Sunday, September 23, 2018

Beyond #resistance

If you were a college student in a liberal arts curriculum in the early part of this decade, there's a good chance that your professors attempted to introduce you to the damage and durable horrors of white supremacy in the USofA by pointing to Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Others had struggled to raise consciousness about the Prison Industrial Complex for years, but Alexander's book reached a wide audience and amplified a rising movement. She toured frequently learning from grassroots justice activists, and in 2013 gave an interview to Bill Moyers which remains a timely exposition of the injustice of a system that locks up 25 percent of the worlds' prisoners, most of them Black and brown men.

Then in 2016, Alexander decided she needed to go on, stop practicing and teaching law, and embed herself in a more visionary context at Union Theological Seminary. She explained:

... there is something much greater at stake in justice work than we often acknowledge. Solving the crises we face isn’t simply a matter of having the right facts, graphs, policy analyses, or funding. And I no longer believe we can “win” justice simply by filing lawsuits, flexing our political muscles or boosting voter turnout. Yes, we absolutely must do that work, but none of it — not even working for some form of political revolution — will ever be enough on its own. Without a moral or spiritual awakening, we will remain forever trapped in political games fueled by fear, greed and the hunger for power. American history teaches how these games predictably play out within our borders: Time and again, race gets used as the Trump Card, a reliable means of dividing, controlling and misleading the players so a few can win the game.

I've long thought Alexander was onto a truth here; we must struggle against the forces that would eradicate human decency and even inconvenient human beings -- but we must do so in the context of a communal vision of where we want to go to. Around me, I see Black Lives Matter activists struggling for such a vision; I see Native American Water Protectors embodying their version of that vision; I see the #MeToo movement birthing a vision of a whole new relationship between the sexes.

And I'm delighted to see to see that as of Friday, the New York Times has given Alexander a megaphone as an oped columnist. She admonishes us to move beyond #Resistance.

Yes, of course, we can and must resist the horrors of the current administration — thousands of lives depend on us doing what we can to mitigate the harm to our fellow humans and the planet we share. But the mind-set of “the resistance” is slippery and dangerous. There’s a reason marchers in the black freedom struggle sang “We Shall Overcome” rather than chanting “We Shall Resist.” Their goal was to overcome a racial caste system — to end it — and to create a new nation, a Beloved Community. Similarly, those who opposed slavery didn’t view themselves as resisters; they were abolitionists.

Today, many of us in the movements to end mass deportation and mass incarceration do not want to simply resist those systems. We aim to end them and reimagine the meaning of justice in America. By the same token, many of those who are battling climate change and building movements for economic justice understand that merely tinkering with our political and economic systems will not end poverty or avert climate disaster, nor will mere resistance to the status quo. As the saying goes, “What you resist persists.” Another world is possible, but we can’t achieve it through resistance alone.

Alexander is a voice we need. I'll watch for her columns.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Saturday scenery: an affectionately remembered past in Reno

Reno, Nevada has seen explosive growth in the last couple of decades. Once the "Biggest Little City in the World" famous mostly for its casinos, in the last two decades wholesale distribution centers, the University of Nevada at Reno (Go Wolfpack!), tech startups and bitcoin mining operations, and regional malls have sprawled out from the old center. But when, was we are doing on this campaign, you walk about in the neighborhoods where people actually live, you find carefully tended reminders of simpler times.

This replica Shell gas station (circa 1959 perhaps?) took up all of a front yard in an area where I doorknocked on Thursday.

Up the hill, a voter had parked his pioneer style covered wagon alongside his recreational vehicle.

Not far further along, an old tractor rusted into oblivion.

It's heart-lifting to observe others' keepsakes while working to get them to vote for a different US Senator.

Friday, September 21, 2018

What it is really like to work on a campaign: you encounter the passions of your fellow citizens

When Christine Blasey Ford revealed her memory of sexual assault by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, the Republican US Senator from Nevada Dean Heller referred to her intervention as a "little hiccup."

One of our canvassers observed what one Reno resident thought of that:
The guy's entire truck was covered with similar messages, including "Republcians are the swamp!"

Volunteer with the UniteHERE campaign to replace Heller with Democrat Jacky Rosen at this link. There are thousands of supporters to be turned out here in the Silver State.

Climate change is NOW

Before Hurricane Florence slammed into the Carolinas, scientists were already prepared to state publicly that the storm's ferocity and potential damage were a result of climate change. Researchers were certain that the storm would drop 50 percent more rain than it might have in the past, because of warming waters. It did and those of us lucky enough not to be under the deluge can contemplate images of destruction.

