Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Credit where credit is due

Here's a postscript to the blog about youth election engagement posted here yesterday.

David Hogg came to national notice in a terrible way: he's one of the survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting massacre. With many of his comrades and others, he became one of the organizers of the national March for Our Lives

Then he went off to and completed college.

These days he is launching what looks like a movement-oriented youth electoral politics shop which they call Leaders We Deserve, aiming to "build the EMILYs List for young people"  More power to them; needs to be done.

But I wanted to share here Hogg's thoughtful assessment (from Xitter @davidhogg111) of where we've come to in the last four years and of our incumbent and candidate president.

Young people voted for Biden in record numbers here’s the result so far:
• Billions in student debt forgiveness

 • First gun safety bill in 30 years

• Most Climate spending in US history
• Office of gun violence prevention
• Climate Corps

More progress on all the above issues in three years than the past 30. This is not simply because Biden cares about young people it’s because our generation has real power. Biden knows he can’t win without the youth vote- especially young people of color. While he’s limited with a divided congress and a corrupt Supreme Court he’s managed to get more done than any president in decades with razor thin margins.

It can be hard to imagine but Biden was once a young person he was elected to the senate when he was 29. He has over 50 years of experience. When voting what I want most is someone who can deliver and Biden has.
This because he’s done a remarkable job integrating progressives into leadership. When we match the passion of the progressive movement with his experience it’s a recipe for success.
When he was first elected I was very doubtful of how much could really happen I am happy to be proven wrong. If he was doing a bad job, as someone who does not shy away from publicly criticizing the party or president I would tell you. But honestly Biden and especially his incredible staff [have] made it work.
March for Our Lives and many others demanded action, protested and Biden has listened, we aren’t going away but i wanted to give credit where it is due.

Clearly, Hogg is wrestling with the permanent conundrum for honest advocates for major change in a democracy: how do you keep your vision clear and your coalition together while striving for tangible accomplishments on your agenda. Wrestle away! May the force be with you.

Monday, September 25, 2023

The Times They Are A-Changin

John Della Volpe writes "for more than two decades, I’ve been embedded in the land of young Americans. First millennials, and now Gen Z with an eye on Gen Alpha. From my perch since 2000 as polling director at Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics, at SocialSphere, and as the dad of a few Zoomers and one Zillennial — I spend most of my time talking with, surveying, and thinking about young Americans. ..."

He concludes, based on long running CBS News polling, that younger Americans are approaching the looming 2024 election and our general prospects with a lot more hope than their elders. 

#1: Younger Americans are the most optimistic Americans
    •    Younger Americans have dealt with more chaos more quickly than most Americans — indeed, before most reached adulthood;
    •    Yet, they’re not turning away from their country; they are leaning in with a generous and tenacious spirit.
Gen Zers and millennials are significantly more likely than older generations to indicate that things in the country are going “very” (13%) or “somewhat well” (31%).
And unlike their elders, they think well of Vice President Harris. Her presence along with Joe Biden increases their confidence in the ticket.

#2: VP Harris is polling solidly with younger voters who see her as an asset to President Biden and the 2024 ticket

Although the GOP presidential candidates are attempting to downplay Vice President Harris’s role in the administration and her potential impact on the 2024 Democratic ticket, this poll indicates that younger voters remain undeterred and supportive.

The Vice President’s approval ratings are trending ahead of most national figures and are particularly strong across the younger cohorts. (55%: among the 18-29 age group)

On a fraught subject, a majority think Joe Biden is getting U.S. support right for a free Ukraine.

#3: Gen Z and millennials are more in favor of U.S. engagement in Ukraine than older generations

For as many adults over 30 who believe that the Biden administration is generally handling things the right way in Ukraine, about the same number think the U.S. should be pulling back and doing less. The pattern reverses, though, with younger Americans. ...those under 30 are between seven and ten points more likely to support greater U.S. support for Ukraine.

Additionally, young adults are also more supportive than older generations of sending aid and supplies (76%), weapons (57%), and troops (48%) to Ukraine.

