Saturday, October 31, 2020

An anniversary that points toward greater justice

If you've been phoning or canvassing the state of Nevada for Biden-Harris, you probably never thought about how that huge desert area became a state. 

It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that Nevada's admission to the Union on October 31, 1864, was a case of the kind of constitutional hardball that we're probably going to be urging the Democrats to get on with in order to rescue democracy.

Here's a simple version of Nevada's story from

On October 31, 1864, anxious to have support of the Republican-dominated Nevada Territory for President Abraham Lincoln’s reelection, the U.S. Congress quickly admits Nevada as the 36th state in the Union.
In 1864, Nevada had only 40,000 inhabitants, considerably short of the 60,000 normally required for statehood. ...
The decisive factor in easing the path to Nevada’s statehood was President Lincoln’s proposed 13th Amendment banning slavery. Throughout his administration Lincoln had appointed territorial officials in Nevada who were strong Republicans, and he knew he could count on the congressmen and citizens of a new state of Nevada to support him in the coming presidential election and to vote for his proposed amendment.

Since time was so short, the Nevada constitutional delegation sent the longest telegram on record up to that time to Washington, D.C., containing the entire text of the proposed state constitution and costing the then astronomical sum of $3,416.77.

Their speedy actions paid off with quick congressional approval of statehood and the new state of Nevada did indeed provide strong support for Lincoln. On January 31, 1865, Congress approved the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution banning slavery.
Let's be ready to push today's Democrats to be equally ruthless about admitting the District of Colombia -- and the territory of Puerto Rico if Puerto Ricans want it -- as new states. 

It's all part of our progress toward that "new birth of freedom" which Lincoln heralded at Gettysburg shortly before making Nevada a state.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Let's bring this election home for Biden-Harris!

If Trump loses Florida, he's toast. Come join us and help make it so. Union members are canvassing on the ground in Florida; we can help them on the phones.

The times on this poster are east coast times. In the west, the calling shifts are Saturday 7-10am and 11am-2pm; Sunday, 8-11am and 11-2pm. 

Sign up at this link and you'll receive directions to join the call and training when you get to Zoom. (Yes, all is Zoom these days.)

Friday cat blogging

Janeway's friend Catherine brought her a new toy. It is proving quite durable. Contrary to what I might have expected, it's still intact after 3 days. And she remains obsessed. This cat was meant to hunt.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Organizer and visionary

My friend Alicia Garza has a new book. Here she talks about her vision with Trevor Noah on the Daily Social Distancing Show. Alicia has been organizing in the Bay Area for a couple of decades; she is one of the three co-founders of the Black Lives Matter movement.  

Being an organizer, she knows it is not all about taking to the streets to shout our feelings. She's about building institutions that ensure that Black lives really do matter.
  • "There's something that transforms in us when we become part of a movement, that transforms it into love."
  • "It's not that I want to have Joe Biden over for dinner. The point of [voting for Joe Biden] is to get the kind of terrain where you can get the things you need more easily and more accessibly. That's what we're organizing around now."

The book is The Purpose of Power: How We Come Together When We Fall Apart. I'm not going to get around to reading the copy I bought until after this desperate election sprint. Too much work on the phones to finish. But afterward ...

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Biden talks climate

Here's another video that I am surprising myself by posting. In this interview, Joe Biden explains at length what his administration would do to about climate change -- and he knows what he is talking about.

He's able to be specific; he understands much of what needs to be done (way more than I do, but he wants the job). After five minutes of introductory talking points (solid, correct, not very new)  he plunges into how his administration would act urgently and forcefully to ensure federal contracts serve to push full electrification. He can talk intelligently about batteries and electric charging stations. And then on he goes into what effort to combat climate disaster will mean to agriculture, to investment in domestic infrastructure, and to scientific research. And on he goes.

I even learned something from glancing at a few of the comments about this video. One viewer observed:
I just realized that Joe's biggest problem is that he knows way more than he can get out when he wants too. This can happen when your brain works faster than your mouth does.
This rings completely true to me. My father was a stutterer who largely managed to cover his occasional disability. And he was a smart guy. But not being a political candidate, he'd seem to recognize when his disability would be about to prevent him from saying what he wanted to get said. Then he would retreat to short aphorisms. 
Biden chose a path that requires him to speak, whether he can get out what he knows or finds it hard to catch up verbally to what he wants to say. Mostly he succeeds. The famous Biden gaffes seem to be occasions when his brain gets ahead of his voice.

Take a look for yourself.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Give up or lean in

When the news came down that our thoroughly corrupted Supreme Court had ordered tossed out mail ballots postmarked before Election Day, but delivered a couple of days after in Wisconsin, my first thought was that if any statewide campaign in this country has proved it can do the organizing to overcome, it's the Wisconsin Dems. They proved it during the gritty primary back in March, accomplishing marvels of mobilization in the first shockwave of a deadly pandemic.

Ben Wikler is the elected leader of the state party. A veteran of Move-On, he's knows his organizing and he knows what it is to fight. I was reminded of this from earlier in this year:

“I think as Americans we have a tendency to go through life with a conviction that everything will work out for the best,” says Wikler, chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. “And that conviction has been stripped away by reality in the course of the last four years and especially the last six months. When faced with intense bleakness, you have to decide whether to give up or lean into the fight.”

Wisconsin Dems are leaning in to make sure that everyone trying to cast a mail ballot, again in the midst of a COVID surge partially launched by the POTUS' superspreader rallies, are able to vote. They can use any spare change any of us can throw them.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Plan, Participate, have Patience

I don't usually take my cues from the national security establishment. But these gents have a message that I was happy to hear. 

It amounts to this: yes, there are foreign adversaries who are trying to mess with our election. (They diplomatically don't say who.) But they are using the formidable resources of the U.S. government to protect the integrity of our vote.