Scientists know they have to be careful about making definitive statements of fact: they can't let their pronouncements get ahead of their data. But, on the other hand, excess caution has meant that studies which concluded that particular weather events were compounded by climate change have only emerged months or years after disasters. But this time scientists felt sure they knew what they were talking about and predicted extreme rains and flooding in advance. Media have been reluctant to link catastrophic weather events to human-induced climate changes, but this time the scientific conclusion broke through.

The new study addresses a psychological barrier that has long plagued climate communication: Rather than presenting climate change as a past or future threat, it portrays it as a present danger.

... So did the study have an impact? The research was covered in articles by the New York Times, National Geographic, Buzzfeed News, the Guardian, the Washington Post, and NPR, among others, and was mentioned on Al Jazeera’s Inside Story program and CBS’ online streaming news service.

But the media were still slow to connect the dots.

Even though the information was out there, the media did a shoddy job overall in connecting Florence to climate change. According to a new report from Public Citizen, only 7.5 percent of stories about Florence in the top 50 U.S. newspapers mentioned climate change in the week leading up to September 16. That’s actually a small bump: Less than 5 percent of these top newspapers mentioned climate change in articles about hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Nate last year.

Despite that mainstream media’s general neglect of the link between storms and climate change, extreme weather has become the No. 1 symbol of climate change (no offense, polar bears). Over the last decade, the number of people who name extreme weather as a knee-jerk association with climate change has quadrupled, according to research from Yale University and the University of Westminster.

“People think of climate change as something that’s either going to happen far in the future or far away,” Hunter Cutting says. “This kind of work [the Florence study] highlights that it’s something that affects everybody, whether you’re talking about wildfires in the West or coastal flooding in the East.”

Full disclosure: Climate change warrior Hunter Cutting is an old friend and a wise thinker when it comes to getting the media to tell unpleasant truths, whether about race or about climate.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Donald Trump is coming to Nevada tomorrow

... to prop up his pet Senator.

Challenger Jacky Rosen's campaign has a response ad which I think is rather good at documenting how the Republican, Dean Heller, sold out his constituents for Trump's support. Trump owns Heller, on camera. It is worth watching [2:22].
Sadly, the Trump show is in Las Vegas, so we don't get to go protest with the workers who labor in the casinos to make profits for Trump's billionaire friends. We'll be talking with voters while the plutocrats huddle.

You can't win if you don't run

There's been plenty of talk about how the 2018 midterm elections are drawing women and other first time candidates into the electoral fray. Results of primaries in safe Democratic seats pretty much assure that there will be Muslim women, and Native women, and even young socialist women in the next Congress. Will all those old guys in suits know what hit them? I sure hope the new people in the room will change the dynamics in Washington.

Daily Kos Elections pointed out another indicator of this Democratic surge.

Democrats have a nominee in 432 of 435 congressional districts, the most they've contested since the 1974 Watergate wave, when Team Blue had a candidate in all but a single district. On the other hand, Republicans have left 39 House seats without a nominee, and such a large disparity, based on past history, points to a Democratic-wave environment this fall.

It may not seem that the sheer number of candidates would matter much -- aren't many of the seats Democrats are running in hopeless Republican strongholds? Well, yes, so they seem. But what's happening in New York's 27th Congressional District outside of Buffalo shows why a political party that is serious about winning should always field a candidate for every contested office.

Chris Collins, a Republican, has held this House seat since 2013. It's true Republican turf -- exurbs and rural counties clustered outside two cities, Buffalo and Rochester, whose urban culture and demographics are very separate from their surroundings. Places like this usually vote Republican. Collins was one of Donald Trump's earliest backers is the House; his district voted 60-35 percent for Trump. There was no reason to think the seat was competitive. Then Collins was arrested in August. Apparently he used insider knowledge to enrich his family -- or so Department of Justice prosecutors charge.

Fortunately, Democrats didn't just give up on this seat, in June nominating a Grand Island Town Commissioner for the seemingly hopeless task of running against one of Congress' wealthiest members. Now that candidate, Nate McMurray just might have a chance to pull off a huge upset. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report, which handicaps Congressional races, has just moved its evaluation of the contest to "Lean Republican." That doesn't mean they predict that McMurray will knock off Collins, but they have decided Collins' legal troubles give the challenger a fighting chance.

