Thursday, June 30, 2022
Amidst the clamor, momentary quiet
Tuesday, June 28, 2022
Gleaning in the Mission
The old fashioned definition of gleaning is "to gather (leftover grain or other produce) after a harvest." I think of the word as referring to gathering any food stuffs freely available. Gleaning in my mind is a little more agricultural than dumpster diving for left overs, but still something people in need do. And should be entitled to do.
And there's a street tree that has produced highly edible tasty plums right outside our house. If you were not observant, you might not notice the fruit.
It looks like any sidewalk tree.
But note the urban gleaner's foot descending from the tree.
The residue of Brexit
Six years on, The Guardian revisits Brexit, Britains' messy divorce via referendum from the European Common Market and the project of a united Europe. The article is long and detailed but paints a convincing picture of Brexit failure.
On 23 June 2016, Geoffrey Betts, the managing director of a small office supplies business in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, had high hopes for his firm, and the British economy, when he voted for Brexit.
“I thought we would be like … ‘here we go, here we go. We are going to become the most competitive country in Europe and we are going to be encouraging business.’ Now I think: ‘What have we done?’”
His firm, Stewart Superior, has survived, but not without major restructuring and huge efforts to get around obstacles that Brexit has put in the way of the export side of the business.For a lot of people in Britain, Brexit isn't working out as they were promised and had hoped. Add in the global pandemic, and the economy became mired in doldrums.
I've been convinced that the flat out insane vote for Brexit was the product of a creaky, elitist, oblivious political system that had delivered the poisonous Iraq war and a generation defining economic crash during the 2000s, but couldn't provide constructive leadership or widely shared prosperity to many Britons. (Yes ... that has all too much in common with the conditions that elected Donald Trump in the same year.)
Six years after the referendum which took the UK out of the EU, the economic case for Brexit is proving increasingly difficult for its supporters – including inside the Conservative party – to make.
The impression was that there would be no downside. We would thrive outside Europe’s bureaucracy which was strangling our companies with red tape. The huge benefits of the single market – trading freely across borders, with common standards – were never highlighted by Vote Leave, and rarely by the crudely alarmist Remain camp, either.
Only now, with the worst of the pandemic (probably) behind us, and ministers unable to blame Covid, is Brexit reality being laid bare. Next year the OECD calculates that the UK will record the lowest growth in the G20 with the exception of Russia whose economy is being drained by its war on Ukraine.Going it alone attracted a slim majority of British voters in 2016. It now seems the Boris Johnson's Conservative Party may finally pay a price for the drag that Brexit is exerting on British well-being. Last week the Tories lost two special elections in areas they had controlled.
But, as in the United States, the damage inflicted on the national edifice by an impulsive vote by frustrated people will be hard to recover from.
Monday, June 27, 2022
Blog housekeeping notes
If you read this blog on a desktop or a tablet, you'll notice some changes to these pages. I decided that it was time to clean things up a bit.
The photo above shows what may get lost during the upcoming campaign season: Reno, Nevada is a beautiful place, when you get away from the casinos and when the air is clean. We'll be there through mid-November, duking it out for the Dems. Campaigns coincide with fire season, so clean air is not a given. But early in the morning and at sunset, the skies and surroundings can be breathtaking. Maybe by November, I'll have photos of the same duck pond and surrounding peaks after the first snow ...
Erudite Partner and I report for campaign duty in Reno at the end of the first week of July.
In the right sidebar, I've added links to summary posts about what's at stake in the 2022 midterm elections: governors, Senators, and Secretaries of State. After all, that's what we'll be focused on.
And here's a link for anyone who might want to get paid to dip deeply into the electoral fray this fall in several locations with UniteHERE, the national hospitality workers' union.
I've shortened the blog list at the right, cutting back to odd web outposts you might not encounter -- or, some of them, even want to encounter. I like a lot of variety. Makes me think.
Will I post every day during the campaign? Maybe not. This round will be a test of my aging body and stamina. But I've posted regularly if not deeply through campaigns before, so we'll see. I post to focus my own thinking, oftentimes, as well as share with others.
This very week will be a test of how much I'm driven to post. If it seems burdensome, I won't. The Erudite Partner and I are taking three days away at a hot springs to mark some significant birthdays. "Significant birthdays" are ones divisible by five -- and these qualify. Imagine I'll put up a few things here, if only pictures of relaxation before the storm.
On into campaign season ...
Sunday, June 26, 2022
|Tim Dobbins tells it like it is while the Rev. Kevin Deal looks on|
I don't usually blog about church, but St. John the Evangelist (Episcopal) surpassed itself in the service this morning.
A parishioner contributed an appropriate prayer for the occasion:
Blessed are you, O God of all creation, you come to your people and set us free. At Stonewall Inn and Compton's Cafeteria, you raised up dykes and drag queen, trans women and queer men, sex workers and lovers, Black and Brown leaders, holy rebels Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Miss Major Griffin Gracy, who together cried out in one accord, "No more!" Strengthen each of us also to be who you have created us to be, and in the face of principalities and powers that desire our ruin and destruction, make us to stand for the dignity of every human being, through Jesus Christ, your Word made flesh, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. More Love! Amen.
In this season of Pride, the Episcopal Church also celebrates the Rev. Pauli Murray, civil rights activist, lawyer, poet, and priest. Murray was the first Black woman ordained among us, and also is more and more recognized as a person who refused to be confined within narrow definitions of sexuality and gender.
Liberating God, we thank you for the steadfast courage of your servant Pauli Murray, who fought long and well: Unshackle us from the chains of prejudice and fear, that we may show forth the reconciling love and true freedom which you revealed in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Altogether, an uplifting day in a season of fear, rage, and uncertainty.
