Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Ilhan Omar is expected to be elected to Congress next Tuesday

This Somali-American Minnesota state legislator and refugee from Kenya will give the hallowed House of Representatives some new perspectives. Isn't that what so many people who've migrated here have brought to this country?

She explains why she runs for office:

“It is part of my Islamic teaching to make sure we are charitable,” Ms. Omar told me. “A huge part of the Islamic faith is that you can’t sleep with a full belly if your neighbors and those around you aren’t sleeping with a full belly.”

H/t to Wajahat Ali in the New York Times.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

On community and hate

In the wake of the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre, Tara Isabella Burton posed the question "Why [do] extremists keep attacking places of worship?" Before this crime, there were the murders at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, the attack on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, the 2008 shootings at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church ... the list goes on.

In these days of frantic campaigning, my quick reads of coverage of even the most dire events are little more than a skim. But I was struck by this:

... the attack on Tree of Life is part of another, wider, and no less worrying trend: the degree to which places of worship have become targets for acts that could be classified as domestic terrorism. In the past decade, houses of worship — from synagogues to Christian churches to Sikh temples — have increasingly become targets for extremist violence. Many of these attacks have been explicitly white supremacist or right-wing in nature, targeting perceived liberals, ethnic minorities, or women.

In each case, the attacks have been designed to maximize emotional effect. By targeting a house of worship, rather than a private home or business, the attacker has committed a powerful symbolic transgression: profaning a space that is both sacred and communal. Attacks on places of worship double not just as attacks on worshippers, but as attacks on the community itself.

In my haste, I read that last sentence as simply attacks on community itself -- not exactly what Burton is saying, but an implication very much there in her thought.

Do angry shooters vent their rage on people gathered in community because, somewhere in the reaches of their hate-addled brains, community itself is the enemy? People coming together for a purpose -- whether as a bowling club or to worship as they choose -- form communities, webs of human connection that sustain and enrich their humanity.

When rage comes to define individuals, human connection becomes difficult, maybe impossible. When elements of the cultural context excuse, even validate, white supremacy, anti-Semitism, and religious bigotry, do those who for whatever reason feel themselves outside community feel the need to attack community itself?

So it seems.

Evil leaders mobilize lonely losers for their own purposes. That's how we get fascism -- when the losers for whom community has long failed or been broken accept the leadership of one who offers the false community of shared resentment and hatred. Our webs of human connection, of communal purpose, are our deepest defense against collective evil.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Yes on San Francisco's Prop. C

Working in Reno on one little piece of the most important election in recent US history (1858 comes to mind as comparable, but not many others) is likely to prevent me from writing daily blog posts here until after November 6.

San Franciscans have a chance to reduce the frequency of scenes like this. But will we rise to the chance?
Heather Knight writing in the SF Chron offers an insight into the opposition to a small tax on rich businesses to provide better services to people living on our streets:

Campaign finance disclosures show contributions to the No on C campaign from Stripe ($419,999); Visa ($225,000); Paul Graham, an investor in Y-Combinator ($150,000); Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey ($125,000); Lyft ($100,000); brokerage founder Charles Schwab ($100,000); venture capitalist Michael Moritz ($100,000); the Hotel Council ($50,000) and the Committee on Jobs ($30,000).

Yes, in one of the cities with the biggest income inequality gap in the world — where a household has to earn $300,000 a year to buy a median-priced home — CEOs are donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to prevent their companies from paying a small amount to house homeless people.

Not all out tech overlords are so small minded; one of the wonders of this San Francisco moment is that Marc Benioff of Salesforce has put his money behind a more humane vision for the city where his building looms. San Franciscans can show their vision of our future by voting YES on C.

H/t to Erudite Partner for the photo.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

What can we do when our country seems engulfed by atrocities ....

We can remember to remind those around us that we love them -- and keep struggling for justice, generosity, and decency.

Yesterday several hundred people organized by the labor union UniteHERE knocked on thousands of doors in Reno and Sparks, Nevada, working for US Senate candidate Jacky Rosen. They were reaching out to people who don't habitually vote in Nevada's most hotly contested county; and voters are responding!