You can't win if you don't run. McMurray is running.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

What it is really like to work on a campaign: this resident left a note

Okay, this was an unusual find, a sophisticated response to Nevada's surge of canvassers. And here in the Reno area, it is not unheard of to encounter opposing sentiments, including houses that advertise their owners intent to defend their property with their precious firearms.

But those hostile addresses are seldom on our lists. We're talking with people whose voting history, class position, and gender and racial identities suggest they might be open to electing a new Democratic Senator. We know that, if we can increase turnout among people who too often skip voting, Nevada will become more Blue and the country will gain a better Senate.

Over 2000 door-knocks a day by our hardy crew are carrying us toward that goal.

You too can join this project.

Monday, September 17, 2018

What it is really like to work on a campaign: the Republicans want to run against Nancy Pelosi

It really happens when you door knock: people repeat back to you what the ads on TV are saying about the candidates. This goes for both sides -- and here in Nevada, a perennial swing state deluged in political advertising, many voters tell me they just don't pay attention to any of the ads. But nonetheless, the ad themes permeate the air.

One of the strangest themes to this Californian is that Republicans keep accusing our Democratic US Senate candidate Jacky Rosen of being a stooge for Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi has been my Congressperson what seems nearly forever -- since 1987. For her San Francisco constituents, she seems a moderate, but she has led the Democratic caucus since 2007, serving as Speaker of the House from 2007 through the 2010 elections. She evidently really does lead. Democrats are a notoriously contentious bunch, but unlike say the Republican leader Speaker Paul Ryan, Pelosi somehow manages to get her Democrats on the same page, voting the same way when it matters, such as to defend health care access.

And so, professional Republican politicians hate her effectiveness and seek to make her a national hate object. This takes a lot of ad dollars, since most voters barely know who their own Congressperson is, much less who some woman from California is. Hillary is gone from the national scene; they aim to make Nancy Pelosi another powerful woman to hate.

A few months ago, Paul Waldman wrote an insightful column about the odd Republican fixation on Pelosi.

The Republican attack on Pelosi is about conservative identity politics, full stop. It’s partly the same kind of ugly misogyny that has driven conservatives for years, and that comes out whenever the prospect of a woman wielding genuine power rears its head. Women who display ambition are judged harshly, particularly by conservatives; it’s no accident that Bernie Sanders, whose policy ideas are much more opposed to conservatism than Pelosi’s, inspires nothing like the venomous loathing on the right that Pelosi and Hillary Clinton do.

And it’s partly the us-versus-them conflict that has animated every Republican campaign for a half century. Democrats, they tell voters, aren’t like us. They don’t share our values; they’re elitist and alien and threatening. Those ideas can be expressed through issues, but what they’re about is cultural affinity: The Republican candidate is one of us, and the Democratic candidate is one of them.

... Republicans will continue to attack Pelosi from now until November, because they have few better ideas for how to convince voters to send them back to Congress. In some places it might work to get their base to the polls; more often, in all likelihood, it won’t. But either way, we shouldn’t buy for a second that the reason they do it is because they’re trying to say something about policy.

Some Democrats, including some younger Congress members, think it is time for Pelosi to give up the leadership. I get it. Democrats need to make room for a new generation of leaders. If we all do our work and turn out to vote this fall, that will be underway.

But Republicans aren't talking about that. The ads I hear repeated on the doors are the usual lies and woman-hatred, not a principled critique. I guess a political party that can't find a more principled leader than Donalc Trump hasn't got any principles except greed and individual ambition.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

A nightmare prospect

There are at least 150 million of us who don't want spam phone calls from this Preznit. We have plenty of reason to believe that nothing he touches will be to our benefit.

We need FEMA to stick to hurricane relief.

The app writer who creates a blocker has a great career ahead.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Saturday scenery: Huffacker Park views

Just a few miles from where we're staying in Reno, there are a couple of high desert hummocks encircled by a gravel-covered trail.

South Reno is sprawl-land: office parks, malls, warehouses and new housing developments. And all around, desert vistas and a big sky.

In the middle distance, that's the GSR (Grand Sierra Resort), one of Reno's two unionized hotels/casinos.

Anyone who wants to come visit and walk precincts for a better Nevada U.S. Senator and Governor for working people and the country, give me a holler.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Friday cat blogging from Reno

A friend asked, "why no cat blogging?" It's not that there aren't cats in Reno. I see them in the neighborhoods when I'm canvassing, but juggling a tablet and literature prevents photography.