Though I agree about the justice of Ukraine's cause, I marvel at the reversal from past wars which younger people questioned more readily than did their elders.

• • •

Los Angeles Times writer David Lauter took up the question of who among us might spark hope in the years ahead. He found an answer in the paper's reporting: 

The optimism of President Obama’s “Yes we can” and President Reagan’s “shining city on a hill” seem like increasingly quaint relics....

... a campaign for reform is not an impossible idea. In the early 20th century, a national debate and calls for systemic change led to the direct election of senators, widespread adoption of ballot initiatives and women’s suffrage. In the 1960s, another wave of reform enfranchised Black Americans and swept away legally enforced racial segregation.
Could that happen again? The optimism about the future that our Times/KFF poll of immigrants found and the deep discontent the Pew survey documented among younger Americans point to a possible way the current era of stalemate could end.
... Both immigrants and young people vote at much lower levels than the rest of the population. Many immigrants aren’t citizens, and even those who do have citizenship often aren’t plugged into U.S. politics. Young people often aren’t habitual voters and need a cause to motivate them.
But both groups are poised to play a larger role. Millennial and Gen Z Americans are forecast to become a majority of voters by the end of this decade. And the number of immigrant voters will grow as well, as more achieve citizenship. Both groups want more than the current system offers and could push it out of its rut.

• • •

The Civics Center works to get young people registered as soon as they turn 18, mostly while still in high school. That early start on encouraging engagement with politics is important. Once they leave high school, spread out, start college or a job, often elections can seem one thing too many in a challenging time of life. It becomes hard to catch them to ensure they are registered -- but they will vote once they are already registered. 

And the number of young new registrants can make all the difference to outcomes.

If this inspires, check out The Civics Center. They've got a program to get the job done.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Worker struggles busting out all over

In addition to providing a nuanced history of the United Auto Workers union, its revival, current strategy, and the aims in its current strike, University of Chicago historian Gabriel Winant offers this broad view of current labor militancy.

The UAW is not alone. In the past several years labor militancy has been on the rise across sectors, challenging not only particular employers but also, increasingly, the direction of the country. For a decade, beginning in Chicago in 2012 and escalating to the strike wave of 2018–2019 and the struggles over pandemic reopenings, teachers have resisted privatization and fought for smaller classes and safer, better staffed schools.

Similarly radicalized by the pandemic, thousands of Starbucks and Amazon workers have stood up to these giants of the new economy, long thought to be unorganizable. In these and other campaigns, workers have faced relentless, often flagrantly illegal antiunion repression, prompting the Biden administration’s National Labor Relations Board to come to their aid with some of the most favorable interpretations of labor law in decades.

In Hollywood, by striking against the algorithmic production and distribution of television and film, actors and writers are defending the very idea of human culture as something more than pellets of pasteurized and predigested content.

So too are workers in Pittsburgh, where the staff of the Post-Gazette has fought a bitter strike for nearly a year to preserve the basic possibility of local news.

Across Los Angeles, thousands of hotel workers have been on strike for nearly a month, demanding not only better wages and working conditions but also for hotels to help solve the city’s crises of unaffordable housing and homelessness by offering housing support for hotel workers and providing empty rooms to the unhoused.

A rolling wave of organizing at hospitals and nursing homes since the pandemic, including an enormous potential strike recently authorized at Kaiser Permanente, contests the ongoing staffing crisis in the health sector, which is intimately tied to patient access and quality of care.

And campus unions are forming functioning coalitions between unions representing different segments of the workforce. Here full time professors, part-time instructors, admin staff, and the groundskeepers unite to welcome students to the new semester at the private University of San Francisco. (PTFA-CFT photo)

In higher education, resistance to a collapsed academic job market and the depredations of increasingly mercenary administrations has quickly accelerated. Unions have launched major strikes across the industry, most notably in 2022 at the University of California, and won an extraordinary string of near-unanimous union victories across the private sector in the past several years—pro-union vote share is regularly above 90 percent in electorates that often exceed three thousand workers. Eight of the ten largest new union bargaining units since January 2022 have been at universities. ...