It seemed fitting. The Democratic candidate -- a supporter of raising the minimum wage, improving education so the state's young people can find good jobs, and ensuring that health care is available to all -- is one of Nevada's more prominent Jewish leaders.

According to Politico:

Rosen popped up on Democrats' radar after being elected president of her local synagogue — the largest Jewish temple in the state — in 2013... “The minute I found out she was a synagogue president, I knew she could do anything,” said Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.), who recruited Rosen for the House seat [that Rosen won in 2016.]. ....

Administering a large voluntary organization whose members feel passionate about its mission probably is good practice for returning some civilizing integrity to our political hellscape.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Republican polices increase the cost of health insurance

Insurance can only be affordable if everyone signs up, especially healthy people who think they don't need coverage. Insurance adds up all our risk and divides the cost of care across all of us, sick and healthy.

By ending the tax penalty for failing to carry insurance and letting insurance companies sell junk plans that don't cover expensive illness (like cancer), Republicans are giving people who think they'll never get sick incentives to drop out of Obamacare coverage. So guess what? Insurance companies jack up prices because they are stuck with the sick people who cost them money.

You don't have to trust me about this. Kaiser Family Foundation explains it all in health policy wonk language.

H/t to my Facebook friend/health economist maven for the story.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Voting the California and San Francisco ballots

I'm feeling virtuous today; last night I got around to voting my absentee ballot. Couldn't very well do all this election work and forget to vote, could I?

The California ballot was not exciting. Gavin Newsom is going to be our governor; there's no evidence he's any less of a pretty face in an expensive suit peddling policies that enrich the wealthy than when he was our mayor. He finally waited out Jerry and here we are. Senator-since-1992 Diane Feinstein is putting away poor State Senator Kevin De Leon who never could make the sale of himself as an alternative. Diane would have served her state better by being willing to cede to a successor before they carry her out in a box.

To my mind, the only statewide contest worth caring about is electing Tony Thurmond to the position of Superintendent of Public Instruction. His opponent is a privatizing charter school advocate.

Only three of the statewide ballot measures seem worth much attention. Prop. 5 would further extend the scope of Prop. 13's restrictions on property taxes. The original measure has distorted and hampered local and state governance since 1979. The last thing California needs is more exemptions that shrink the tax base among residents who have lucked into real estate price inflation.

Prop. 6 is a Republican ploy to turn out their base by repealing a gas tax. Polls say it is failing; apparently Californians like the road and infrastructure improvements the gas tax funds.

Prop. 10 would allow localities to enact meaningful rent control. Real estate interests persuaded the state legislature to neuter local controls several decades ago and they are spending big bucks to keep rent control attempts hamstrung. I don't buy the idea that rent controls kill housing development; there's clearly money to be made in building housing in the California real estate market. Rent control might reduce the profit margins, but people gotta live. So I voted "yes" on Prop. 10.

Not living in a contested supervisor district, there's not much on the local San Francisco ballot of great interest to me with one vital exception: Prop. C. This is much the hottest local issue, imposing a small tax on San Francisco's largest businesses to fund housing, mental health and support services for our people who are living on the streets. As Joe Eskenazi explained in Mission Local:

Prop. C would raise the city’s expenditures on homeless issues from 3 percent of its budget to 6 percent — addressing San Francisco’s consensus No. 1 problem. More money is, in fact, a prime solution to the problem of not having enough money. And no serious person claims this city currently has sufficient resources to bring its homeless problem under control. ...

Sometimes voting seems useless, but there is almost always something or someone who matters a lot. Vote we must, unless we are content to be ruled by the other people who do vote.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

It could be a lot worse: "fascism is not just a foreign problem"

When I talk with volunteers on the Reno campaign, they pretty much all say something like "I felt I had to DO something." And they are doing something.

Obviously I'm necessarily fixated these days on the domestic USofA, but I was pulled up short by this from a new friend describing what the descent into fascism and terror feels like in Brazil. In Brazil, it is a lot worse. It's long, but worth reading. We're working not to even have to be under a threat this acute.

Jair Bolsonaro, who is likely to win Brazil's presidential election next Sunday, just promised to purge the country of his leftist political opponents, threatening that "either they go overseas, or they go to jail." These are my dear friends--people who have dedicated their lives to social justice-- whom he has repeatedly promised to kill, imprison, torture, and exile.