But that doesn't mean cats play no role in my work.

Here's a story: a couple of days ago I was walking a barely built development of townhouses by a golf course. You might think this an unpromising area, but in fact many voters I met want a new Democratic Nevada senator as much as I do.

So I knock on a door and a woman opens it a tiny crack -- and immediately a tiny scrawny tan creature rushed past her and into the yard. Oh gosh, I think, I've let her little hairless chihuahua escape. She'll hate us ...

Then I realize the animal is a sphynx kitten. And, concurrently, I see that the woman is standing at the door supported by crutches.

"May I catch your sphynx and pass it to you?" I ask. These critters are not only bizarre appearing and affectionate, they are expensive, I think.

Fortunately the weird little cat doesn't fight being picked up. I pass it in the door and she blocks a small slit with her crutches. We proceed to a good conversation about how everyone needs access to medical care, how she is having surgery next week and will be homebound, but she has already made sure that she'll be able to vote for Rosen and Sisolak. Another successful conversation with a voter!

Here's a picture I snapped of one of these surreal critters when full grown. Despite their appearance, sphynx cats pretty much just behave like cats. They don't know we think they are strange looking.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Justice delayed

It's good news that, at long last, San Francisco police officers whose racist and sexist text messages have been public knowledge since 2015 can face discipline. But I have to highlight one sentence from the Chronicle report on the decision.

The state Supreme Court cleared the way Wednesday for San Francisco to seek disciplinary action against a group of police officers who exchanged racist, sexist and homophobic text messages in 2011 and 2012 — calling African Americans “monkeys” and encouraging the killing of “half-breeds,” among other slurs.

The texts, which surfaced publicly in 2015, prompted the district attorney’s office to re-examine thousands of criminal cases the officers have handled. As many as nine officers, who have been on paid leave since December 2015, could be fired if the Police Commission finds serious misconduct.

We've been paying these guys not to work for three years because a combination of the power of the police union (POA) and politicians' weakness have made the SFPD unaccountable to the public. Individual cops have a right to fair hearings, but the people have a right to speedy resolution of complaints and removal of wrongdoers on the force.

Mayor Breed, State legislators, County supervisors, and Police Commission: take back our city from rogue cops! This is your job!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

What it is really like on a campaign: learning what's at stake

A campaign isn't just about hard work and logistics. It's also about real lives.

So what's all this work we're doing to elect Jacky Rosen to the Senate really about? For many of us on the crew, it's about fighting the Trump/GOPer wrecking crew that is running the country into the ground for the benefit of plutocrats. But for the people we meet behind the doors we knock on, their Republican U.S. Senator's lies are a threat to life itself.

This ad, from a Democratic associated group, catches the sense of danger.
Their Republican Senator has been playing politics with their lives.

A local Reno free paper, the Reno News and Review, clarified how Dean Heller has weaseled and waffled to play to Trump and his Koch Brothers-associated funders.

On June 23, 2017, U.S. Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada said of one ACA repeal measure, “This bill would mean a loss of coverage for millions of Americans and many Nevadans. I’m telling you right now, I cannot support a piece of legislation that takes insurance away from tens of millions of Americans, and hundreds of thousands of Nevadans.”

... For months, Heller threaded a needle on the issue that drew criticism from left and right. He endured a humiliating scene when, seated beside Donald Trump, he heard Trump threaten him publicly.

“This was the one we were worried about,” Trump said. To Heller: “You weren’t there. But you’re going to be. You’re going to be.”

Then, to the audience: “Look, he wants to remain a senator, doesn’t he?”

An alliance of conservatives headed by the Kochs said they had assembled a war chest whose purpose was to protect Republican senators—but only those who had voted against the ACA.

... On April 5 in Clark County, Heller spoke to a closed meeting of the Nevada Republican Men’s Club, whose meetings are normally open. According to a recording of that meeting leaked to the Las Vegas Review Journal, Heller said he supported repeal of the ACA and blamed other senators for preventing its repeal.

“If we have 51 Republicans that will vote to repeal and replace, it will happen,” he said. “We need 51 votes. And right now we know there’s three votes we’re missing for that 51—John McCain, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski.”

... By August this year, Heller was trumpeting the damage he and other Republicans had been able to do to the ACA: “We did eliminate the [individual] mandate. We did get some of the taxes. I did push back and postpone the Cadillac tax and some of those issues.”

Last month, the Kochs’ Americans for Prosperity PAC started running ads in Nevada supporting Heller.

