction, our deduction would actually go down, from $25,450 for a family of three (with existing personal exemptions) to $24,000 (with such exemptions removed)—not the fabulous bargain the GOP has implied. Nevertheless, it may end up being a better deal than itemizing, now that so many other deductions are going away. We will have to see.

From around $1000 now, this could go up to as much as $1600 to $2000 or so. We're no longer eligible, since our dependent is over 17. We might now get a temporary credit of $300 to $500 for a dependent who's not a child. And luckily for us, we don’t use child care anymore, because that deduction is gone.

SALT (State and Local Taxes)
This was a battle between Senate and House. Right now, with the Collins amendment, it looks like we’ll only be able to deduct up to $10K for state and local property taxes. That’s a sizable loss for us; our school taxes alone are over $12.5K. Deducting state and local taxes is a key reason for people in NYS and other high-tax states to itemize. Losing or lowering this is going to hurt. We'll get hurt, and so will local accountants!

Our dependent is about to graduate from college and intends to join a national program that will help her earn graduate school tuition through work. It now looks likely that any GOP tax plan will attempt to tax the money she does not pay toward tuition as though it were earned income. Nor would she any longer be able to deduct $5,250 in employer-provided work-related education, should it be offered to her. Instead of seeing her launch her career debt-free and independent of us, it seems very likely that we will end up subsidizing her continuing education or helping her to find loans—whose interest, by the way, she will no longer be able to deduct.

Marco Rubio let slip what most of us knew would happen once the tax bill became law—the GOP plans to go after Social Security and Medicare to make up some of the trillion-dollar burden on the deficit. Depending what that looks like, we have a relative who may need our assistance sooner rather than later. Not to mention that we ourselves are going to qualify for those benefits within the decade, if they still exist.

NYS will be hard-pressed to balance a state budget if upper income taxpayers can’t offset their property taxes with SALT and start leaving in droves. So what will the state do—cut services? One of us works for the state and could lose his budget or his job if that happens. Raise taxes to cover the losses? That will hurt, too. Your tax bill, and ours, is more than just one bill. Cut it in one place, and it may balloon somewhere else.

If the GOP plan is reconciled, our 2019 federal tax bill is likely to be higher than our 2017 tax bill. We will lose a lot in SALT. We might gain a little if we change tax brackets. And by 2025, only our millionaire friends (note to self: Make some millionaire friends) will be paying less than they do today; we will certainly be paying more than we would have if the tax structure stayed as it currently is. Even the breaks for small businesses in the GOP plan are designed to help the top 1 percent, not a small business like mine.

Let's consider, too, what those taxes will pay for. For example, this year's budget eliminates teacher training and cuts food in schools, coastal research programs, NIH training, affordable housing programs, senior-work programs, education at NASA, and 50 programs with the EPA. It increases the size of the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps while slicing back UN peacekeeping funds.

Add to that some of the hidden features of the GOP tax plan—allowing churches to endorse candidates without losing tax-exempt status! letting parents start 529 funds for the unborn or apply them to private K-12 education!—and you have a tax plan that is designed to support a right-wing agenda while ensuring that the rich get richer. I’m not surprised that the GOP didn’t reveal the Senate plan until half an hour before the vote. I’m a little surprised that they had the stones to let it be seen at all.

UPDATE: NPR reports that the 529 for fetuses may be out of the revised bill.
UPDATE 12/14: And now it looks like they're losing the awful tuition waiver plan.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Lone Hawk

So it turns out Bob Corker was the only real deficit hawk in Congress. The other Republican senators were, as this September GQ story predicted, using hawking as "a cover story to disguise callous opposition to social programs."

It may seem bizarre to see this cavalier attitude toward budgets in the very people who stymied Obama at every turn, allegedly to balance the budget or lower the deficit. But if you accept that all of that was about stopping Obama, that none of it was about deficits or the national debt, it starts to make some kind of sense. Not that the deficit isn't still in play; next up will be a determined effort to cut social programs to keep that deficit from ballooning into the trillions. Expect no mention to be made of the tax bill that caused that problem in the first place. Because in this brave new world, not only does no one blame you for lying about your intentions, but also no one remembers your lies 20 minutes after they are uttered.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Net Brutality

We have arrived in a Brave New World where no polling can be trusted. Schneiderman's whistle-blowing on the bot-driven responses to the FCC's calls for comments on Net Neutrality prove that online polling is even more corrupted and corruptible than telephone polling is. Are we still going door-to-door to create the 2020 census? We'd better.

