Sunday, October 14, 2018

Climate change will wreak havoc in Nicaragua

We wouldn't be responsible board members of El Porvenir if we tried to design a five year strategic plan without recognizing the effects of climate change on the Nicaraguan countryside where we partner with communities to bring in clean water and work to improve watersheds. Unhappily, Central America and Nicaragua in particular are going to get some of the worst of what fossil fuel profits have wrought. Our member Dr. Richard Gammon, a University of Washington climate scientist, brought us up to date on the new IPCC report's dire scenarios.

Extreme weather isn't the half.

Many poor Nicaraguans are small farmers, scratching out a living on marginal lands. Cycles of drought and periodic torrential rain destroy crops. Warming means that crops that need cooler temperatures will have to be planted higher uphill, an adaptation that will only be available to large land owners.

Higher temperatures will decrease yields from corn (and Dr. Gammon added wheat is vulnerable as well.) Staple food prices will rise.

Meanwhile forests that are already directly stressed by illegal logging and encroachment form hungry farmers will be further threatened by drought and wildfires. The Nicaraguan government's weak response to a massive wildfire in the Indio Maiz biological reserve was one of the triggers of the country's current political unrest. Healthy forests are essential to preserving ground water resources as well as absorbing excess atmospheric carbon.

Extreme heat in and of itself will become dangerous to human activity out of doors. When day temperatures around 40C (104F) become the norm in conditions of high humidity, human beings risk their lives performing strenuous work.

Climate scientists predict as many as 300 such high heat days a year in Central America within this century as global temperatures rise.

Learning more about these threats to long suffering Nicaragua has only redoubled our commitment at El Porvenir to our water projects and particularly to our pilot efforts to make water resources more resilient through watershed improvement. Communities working with North American partners can do much to protect themselves. We can and must help.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Because everyone should have privacy on the toilet ...

and a place to wash their hands afterward.

The kids in this video explain about their school's new latrines and hand washing stations.

In the middle of this crazy season, I'm spending a weekend at the annual face-to-face El Porvenir board meeting, building a strategic plan to continue our work of over 25 years partnering with rural Nicaraguans to bring clean water to their communities.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Friday cat blogging


Here's Morty, up close and personal. Do you think he misses us? We miss him.

It all comes down to WHO votes

The New York Times recently featured the Senate contest in Nevada where Congresswoman Jacky Rosen (D) is running to unseat sitting Senator Dean Heller (R), in one of their live action Sienna College/Upshot polls. They called over 25,000 Nevadans, talked with 642 (a normal response rate), and concluded that the incumbent is up 2 percent over the challenger during three days in the first full week of October, 25 days out from the election. This outcome is in line with many other polls, though many show Rosen up by a similar slim margin. Most of the professional political prognosticators rate the contest a "tossup."

Until the Times polled this race I'm working on, I thought their live polls were kind of a tacky gimmick. Sure -- it was fun to watch little lights twinkle across a map of the state, representing each call as it happened. But this was also meaning-free. However, along with the visual sparkle, the Times published an interesting dissection of how pollsters might interpret the responses which I've captured here and seems worth picking apart.
Pollsters can never be sure what the characteristics of people moved to vote in a particular election will prove to be. When they guess wrong about the composition of the electorate, their assessments will be wrong. As as general rule, especially in low profile races, the same people --older, whiter, better off -- vote every time. But when an election is higher profile, the electorate can be different.

Reading down the snippet above, this poll estimates that if only the people who voted in 2014 come out, Heller wins running away. But as more people are moved to vote, the result changes. If the people who voted in 2016 were to vote -- when Hillary Clinton and the Senate's only Latina member Catherine Cortez-Masto were on the ballot -- Jacky Rosen runs away with the election.

Nevada is blue when more citizens vote. Our job in Reno is to make sure that people who only vote some years cast their ballots this year. If we do our job -- if we can convey the necessity of voting this year -- Jacky Rosen becomes a Democratic Senator. It is that simple. Join us.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Cooks and casino workers take on Trump in Nevada

Erudite Partner has chronicled our work on UniteHERE's campaign in Reno to elect a new Senator and Governor. She's impressed with what the labor union is doing here.

