Monday, June 27, 2022

Blog housekeeping notes

If you read this blog on a desktop or a tablet, you'll notice some changes to these pages. I decided that it was time to clean things up a bit.

The photo above shows what may get lost during the upcoming campaign season: Reno, Nevada is a beautiful place, when you get away from the casinos and when the air is clean. We'll be there through mid-November, duking it out for the Dems. Campaigns coincide with fire season, so clean air is not a given. But early in the morning and at sunset, the skies and surroundings can be breathtaking. Maybe by November, I'll have photos of the same duck pond and surrounding peaks after the first snow ...

Erudite Partner and I report for campaign duty in Reno at the end of the first week of July.

In the right sidebar, I've added links to summary posts about what's at stake in the 2022 midterm elections: governors, Senators, and Secretaries of State. After all, that's what we'll be focused on.

And here's a link for anyone who might want to get paid to dip deeply into the electoral fray this fall in several locations with UniteHERE, the national hospitality workers' union.

I've shortened the blog list at the right, cutting back to odd web outposts you might not encounter -- or, some of them, even want to encounter. I like a lot of variety. Makes me think.

Will I post every day during the campaign? Maybe not. This round will be a test of my aging body and stamina. But I've posted regularly if not deeply through campaigns before, so we'll see. I post to focus my own thinking, oftentimes, as well as share with others.

This very week will be a test of how much I'm driven to post. If it seems burdensome, I won't. The Erudite Partner and I are taking three days away at a hot springs to mark some significant birthdays. "Significant birthdays" are ones divisible by five -- and these qualify. Imagine I'll put up a few things here, if only pictures of relaxation before the storm.

On into campaign season ...

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Pride Sunday

Tim Dobbins tells it like it is while the Rev. Kevin Deal looks on

I don't usually blog about church, but St. John the Evangelist (Episcopal) surpassed itself in the service this morning.

A parishioner contributed an appropriate prayer for the occasion:

Blessed are you, O God of all creation, you come to your people and set us free. At Stonewall Inn and Compton's Cafeteria, you raised up dykes and drag queen, trans women and queer men, sex workers and lovers, Black and Brown leaders, holy rebels Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Miss Major Griffin Gracy, who together cried out in one accord, "No more!" Strengthen each of us also to be who you have created us to be, and in the face of principalities and powers that desire our ruin and destruction, make us to stand for the dignity of every human being, through Jesus Christ, your Word made flesh, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. More Love! Amen.

In this season of Pride, the Episcopal Church also celebrates the Rev. Pauli Murray, civil rights activist, lawyer, poet, and priest. Murray was the first Black woman ordained among us, and also is more and more recognized as a person who refused to be confined within narrow definitions of sexuality and gender. 

Liberating God, we thank you for the steadfast courage of your servant Pauli Murray, who fought long and well: Unshackle us from the chains of prejudice and fear, that we may show forth the reconciling love and true freedom which you revealed in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Altogether, an uplifting day in a season of fear, rage, and uncertainty.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

2022 Elections: Senate contests Democrats should and must win

In many states, Republican gerrymanders make it hard for Democrats to win a fair share in state legislatures. For example, Democrats, including Governor Tony Evers in 2018 and Joe Biden in 2020, won the majority of all Wisconsin votes. But the state legislature is completely controlled by Republicans. Their dominance is bolstered by geographical sorting, rural and urban, as well as gerrymandering. In some states where this pattern prevails, Democrats can be quite competitive statewide and so have opportunities to win or hold onto U.S. Senate races. 

Here's a run down of the most competitive states.

• Georgia: Incumbent Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock, elected to a short term in 2020, will be running against Trump-cult adherent and Georgia football hero Herschel Walker. Since Walker is pretty close to certifiably nuts, violent, the acknowledged father of four children by four different women whose paternity he at first concealed, and a serial fabricator, this shouldn't be much of a contest. But that assumption disregards the heft of college football in the Peach State. Warnock has been a strong voice for voting rights and for the people of Georgia.