Thursday, November 16, 2017


Things are moving fast in the media's exposure of sexual assault, and now it's become surprising. Surprising to start reassessing Clinton or Anita Hill in light of today's This Shall Not Stand attitudes, surprising to see how far we've come since Trump's Billy Bush conversation a year ago. Surprising how my sense of outrage links directly to my politics—Al Franken? Nooooo—or my appreciation of someone's talents (Kevin Spacey? Louis CK? Nooooo), whereas I completely embrace the downfall of pseudo-Christian right-wing loons and have a sort of schadenfreude when it comes to Woody Allen.

While Senators squirm anxiously and wonders whether they could stomach seating the hideous Roy Moore, should he win his seat in Alabama, I wonder how many of them are pondering whether they could survive amplified scrutiny of their own careers—the airing of photos, the youthful hijinks that bordered on abuse.

I would so love to relitigate Clarence Thomas's Supreme Court confirmation. That would be sweet.

Monday, November 13, 2017

The New Megaphone

A group with more time on its hands than most of us is tracking the Russian social media that allegedly interfered with our 2016 election. It's an impressive array of stuff aimed to take advantage of American divisions and identity politics.

Meanwhile, people on the right and the left continue to say "No votes were changed" by this particular kind of interference, as though only direct hacking into voting machines could make a difference, as though messaging has no relevance to political choices, as though the election of a brainless oligarch were inevitable because [Hillary/Amerika/blue collar jobs/your best guess here].

Of course, that is bullshit. And now I know it's bullshit, because I have witnessed close at hand how easily an election can be hijacked using only social media. Our recent NYS Constitutional Convention vote was a test case in this brave new world of issue-branding.

Now, NYS has voted against holding a Convention before. In 1858, 1916, 1957, 1977, 1997—people decided against it  for a variety of reasons. But that was before we were the land of indictments, fighting Illinois for the title of Most Corrupt State in the Union.

Take a look at how polls rated the likelihood of a yes vote on the ConCon over the course of 2017. From 64-24 percent YES in August to 57-25 percent NO in November—that's a massive swing in a short period of time. What caused it? Did NYS clean up its act? Did the legislature convince people that it could police itself and pass the amendments the people requested? Not exactly.


I started seeing social media posts from NYSUT back in early summer, along with posts from a group that called itself New Yorkers Against Corruption, a slick name for an organization that actually fought to retain New York corruption and the status quo. If you go to NYAC's website, you find, in the small print, a contact called Thomas Meara at a company called Kivvit. By its own admission, Kivvit "designs and manages campaigns with the issue and client outcome in mind." It is a large PR firm that works for clients such as Ford and Comcast. Tom Meara himself has an interesting resume and has done union work.

The main thrust of NYSUT's and NYAC's posts was that a ConCon would eliminate public employee pensions. This rapidly evolved online, in the thrilling game of Telephone that social media mirrors, into the ConCon's taking away existing pensions. As far as I can tell, the unions were the only ones suggesting this as a probable result of the ConCon. Since no delegates yet existed, nobody was touting the removal of pensions as a campaign promise. In a state with nearly half a million people employed in el-hi education alone, the threat of pension reform is significant. It didn't matter whether the method was simply voting to eradicate public pensions, or voting to allow the money from the pension fund to be used for other purposes—both of which I saw described online—the threat galvanized a NO vote with public employees and rapidly moved via shares and retweets to involve supporters of teachers, supporters of fire fighters (rarely the same people), and many people for whom a pension was just a distant dream. It did not matter that the NYS pension system has gone through radical changes via legislation and renegotiation, from Tier 1 now to Tier 6. The thought of putting their hard-earned coin in the People's hands was more than public employees could bear.

The high point of the union blitz, as far as I'm concerned, came when a union leader went on the radio to tout a no vote to keep big money out of politics. The money spent by the unions in opposition far exceeded any money put up by ConCon supporters. It is worth remembering that the unions, in conjunction with a few other groups, were primarily responsible for the failure of the vote in 1997 as well, back when we had no examples like Wisconsin to suggest that New York might screw its public workforce.


At the same time that this Save the Pension social media blitz was going on, environmental groups were sharing their own Save Forever Wild concerns via social media. For every ten pension posts I saw, there was perhaps one environmental post. And whenever I mentioned that Forever Wild had in fact been created via Constitutional Conventions in 1894 and 1938, I got a flurry of lists of Good Guy Conservation Agencies who were urging a no vote. This despite the fact that we've been chipping away at Forever Wild legislatively over the last decades.