It’s fair to say that UNITE HERE has at least two goals in this campaign. The first, of course, is to elect Jacky Rosen and Steve Sisolak, which, as these campaigners see it, will further both the interests of working people in general and the union’s goals in particular. These include guaranteeing the rights of immigrants, who make up much of the workforce in the hospitality sector of the economy; advancing the concept that “one job should be enough” for economic survival; and keeping the government from taxing the hard-won health benefits of union members while ensuring that all working people have access to adequate health care.

... But that’s only for starters. The campaign also has a second purpose, as important to the union in its own way as winning this election: the development of future organizers and leaders from its rank and file. UNITE HERE emphasizes leadership among those who are the majority of its members -- immigrants, people of color, and women. I often overhear the leads discussing how to help specific canvassers practice leadership skills. Most mornings, Cesar, Nate, and Christina -- each of whom came from that same rank and file -- ask a few of the canvassers to demonstrate one of three crucial organizing skills: getting in the door, asking an “agitational” question, or telling a personal story. All three will help any canvasser make a genuine connection, however brief it may be, with the stranger who opens the door when they knock. ...

Read the story here.

EP explains that she's working as a "data nerd" -- making sure that our folks have target voters to chase down every day. I'm working on organizing volunteers to join the fray. Follow this link, sign up, and join us for a few days. Sooner is better. Early voting in the neighborhoods starts October 20. Though we've knocked on over 45,000 doors already, we have thousands more citizens to reach in order to win in Nevada.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

We've been ahead of the pack before ...

By a margin of 3,587 votes on Oct. 10, 1911, Californians approved Proposition 4, which implemented Senate Constitutional Amendment 8 and granted women the right to vote in state and local elections.

California joined Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, and Washington. Women would not gain the right to vote in national elections until 1920.

The names of the women in the image above are lost to history, though the photo was taken in San Francisco.

CALmatters

Glad we don't have to wear those hats, though.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Faith defiled: a very Roman Catholic jeremiad


What's a jeremiad? The noun comes from the the words and actions of the ancient Hebrew prophet Jeremiah. According to that secular source, the Merriam Webster dictionary:

Jeremiah was a naysayer. That Jewish prophet, who lived from about 650 to 570 BC, spent his days lambasting the Hebrews for their false worship and social injustice and denouncing the king for his selfishness, materialism, and inequities. ...

Jeremiah brought righteous wrath to the injustices and false pieties of his time.

Michael Sean Winter is an opinion writer for the National Catholic Reporter, the liberal independent news source for all things Catholic, both graces and scandals. Winters' commentary sometimes feels to me disembodied, intellectually distanced from lived human realities. But not these days. The Kavanaugh appointment and its revelations about the character of the "good Catholic boy" from "the best schools" has driven Winter to unalloyed prophetic ferocity.

The Kavanaugh hearings and all the commentary and conversation surrounding them are a disgrace the way that the Battle of Antietam was a disgrace. The Civil War was also a moral reckoning — with the sin of slavery. It was ugly. There were mass casualties. There were innocent civilians killed and maimed. There was brutality all around. But, in the end, slavery was extinguished. Not racism mind you — and on the morrow of the Kavanaugh vote, misogyny will still persist — but slavery was ended.

"Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away," said Abraham Lincoln in his storied Second Inaugural Address. "Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said 'the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.'"

Let that be our attitude today. If every drop of humiliation and fear and degradation that has been visited upon women through the centuries must now be visited upon men embarrassed to be discussing in public their brutish teenage behavior, men unable to advance in their careers because they got drunk and abused a woman, men, even famous and beloved men like Bill Cosby, sent to jail because they could not and did not control their sexual urges, let it be said again that the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

Moral reckonings are not pretty. They are necessary. This is no disgrace. The centuries of degrading women sexually was the disgrace.

That's pretty out there -- from a Catholic male intellectual. The combination of observing a corrupt secular power structure and a Church whose patriarchal hierarchy has produced one scandalous sexual abuse after another has Winters screaming in anguish.