I am feeling terrified and overwhelmed right now, unsure of the path forward. But as a first step, I am calling on my friends from other parts of the world to stand in solidarity with my friends in Brazil who are fighting to defend democracy. Please sign this international petition against fascism and be prepared to take further solidarity actions.

I have seen Bolsonaro speak, and it is hard to describe how repulsive he is (I was nearly arrested for flicking him off at one of his rallies). But just to give you a sense, below are some of his words that I have compiled from news articles. Keep in mind that the Wall Street Journal endorsed his candidacy, and Steve Bannon advised his campaign--fascism is not just a foreign problem!


• The former army man has spoken fondly of the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil between 1964 and 1985.“ The dictatorship’s mistake was to torture but not kill,” he told a radio interviewer in 2016.

• “I’m pro-torture, and the people are too.”

• “You won’t change anything in this country through voting – nothing, absolutely nothing. Unfortunately, you’ll only change things by having a civil war and doing the work the military regime didn’t do. Killing 30,000, starting with FHC [former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso]. Killing. If a few innocent people die, that’s alright.”


• Mr Bolsonaro got into a heated exchange with congresswoman Maria do Rosario in the lower house of Congress. “I wouldn’t rape you because you don’t deserve it,” he said, in response to remarks made by Ms Rosario claiming he had encouraged rape. Mr Bolsonaro later said he was not a rapist, but if he were he would not rape do Rosario because she is “ugly” and “not his type”. 

• “I had four sons, but then I had a moment of weakness, and the fifth was a girl.”


• In an interview with Playboy magazine in 2011 Bolsonaro said that he “would be incapable of loving a homosexual son … I would prefer my son to die in an accident than show up with a moustachioed man.”

• In May 2002, Bolsonaro threatened gay people after then-President Fernando Henrique Cardoso was seen in a photo holding a rainbow flag at an event in support of gay marriage. “I won’t fight against it nor discriminate, but if I see two men kissing each other on the street, I’ll beat them up,” he said.


• “You can be sure that if I get there [the presidency], there’ll be no money for NGOs. If it’s up to me, every citizen will have a gun at home. Not one centimeter will be demarcated for indigenous reserves or quilombolas.”

• In a speech made last year, Mr Bolsonaro spoke about a black settlement in Brazil founded by the descendants of slaves. “They do nothing. They are not even good for procreation,” he said. 

• He has also reportedly referred to black activists as “animals” who should “go back to the zoo”

• During an interview aired by the Bandeirantes TV network in March 2011, Bolsonaro responded to a question about what he would do if his son fell in love with a black woman. “I won’t discuss promiscuity,” he said. “I don’t run that risk because my sons were very well educated.”

• He called Hatian and Syrian refugees "the scum of the earth"


• He has said that the Landless Workers Movement “should be treated as terrorists” and pushed for legislation arming landowners to kill them.

• “Here I want to say to the MST scumbags that we’re going to give guns to agribusiness, we’re going to give guns to the rural producer, because the welcome mat for a land invader is a bullet, 247 caliber."

This man is expected to win Brazil's presidency on Sunday.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

One way Nevada lowers "the cost of voting"

A couple of days ago, the Washington Post's Wonkblog published a map of which states make it hardest and which make it easiest to vote, generating what they called the "cost of voting index." They found that in states that make voting more difficult "Low voter turnout is no accident." Accumulated barriers to participation -- registration hurdles, finicky identification requirements, small numbers of polling places or lack of provisions for absentees or no early voting opportunities -- measurably reduce turnout.
Working here in Reno on a campaign to elect Jacky Rosen to the U.S. Senate and Steve Sisolak as Nevada's Governor, I was surprised to see Nevada treated as a worse than average state for access to voting. Now on reflection, I get it: registration is not simple; absentee ballots are not automatic; and persons convicted of felonies face a complex process to recover their rights.

But here in Nevada's second urban area, Washoe County, I'm seeing a system that acts as if it really wants all the people to be able to vote. We're working to encourage supporters to go to 23 neighborhood Early Voting sites. These aren't forbidding places like police stations or county buildings; they are in the local supermarkets!