• Pennsylvania: This open Senate seat attracted a wild cast of characters in both party's primaries. TV-doctor Mehmet Oz won the Trump endorsement and squeaked through for the GOPers. Apparently he actually lives in a mansion in New Jersey which may not go down well with Pennsylvania voters. John Fetterman, the Democratic Lieutenant Governor, is a 6'7", tattooed, shorts wearing, giant straight shooter, a bit of a breath of fresh air in the staid political class. Let's hope he can overcome some health challenges.

• Wisconsin: Republican Ron Johnson, the Senate's dumbest anti-vaxxer and an apparent Trump co-conspirator who tried to prevent the 2020 transfer of power to Joe Biden, is up for re-election. If Dems were not so well organized, as the sitting Senator, he'd probably be a shoo-in; the primary for the Dems is late, August 9 and the winner may have a shot in a state usually quite evenly divided.

• Arizona: Incumbent Democrat Mark Kelly will face off against one of several Republicans to be chosen on August 2. The leader among them, a man who needs another vowel, sitting Attorney General Mark Brnovich, figured out his own advancement meant he had to support Donald Trump's Big Lie against his own Republican election officials in this battleground state. Trump has endorsed Blake Masters, a hard right libertarian and tech-bro Peter Thiel protege, who wants to privatize Social Security.

• Nevada: Incumbent Democrat Catherine Cortez-Masto is running for a second term. Her opponent is Adam Laxalt -- whose own family considers him an unworthy usurper of a proud Nevada name -- a far right wingnut and failed governor candidate. Not going to be easy for Cortez-Masto though; the Democratic registration advantage in the state is declining.

• North Carolina: This open seat is an attractive long shot prize for Democrats as their nominee for the state's other Senate seat only lost by 1.8 percent in 2020 while Trump won the state. The sitting governor is a reasonably popular Democrat, so Dems see a chance. Democrat Cherri Beasley, a former judge of the state Supreme Court, is running against Republican Ted Budd, a Congressman who doubles as a gun range owner. Early polls give Beasley a chance to pull this one out.

• I'll be watching also New Hampshire, Ohio and Missouri where the vagaries of electoral contests might shake up Senate prospects -- though probably not, as party polarization is such a strong force.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Because democracy is not a spectator sport ...

once again this summer and fall, I'll be blogging about "what is it really like to work on an election ..."

As some readers here may have heard, along with Erudite Partner, I'll be heading out to Nevada soon to spend yet another election season, working to re-elect two vital Democratic office holders, Governor Steve Sisolak and U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto. Under Sisolak, Nevada has raised its minimum wage, protected jobs for workers laid off in the pandemic, and made voting secure and easy for all citizens. Cortez-Masto was the first Latina in the U.S. Senate; Republicans think she's their best target to flip the Senate in this volatile year. We can help prove they are wrong!

The Culinary Workers Union ("UniteHERE" elsewhere in the country; mostly casino and hotel workers in Nevada) leads highly effective political campaigns that enable ordinary working people to build power in their state. These workers fight the greedy rightwing monsters who aim to strangle our democratic system. Nevada has more than its share of those crazies, but in recent years, slightly more hopeful voters just trying to build good lives for their families. Let's keep it that way!

If this appeals to you, UniteHERE offers jobs in Nevada, Arizona, and Pennsylvania as part of the canvassing team. Click this link to learn all about it!

Friday cat blogging

Janeway guards her sunbeam. No, I won't disturb her. No printing for now.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Consider the alternative ...

We're not a happy country these days. We have a multitude of worries as this recent poll from the Pew organization catalogues.

Inflation tops the list, but health care,  gun violence, and even climate have us agitated as well. 