Women also weep and rage after justice, confronting the naked hatred of too many aligned against us.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Wisdom

This seems a proper follow-on to yesterday's post about voters who describe themselves as "undecided." True "undecided" voters (not the ones who just want you to go away) are often citizens who have never absorbed (or been taught) how government might work in a democracy of, by, and for the people. Getting them to take enough interest to participate is step one.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

What is it really like to work on a campaign: Door knocking


The first thing to know about looking for voters by knocking on their doors is that, regardless of day of the week or time of day, no one answers at most doors. The conventional response rate is something like contact with a live human being at 15 percent of knocks. (Most are actual knocks -- you'd be astonished how few doorbells actually ring.) We're exceeding that rate, getting an answer at close to 25 percent of doors; this may mean we are unusually determined, or perhaps that the targets we're seeking -- infrequent voters -- work a lot of strange shifts.

Unfortunately, a good number of those people who do answer turn out not to be the voter the canvasser was looking for. Consequently, a strong canvasser who approaches 11 doors an hour and walks for 3.5 hours may talk with less than 10 targeted voters during her shift.

It takes a massive effort to reach a significant mass of voters. Door knocking is a volume game. With a 35 person crew, we're doing this in Reno, where in a month we've exceeded 40,000 doors knocked.

Then there is what happens when the canvasser actually finds her voter. Canvassers, both paid and volunteer, get over any shyness quite quickly. This work isn't about some polite little push to remember to vote. Nor do our canvassers give up easily. They are trained to be committed, a little intrusive, honest about what they know, very persuasive, and determined to get to a truthful "yes" to Jacky Rosen and Steve Sisolak. And they are damn good at it. (I've been door knocking off and on for decades and I learn from our UniteHERE worker team every day.)

Early in campaign season, many voters proclaim themselves "undecided." That can mean a range of things from "go away; you're bothering me" to "I really don't know enough" to "I'm afraid I'll look stupid if I talk about the election." The canvasser's job is to cut through to a conversation about what the voter cares about and to bring that back to the importance of the election and our candidates. It's not hard for our team to believe this election is vital to their own lives. They are working people from the bottom of the economic totem pole and mostly women and/or people of color. They get to "yes" more frequently by the day.

Nate Cohn in the Upshot recently shared some data collected by the pollster Siena about "undecideds."

In the aggregate, undecided voters don’t look very different from decided voters, either in terms of their attitudes or their demographic characteristics. They just aren’t as politically engaged.

... undecided voters just don’t know much about the candidates: 56 percent of the undecided voters don’t know either candidate, while only 17 percent of decided voters don’t know either candidate. ... A narrow category of undecided voters seems not to like either candidate: 11 percent of undecided voters don’t like either candidate, something true of only 4 percent of decided voters.

This probably isn’t unusual for these voters. Their lack of knowledge probably reflects a generally lower level of political engagement. A majority of the undecided voters in our polling have never voted in a primary .... Just 50 percent say they’re almost certain to vote in November, compared with 67 percent of decided voters.

This description fits the people we are targeting in Reno perfectly -- folks who are registered, but unlikely to vote without a strong push to engage with the election.

If we can find, identify, and turn out these citizens, our candidates win. The work is that simple.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

The rage of the replaced

One can afford a nice suit and tie. But really, what other difference is there between them?

They both think they will die if they cannot rule. The one on the right never did rule; his entitlement was always a con game played on him by the powerful. The one on the left was groomed to rule; nothing ever forced him to understand he lived among and alongside others with equal claims to humanity.

I do not wish to emulate their rage. I wish to live bathed in the community of those who struggle for the full humanity of all. It's better over here. The raging ones will hurt us however they can.

We must "love one another or die" in a wise poet's words.