Clockwise from the upper left they are Christopher Wray, FBI director; General Paul M. Nakasone, chief of the National Security Agency; Bill Evanina, head of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center; and Christopher Krebs, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency of the Department of Homeland Security.

Krebs' presentation is the most concrete and therefore convincing. He promises that at least 90 percent of ballots nowadays create paper backups, so votes can be audited, a massive security update. He urges voters to do their part for election security through his 3 Ps: 

  • make a voting Plan, 
  • Participate by voting and volunteering to work the polls; 
  • and have Patience if the election can't be called on the night of November 3 because mail ballots are still being counted. 

Hey, this guy sounds like what we're telling voters at the doors and on the phones.

Of course, since they work for the Federal government, they can't very well call out elephant in the room: the loudest enemy of election integrity is their boss, backed by his more thuggish fans and their Republican enablers. These are the domestic enemies of democracy.

Trump has already threatened to fire Chris Wray -- like James Comey before him, the FBI director shows signs of having loyalties that do not bend to this President's interests. 

This video is a reminder of the resistance lesson that is outlined by historian Timothy Snyder: standards of professional responsibility, of professional ethics, even of self-respect, can impede an aspiring autocrats' plans. Alongside an aroused people, there's power in this.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

¡Ya Basta!

This morning I searched my hard drive for photos tagged "hope" and came across this, snapped years ago in a Mission District yard. (As always at this blog, click to enlarge.)

Later, in that strange experience which is Zoom church with the congregation of St. John the Evangelist, we were discussing the meaning of the injunction "love your neighbor as yourself."

I will never accede to the misbegotten notion that this universal ethical axiom means to forgive without calling out cruelty and viciousness. There's nothing wrong with rage at the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and so many othera. Or with rage against the probably permanent separation of 545 children stolen from their asylum seeking parents by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Service. 

But there is something wrong with holding onto rage. It hurts us. If we're to build the world we hope for, we do have to make the choice to love. For those of us with more advantages in society, that may be an easier ask. Or perhaps not -- perhaps those who need love most, most deeply understand love's power.

Onward to this last week of this ever-so-consequential election. May it end when voting ends! That seems a hopeful thing to ask.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

"We are building the world that I want to see..."

They are a team. Danell Cross and Melody McCurtis are determined to prevent what America witnessed during Wisconsin's April 7th’s primary election from happening again. ...

Listen up and get inspired.

  • Black communities have always had to fight for the right to vote. 
  • What we're up against, this time, has snapped us out of numbness.
  • All these different things is really holding our folks back from wanting to vote ...
  • I just got to keep on getting up and surviving each day.
  • We're mobilizing people to vote because we want power. ...
  • When I vote I'm voting to keep the officials accountable, not just for me but for the entire community.
  • Black folks is real skeptical right now.
  • It's a lot of misinformation, and I know it is on purpose.
  • My whole job is to outmaneuver the systematic racism in Milwaukee.
  • We don't make a lot of  money, but we are building the world that I want to see.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Friday cat blogging: Janeway has a new toy

She had pretty well chewed her cardboard scratching box to pieces, so I bought her a new, perhaps tougher, version.

She quickly decided this was a fine new hidey hole in her playpen. (We call this our home, but what do we know?)

Since she's a cat, I was not surprised she found the packing box perhaps more interesting than the toy which came in it.

Election rounds into the home stretch

So I didn't watch the debate -- because I was busy, calling voters who had at some time said they supported Joe Biden, but hadn't yet voted according to their county registrar. So I got to talk to quite a few Nevadans who were watching last night.

They were not happy with Trump. "I just hope I never have to see that man again!" one exclaimed.

Columnist Frank Bruni, who did have to tune in because it is his job, writes in the same vein on the morning after:

Enough of this campaign. Enough of this administration. Enough of the ambient ugliness in America right now. It’s time to turn the page, and that’s what, in his utterly unremarkable but strangely reassuring fashion, Biden promised to do on Thursday night. ...

I nodded along with his final remarks, when he said, yet again: “What is on the ballot here is the character of this country: decency, honor, respect, treating people with dignity.” He’s right about that. And he’s the right person because of that.

“You know who I am, you know who he is,” Biden said earlier. “Look at us closely.” I don’t need to turn my eyes toward Trump anymore. I’ve seen all that I can take, and I’m long past ready for a different view.

Eleven days remain until Election Day.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Reflections and forebodings

They say there is a debate between Trump and Biden tonight. I won't be watching. I'll be on the phones, as I am every evening, encouraging Biden supporters to get out there and vote.

As we come in for a landing in this ever-so-strange and vital election, I thought I'd share some smart commentary, looking backwards first.

Here's Joshua Marshall, reminding us of the first days of the Trump regime and how far we've come:

... In the very early days of the administration, during the round of public protests around the travel ban, David Kurtz said to me that he thought some of the people in our operation were still thinking that somehow the whole thing wouldn’t hold, that they weren’t quite accepting that this was going to go on for years. The early weeks were so chaotic that this wasn’t a crazy thing to think. I can’t say I was sure myself what would happen. It did seem like the whole thing was so jagged and chaotic, so much of the nascent presidency’s wrongdoing was so rapidly catching up to it that it wasn’t clear it wouldn’t all fall apart. ...

... it is also hard to quite remember the nature of that early chaos. Today Trump appears to be publicly decompensating. Yesterday he managed to attack his Attorney General as a softie who hadn’t yet arrested Joe Biden, which other appointees would have. He called Biden a “criminal”. He called one of the most buttoned-up members of the White House press corps a “criminal”. His Director of National Intelligence leapt into his role as campaign surrogate, insisting there was no Russian hacking behind the purported Hunter Biden emails. It is hard to think of a time in the last four years when Trump has appeared more unhinged, free from any restraint or driven by his consuming rages.