It's worth thinking about how Facebook works. My tendency to click on political and educational posts means that Facebook is eager to throw political and educational posts my way. That might easily explain the ten-to-one pension posts I saw compared to environmental posts. But my guess is that money talked, and the unions spent so much that it was only natural that pension posts overwhelmed environmental posts even on the feeds of environmentalists. It would be interesting to compare notes.


Somewhere around late August, I started reading posts urging a no vote because the Mercers, Steve Bannon, and ReclaimNY were urging a yes vote. This one took off like wildfire, multiplying throughout the intertubes like the zombie apocalypse. Attaching the names Mercer and Bannon to anything was enough to electrify the left. It did not matter one bit that ReclaimNY had actually decided to back down on their initial tendency to vote yes because they did not trust that existing legislators would not be delegates. The entire Constitutional Convention was now an alt-right conspiracy.


Some of this Mercer thing was a corruption of an actual Mercer-led blueprint for holding a Constitutional Convention via Article V—of the U.S. Constitution, not the NYS Constitution. There is a difference. One is a literary work of genius. The other is a pedestrian how-to document. Perhaps misled by this conflation, people started posting in the fall about "saving our constitution," as though something that tells us how bingo and lotto are to be regulated were a precious work of art. By this point, it was no longer clear to me who was behind any of the posts I was reading. The "no" signs all over the state were union-bought, but the many tentacles of nuttiness now crowding out the pension and Forever Wild stories seemed to be spontaneous.


Shot down rather quickly late last summer, but too late to do any actual good, was the notion that a ConCon would cost the people of New York $300 million. The Rockefeller Institute, which tried like Peter at the dike to poke their fingers in all the holes erupting around the ConCon, found this erroneous number perpetrated by various public officials. Although a series of stories appeared in media around the state saying that the number was specious and probably five or six times the real cost, the truth mattered little by that point.


In 1997, hero and would-be Assembly reformer Richard Brodsky strongly supported the Constitutional Convention against his legislative leadership, and so did Governor Mario Cuomo. As ConCons make strange bedfellows, they were joined in their yes votes by Tom Golisano, Rudy Giuliani, and ChangeNY. This year, you had to look long and hard to find a legislator in favor of the Convention, and although Governor Andrew Cuomo pretended to lean yes, he danced a little sidestep the day before the vote and announced his plan to vote no.


The weirdest motif that occurred late in the battle was the one that suggested that our system of altering the Constitution worked fabulously well as it was. I've written before about how bizarre this logic was. In just a few months, we had entirely lost the thread of corruption and dysfunction and landed in a place where all was well, so why rock the boat.


If you don't believe votes can be changed by persistent, false messaging, I give you New York State from August through November of 2017. I believe that if "yes" organizations had been quicker on the uptake (and had unlimited funds and a great PR firm), they could have fought back with credible arguments and changed some minds, or at least retained their original advantage. As it was, they mostly wrung their hands and ceded the field. Those of us who watch NYS politics with a jaded eye (and who have actually read the Constitution) could only stomp out miscellaneous flareups with no hope of actually ending the firestorm. New York now gets to putz around until 2037, content in the knowledge that its people don't really want substantial change. And maybe Russia will hire Kivvit in 2018—I'm sure they'll accept rubles if the price is right.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The SALT Vote

Am I the only person to think that Reed and Collins voted for the SALT deduction in a careful calculation among the NY delegation about whose seats were least vulnerable?

If you think you're immune to ouster, you can support the White House without repercussions. I consider it a really bad sign.

Monday, October 23, 2017


Simon, Paul, and I penned a letter urging a YES vote on the Constitutional Convention.

We have been looking forward to a convention for maybe ten years. I hoped for a definition of "sound, basic education" and some truly forward-thinking school funding plans. Paul wanted to rid the state of the millions of dollars of waste caused by antique regulations. Simon had a vision of cleaning up Albany using a bulldozer instead of a blindfold and tweezers.