Dean Heller cares about himself and his rich buddies. No wonder plenty of Nevadans know they need a different Senator. They need one who believes "health care is a right, not a privilege."

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Some battles must be fought over and over

Erudite Partner recounts how last month members of an organized professional association stood up for ethical conduct within their discipline. Psychologists held out against expedient conformity with the wishes of leaders in authority, a tough choice too often demanded of all of us in these times.

Juan Cole published her story. She begins ...:

No one, not Psychologists or Supreme Court Justices, should be Helping with Gov’t Torture
Sometimes the good guys do win. That’s what happened on August 8th in San Francisco when the Council of Representatives of the American Psychological Association (APA) decided to extend a policy keeping its members out of the U.S. detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

The APA’s decision is important — and not just symbolically. Today we have a president who has promised to bring back torture and “load up” Guantánamo “with some bad dudes.” When healing professionals refuse to work there, they are standing up for human rights and against torture.

It wasn’t always so. In the early days of Guantánamo, military psychologists contributed to detainee interrogations there. It was for Guantánamo that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved multiple torture methods, including among others excruciating stress positions, prolonged isolation, sensory deprivation, and enforced nudity. Military psychologists advised on which techniques would take advantage of the weaknesses of individual detainees. And it was two psychologists, one an APA member, who designed the CIA’s whole “enhanced interrogation program.” ...

Read it all at the link.

The photo is from 2007 when APA members demonstrated in San Francisco outside their association's annual meeting, demanding psychologists get out of Dick Cheney's gulag.

Monday, September 10, 2018

What it is really like to work on a campaign: pride in hard work

This amazing crew knocked on over 2000 doors yesterday in Reno to support Rosen for Senate and Sisolak for Governor -- and will do the same and more tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that ... all the way until election day.

There is abundant research about how campaigns can encourage citizens who don't usually vote to become regular voters. Robocalls, lawn signs, and social media ads create atmospherics around elections. But nothing equals in-person, face-to-face, at-the-door contact with another human being. Often it takes more than one contact. Talking with a canvasser enables folks to get their minds around the idea that the unfamiliar activity of casting a ballot can matter to other human beings.

That's what we're doing here, every day. It's a joy and a privilege. We are living at the core of what community and democracy is all about.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

When we were very young ...

A new season begins. GO NINERS!

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Saturday scenery: a sparkling Reno morning

When I decided I to come to Nevada to campaign, I had forgotten that Nevada is beautiful.

This pond is not far from where we're staying, not that we're likely to have more than fleeting minutes to run around it. In addition to this egret and some ducks, there were quail and some sort of heron,

Condos on the shore have fabulous views.

Friday, September 07, 2018

Athletes who speak up for justice and liberation

Jelani Cobb reflects sensibly in the New Yorker on Nike's advertising decision to highlight Colin Kaepernick. He gives the monster athletic goods company credit for taking a (calculated) risk:

Nike gambled that a greater portion of the world understands where Kaepernick is coming from.

The communities that drive our understanding that Black Lives Matter will determine whether that gamble is a good one. I bet yes.

Cobb's article reminds us that Nike's original "Just Do It" campaign which launched in 1988 highlighted

... Walt Stack, an eighty-year-old man, ebulliently trotting across the Golden Gate Bridge as part of his daily seventeen-mile run. “People ask me how I keep my teeth from chattering in the wintertime,” Stack says. “I leave them in my locker.”

Cobb's article neglects that Walt Stack and Kap are figures who have something deep in common. These are two exceptional athletes. But also, they are both exemplary justice heroes.

Walt Stack worked as a construction worker, a hod carrier who lifted bricks all his working life, a loyal union activist, and a convinced socialist who stood against big employers who exploited their workers. He was an evangelist for amateur running, especially for women who, back in the day, weren't expected to go out and "just do it." In their own ways and times, both these fighters were about breaking the rules to construct a new and better world. Let's honor Kap as a hero for our times; Walt Stack too is worthy of our respect.

What it is really like to work on a campaign: practice, practice, practice

Before volunteer organizers can start talking with voters at their front doors, they have to learn what Nevada candidates Jacky Rosen for U.S. Senate and Steve Sisolak for Governor are offering the public. For example, both candidates are focusing on helping Nevada's overcrowded and crumbling public schools, while also promoting a strong economy where workers can earn a living wage.

None of those issues are easy to talk about with strangers. So we practice.