Polling miscellany

What with my intense work on the campaign to make Nevada blue, I haven't had my usual amount of time to surf about in random polls. But in addition to the election, there are some interesting findings floating about.
For all the Trump base's hostility to gender non-conformity, a Harris poll finds support for trans people's rights in the workplace is increasing at least marginally. Seven in ten people support a law "to protect LGBTQ people from bias in employment, public accommodations, housing and credit." Nice to see when the Trump administration is gratuitously jerking around about visas for partners of foreign diplomats who happen to be gay.
Latino Decisions finds that adding a question about citizenship to the 2020 census arouses sharp suspicions that the Trump administration would use the answers against Latinx families. Not hard to understand where that fear comes from ... Latinx leaders have worked hard to encourage full community participation in the census to ensure their constituents are noticed in social policy. That effort will be in trouble if the Trump administration gets its way and adds that frightening question.

PRRI (Public Religion Research Institute) polled issues related to abortion, gender, sexual harassment, and women's power in the context of Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation and the midterms. The linked article explores numerous findings, most of which merely confirm what a divided country we live in.
Actually I'm a little surprised by how far we've come in converting Democratic men to advocates for women ... good for these guys. We're gaining, but it sure feels too slow and too painful.

Interestingly, PRRI found that in this fraught moment, abortion was more important to Democrats than to Republicans. That's a change. Just wait to until Justice Kavanaugh and the other four black-robed men decide to restrict abortions further.

More happily, generic (unnamed, hypothetical) Democratic candidates lead among registered voters who claim to be certain they will vote. But additionally, among those not quite so certain they'll vote, the partisan gulf in strength of intent to vote turns into a chasm. That's why we're doing all this work to find infrequent voters who will support Democrats at the top of the ticket here in Reno. Once we find them, we'll hound them until they get to the polls. Why not? voting for Jacky Rosen and Steve Sisolak is what they claimed to want to do. Campaigns help them realize their intent.

Friday, October 05, 2018

Mayor Breed delivers for her buddies


Well, now we know who "Us" is. It's not San Francisco's homeless people or San Franciscans who want something done to help this population.

It's her buddies in San Francisco's elite.

Breed comes out against homeless tax measure Proposition C
Citing “the long-term impacts on our city,” Mayor London Breed announced Friday she is opposing Proposition C on the November ballot that would raise $300 million annually for homeless services by taxing San Francisco’s largest businesses. ...

... Analysis by the City Controller’s Office, released Sept. 24, said that the tax would have a minimal impact on the economy and would cost The City about 875 jobs over the next two decades.

... The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce is leading the campaign against Proposition C.

San Francisco's elected officials who similarly owe their offices to big tech money, State Senator Wiener and Assemblymember Chiu, also are showing their true allegiances by opposing the measure to fund homeless services.

Governors galore!


Immersed here in Reno in the campaign to elect Steve Sisolak (that's the guy above) governor, I hadn't had time to notice that Democratic gubernatorial candidates look to be surging in races all over the country in states that have been out of reach for awhile.

Here's Ed Kilgore:

Democrats could pick up six net governorships in the Midwest in November. They are strongly favored in Michigan, where outgoing two-term Republican governorRick Snyder is very unpopular, and Democratic former state legislative leader Gretchen Whitmer has maintained about a ten-point lead over Attorney General Bill Schuette.

They have an even bigger lead in Illinois, where Democrat J.B. Pritzker is outspending the deep-pocketed Republican incumbent Bruce Rauner.

In Wisconsin, the steady survivor of many challenges Scott Walker may have finally run out of luck; he’s trailing Democrat Tony Evers by a steadily growing margin.

And Democrats have been recently pulling even with initially favored Republicans in Ohio (where Richard Cordray has caught and maybe passed Mike DeWine in recent polling), Iowa (self-financed Fred Hubbell now leads steadily fading incumbent Kim Reynolds), and even Kansas (Democratic legislator Laura Kelly is dead even with Kris Kobach as a divided Republican Party splinters even further).

That summation doesn't include the states where we know Dems will win, like California and New York.

And also -- it doesn't include two of the most exciting candidacies of the year: Stacey Abrams in Georgia and Andrew Gillum in Florida. It's still a long shot, but we could come out of November 6 with two Black governors in deep south states. There is a surge toward new possibilities indeed!

Friday cat blogging

This staring fellow sure has a magnificent tail. Do you think he's proud of it?
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