And once voters get there, they encounter helpful poll workers, Spanish language ballots if needed, and a generally welcoming environment. Most amazingly to me, "first time voters" are offered a certificate celebrating their participation!
What a way to make voters for life!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

This is what "voter suppression" looks like

Indian Country Today shared this graphic from Standing Rock Sioux tribal authorities which shows members how to navigate the maze Republican North Dakotans have set up to keep them from voting. By demanding that voters use a street address -- something many Standing Rock Sioux on the reservation do not have -- the dominant GOP aims to disenfranchise potential Democratic voters. That many hoops to jump will almost certainly reduce Native voting.

In a strong article on the history of racist voter suppression, Michael Tomasky sums up:

Today’s Republican Party is not simply trying to win elections. It is simultaneously trying to rewrite the rules—gerrymandering and voter suppression are crucial to this effort—so that it never loses a federal election again.

Will we the people let them succeed?

Sunday, October 21, 2018

What it is really like to work on an election campaign: whipsaw time

Once GOTV starts, you are banking votes! You are no longer counting door knocks, or conversations, or even IDs. Real VOTES!

And, as secretaries of state post the party breakdown of votes cast, you become subject to the speculations of pundits who riff off the tea leaves they see in the numbers of Republicans and Democrats who have already voted.

Here in Nevada, we have a truly experienced pundit in John Ralston who all sides consider a sound observer. He thinks Dems kicked butt on the first day of early voting here in our turf in Washoe County
Good for Rosen and Sisolak! Dems also exceeded expectations in Clark County, that is Las Vegas, where most Nevadans live. But he also issues a warning:

Big show for first day and it peters out? Or a sign of what’s to come?

If you are working on a campaign, whatever seems to be happening and whatever pundits may say, GOTV is when you must execute your plan and work harder. If it is a good plan, and the voters are responding, all the better. You constructed your campaign around the best plan you could make and now is not the time for rethinking -- all your work is about turning out votes NOW.

Pundits will pundit, but you have to focus on what you can control, put away distracting emotions, and do what you can do. Trust the plan.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

What it is really like to work on a campaign: from persuasion, to IDs, to GOTV

Early, in-person, voting begins today in Nevada. We're ready.

In the first phase of any campaign, the job is to persuade potential supporters to take an interest in the candidate. Much of that happens in media, through public events, and announced issue positions. But in a campaign like this one in Reno which canvasses potential voters who don't always get around to voting, persuasion can take place in doorway encounters. The job of the canvasser is to help the voter feel why this candidate's election might be personally important to her. It requires imagination, talking, and listening. Successful canvassers learn a lot about what ordinary citizens really care about.

After persuasion comes voter identification (IDs), compiling the most extensive list possible of voters who promise to vote for your candidate. That's what we've been doing here in Reno while knocking on over 65,000 doors since Labor Day in support of Jacky Rosen for US Senate and Steve Sisolak for Governor.

Any campaign swings into a much higher gear when voters begin to be able to cast ballots. This phase is called GOTV -- "Get Out the Vote." Now you have to go back to all those identified supporters and push them to the polls. You offer rides. You leave doorhangers at their entrances to tell them where the balloting is happening. You go back, again and again, until the Nevada Secretary of State indicates they have voted. The work is intense, but also more obviously fruitful than the long search for IDs. Finally -- voting is happening.

It used to be that voting was something that took place only on one Election Day. There were good features this; it encouraged us to think of ourselves as citizens engaging together in the ultimate enactment of civic unity. But it was also inconvenient and tended to exclude some who wanted to participate. Nowadays, in different forms in different states, elections take place over several weeks. This creates multiplying opportunities for campaigns to complete the work of turning out supporters; it also creates manic intensity among campaigners. That's where we are here in Reno, entering GOTV season, amped-up yet another notch in the always high energy business of sparking democratic energy.

Friday, October 19, 2018

What's enthusiasm? Could the answer be campaign cash?