Catherine Rampell, an economics and data opinion writer at the Washington Post, makes some concrete suggestions for how people campaigning for Democrats might talk about our national anxieties. Here are her thoughts:

Assuming that Russia’s war in Ukraine continues to disrupt energy markets, then voters realistically face a choice between high gas prices and the rest of the Democratic agenda; or, high gas prices and the rest of the Republican agenda. So it’s worth considering what that “rest of” the agenda for each party actually entails.

[Democrats] have a shot at [passing] a ... modest package focused on climate, prescription drugs, and maybe some tax increases on high-earners and corporations.

So what do Republicans stand for? 
Their national leaders won’t say, even when asked directly; their state-level rising stars are mostly focused on fighting with Mickey Mouse and drag queens. But if you look at GOP actions taken over the past several years, including when they had unified control of the federal government, you get a sense of what Republicans are likely to prioritize. 
Mostly, Republicans seem to care about tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations. They want to find ways to repeal Obamacare, or otherwise reduce access to health care by (for example) slashing Medicaid. 
They care about installing judges who will roll back reproductive rights. 
They care about supporting a president who used the powers of the state to further his own political and financial interests, rather than those of the American public he was sworn to serve. 
They care about supporting a presidency whose few purported diplomatic achievements, in retrospect, look largely like an excuse to meet potential investors who might fund Trump aides’ new private equity endeavors. 
They care about defending, at all costs, a president who cheered on the mob seeking to hang his own vice president. 
And they care about undermining the integrity of our election system and overturning the will of the voters, if and when vote tallies don’t go their way.

There are some of us who prize inaction on most everything but conservative judges and tax cuts for rich people. But most of us need to try to make government work to improve our lives.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

What goes around comes around

Having yesterday introduced the subject of the wack-doodle Republican kook Kari Lake, who Donald Trump has endorsed for governor of Arizona, I can't resist passing on this one.

There's the lady herself, on the left, posing with her drag queen (former) friend, Richard Stevens. 

Can't have that kind of friend if you want a Republican electorate to vote for you. 

Paul Waldman at the Washington Post reports: 

Lake, like so many Republicans at the moment, has sought to use the new right-wing sex panic in her primary, accusing President Biden of promoting “this perverted sexual agenda of grooming our children.” And like other Republicans, she has taken particular aim at drag queens.

So much for old friends. Steven says they've known each for 20 years.

Waldman, as he often is, is insightful about Republican behavior:

First, until recently, even most conservatives had come to a place where they regarded drag not as a terrifying threat to the innocence of children but as a whimsical and amusing corner of the culture. Maybe you liked it (as Lake clearly did) or maybe it made you a little uncomfortable, but it was harmless. Nobody was terrified by “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

But now Republicans are supposed to say that drag is worse than satanic cults, the water fluoridation conspiracy, and the Garbage Pail Kids put together. So that’s what party leaders claim to believe.

Second, a key factor in the political normalization of gay rights was that by and large, Republican elites are okay with gay people. That is true to an extent of the Republican masses as well (or at least more true all the time), but party leaders move in circles where there’s a reasonable amount of acceptance of equality. ...

Go read it all -- it's worth it for this Pride Month.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

2022 elections: governor contests that Dems need to win

Republicans are pushing hard to win races for governor this year in states where support for the two parties hangs on a few votes. And Democrats are doing everything they can to win, block, or hold governor's offices in the same states. These states deserve governors who give a damn about the well-being of their residents -- Democrats usually care more for that work. But furthermore, who holds these offices will matter in 2024 if there is another close national election and GOPers are running around screaming that the vote was "stolen." We're seeing all too much of what that can be like. A Democratic governor can help shut down a lot of bullshit.

So here's a rundown of some of the most critical governor races in 2022.

Arizona: Donald Trump has a favorite in the August 2 primary: GOPer Kari Lake, a Phoenix TV anchor. Lake is leading in the primary polls. She has advocated jailing Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, her opponent in the governor's race, so as to overturn the 2020 vote count. 