But there’s a difference. The sad truth is that we’ve gotten used to this – the casual law-breaking and bad acts, the aping of foreign strongman antics, the lies that come as easy as water flowing down a hill. It all seems normal now. In January 2017 it not only didn’t seem normal it seemed hard to see how it could be sustainable. Something had to give. Or at least it seemed so. And it did. We did.

Here's Paul Waldman, looking ahead at what will happen to the Republican Party if we do, indeed, evict the Donald. 

We’re already seeing violence and lunacy emerging from the deranged and deluded on the right. The GOP is still in charge, and Democratic governors are the target of kidnapping plots while half of all Republicans think top Democrats are involved in an international pedophile ring. Can you imagine what it will be like when Democrats are the ones holding power?

It’s probably an exaggeration to say we’re headed for a civil war, but there can be little doubt that it will be as ugly as anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes. And Republicans will be doing everything they can to make it worse, every step of the way.

Sad -- and likely true. It's up to us to envision and seize a better future.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The virus finds our vulnerabities

Every morning I look at the little red graphs on the "first page" of the Washington Post's website. And these days I focus on the picture of new heights reached in North Dakota and think of my friend's 84 year old mother. She lives by herself, by her own choice, in a tiny town right in the middle of that red spike. She's an active person; she just completed another manuscript of rural history. (The E.P. and I stopped over with her during a book tour.) She's all too aware that her neighbors and family have not been taking precautions to avoid the coronavirus. She knows some in her family have been holding big birthday parties and cheering at high school basketball games. Nobody wears masks. One rancher cousin hopes for herd immunity.

Meanwhile the nearest grocery store, some twenty miles away, was closed for deep cleaning. In that same town, all the bank employees but one were out sick with COVID for awhile. According to her daughter, "she is prepared to learn to drink her coffee without milk or cream if she has to avoid grocery stores for long stretches."
The pandemic may seem to have abated in some areas. But those spikes could easily return anywhere if we get casual. Though mortality among the infected may be lower because medical personnel have learned something about treatment, the disease is still spreading wherever we let our guard down.

But our mood has changed; we live in pandemic shock.
“In the spring, it was fear and a sense of, ‘We are all in it together,’” said Vaile Wright, a psychologist at the American Psychological Association who studies stress in the United States.

“Things are different now,” she said. “Fear has really been replaced with fatigue.”
This isn't going away. Even if we elect a new administration that takes mitigating the health and economic disaster as its duty, we'll be living in the backwash of the epidemic for years. As the days shorten, it's hard not to fear a winter of despair. But we're a tough and ingenious people; I wouldn't bet against us, for all our trouble and strife.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

You too can make a difference ...

Get the word from the source:

Why I’m phone banking voters... sometimes people feel hopeless that their involvement doesn’t matter. Then we call them, we share our stories and how we impacted and in this together, and that helps encourage them to make that step needed to make changes to our current administration.

Due to our current administration not doing the right thing sooner about the pandemic I haven’t been able to visit my parents, who are getting older and not in the best health conditions. It almost been one year since we’ve spent time together. 
#TakeBack2020 #CovidIsReal #GoBlue
Sign up to join her on the phones. All day, every day, through Election Day.

One voter at a time in Nevada

In Guns, Germs, and Smoke, Erudite Partner tells the story of canvassing for all our lives -- and the climate too -- in Nevada during this election season.

Door-to-Door on Planet A

"¿Se puede, o no se puede?"

"¡Sí, se puede!"

("Can we do it?" "Yes, we can!")

Each morning's online canvass dispatch meeting starts with that call-and-response followed by a rousing handclap. Then we talk about where people will be walking that day and often listen to one of the canvassers' personal stories, explaining why he or she is committed to this campaign. Next, we take a look at the day's forecast for heat and air quality as vast parts of the West Coast burn, while smoke and ash travel enormous distances.

Temperatures here were in the low 100s in August (often hovering around 115 degrees in Las Vegas). And the air? Let's just say that there have been days when I've wished breathing were optional.

Climate-change activists rightly point out that "there's no Planet B" for the human race, but some days it seems as if our canvassers are already working on a fiery Planet A that is rapidly becoming unlivable. ...

And there's so much more to this story of election courage and determination. Above all, there are the people.  Read it all

Monday, October 19, 2020

White Christians support Donald Trump's re-election

When you read that headline, did you immediately think I was referring to evangelical Protestants -- roughly speaking, churches like the Southern Baptists, Assemblies of God, or various non-denominational congregations? You'd be right. But you would also be wrong. Research from the Pew Center finds that white mainline Protestants and white Catholics also support Trump, though not by the margins found among evangelicals. Here's the break down:

  • White evangelicals -- 78 percent
  • White mainline Protestants -- 53 percent
  • White Catholics -- 52 percent

Fortunately, there are a lot of other voters who are not white Christians, whose anti-GOP leanings overcome the Trump margin among white Christians, on the national level if not in all areas.

White Christians are a key segment of the electorate because they make up roughly 44% of  U.S. registered voters. Roughly 7% of registered voters are Black Protestants, 5% are Hispanic Catholics, 2% are Jewish and 28% are religiously unaffiliated.

Large pluralities of these latter groups want to see the last of Trump.

Meanwhile, the mainstream media, ignorantly, assumes all Christians are evangelicals, an alien tribe to them. The media may soon need to do a rethink on that.

Diana Butler Bass shared a new chart from Robert P. Jones of the Public Religion Research Institute which shows that evangelical numerical decline and a slight uptick among mainline Protestants is making the two groups nearly equal in size. Seems hard to believe, but PRRI is a reputable survey researcher.

Click to enlarge.
Bass points out that the overall decline in white Christian percentages reflects the country's shifting demographics. Every year, more of us are not white. Concurrently, more of us from all racial groupings are ceasing to identify with any religious faith.