This poll found exceptional enthusiasm about voting in the midterms, especially among Democrats, young people and people of color. Well good. If this is true, we'll elect some better politicians in a lot of places. But as a person who works in elections, I'm cautious about professions of excitement about voting. Because people think voting is something they should do, they sometimes declare an intent to participate -- but somehow don't get around to acting. So we'll see ...

But there is some measurable evidence of Democratic voters' enthusiasm about the election in fundraising numbers recently made public.

Democrats outraised Republicans in fully 93 of the 100 most competitive seats, as shown in this map. And the hauls themselves are extraordinary—at least for one side. Sixty-two Democrats in the top 100 races raised more than $1 million each in the third quarter, with only two being incumbents. In the many years we’ve been tracking this sort of data, we’ve never seen figures anything like this. (By contrast, only 16 Republicans brought in over $1 million—14 of them incumbents.)

Of course, money is far from the only factor that will determine who wins the House next month. But these numbers do ensure that Democrats will have the resources they need to get their message out over the stretch run. And the enormous upsurge in Democratic fundraising, powered extensively by grassroots donors, shows an intense enthusiasm that is not matched on the Republican side.

House Democrats awash in cash, Daily Kos Elections

CalMatters looked at the extraordinary cash flow in California. This too is a marker of Democratic enthusiasm, an enthusiasm rising up from the grassroots.

In campaigns, big money players get the most attention. But Democrats running in California’s seven most competitive congressional districts are vastly out-raising Republicans in small-dollar donations, a review of campaign disclosures shows.

Through Sept. 30, Democratic candidates running in the seven GOP-held seats where Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump in 2016 raised $40 million to the Republicans’ $18.7 million, filings compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics show.

In donations of under $200, Democrats raised $6.4 million, almost 10 times the $671,000 raised by Republicans raised through the first three quarters of 2018.

... candidates can return to small-dollar donors multiple times to help fuel their campaign efforts, ranging from television ads to get-out-the-vote drives. They also know that people who give money vote and volunteer, if not for them then for candidates in their home districts.

There's genuine enthusiasm in all that small donation giving. The election will prove whether it can be turned into actual votes.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Just a smart business move

Visiting my mother-in-law in New York City in 2010, I heard frequent complaints about a new condo building that cut off her view of the river. "And they named it after Donald Trump!" I took a picture:
Today I read that the building's residents have freed themselves from the Trump branding.

The push to remove the Trump branding from 200 Riverside Boulevard began in 2017. In response to concerns raised by some of the 377 condo owners, the condo board began discussions of possibly removing the Trump name from the building’s facade.

... The prospect of expensive litigation with the Trump Organization scared many residents, and a small group vigorously opposed excising the Trump name.

An internal message board for residents showed that division.

“I am adamant that the sign should remain on the building,” a resident wrote. “We bought in the building with it. There is no reason to take it down.”

Another wrote: “Arguably, at one time the Trump name may have contributed something to the value of our apartments. That is clearly not the case today.”

Eventually a majority took their case for removing the name to court and this month they won the right to take down the Trump name.

They apparently had a good economic argument that getting rid of the Trump name was to their benefit, raising the value of the their units.

... Trump apartments in 2017 sold for an average of $1,741 per square foot in Manhattan, or 6.6 percent less than the average Manhattan condominium, according to CityRealty, an online apartment broker. At Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue, average prices per square foot declined from $3,000 in 2013 to about $2,000 last year.

Trump may be making out like the bandit he is on his Saudi and Russian friends, but even for affluent condo buyers, he's a dud.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Historical midterm parallels

It's common to analogize President Trump to his bellicose Indian-killing predecessor Andrew Jackson or perhaps to Andrew Johnson, Lincoln's vice president elevated by assassination who worked to undo the good work of the Civil Rights Amendments. But presidential historian Russell L. Riley suggests another parallel to another president known for his racism: Woodrow Wilson, who became enamored of his own vision for the country and sought to make the midterm election of one hundred years ago all about him. Riley shares Wilson's manifesto to his fellow citizens, offered as World War I wound down; it sure sounds like Trump's baseless bravado about a "red wave." (Read it substituting "Republican" for "Democratic" -- Wilson was a Dem.)