 We aren't just pixels in Elon Musk's world.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

#StandUpUAW: it runs in the family

The daughter of one of the 1937 Flint GM sit-down strikers walked the picket line in solidarity with workers at GM CCA in Swartz Creek, MI, Friday. 86 years after the sit down strike, UAW members are standing up! @UAW
The union makes us strong. Keeping on keeping on.

Friday, September 22, 2023

Believing the hype?

About a week ago, I wrote disparagingly about charisma in politicians. I find myself pondering this quality further.

The dictionary definition of charisma is all about the word's origin in theology. It is not until the fourth listing that the manner in which I commonly think of it comes up: charm, magnetism, presence. A usage I encountered this week catches how I commonly think of the quality: "[Sarah] Palin’s telegenic charisma." Yeah, right. She's a flashy, shallow phony -- exactly what I think of when charisma goes sour.

Two events involving charisma -- not from politics, and neither sour -- grabbed me last weekend. What might be dismissed as "just charisma" can turn out to have more, or additional, meanings.

The first was a visit to the Kehinde Wiley show, an Archeology of Silence, at the De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park (til October 15). It had been much praised and several friends had been blown away by Wiley's giant paintings and intricate bronze cast figures. As the artist intended, the pieces overwhelm the senses through their scale and audacity. But if you get a chance to see them, don't miss the details, such as the small bit of a huge figure that I've posted above. This show is deeper than its immediate grandiosity, its charisma. I suspect this artist's work will be even deeper as he ages.

That same weekend, I watched the Colorado University football team triumph (barely) over Colorado State University. This is a traditional rivalry game in the collapsing Pac12 conference, but in the curious economy of big-time farm-team football on TV, it is not a big deal. Except that this year it was. 

Colorado University hired Deion Sanders, the former NFL star receiver and TV football commentator known to admirers and detractors as "Prime," away from a head coaching job at the HBCU Jackson State. Sanders got rid of most of the poorly performing existing CU team and imported transferring players, including his own talented sons as a receiver and as quarterback. He promised to overturn a pretty dismal past football record and to deliver wins and excitement. This was not just winning football games, but his promise, according to CNN , amounted to "audacious Blackness." Would this work as sport as well as charisma?

I have to say, once the fray supplanted the pregame hype, this was one hell of a football game. It required two overtime periods, but CU came through in the end.

In this contest Deion Sanders, his sons, and his team delivered both charisma and substance.

And I should mention that there was another novel feature to the game. CSU's coach, Jay Norvell, is also Black. How often does it happen that two major football colleges meet who both have Black coaches? 

Sometimes it is worth staying up late to catch West Coast football.

Friday cat blogging

We have here an almost peaceable kingdom. Janeway is assiduous in her attention to Mio's cleanliness. Naturally, she also reserves the right to bite his leg and initiate a chase. They are an odd couple, but apparently compatible.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

In which Erudite Partner returns to the inescapable ...

... after a 40 year hiatus. 

Stumbling Towards Old Age ... And Looking for Someone to Lean On
It turns out that we — the people of this country — are all on our own. ... But even as I grieve for capacities lost and departing, I’m still not ready to come face to face with the only true alternative to aging: not some tech bro’s wet dream of eternal life, but the reality of death. I’m opposed to dying and, had the universe consulted me, I’d have left mortality out of its design completely. 

... Aging really is a roulette game.

Need the inevitable be quite so lonely? Could we, collectively, do better by each other?

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

What is Joe Biden good for?

Is Joe Biden too old to serve another term as president? The political media needed to goose eyeballs on its offerings, so we're having a round of this. The question might have seemed meaningful a year ago, but Prez Joe long ago decided he can and must run, so it strikes me as mostly noise. Besides, he's only three years older than Donald Trump -- and that guy is nuts, in addition to being corrupt and vicious. If there were a way to have two younger candidates, that would be good. It's time for a new generation. But there is no way this year. The mature thing is to get used to it.

