Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Executive Actions to Date

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

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

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

All in a week's work.

Monday, January 30, 2017

La Nausee

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, January 27, 2017

Signing Up for the Long Haul

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 26, 2017

This Is What Resistance Looks Like

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

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

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

More Misdirection

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

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

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

What It Wasn't

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

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

Friday, January 20, 2017


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

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

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Analyzing Trump

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

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Perusing De Vos's Statement

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

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

I like her house, though.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Finding a Way Forward

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

Sunday, January 15, 2017

ACA Medicare "Learn-In"

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

Friday, January 13, 2017

You Say Somaylia, and I Say Somahlia

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

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

Thursday, January 12, 2017

News/Not News

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Stop the Presses, Reset the Doomsday Clock

WARNING: Plenty of unsupported speculation ahead.

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Upstate 2050

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

Monday, January 9, 2017

Slapping Down De Vos in 16 Pages

Good for Elizabeth Warren.

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

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


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

Friday, January 6, 2017

Asking with Humility

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

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Resist Locally

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

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Our Liberal Bubble Makes National News

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

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Oppression Envy

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

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

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

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