“My Fellow Americans: The Congressional elections are at hand. They occur in the most critical period our country has ever faced or is likely to face in our time. If you have approved of my leadership and wish me to continue to be your unembarrassed spokesman in affairs at home and abroad, I earnestly beg that you will express yourselves unmistakably to that effect by returning a Democratic majority to both the Senate and the House of Representatives. … "

Wilson's party lost badly in the voting. Riley opines that Wilson's exhortations merely reminded voters that they were sick of being kept on pins and needles by a leader who thought his own ideas and impulses should override all opposition.

Wilson — like Trump — had made himself an unwelcome guest at the breakfast table, where most Americans prefer to begin their days without disagreeable intrusions from the White House. And there was, based on Wilson’s own proclamation, one good way for the citizens of his day to prevent more of the same: send the opposition party to Congress to stuff the president back into his constitutional box.

Vote we must.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

In transit today

Still haunted by this in front of a Franciscan center in midtown Manhattan.

Monday, October 15, 2018

What will they sell us next?

I'm in New York City for a day, helping a friend pay a visit to a very sick relative. Through the kindness of another friend, we're staying overnight at a "boutique" hotel. Apparently this offering is how the place differentiates itself.
It's very comfortable, though slightly esoteric in a commercial way.

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.


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


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?

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Reno is a Tesla town

Elon Musk's cars are as much a presence here as in the San Francisco Bay Area. This charging station sits behind a modern suburban motel.

Reno made itself a Tesla town by welcoming the Gigafactory, Tesla's giant battery manufacturing facility 20 miles east of town. With the sprawling, secretive plant are supposed to come 6500 good jobs. Tesla enthusiasts write as if the car maker were the Second Coming.

Reno, a city just four hours away from Silicon Valley, has been home of Tesla’s Gigafactory – a city whose economy once chiefly relied on the low-wage casino industry, where bankruptcy and crime were frequent and unpredictable. Hit hard with the housing crash and recession, Reno fell into hard times in 2010 with a 14 percent unemployment rate. Once home to mostly thrifters and passersby, Reno’s outlook started to change with talks of Tesla’s plans for technological revitalization. Startups and incubators have been popping up to attract more millennials, new murals are being painted onto derelict walls, all are response to the hope that Tesla will be able to inject into the local economy sustainable, higher-paying jobs.

There are plenty of skeptics. The Verge examined soberly whether the state's offerings to Musk could pay off for anyone except the capitalist:

Over the next 20 years, Tesla could take in nearly $1.3 billion in tax benefits for building its Gigafactory in Nevada, according to projections from the state, as hires are made for the factory locally and from around the country. Assuming Tesla meets its obligations under the deal, it will spend 20 years free from sales tax, and 10 years free from property tax, while it receives millions of dollars more in tax credits.

... The potential windfall for a state is alluring. A manufacturer requires suppliers. Entice the company to come to you instead of someplace else, and maybe an entire industry will crop up to work near the first business. Suddenly, you have many more jobs than what you first paid for, and a revitalized service industry may grow to attend to the larger population. Those people pay their taxes, and in the end, the benefits could outweigh the bargain given out. This idea has guided the thinking behind tax incentives, and helped build the deals into the behemoth they are today. The Tesla deal is just the latest example: Nevada estimates that the factory will bring 6,500 "direct" jobs but 22,700 "total" jobs to the state.

... A deal may bring more jobs, but it might also create other financial consequences, like a need for stronger infrastructure to service a town increasingly populated by factory workers. Ultimately, the deals "aren’t a huge money-maker" for a state, [Upjohn Institute for Employment Research economist Timothy] Bartik says, even if jobs are created. It’s not yet clear what those secondary changes will look like for the Gigafactory, but the state’s report mentions that more jobs will be needed to support "significant construction related to transportation and utility infrastructure as well as employee housing." The people filling those jobs, the report points out, "would generate sales and property taxes at the full unabated rate."

So maybe Tesla's arrival is a glorious boon to Reno -- and maybe not. Residents will see.