James Fallows is only a few years younger than either of these gents, but he's been doing insightful political journalism since the Carter Administration. He doesn't think much of the too-old Joe meme: in fact, he thinks age may be an advantage in this president.
Why is Biden better as an old president than he would have been as a young one? Because experience, or luck, or Providence, has equipped him for the two essential aspects of the job (which, inconveniently, don’t make for great breaking-news coverage).
One of those is judgment. Not the second-by-second go/no-go decisions in the Situation Room that are glamporized in news accounts. They are part of a president’s responsibilities, but not the major part. The real test of a president is the larger strategic decisions, the ones that are pondered-over. We should draw a line and pick this fight. We should do our best to avoid this other fight.
I contend that Biden’s judgment on all of the biggest questions has been good. That is, I agree with most of his calls. The real point is that his judgment is probably better than it would have been in his 40s. And he is less anxious about “proving himself.”
The other is choosing a team. Every president of the past century, before Joe Biden, has had publicized scandals, staff resignations, back-biting, and other friction by this point in an administration. So far the only “scandal” involving Biden has concerned his son Hunter, who never held public office; and the main “criticism” from his own party has been whether Merrick Garland, his attorney general, has been too passive.
Choosing which fights to pick; choosing which people to trust: These are often the traits of older people, rather than younger ones. They’re strengths rather than weaknesses for Biden. Sidney Blumenthal has an extended argument about why Biden is the best choice for the Democrats—on the merits of his performance in office, and on the realities of choosing anyone else.
Washington Post opinion writer Perry Bacon Jr. also rose to the old-Joe prompt. I'd call his conclusion realistic.
I’m going to spend the run-up to the 2024 election being honest: Biden is a solid president but not indispensable; neither he nor Harris are transformative leaders like the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.; Harris might end up in the job because Biden is so old.
If the fate of American democracy depends on pretending that we are not at all concerned about an 80-year-old-president, then we were already doomed. I can’t predict the future about Joe Biden’s health and I don’t need to — I will be voting for Joe Biden for president and also Kamala Harris for president if Biden can’t serve.
Seems sensible. The pair in power aren't perfect, but, as Biden always says, "compare him to the alternative." That's where we are.

The basketball great and wiseman Kareem Abdul-Jabar offers may favorite take on the Biden "age issue."
Age and experience can mean making fewer mistakes (because you’ve already made them). Maybe it also means delegating for higher efficiency. Maybe it means working smarter.
Having lived a lot of years doesn’t make you wise. It’s what you learned from all those years that makes you wise. Some are just as clueless at 90 as they were at 19. But others have filled their minds and hearts with knowledge and compassion worthy of a lifetime.
... Biden may drive the car more slowly, playing the oldies station, and with the blinker permanently on, but at least he’s driving in the right direction.
• • •
The discussion of Biden's age prompts me throw in a suspicion that's grown on me was I've watched this presidency.
I've come to think that one of Biden's assets as president is his very longevity in politics. This is not entirely that experience made him wiser, but because of the different contexts in which he followed his ambition. Biden came up before the "Reagan revolution." He grew up as a pol in a time when Democrats thought the New Deal, national mobilization to win World War II, and Lyndon Johnson's ambitious effort to cut poverty in the 1960s had set the paradigm for what government was for. Government's purpose was to make the lives of all citizens better -- safer, less precarious -- by targeted interventions in market capitalism. From 1933 through 1980, that's what ruling Democratic politicians thought was the job. 

Ronald Reagan's Republican Party tore all that down, promising less government, less regulation, less concern from the poor and the dark skinned. Businesses and white supremacists loved this government U-turn; the Dems were divided, exhausted, and took decades to recover both intellectually and at the ballot box.

Joe Biden comes from the before-Reagan times. His instinct is to use the power of government to do good things for people. He's surrounded by younger people very much of today: Sanderites, Warrenites, think tankers, all of whom have new, unfettered, ambitions for what a Democratic government can do. And climate crisis forces but also enables action; cautious incrementalism just won't serve.