Learn more about this campaign here. And come on along to take part. We'll happily incorporate volunteers for several days or more into a smart, strategic effort to replace a sitting Republican Senator who refuses to stick up for Nevadans against Donald Trump.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Good news for those of us campaigning in Nevada

WASHINGTON (AP) — Michelle Obama will headline voter registration rallies in Las Vegas and Miami later this month during a week of action to encourage voting for the November elections by a nonpartisan organization she co-chairs, organizers said Wednesday.

The former first lady is hosting the Las Vegas event on Sept. 23 and the Miami rally on Sept. 28, said Stephanie Young, communications director for When We All Vote.

Mrs. Obama announced last month that When We All Vote will mark the 53rd anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits racial discrimination in voting, by urging Americans to hold events Sept. 22-29 to sign people up to vote in the Nov. 6 midterm elections and beyond ...

Sure, this is "nonpartisan," but we know all too well which party wants make sure all citizens can vote.

You can help elect Democrat Jacky Rosen to the United States Senate and Democrat Steve Sisolak as Nevada's next governor by joining union hospitality workers campaigning in Reno. Send me an email and I'll explain how to get involved.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

What it is really like to work on a campaign: the calm before the surge

Our newly cleaned, completely orderly, office will be filled on Wednesday.

Thirty-five volunteer organizers, union members, friends and family, blew into town today. Here they check into their quarters in an extended stay residence for the next two months.

Soon the work of talking with voters can begin ...

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

For the sake of your health care ...

Economist Paul Krugman came out with a timely reminder this morning of why Democrats must win Congressional and Senate seats this fall -- and why Nevada is a key place to start. Republicans just lie about their intent to take access to medical care away from people with pre-existing conditions. Here's Krugman:

When someone like, say, Senator Dean Heller of Nevada co-sponsors a bill that purports to protect pre-existing conditions but actually doesn’t, what he hopes for are headlines that say “Heller Announces Plan to Protect Americans With Pre-existing Conditions,” with the key fact — that his bill wouldn’t do that at all — buried in the 17th paragraph.

Or better yet, from his point of view, that 17th paragraph would state only that “some Democrats” say his bill is a fraud, while Republicans disagree. Both sides, you know.

So if you’re an American who suffers from a pre-existing medical condition, or fear that you might develop such a condition in the future, you need to be clear about the reality: Republicans are coming for your health care. If they hold the line in November, health insurance at an affordable price — maybe at any price — will be gone in a matter of months.

The graphic above, "GOPUS delendus est" is a takeoff on Shakespeare's play about the assassination of the tyrant Julius Caesar, meaning roughly "the Republican cult must die." H/t Kevin Drum at Mother Jones. I'll be using it a lot this fall.

What it is really like to work on an electoral campaign: getting started

The E.P. and I are getting settled in Reno, our home away from home for the next two months as we work to elect a new Democratic Senator, Jacky Rosen, and a new Democratic Governor, Steve Sisolak. In this perilous moment when the small measure of equal opportunity working people and people of color have won in this country are at risk from Trump and the GOPers, nothing seems more important than replacing as many Republicans as we can in November. Nevada is ground zero for this effort, our best shot at replacing a sitting GOP Senator. So here we are.

We are fortunate to be working in a small, highly efficient, sub-branch of the campaign. The union UniteHERE (that's the hotel and hospitality folks) have the project of making Washoe County (Reno and Sparks) blue. This is the second largest concentration of people in the state; most of the rest are around Las Vegas. The union has worked here in the last two presidential elections and done the job, but never before in a midterm. This is a campaign operation that knows what it is doing. You can read more specifics at this link.

I find myself in a fortunate position here: I've been around enough of these efforts to know the ropes -- but I am just lower middle management this time, not responsible for the stressful and confidential stuff that running a campaign involves. I just have a job to do -- mostly coordinating volunteers and being a spare pair of hands. Consequently, I will be able to blog about what it is really like to work on an election.

And so, here's a first installment: lead organizers spent Labor Day clearing out a crowded, underused borrowed office of superfluous junk from a decade of campaigns past:
We'll generate our own junk over the next two months. It was thrilling to make a new start.

Anyone who wants to volunteer to help make Nevada a blue state that treats workers and people of color right, email me here.

Monday, September 03, 2018

Some photos of working San Franciscans for Labor Day

When you snap photos while exploring precincts, naturally you are going to encounter lots of people with outdoor jobs.

And for all our affluence, there is still plenty of work that takes place outside.

She makes sure that hydrants are tested.