And Bass notes something else:

... Black, Asian, or Hispanic evangelicals ... vote more in line with non-evangelicals in their communities than they do with their white co-religionists.
Might it not also be accurate to say that in segregated America, white Christians vote more in line with their white communities than with their co-religionists of color? 

Or rather, whiteness trumps religious affiliation when it comes to political orientation.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Ashley Harris -- for her family

Meet one of the hotel and restaurant workers I'm phoning alongside (over Zoom) this election season.

You can help evict Donald Trump -- in Florida, Pennsylvania, Nevada and beyond -- along with Ashley and hundreds of others any day of the week through Election Day -- without leaving your home. Sign up here.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

They are coming for Trump

She's lost more than enough to Trump - Culinary Union canvasser getting out the vote.
Tim Alberta of Politico reports a series of interviews with Latinx voters in Phoenix. He is trying to uncover how it can be that eligible Latinx citizens have for so long cast a far smaller proportion of the total vote than their numbers would suggest they might. So he talked with some voters. 

The phenomenon of low Latinx voter turnout has been part of the work of my life, beginning with mobilizing against California's anti-immigrant Prop. 187 in 1994 and continuing in various venues through the present campaign. Lots of what's written about this topic seems to me either oblivious to how I see Latinx communities really living or designed to promote particular individuals or organizations as offering a magic solution to low turnout. Alberta's observations seem to go to the heart of why some Arizonans are newly voting this time and ring true to me.

Too many outside activists fail to understand that, especially in Mexican American communities, immigration status is not a binary thing -- either "legal" or "undocumented." That's not how people's lives work.

“Latinos are afraid to vote, man. Trust me. I was born here, I’ve been voting for 50 years, and I’m still afraid to vote,” said Miguel Saldiva, a 70-year-old landscaper who stopped for groceries at the Food City marketplace.
Why? What makes an American citizen afraid to vote? 
“It doesn’t matter if you have papers or don’t have papers,” Saldiva explained, referring to immigration status. “Because even if you have papers, maybe you live with someone in your house who doesn’t have papers, and you’re worried about registering with the government. You know what I mean?”
He continued, “I have a lot of friends—friends with papers—who don’t vote. They get mad, they get frustrated, but they don’t vote. They don’t want any trouble. Plus, they hear too much crap on the television that confuses them. They are good people, and they don’t want to be taken advantage of by the politicians.”
Trying to activate people with these feelings has to go beyond just getting them registered. If registering is easy enough, they'll sign up. But the mechanics, the very processes of voting, are intimidating. New voters don't want to feel stupid or ashamed by not knowing what to do. If you aim to raise voting in Latinx communities, maybe you need to put on skits (role plays or sociodramas) that show infrequent voters how to get through the mechanics. Nobody wants to feel like a dope. And nobody wants to bring down ICE on their tio. There has to be lots of reassurance from trusted sources.

According to Phoenix voter Greg Morales, the combination of Trump and a new generation of Latinx activists may just get his community out this time. 

“It’s Trump,” he cried, slapping the back of his right hand into his left palm. “He gave us the jump-start we needed. And now that we got the jump-start, there’s no shutting us down. And you know why? This new generation of Latinos. These kids, man. They’re not playing games. They’re voting whether anyone likes it or not.”
Miguel Nunez, an ex-Marine who voted for Trump in 2016, but soured on the President's failures of integrity, thinks he sees a change in his community this time around.

“I don’t think it’s political, actually. It’s the ownership we have now in our communities. Growing up here, this is day and night from when I was a kid. I never saw a Hispanic lawyer’s face on a billboard. That would have been crazy. But they’re everywhere now,” Nunez said. “So, that’s cool for my son—he’s 19—for him to see that every day. But I don’t know what that ownership means in terms of politics. ...”
For all his doubts, Nunez was moved enough to vote on the first day he could. 

So did one hundred and eighty-five other Latinx Arizonans at this obscure polling place. Alberta interviewed 15 of them -- every one of them was motivated to vote against Trump. He wonders if he has seen the rise of the sleeping Latinx giant.

This longform article is very much worth a full reading.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Friday cat blogging

Janeway loves to help me change the sheets. I've locked her out of the bedroom during the chore. She doesn't have the idea of a cloth she can't crawl under.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Indian Americans are down with Biden-Harris

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has done the polling. Here's what they learned.  

Indian Americans [we're talking here about U.S. citizens with origins in the South Asian colossus] are unexpectedly in the spotlight thanks to their growing affluence and influence in political circles and Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s selection of Kamala Harris (who is of partial Indian origin) as his running mate.

... The data show that Indian Americans continue to be strongly attached to the Democratic Party ... In addition, Indian Americans view U.S.-India relations as a low priority issue in this electoral cycle, emphasizing instead nationally salient issues such as healthcare and the economy.

... Between 2000 and 2018, the Indian American population grew by nearly 150 percent, making it the second-largest immigrant group in America today. The community’s elevated levels of educational attainment and household income render its members valuable campaign contributors and potential mobilizers. And in select swing states, the Indian American population is larger than the margin of victory that separated Hillary Clinton and Trump in the closely contested 2016 presidential race.

Take that Donald Trump. Playing buddy-buddy with India's increasingly dictatorial nationalist ruler, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will not win you the affections of these Americans.

° ° °

Yes, content will sometimes be a little thin here through November 3. I'll try to share interesting thoughts and factoids I come across here. But this is a time for working for a huge, peaceful Biden sweep and a Democratic Senate, not for commentary. Let's win this thing and dissect it after we know where we come out.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Joyce Louis-Jean spells it out for you ...

Those of us who live in the Southwest may not know all this. But we could. Watch Joyce Louis Jean explain.