So, as the historian Heather Cox Richardson explains, we get a government that tries of advance purposes which break from the premises of the last forty years.
The idea that public investment in infrastructure serves democratic goals fell out of favor in the U.S. in the 1980s. Leaders insisted that private investment reacted more efficiently to market forces whereas government investment both distorted markets and tied up money that private investment could use more effectively. In fact, the dramatic scaling back of public investment since then has not led to more efficient development so much as it has led to crumbling infrastructure and its exploitation by private individuals.
Joe Biden is a happy throwback to a different time. He can imagine government which is creative and agile -- and broadly good for everyone. A government that has our backs. Maybe we needed an old-timer leader in this moment ... anyway, we've got one.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

We think inflation is terrible because prices are higher than we remember

I'm usually a fan of Paul Krugman. He's a humane commentator on our condition who often gets reality right. But he made an argument today in his NYTimes newsletter (link may not work as it is a newsletter, but there it is) which completely misses the point of what people are talking about when we complain about inflation.

He observes that he gets huge push back when he observes that inflation is coming down. He earnestly discusses the various measures of inflation; there are several and they serve different analytical and policy purposes. He assures the reader that he is not gaming the system when he chooses which measure is relevant in which context. I believe him.
Krugman asserts:
The question of what’s happening to inflation is, or should be, a purely technical issue.
But probably most of us don't think any of this makes any sense because we know it requires more of our dollars than it used to once to go about our daily business. I am going to a warehouse store later today; I know that I'll spend 15-20 percent more dollars than I would have in 2019.

The pandemic has left a rift in our consciousness. There was before; there is after. Everything costs more. That's what inflation means in common understanding.

"Inflation" is not whether some measures favored by economists are going up -- and are currently going down. Inflation in every day life means that prices are higher (some much higher) than "before." We simply won't notice the trend line until the disruption is further in the past -- when the meaning of "before" changes. Might that be this year?

I hope so.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Burnout musings

I seem to be experiencing some kind of bloggy burnout. I have multiple items I'd like to write about, but somehow can't muster the energy to create the posts. (I do work on these -- trying for accuracy and giving credit where it should go.)

So I'll default to this recommendation: 

I used to survey people experiencing burnout. Here’s what they taught me. 

Most of this is not what's ailing me, but it's charming. The link is a gift article.

Back soon.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Remembering the Birmingham church bombing

I do remember the bombing by KuKluxKlan white supremacists of that Alabama brick Black church in 1963. The next few days, pictures were all over the Buffalo News and the Buffalo Courier which my parents received daily. The horror stuck.

Religion News Service shared a set of pictures from the bombing which I'll post here.

A man falls to his knees in prayer amid shattered glass from windows of the 16th Street Baptist Church and surrounding buildings in Birmingham, Alabama, in Sept. 1963. Four young girls died as a racist’s bomb exploded at 10:22 a.m. on Sept. 15, 1963, during worship services and Sunday school sessions. In the following outbreak of violence throughout the area, two young black men were shot to death. Pleas for effort to stop further bloodshed were issued from government, civil rights and religious leaders across the nation. Religion News Service file photo 

Firemen and ambulance attendants remove a covered body from Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, where an explosion ripped though the structure during services, killing four black girls, on Sept. 15, 1963. Sarah Collins Rudolph lost an eye and has pieces of glass inside her body from a Ku Klux Klan bombing that killed her sister and three other Black girls inside the Alabama church. (AP Photo, File)

Mourners gather around Mr. and Mrs. Alvin Robertson Sr., seated at right, and a sister, at left, of 14-year-old Carole Robertson. Carole and three other young girls, attending Sunday school in the basement of 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, died in the 1963 terrorist bombing. Religion News Service file photo

Yesterday's commemoration in the Baptist Church:

Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman on the nation’s highest court, speaks at the 60th Commemoration of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing Friday, Sept. 15, 2023, in Birmingham, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Never again? It feels hard to promise ...