With all sorts of turnover in neighborhood retail districts, this sight is common.

A woman slinging earth is not such a common sight -- but hey, I used to do that, so why shouldn't she?

It's nice to see that some of our new crop of indoor workers understand the disruption they are part of here in the city by the bay.

He appears to have done his time and is wandering home, satisfied.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

A story of persistence, grit, and finding her unique way

My friend Tara is beating back limiting assumptions about what women can do -- and the hard reality that financial support for women's winter sports is close to nonexistent. Two years ago, she was working on a produce farm and hawking T-shirts showing her exploits. It was the only way to follow her passion. Today she is on the top of her sport. Tom Kelly, writing in the Park City (Utah) Record, the site of the Olympic Training Center where they know their winter sports, tells her story:

Vermont ski jumper Tara Geraghty-Moats is a pioneer. Like Park City's Lindsey Van, who pioneered the way for women's ski jumping a decade ago, Geraghty-Moats is doing that for women's Nordic combined – the one remaining winter Olympic sport where women are still seeking representation.

This past weekend in Oberwiesenthal, Germany, a former mining town in Saxony near the Czech border, she put her stamp on her sport in the first ever elite-level international Nordic combined Summer Grand Prix. She won!

... It has been a long trail for Geraghty-Moats, now 25. At age nine, she started ski jumping. An injury knocked her out of the sport so she shifted to biathlon, even training in Sweden. Then she found ski jumping again, knocking out top-10 international finishes. Her passion swung back to the unusual combination of ski jumping and cross country skiing that is Nordic combined. The past season was rugged. Three elbow surgeries – the latest in March – held her back. But she persevered. In July, she came back to the U.S. Championships in Utah. This time there was a [Nordic combined] women's class. And she won her first title.

So, naturally, having won her U.S. title, she jumped to the big time, the International Ski Federation's Nordic Grand Prix tour in Europe -- and won there too. Tara is indeed now forging a path for women who jump and race on the skinny skis, a path only available to male athletes until now. There will be Continental Cups this winter and adding a women's World Cup event is in the works. One day the Olympics will get around to adding a women's Nordic combined competition, though most likely not in time for the 2022 games.

May I to prove I knew her when?
Go Tara!

Saturday, September 01, 2018

We are drifting toward demanding universal health care

The thing about access to health care and health insurance is that this is not something anyone wants to think about unless they are experiencing a current health emergency or have had a terrible experience trying to get help in the past. Republicans' determined effort to take access to care away from people who got it through Obamacare has made these related issues closer to top of mind for a lot of us.

Kaiser Family Foundation has produced some fascinating polling on the shifting, but unsettled, attitudes that living inside the last decade's political wars over Obamacare and repeal has left among the public.

Broadly, the country is drifting toward thinking that it is the government's job to ensure everyone can get medical care when they need it. Roughly six in ten of us think so. Opinions on just how to do that seem unfixed, subject to wavering depending on how a universal health access system is described.
KFF presents this research in 12 slides at the link; all worth pondering.

I've long thought that ditching the wonky designation "single-payer" was a prerequisite to winning on health care access. We seem to be going there.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Friday cat blogging: fall campaign edition

Morty thought he was getting us back on our return from Australia ... but no, that's not to be. The Erudite Partner and I are off to Reno for two months, working on UniteHERE's campaign to replace a Nevada Republican senator who doesn't give a damn about ensuring health care and decent wages for working people. Morty looks a bit baleful there next to our candidate's website, doesn't he? But no fear, good friends will be living with him for the duration.

We all have to do what we can in this dire moment for the country and world. As a wise friend suggested, everyone has to "find their lane." What we each can and should do will be different, but there is no opting out in a season of peril.

If Nevada might be your lane, click this link and read all about it.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Not just in the States

This detail from a contemporary painting by Gordon Hookey, an urban Aboriginal artist, a Waanyi, portrays what police surveillance felt like to boys like him in the Sydney district of Redfern. It hangs in the Art Gallery of New South Wales in that city. Not a pretty picture.

Relations between Australians who immigrated from other continents (both Europe and Asia) and Aboriginal Australians don't fit into neat white-formulated US categories about race. Nor are "blackfellas" (polite Australian usage for Aboriginal people of both sexes) analogous to Native peoples in the US. Brutally put, more blackfellas and blackfellas' culture survived whitefellas' massacres, at least outside the cities, than in the USA. This is particularly true in the remote west and north where we traveled. I'm not going to claim to understand the social conditions we saw -- but anyone attuned to issues of white supremacy and oppression can hardly ignore that something ugly has happened here.