Meanwhile, campaigning in Reno, knocking on doors, we learn that residents feel their city is changing. There are more cars, more people, more traffic, higher rents, more homelessness -- but yes, the economy is booming for many. Reno's experiment with trying to become the site of a new industrial economy is a work in progress. Disruption is keenly felt, though without yet a conclusive verdict on its benefits and costs and on who pays those costs.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Where the brains are

Maybe somehow the fact that the Trump administration is backward-looking, braindead, simply stupid in a public policy sense is why big US corporations seem to be seeing wisdom in appearing smart.
  • Item: Amazon raises its minimum wage to $15 an hour for all its employees. Derek Thompson offers a range is explanations for Amazon's move. Maybe the company is responding to the pressure a full employment economy puts on companies to raise wages when workers might have a choice to go elsewhere. Maybe Amazon hopes that setting a higher industry standard will thin out its competitive environment by stressing weaker companies which can't afford to match its wage rate. Maybe it's all about selling Jeff Bezos as a good guy, one step ahead of anti-trust attacks. In any case, Amazon's move is strategic, evidently the product of long term calculations, neither merely unimaginative nor impulsive.
  • Item: Nike makes Colin Kaepernick the face of a major corporate branding campaign. The company has made a bet that an activist hero of the struggle for racial justice can be the future of sales of sports consumption apparel and shoes. It knows its market; it knows among whom growth is possible; it relishes the heat it takes from grumpy old white men who aren't part of its market. It's strategic and bold in a self-interested way.
Has all the smarts in this country moved into high tech retail? The present moment makes one wonder.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

What it is really like to work on a campaign: you start making jokes out of your messages

After being part of a tight knit community of committed labor union canvassers who knock on voters' doors six days a week for a long month, a little humor keeps the spirits up. We've been doing alright in conversations with voters delivered more soberly ... but hey, how about a punchier version.

Erudite Partner took a shot at putting the messages we share with voters every day into livelier language. Here's her pitch:

Nevada senate Republican candidate
DEAN is HELLER bad news for working people!
Heller doesn’t care about health care. First he said he would protect the millions of working people who got health coverage through Obamacare. But as soon as Donald Trump put on the pressure, he changed his mind. Heller bad news!

Heller’s support comes from billionaires and bosses. His biggest funders include the right-wing Las Vegas casino boss and billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who has given to Heller both directly and through his $25 million donation to the Republican Senate Leadership Fund. Heller bad news!

Heller doesn’t care about women’s issues. When women came forward accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, he said it was just a “hiccup” in the confirmation process. Sexual assault is a hiccup? Heller bad news!

JACKY ROSEN, Heller’s opponent in the senate race, is the only choice for working people in Nevada. She wants to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, save health coverage for all of us, and make sure everyone has access to a good education.
Take Adam Laxalt, Republican candidate for Nevada governor,
Laxalt wants to take hundreds of millions of dollars away from Nevada’s public schools, by getting rid of the Commerce Tax, a bipartisan education funding initiative championed by Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval. Yet Laxalt says he supports education. Take that with a grain of LAXALT!

Laxalt changed his name to take advantage of his family connection to former Nevada Senator and Governor Paul Laxalt. But he’s actually spent most of his life in suburban Virginia, outside Washington, DC. As Nevada’s attorney general, he imported his staff of lawyers from Washington. Even his cousins, attorney and author Monique Laxalt and Dr. Kristin Laxalt, who are daughters of Paul Laxalt’s brother, are supporting Laxalt’s opponent, Democrat Steve Sisolak. Take Laxalt’s Nevada roots with a grain of LAXALT!

Laxalt would deprive 200,000 Nevadans of the health coverage they’ve received through Gov. Brian Sandoval’s expansion of Medicaid. While ignoring the needs of working people Laxalt serves the interests of his ultra-rich donors. Take his concerns about health care with a grain of LAXALT!

STEVE SISOLAK, Laxalt’s opponent in the governor’s race, is the only choice for working families. He wants to expand, not reduce, education spending. He wants to keep the federal funds Nevada receives for Medicaid expansion. And he’s committed to training young people for well-paying jobs in a variety of industries.
Not bad, but we'll probably go on trying to have sober, empathetic conversations with Washoe County voters, learning of their struggles and their hopes while explaining the hopes and plans of our candidates. 35,000 doors so far... Rosen and Sisolak have tiny leads in the polls at present, but they are going to need every voter we can turn out.