  • Black immigrants are damn near erased from the conversation about immigration in our country ...
  • ... cops transfer Black immigrants to ICE and there is no evidence that Black immigrants commit any more crimes than any other immigrant population.
  • ... the longest ICE detentions on record are all for Black immigrants
  • ... ICE can even make something like deportation even worse for Black immigrants

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Here comes the green tsunami

Yesterday I posted about implications of widespread vote-by-mail and early voting in building engaged citizenship among some of the people who need to come into the process in order to fulfill this country's democratic promise. Still thinking about that ...

But there's another form of enhanced participation which is upending the democratic process in this cycle. The media (and GOPers who find themselves swamped by it and are whining) are calling it the "Green Tsunami."

Huge numbers of Democratic-inclined citizens who have some disposable income are putting their money behind their political preferences on an unheard of scale.

... Where most of the top Democratic Senate candidates two years ago raised $4 million to $7 million in the third quarter of 2018, their contenders this year are multiplying those totals. Colorado’s John Hickenlooper raised $22 million, more than six times what his presidential campaign raised before he dropped out of that race in 2019. Iowa’s Theresa Greenfield and North Carolina’s Cal Cunningham each cleared $28 million.
And on Sunday, South Carolina Democrat Jaime Harrison announced a record $57 million third-quarter haul for his race against GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, where the most favorable public polling for Graham in the last month has shown him leading by a single point. Altogether, the money has given Democrats a TV spending edge in 12 of the 13 most expensive Senate races.
Markos Moulitos (that's "kos" of the activist website Daily Kos) is crowing about this. He sees it as the fruition of an end run by progressive Democratic bloggers and other outsiders around an enervated Party consultant apparatus. Way back in 2005, he saw the potential for the giving platform Act Blue:
... The promise of what I wrote in 2005 has come true: [Republican donors] write the big check, and millions of us click “donate,” and we raise more money. Far more money.

... [The small donor fundraising portal] ActBlue emerged from the grassroots, and harnessed the networked power of the early blogs and emerging social media to become the Democratic fundraising standard from the bottom up. ...

Ever caustic as well as sharply observant, kos thinks he knows why the Republicans cannot seem to create an analogous grassroots funding stream:
... you have Trump bragging about how rich he is. Remember how Michael Bloomberg had to fund his entire campaign himself? People aren’t generally motivated to give money to people who are already rich. But then there’s the fact that the GOP never had to bother appealing to its core base. I mean, look at those deplorables! Much more pleasant to collect checks over cocktails from the Captains of Industry and assorted trust fund babies.
He's right about that. I feel sure that Republican elites do despise many of their base voters.

But also, I suspect the 2020 Democratic Green Tsunami is the outgrowth of one of the truly mystifying aspects of Trump's victory in 2016. Somehow he managed to win without the support of the parts of the country on which the nation's economic well-being depends.
Donald Trump lost most of the American economy in [the 2016] election. According to the Brookings analysis, the less-than-500 counties that Clinton won nationwide combined to generate 64 percent of America's economic activity in 2015. The more-than-2,600 counties that Trump won combined to generate 36 percent of the country's economic activity last year.
Might the flood of campaign cash be the revenge of an urban and suburban, still reasonably secure, working and middle class who saw their political preferences trashed by the Trump ascendancy? This seems right. 

Will they remain engaged should they manage to evict the presenting plutocrat? It will take awhile to see. But active citizenship is a habit and this seems a healthy trend. Small donors rock!

Monday, October 12, 2020

Learning to love early voting

For many years I argued against encouraging widespread early voting and universal absentee voting instead of building up Election Day. This year, I'm spending hours on hours making phone calls to help citizens make a plan to vote either by mail or at early voting drop off locations.

Now, obviously, we're in the midst of an infectious pandemic. Lots of us shouldn't even think about taking the risk to join crowds at polling places. The alternative ways to cast a ballot are sensible, legitimate, and for some people, perhaps life saving.

So why did I used to be so hostile to methods of voting that didn't involve marking a ballot at a polling place on Election Day?

For many years, my work in elections was aimed at increasing participation by people who the electoral system had pushed to the margins -- young people, queer people, poor people, people of color -- all usually infrequent voters or just non-voters. And I thought anything that reduced excitement about Election Day was a step in the wrong direction when it came to boosting these individuals' willingness to acquire a new habit of engaged citizenship.

Here's a smidgen of the argument I made in 2007:
Insofar as voting is a private thing you do by yourself in your home, folks who aren't accustomed to it are less likely to get around to it. Isolation can breed alienation from participation. Community reinforcement helps turn out infrequent voters.

Doing the community's business of citizenship is not something to live out alone. Community organizations need to experiment with ways to make voting a more collective experience. Of course every person's ballot is secret, but voting need not be so lonely as convenience systems tend to make it. Some experiments have included group classes in using new voting systems (such as when touch screens have replaced punch card ballots) and picnics followed by group walks to early voting sites. Finding ways to increase the sense of community, as well as of convenience, is a winning strategy, and a necessity, for progressive electoral organizers.
I had read a good deal of the history of U.S. elections. The highest percentage turnout of eligible voters was achieved in the last decade of the 19th century when political parties turned out their supporters in raucous parades, often accompanied by much drinking and skirmishes between opponents. Election Day was a kind of grand civic party, enjoyed by many, if not by all (all women and most men of color were still excluded). We don't want elections that look like that -- but participation would probably benefit from more shared excitement.

So here we are in this strange moment and all modes of early and mail-in and dropbox voting are going strong -- in early October.  According to Professor Michael McDonald of the University of Florida who tracks this voting, as of October 12:
Voters have cast a total of 9,418,366 ballots in the reporting states.
In Florida, where the UniteHERE phone bank has been making calls, 2.5 million Democrats have requested mail-in ballots and one third of their votes have already come in. In contrast, 1.8 million Republicans have asked for mail-in ballots and 27 percent have voted so far. McDonald sensibly cautions that though these numbers look great for the Biden-Harris ticket, we should not get too excited as most of these votes are likely from older, habitual voters. He predicts that in a week or so Democrats will be wailing that younger voters got their mail-in ballots but didn't send them in promptly. That's where campaigns come in, calling and texting these voters until they do the deed.