“Frankly, I think she should be locked up,” Lake told the crowd in Cave Creek, which responded by starting a Trumpian chant of, “Lock her up!”

Her campaign could not explain what crime she's charging Hobbes with. Lake asserts that, if she had been governor, she would not have certified Joe Biden's 2020 Arizona victory.

Pennsylvania: Republicans have nominated one of the most looney-tunes characters around in the Keystone State. According to the Washington Post, Doug Mastriano is an insurrectionist who has been subpoenaed by the January 6 investigation. There's video showing him crossing Capital police lines, though what else he did inside is not known.

He’s a first-term state senator who was relatively unknown — until Trump lost the 2020 presidential election, in large part by narrowly losing Pennsylvania to Joe Biden. ... [He] rose to prominence in the aftermath of the 2020 election by falsely claiming Trump won the state. Mastriano also helped commission an unauthorized audit of voting machines in a rural county ...

The Democratic Party nominee for Governor is the state’s attorney general, Josh Shapiro. The winner will get to name Pennsylvania's secretary of state, the official who oversees elections.

Michigan: Democratic governor Gretchen Whitmer has been a stalwart supporter of the rule of law against right wing mob pressure. Dogged by pushback against public health rules and mask mandates, she was even the intended target of a militia plot, according to the FBI. Two conspirators convinced a jury that they were just being blowhards (seems likely a role they know well); two more are awaiting a second trial.

Well known Republicans aspiring to run against her made a mess of their campaigns, hiring paid signature collectors who made up false voters on their papers. So their names will not appear on the August 2 primary list which now consists of a smaller field of also-rans.

GOP hopefuls who qualified for the Aug. 2 primary ballot include a conservative media personality, two COVID-19 lockdown protesters, a pastor and a wealthy businessman. 

None has held an elected office before but are seeking to bring a fresh perspective to Lansing and unseat Whitmer, who has built up a big campaign war chest as she seeks re-election to a second term.

Let's hope Whitmer can overcome whoever comes out of this odd scrum.

Wisconsin: The Republican frontrunner in the August 9 primary was former Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch who fully supported Trump’s recount requests based on baseless claims of election fraud in 2020. That wasn't good enough for Trump; he liked construction executive Tim Michels better. He dropped an endorsement in his inimitable style. Here's why Trump liked Michels:

"Wisconsin needs a Governor who will Stop Inflation, Uphold the Rule of Law, strengthen our Borders (we had the strongest borders in history just two years ago, now we have the weakest!) and End the well-documented Fraud in our Elections," read a written statement from Trump ... "Tim Michels is the best candidate to deliver meaningful solutions to these problems, and he will produce jobs like no one else can even imagine."

The Democratic incumbent governor of Wisconsin is Tony Evers. Dems are aiming to re-elect Evers to preserve some honesty and sanity in state government.

Nevada: Democrat Steve Sisolak was elected governor in 2018 and has done a creditable job during a pandemic that crashed the state's vital hotel, casino, and restaurant industries. For months, Nevada had some of the nation's worst unemployment.

Trump offered a late endorsement to Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo who prevailed in the Republican primary held June 14. The former president wanted a high profile win by backing the guy who was already leading the GOP field. The race between Sisolak and Lombardo is expected to be close.

Georgia: Democrat Stacey Abrams is taking on incumbent Republican Governor Brian Kemp in a re-run of their 2018 contest. This will be a very tough race, possibly turning on some of the restrictive election laws Kemp has signed. In case you have forgotten, Georgia is the state where GOPers made it illegal to give out water to people waiting in line to vote.

There's nothing easy about any of these contests.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Juneteenth holiday observed

West Oakland during a 2021 Juneteenth celebration.  (Beth LaBerge)
The story of Juneteenth evokes pure joy. I linger every year on the thought of those enslaved people in Galveston in 1865 learning unexpectedly that their cruel bondage had ended, was gone for good. Is there anything in most of our lives that might unleash a comparable explosion of relief and delight? Perhaps if all the world's nuclear weapons were suddenly no more ...