And so, here's another Gordon Hookey painting that his simply a hoot. Titled "Xanthorrhoea takes over suburban backyard" it captures white suburban nightmares about the surrounding, possibly encroaching, native environment.

"Here the 'Australian dream' of the quarter acre block, complete with all the requisite trimmings, has been infiltrated by xanthorrhoea shrubs. This native plant is more generically known as 'grass trees' or 'spear grass.'"

As always, click to enlarge. And check out this detail:

Blog sporadicus ...

Today (August 1) we fly away from a month and posts here will be sporadic at most. Some of time, we will not only be off the internet, but for about 10 days in Western Australia, we won't even have electricity. In the Kimberleys, we look forward seeing stars as modern people seldom do. When possible, there may be photos here. Or not. Perhaps I'll write up some of my reading. Or not.

Enjoy August if you can.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Worst of times; best of times

Sydney, Australia can be cold in winter. After walking around the edges of the harbor and contemplating the famous Opera House, we were ready to duck into a bookstore, looking as much for heat as reading material. This proved to a real bookstore of a sort seldom seen in these days of Amazon's supremacy -- two floors of books, annotated with notes from literate and curious store clerks.

I don't often see what serious bookstores are carrying these days. After a pleasantly warm quarter hour browsing a wide-ranging trade fiction section, I realized there was a theme in what appeared to be the most up-to-date entries: their narratives seemed overwhelmingly dystopian. I mean, The Handmaid's Tale looked cheerful in this selection. We're in an anxious moment.

So I was reminded of this Washington Post article which points out that this is no time to wallow in hopelessness.

The world is on the brink of a historic milestone: By 2020, more than half of the world’s population will be “middle class,” according to Brookings Institution scholar Homi Kharas.

Kharas defines the middle class as people who have enough money to cover basic needs, such as food, clothing and shelter, and still have enough left over for a few luxuries, such as fancy food, a television, a motorbike, home improvements or higher education.

It’s a critical juncture: After thousands of years of most people on the planet living as serfs, as slaves or in other destitute scenarios, half the population now has the financial means to be able to do more than just try to survive. “There was almost no middle class before the Industrial Revolution began in the 1830s,” Kharas said. “It was just royalty and peasants. Now we are about to have a majority middle-class world.”

...[The study notes how] remarkably similar daily life is around the world, with the exception of the very rich and poor. The vast majority of the families have electricity, running water in their home, children that attend school and some sort of transportation.

This is new in the last quarter century. It's hard to see in midst of political trauma (yes, Australia is having a nasty one of these, perhaps as awful as the Trump horror show). But if we can keep from rendering the planet uninhabitable, we can rejoice that more humans are enjoying more of a chance for humane lives than ever before in history. Worth noting.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Australia's Red Centre: Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

Detail from "Garak -- The Universe" by Gulumbu Yunupingu from Australia's Arnhem region at left. Full painting on right. Click to see large.
Somehow this painting -- which we encountered in Sydney several days after visiting the Red Centre -- expressed more than any of my pictures the feeling of the great, mysterious rock features of this ancient place. According to a caption at the Museum of New South Wales:

"Yunupingu has explained that some stars, gan'yu, are special for the Yoingu people and that when she looks at the stars, she thinks about the universe and that all people are connected through the night sky."

I have a hard time writing about our experience/observations visiting the park at Australia's center. For aboriginal Australians, this is sensitive, perhaps sacred (though I think that is not quite the right word) space, where they find/enact their science -- their way of knowing all that is.

Our visit allowed us to snap the obvious photos. Here's Uluru at sunset:
The "whitefella" tourist custom is to snap these pictures while nibbling on crackers and dip and drinking champagne. This was altogether weird. But there was the rock.

Sunrise the next morning felt more appropriate.

For the last some 25 years, the local aboriginal people and white park rangers have managed the site together.

Welcome to Aboriginal land
Parks Australia and Anangu, the Aboriginal traditional owners, welcome visitors to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.
It is requested that you respect the wishes of Anangu by not climbing Uluru.

At the foot of Uluru, this request not to violate the peoples' apprehension of the universe by climbing the rock is repeated.
The request is routinely violated, though it was not by our group.

We did walk some on permitted trails adjacent to the great rock and also at the nearby red ridge Kata Tjuta.
There's a lot of power here.

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