The New York Times writes that early voting is already exceeding all past expectations in the Rust Belt.
The Wisconsin ballot numbers illustrate how much voting has changed in the pandemic era. In the 2016 general election, 146,294 Wisconsinites voted by mail, and 666,035 others voted at in-person early-voting sites. In the current general election, 646,987 people have already voted absentee as of Friday. Early-voting sites start opening in Wisconsin on Oct. 20.

That's regular people demonstrating that they are taking the virus seriously, even as Trump and his GOPer minions refuse to.

In this year, when a significant fraction of the resistance electorate would walk across hot coals barefoot to evict Trump, mail-in voting, early voting, and "convenience" voting are not going to depress enthusiasm. For people who are working on these campaigns, and our numbers are unprecedented, we're living a month long Election Day. We don't need no stinking parades to raise our sense of collective action. (A lot of us did that in June and July anyway.) After 7 months of pandemic lockdown and economic devastation all around, both excitement and anxiety are off the charts. Though Professor McDonald and all responsible observers caution against reading too much into the vote so far, an overall turnout record seems likely.

But, if this floundering country ever returns to less angst-filled elections, will all this individualistic solitary voting depress participation in the future? I still think it might. Voting alone feels antithetical to engaged citizenship. 

Perhaps we're in for a several decade season of fraught elections as the country struggles toward becoming a historically unprecedented, rich but more just, multi-racial democracy. That might keep turnout high.

Or, if things go wrong, voter suppression by a thousand impediments, from legal hurdles through thugs with AR-15s, just might rob us of hope. Got to go make some more phone calls.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Water is the strangest thing on earth ... and throughout the universe

Really. Watch this from the BBC.

Science journalist Alok Jha marvels:

"all of the water on earth is alien ... the water arrived from asteroids and comets from the edges of space..."

"did you know that hot water freezes faster than cold? ..."

"we now know there's water on the moon, on Mars, on Pluto .."

Humans cannot live without water. Sixty percent of our bodies are water. 

Our science can observe water, but as Mr. Jha explains, does not understand water.

Indigenous peoples know that water is life.

That's why I'm proud to serve as a member of the board of El Porvenir which assists rural Nicaraguans bringing clean water to their isolated rural communities.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Crunch time ...

You can sign up to make calls here every day until the election.

In the still-contested Silver State, every active voter was mailed a ballot. But citizens of Nevada are not accustomed to using the Postal Service to vote. They expect to vote at convenient locations in supermarkets and libraries in the early voting period which runs from Saturday, October 17 through Friday, October 30. This year, for pandemic safety, they can just fill out the ballot at home and drop it off at early voting locations.

The UniteHERE phone bank helps Biden voters through this process. Once they declare for Joe Biden, we help them make a plan to cast their vote, whether by mail, at the early voting, or on Election Day. When everyone votes, democracy -- and in Nevada, Democrats -- win.

Feeling ambitious? Sign up to turn out voters alongside UniteHERE door knockers (taking careful COVID precautions) with the on-the-ground canvass in Reno.

UniteHERE is the union of hotel and restaurant workers. Obviously their members have a big stake in the political and physical well-being of tourist heavy Nevada.

Friday, October 09, 2020

This is what "I Voted!" looks like in 2020

California has contracted with a tracking company that reports where your precious ballot has gotten to.

Knowing someone will complain if they don't, they also include the traditional sticker with your mail-in ballot.

Friday cat blogging: feline hazards

Several days a week I sit at a desk making phone calls for the election. A rustling above grabs my attention.
Is she going to jump on me? 
She takes a good look at the human below...
And apparently decides looking out the window is more interesting.

Thursday, October 08, 2020

Dana tells how the Black Lives Matter movement came to Chilmark, Mass.

This post is a treat ... at least so it seems to me.

Chilmark is a rural town on Martha's Vineyard Island, known throughout the east coast as a summer vacation destination. Its larger towns have long had a more visible Black presence than most resort areas. But Chilmark is the white boondocks. (E.P. has a long history there and she takes me along.) My friend Dana's is one of the few Black faces in town. I've always found her awesome, but this is special.

In this podcast, Dana Nunes shares her story of a movement moment. Give it 28 minutes of your time. You'll be glad you did. 

Photo stolen from the Martha's Vineyard Times. Dana is wearing the black t-shirt.

Wednesday, October 07, 2020


There are many ways to turn out the vote. Here's a pure delight from one of my friends whose people came here from one of those Asian countries that U.S. citizens of other origins lump together as "Asian."


Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Those California Propositions ...

My default position on the propositions on the California ballot is that there are too damn many of them.

We have a legislature. (And also armies of well-paid corporate lobbyists, and of unions caring for their members, and of citizen activist groups.) Though the Sacramento process is not a thing of beauty, usually the people who get paid to make the laws and the governor who gets paid to act as ringmaster to the governmental circus know more about policies than most voters. They should do the law making and we should throw the bums out if they make a (big) mess. But no -- we end up voting on policy conflicts large and small.

Some of the larger conflicts are important and citizens should weigh in. Others I'm offended to find in front of me for judgements I know I'm ill-equipped to make.

I think this year Prop. 15-YES; Prop. 16-YES; and Prop. 21-YES might make the state measurably better. Some of the others aren't terrible. Here goes:

Prop. 14 - bonds to fund stem cell research. California got in the stem cell research business in 2004 in order to stick a thumb in the eye of the George W. Bush administration which was trying to regulate such research out of business. His anti-abortion base thought stem cells were fetuses or something. Also, scientists and biotech companies saw a potential business opportunity funded by the state. Not much has come of it, but the stem cell research lobby wants more money. It's hard for me not to think this is a boondoggle -- but I could be wrong. No.