This year's "NO" brigade has been a solemn reminder of what the age of social media hath wrought: No thinking, just a lot of heat spread like lightning at the click of a button. Shame on public union leadership, which struck fear into members' hearts with threats of a disappearing pension when pensions have been disappearing since Tier 1 morphed into 2, and 3, and 4... and 7. Shame on organizations like NYCLU, who pretend to push until push comes to shove and they get cold feet and decide to stick with the devil they know. (Whoa, block that idiom!) Shame on anyone who mistook the Kochs' desire for a US ConCon for our own 20-year state vote, usually through application of poor reading skills and a desire to jump on any progressive-sounding bandwagon that would have him or her. Shame on everybody who pushed bullshit propaganda like the canard about "no vote equals a yes vote!" Shame on our elected officials for pretending that their despotic, restrictive means of putting amendments on the ballot is in any way good for the People of NY. Shame on New Yorkers who are appalled by the state of the state but use magical thinking to assume that the state can fix itself if only we squeeze our eyes shut and just... believe.

We are outnumbered, at least on the IJ editorial page and in the signs and messages we see. Enjoy the next 20 years, NY. We don't intend to stick around much longer to see the mess you've made.

Monday, October 16, 2017


I don't know why it took Harvey Weinstein to trigger people's memories, but the #MeToo on social media is just about unbearable. Simon shared a post from a friend who took her own experiences for granted but was powerfully moved to think that her daughter's experiences might differ.

I never took my experiences for granted, nor did I think they were okay, whether they involved early-morning frottage on a crowded subway, groping by strangers on an airplane or in a Caribbean bar, salacious questioning by the blind father of the shyster rabbis I worked for in Queens fresh out of school, or the pimping out of young editors to salesmen at a publishing company in my late 20s. I just got good at deflecting, shifting, moving, blocking, elbowing, ignoring, or finding the one nice married, middle-aged guy who just wanted to share a beer and some conversation.

I'm reading Roxane Gay's Hunger, which seems timely, because it's not just about how we inhabit our bodies, although it's very much about that, but it's also about violent sexual assault. Her story isn't my story, thank God, nor is my story anyone else's story, yet all the stories are the same, sad story, and none of them comes as a surprise.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Facts Are Hard

I read this Leonard Pitts piece today on "When ignorance is impervious to fact," and it resonated with me. This morning I had the following conversation with a Dryden resident (online, of course). He messaged the Dryden Democrat FB page a long screed about what the Dryden GOP claims is a 50% tax increase. I said that the problem was that they were talking about the levy and not the rate, so it was misleading. He said who did I think paid the levy. I said he and I and all the new developments in town, which was why we're not paying a 50% rate. He said even the real increase per year made it bad management. I said that the town has fewer employees than before the recession and cut appropriations $200K last year. I even pointed out that the new budget was aiming for a flat rate.

Whereupon he said, "Sorry not voting for your party this year. Time for a change. Let's make Dryden great again."

Whereupon I said, "Your side isn't talking about the cut in appropriations or the $3.6 million the town got from the state for bridge improvements based on stable finances—but you vote you! Facts are hard."

Whereupon he said, "Yes they are. Cut it however you want. Your party lost the presidential vote. Hopefully it will go the same in Dryden."

Which leads me to Pitts:
 But it is important to understand that the disconnect media face does not stem from failure to report the facts.
Rather, it stems from some people’s failure to want them.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Flagrant Sexual Hypocrisy

As Trump rolls back the birth control mandate, this article on sexual hypocrisy is pitch-perfect.
It’s a child, not a choice, abortion opponents tell us. Unless the pregnancy is embarrassing and super-inconvenient and an impediment to your political future, in which case it’s merely a clump of cells.

Monday, October 2, 2017

ConCon on the Ballot

Although I'd have liked to express my opinion, this is a bias-free history of ConCon. I did, however, pass on editing our assemblywoman's editorial against ConCon today. So you know where I stand.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Stand Up Sit Down Fight Fight Fight

I sort of sympathize with the Green Bay fans who didn't know whether to stand up and lock arms because they had lost track of the narrative and didn't know what it meant.

This football stuff, which we have been talking about for a week while Puerto Rico sinks under the waves, is out of control. I knew what Colin K was talking about when he took a knee. I wasn't 100 percent sure when other players started taking a knee. Could be about police brutality; could be solidarity with Colin K. Then came the linking of arms before the National Anthem, and now the linking of arms during the National Anthem, and you have to wonder what the hell. Is it now just about Trump's tweets? Does it have anything to do with police? Is it about racial divisions vs. togetherness in sports? Is it, as some clever talking head on the news opined, owners saying to Trump "Don't tell me how to run my fuckin' business?"

It didn't take long for that symbolism to break down entirely. Let's start over.

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.

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: ....

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: ....

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: ....

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?

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


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


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


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


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


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


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.