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.