Prop. 15 - long overdue modification to California's sacred tax limitation measure. Prop. 13 has severely constrained property tax collections since 1979 -- a couple of generations -- to the detriment of public health, roads, and schools. Prop. 13 is great for homeowners who stay in their homes for decades, making their local tax bills predictable -- and small in relation to our wildly escalating property values. But when real estate turns over, it gets reassessed at something more like its contemporary value.

Prop. 15 has nothing to do with homeowners; it aims to capture some of the rise in value of commercial property -- property which is often held in complex legal structures that make it look as if it never changed ownership and so is never re-assessed. Prop. 15 would let governments tax rich real estate investors -- including Donald Trump's Bank of America building in San Francisco. It seems only fair to think they owe more than 1979 values. Yes.

Prop. 16 - Repeals Prop. 209 from 1996. That year a predominately white electorate looked around and saw California was changing and decided to get stingy about ensuring the state education system and state contracting were appropriately open to all Californians, less and less of whom looked like those voters. Prop. 16 undoes an attack on our emerging diversity which still hampers University admissions in welcoming new classes that look like all of us. Yes.

Prop. 17 - the California legal system sends offenders to prison when they are convicted of crimes, then releases them to supervised parole, then, eventually, releases them from further state supervision. That is, parole is a kind of purgatory between prison and freedom. We've decided that people convicted of felonies should get the right to vote back after serving their sentences. This measure means they get the right while still on parole, in the purgatory phase. Seems a no-brainer. The point is to enable offenders to come back into community. Yes.

Prop. 18 - allows 17 year olds to vote in primaries if they'll be 18 by the election for which the primary chooses the candidates. Great idea. Often the primary is the election that matters most. There's some evidence that the earlier young people are able to vote, the more likely they are to incorporate participatory citizenship in their picture of their adult selves. That's a good thing. Yes.

Prop. 19 - Oh please ... this one is a boondoggle for the real estate industry, as if they weren't doing well enough already with our inflated demand and property values. It promises old people they can keep their Prop. 13 tax exemption whenever they flip a house and move somewhere else in the state. Seems like outrageous theft by the old from the young to me. No.

Prop. 20 - the state has been moving away from locking people up and then holding them on parole. This wants to increase the use of parole. Seems like a step in the wrong direction. A lot of California's unbearable level of mass incarceration came out of voter over-reaction to fear of crime, which often means racial fear. We're on track toward doing better. Let's not go backward. No.

Prop. 21 - there has long been upward pressure on rents in California cities because more people want to live here than apartments and houses have been built for them. In the 1990s several cities enacted various rent control measures which prevented landlords from making excessive increases. Real estate interests speak loudly in Sacramento; they persuaded the state legislature to take back the authority from cities to enact most rent control rules, including in particular requiring that any such law allow "vacancy decontrol."  That is, whenever a renter moves, the previous rent level goes poof and the owner can start over with whatever rent the market will bear. This makes for a strong incentive to push renters out, especially long term ones who retain a low rent level. Prop. 21 would allow cities to set their own rental rules. Yes.

Prop. 22 - this is a classic misuse of the California initiative process. The legislature passed a law that made companies which thrived on the labor of "gig workers" who they treated as "independent contractors" without unemployment or health care reclassify many of these workers as employees. There are rules (not great ones, but some) about how companies can treat people they hire as employees. The business model used by Uber and Lyft doesn't profit them as much if their drivers have to be treated as employees. So they have invested in Prop. 22 to try to do away with the state labor regulation. They are pouring cash ($130M so far) into passing this prop they paid to put on the ballot; if they win, they won't have to pay out for the people who do the work. We can say shove it. No.

Prop. 23 - a classic example of matters we shouldn't be voting on. There's a lot of money in running kidney dialysis clinics. It's a profitable business; due to a quirk of health care legal jockeying, the feds support the needs of kidney patients relatively generously. According to the Bay Guardian this prop comes from a union trying to put pressure on the dialysis industry. Wasn't there some other way to resolve this rather than making the whole state vote on this? I remain ambivalent.

Prop. 24 - then there are propositions which are just plain deceptive. This claims to be a consumer privacy law; it's really just like those "terms of service" that tech companies make you click on to use their apps -- a way to engineer consent to their selling you. The ACLU and Color of Change agree: No.

Prop. 25 - the bail-bonds industry didn't like reforms that the legislature made to their industry of lending poor people money to get out of jail. So they paid to put the law up for a referendum vote. Because it is a referendum on an existing law, a No vote means you want to keep the state on a path to eliminate money bail. A Yes means you like the bail-bonds industry, would overturn the reforms, and give more money to police. That's not hard. No.

Whew! That's all 12 of these things for this year. I described this post to a friend as "irritated and opinionated." It is.

Monday, October 05, 2020

Young people have a simple message

Trump get out of the way! 

This is as good a history lesson about how politics in the United States really works as you are likely to find anywhere. From the Sunrise Movement.

Listen to AOC:

    "The ballot box very often is the thing that moves last, in reaction to movements ..."

But the vote also has to move. All of us together can do this, even if many of us have become elders, somewhat to our own surprise.

Trump trash

People who work regularly on political campaigns despise doorhangers, those usually glossy bits of cardboard touting a candidate. You might find one on your door -- or blowing around the yard. Some of us refer to them as "campaign litter." Campaigners only employ them when they have canvassers who can't or won't be trained to knock and talk with voters. (And perhaps when they are afflicted with campaign management that is in hoc to some designer and/or printer and wants to throw these companies some easy bucks.)

Those of us who live in uncontested states don't get to see what the psychopath-in-chief is putting out in battleground states, but I've got a source and thought some people might want to see some samples.

This one is a bit ghoulish. Not surprising I guess. People who thrill to a guy who is willing to kill his Secret Service protectors and their families for a few cheers is a ghoul.