The still-novel federal holiday is a consequence of our nation's ongoing reckoning with our past and with our future aspirations. It also comes out of our messy politics. Even good politics is messy.  Theodore R. Johnson, a writer at The Bulwark and the director of the Fellows Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, explains. My emphasis:
Juneteenth is a civic reminder to pause and appreciate how far the nation has come. If Independence Day on July 4th is a day to honor all the nation got right, Juneteenth is a call to always right the things it gets wrong.

... the politics of how Juneteenth became a holiday is a lesson in the unserious ways we grapple with race in America. The unflattering fact is that Juneteenth is federally observed today primarily because there was no political penalty to be paid by congressional members who voted in its favor and insufficient political incentive for those who would block it to follow through.

... [it is] likely that both parties surveyed the political landscape and determined that Juneteenth was low-hanging electoral fruit that could signal to black voters that their voices were being heard—without incurring much backlash from other constituencies. A constant refrain within black America is that politicians either do not come around at all, or do so only when an election is near. Making Juneteenth a federal holiday was a way of both recognizing the strategic role that black voters play—especially in the urban metro areas of closely contested states—as well as a symbolic, low-cost move to help each party shape part of the electorate in its favor.

... the actual reasons for Republicans opposing MLK Day and Election Day as national holidays were not about budgets but about politics. In the case of MLK Day, Republican strategists worried that voters fresh off the Dixiecrat train [in the 1980s] would reject their new party making an overture to a recently enlarged black electorate. And in the case of Election Day, Republicans seem to buy the flawed argument that easier voting automatically leads to Democratic victories.

And yet, on Juneteenth? The Republican party got onboard, largely because it intuited that there would be no political cost for supporting it. Why is that? 
Hyperpartisan politics and voters’ entrenched partisanship have created conditions where there’s little risk of losing supporters to the other side on an issue to which most Americans aren’t paying close attention. ... 
... But the politics of Juneteenth’s ascendance to a national holiday is actually a story about a democratic system that is presently incapable of doing hard things, and choosing instead to take the easiest path available.

And that’s a shame. Because Juneteenth should be the commemoration of an America that does the hardest of things.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Father's Day

Roger Keating Adams  1905-1991

This stern likeness is a passport photo from the early 1970s. I suspect he looked "right" to himself in this pose. He would have been on the verge of retirement when this was taken.

My father probably wasn't very enthusiastic about getting the picture for a passport. He volubly disdained travel; it meant lots of discomfort and novelty for not much he wanted. The baseline of their sixty-year deeply loving marriage was that he could complain and then they'd do what Mother wanted, if she really cared.

Mother insisted on taking him to Ireland with this passport and, once there, to meet distant relatives. He didn't catch the travel bug; it rained. His verdict on Ireland was "they should put a roof over that country."

Yes, he was something of a curmudgeon. I often wonder what he would have said about Trump. In order to scandalize "polite society," I imagine he would have made nods toward approving of Trump as a roguish transgressor of bourgeois social propriety. But in reality, RKA was very much a creature of that propriety and lived by a set of strong, simple values: work hard, do your duty, be kind and sometimes generous, if you can. Any of us could do worse.

He would have seen immediately that Trump's various businesses were cons; he'd seen rich fraudsters before. In time, Trump's cruelty and lawless selfishness would have repelled him. But he would not have been very vocal about it. But Trump was never a right sort of man in his moral world.

I hope it comes across that, despite our considerable differences, we actually had a loving, respect-filled connection. He coud be warm, and was often sardonically funny. I loved my Father and he loved me. He's more than 30 years gone and I still miss him.

Saturday, June 18, 2022

SF snapshot

I have gigabytes of photos from the Walking San Francisco project. Every once in awhile, I'll drop one here.

Escape thwarted.