This one at least claims to make a case. Obviously, Joe Biden is a stooge for Black Lives Matter, Inc., a non-existent organization. This one reeks of the Republican terror that someone, somewhere, will call them out for racism or misogyny. Democrats are frequently -- and aptly -- criticized for speaking to their choir. Here Donald is singing the song of his most deplorable base, unconvincingly it seems to most of us. 
Here's another specimen of Trump campaign litter, much more offensive. The administration is forcing the Department of Agriculture to include flyers touting the Great Father in free food boxes distributed to people who the pandemic has left unemployed and hungry.
There's that feudal patriarchal discourse he favors: he's your Dad, it's his country, you are needy serfs on his fiefdom. Bullshit. This country was founded in revolt against the pretensions of a king. We can ditch this pretender.

Sunday, October 04, 2020

Exponential growth in action

My long time running friend Ollie is a mathematician. He looks at the coronavirus pandemic though his particular expertise, readily warning that "my field is mathematics, NOT infectious diseases so if I err, I do not mind correction from a credentialed person. In fact, I encourage it." My emphasis added to his observations that follow.

1. Whether you get infected with COVID or not depends on many factors and is probabilistic; we can say "highly likely" or "not likely" but never "certainly".

Your likelihood of getting infected depends on your level of exposure; that is, the dose of the virus in a short amount of time. A few individual viruses are unlikely to infect you.
The dose you get depends on several things: how close you are to the infected person, how long, and what protective gear you have.

A mask basically mitigates the tiny droplets that transport the virus. It is most effective when worn by the infected person, as the virus density is highest on what comes out of their noses and mouths.

The mask is less effective, but still far more protective than nothing, on the non-infected person.  
Masks might not stop all of the virus from entering, but it does lower the dose by quite a bit thereby lowering the risk of infection. 
Yes, the mesh of the mask is larger than the size of the virus; what it does, though, is stop many of the water droplets that carry the virus. It is transportation interdiction.  
The strength of the dose of virus depends on the quality of the air circulation and how close you are to someone who is infected. (inverse square law, plus the droplets carrying the virus tend to drop.  
That is why social distancing is important. 
2. Yes, you can be totally irresponsible and probably get away with it; the probability of infection at any single incident is low. But repetition matters and eventually your luck may well run out. It is a bit like rolling a 360 sided dice; your chances of getting a single given number is low on any one roll, but if you roll it enough times, it will probably appear once ... though you can't say when. 
3. The virus doesn't care about your cause, your emotional needs, if it is "just family", that you prayed to your deity for protection, etc. It is all governed by ice cold laws of probability.  
4. Yes, the survival rate for most classes of individuals is high. But there are two other factors: 
1. Something like 10 percent of verified cases end up in the hospital and even those not hospitalized end up with ill effects for weeks to months afterward. 
2. Even worse, the virus can spread through you and infect someone who might be more prone to dying from it. That is exponential growth in action.

Nobody in the White House seems capable of this sort of scientific reflection, most especially the super-spreader-in-chief.

Saturday, October 03, 2020

Democracy is not a spectator sport

Only 31 days to go. In many states, the people are already voting. In some states -- looking at you Texas -- attempts by Republicans to prevent you from having your say are on overdrive. They know the score: when we all vote, we win.

You can join a phone bank. Sign up here.

 We can do this -- TOGETHER.

Friday, October 02, 2020

Friday cat blogging

Janeway looks as if she is pondering the human with the camera. Maybe she is. In general, she's more active than thoughtful.

Thursday, October 01, 2020

So that everyone can vote ...

The New York Times ran a terrific article the other day about the difficulties too many disabled voters face when casting their ballots. This was never easy. Now there is COVID too.

With the virus in the equation, it can be next to impossible.
The number of Americans at risk of disenfranchisement is huge: According to new projections from researchers at Rutgers University, more than 38 million eligible voters have disabilities. That’s more than 16 percent of the electorate. 
This total — nearly that of the entire population of California — includes an estimated 21.3 million eligible voters with mobility disabilities, 13.1 million with cognitive disabilities, 11.6 million with hearing disabilities and seven million with visual disabilities. (Many voters fall into multiple categories.) The disenfranchisement of even a small fraction could swing the election. 
... mail-in voting alone won’t allow everyone with a disability to vote. 

Those of us not currently experiencing physical and other challenges tend think of barriers to wheelchairs when we think about disability at all. 

This proud voter made it to the polls in her rolling chair.

And certainly physical barriers like stairs can keep some voters from the polls. But a particular virtue of the Times story are its anecdotes about other impediments to voting such as advancing multiple sclerosis, various genetic disorders that make venturing out in a pandemic unthinkable, and also various failures to provide adequate accommodation for blind people. 

Erudite Partner is working in Nevada on the election this year and she pointed me to a wonderful accommodation that state's Secretary of State is making available to some disabled voters. Quite a few states make voting by email available to overseas members of the U.S. military. Nevada is opening that opportunity to some disabled residents.

Election officials recognize the diversity as well as the uniqueness of the accessibility needs of the citizens we serve. We are constantly seeking input from the communities we serve and all suggestions, recommendations and concerns will be considered. All reasonable options to ensure each citizen an accessible and independent voting opportunity will be taken into account. 

In April 2020 we were pleased to open up Nevada's Effective Absentee System for Elections, or EASE, to Nevada residents with disabilities. EASE is an online application that seamlessly integrates voter registration and electronic ballot delivery and marking. EASE allows further independence and enables covered voters to register, request, mark and return their ballots from the comforts of their own homes. EASE is available for elections with a federal contest on the ballot 45 days before Election Day at

Voters who didn't know about this have missed the deadline. But it will probably be relatively small pilot projects like this which help election officers learn whether online voting might be feasible on a larger scale. It's easy to be doubtful, but we've learned in the pandemic how much of our lives can move online -- perhaps someday realistic security concerns can be overcome.