Saturday, June 25, 2022
2022 Elections: Senate contests Democrats should and must win
Here's a run down of the most competitive states.
• Georgia: Incumbent Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock, elected to a short term in 2020, will be running against Trump-cult adherent and Georgia football hero Herschel Walker. Since Walker is pretty close to certifiably nuts, violent, the acknowledged father of four children by four different women whose paternity he at first concealed, and a serial fabricator, this shouldn't be much of a contest. But that assumption disregards the heft of college football in the Peach State. Warnock has been a strong voice for voting rights and for the people of Georgia.
• Pennsylvania: This open Senate seat attracted a wild cast of characters in both party's primaries. TV-doctor Mehmet Oz won the Trump endorsement and squeaked through for the GOPers. Apparently he actually lives in a mansion in New Jersey which may not go down well with Pennsylvania voters. John Fetterman, the Democratic Lieutenant Governor, is a 6'7", tattooed, shorts wearing, giant straight shooter, a bit of a breath of fresh air in the staid political class. Let's hope he can overcome some health challenges.
• Wisconsin: Republican Ron Johnson, the Senate's dumbest anti-vaxxer and an apparent Trump co-conspirator who tried to prevent the 2020 transfer of power to Joe Biden, is up for re-election. If Dems were not so well organized, as the sitting Senator, he'd probably be a shoo-in; the primary for the Dems is late, August 9 and the winner may have a shot in a state usually quite evenly divided.
• Arizona: Incumbent Democrat Mark Kelly will face off against one of several Republicans to be chosen on August 2. The leader among them, a man who needs another vowel, sitting Attorney General Mark Brnovich, figured out his own advancement meant he had to support Donald Trump's Big Lie against his own Republican election officials in this battleground state. Trump has endorsed Blake Masters, a hard right libertarian and tech-bro Peter Thiel protege, who wants to privatize Social Security.
• Nevada: Incumbent Democrat Catherine Cortez-Masto is running for a second term. Her opponent is Adam Laxalt -- whose own family considers him an unworthy usurper of a proud Nevada name -- a far right wingnut and failed governor candidate. Not going to be easy for Cortez-Masto though; the Democratic registration advantage in the state is declining.
• North Carolina: This open seat is an attractive long shot prize for Democrats as their nominee for the state's other Senate seat only lost by 1.8 percent in 2020 while Trump won the state. The sitting governor is a reasonably popular Democrat, so Dems see a chance. Democrat Cherri Beasley, a former judge of the state Supreme Court, is running against Republican Ted Budd, a Congressman who doubles as a gun range owner. Early polls give Beasley a chance to pull this one out.
• I'll be watching also New Hampshire, Ohio and Missouri where the vagaries of electoral contests might shake up Senate prospects -- though probably not, as party polarization is such a strong force.
Friday, June 24, 2022
Because democracy is not a spectator sport ...
once again this summer and fall, I'll be blogging about "what is it really like to work on an election ..."
As some readers here may have heard, along with Erudite Partner, I'll be heading out to Nevada soon to spend yet another election season, working to re-elect two vital Democratic office holders, Governor Steve Sisolak and U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto. Under Sisolak, Nevada has raised its minimum wage, protected jobs for workers laid off in the pandemic, and made voting secure and easy for all citizens. Cortez-Masto was the first Latina in the U.S. Senate; Republicans think she's their best target to flip the Senate in this volatile year. We can help prove they are wrong!
If this appeals to you, UniteHERE offers jobs in Nevada, Arizona, and Pennsylvania as part of the canvassing team. Click this link to learn all about it!
Friday cat blogging
Thursday, June 23, 2022
Consider the alternative ...
Inflation tops the list, but health care, gun violence, and even climate have us agitated as well.
Catherine Rampell, an economics and data opinion writer at the Washington Post, makes some concrete suggestions for how people campaigning for Democrats might talk about our national anxieties. Here are her thoughts:
Assuming that Russia’s war in Ukraine continues to disrupt energy markets, then voters realistically face a choice between high gas prices and the rest of the Democratic agenda; or, high gas prices and the rest of the Republican agenda. So it’s worth considering what that “rest of” the agenda for each party actually entails.
[Democrats] have a shot at [passing] a ... modest package focused on climate, prescription drugs, and maybe some tax increases on high-earners and corporations.
So what do Republicans stand for?
Their national leaders won’t say, even when asked directly; their state-level rising stars are mostly focused on fighting with Mickey Mouse and drag queens. But if you look at GOP actions taken over the past several years, including when they had unified control of the federal government, you get a sense of what Republicans are likely to prioritize.
Mostly, Republicans seem to care about tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations. They want to find ways to repeal Obamacare, or otherwise reduce access to health care by (for example) slashing Medicaid.
They care about installing judges who will roll back reproductive rights.
They care about supporting a president who used the powers of the state to further his own political and financial interests, rather than those of the American public he was sworn to serve.
They care about supporting a presidency whose few purported diplomatic achievements, in retrospect, look largely like an excuse to meet potential investors who might fund Trump aides’ new private equity endeavors.
They care about defending, at all costs, a president who cheered on the mob seeking to hang his own vice president.
And they care about undermining the integrity of our election system and overturning the will of the voters, if and when vote tallies don’t go their way.
There are some of us who prize inaction on most everything but conservative judges and tax cuts for rich people. But most of us need to try to make government work to improve our lives.
Wednesday, June 22, 2022
What goes around comes around
Having yesterday introduced the subject of the wack-doodle Republican kook Kari Lake, who Donald Trump has endorsed for governor of Arizona, I can't resist passing on this one.
Can't have that kind of friend if you want a Republican electorate to vote for you.
Paul Waldman at the Washington Post reports:
Lake, like so many Republicans at the moment, has sought to use the new right-wing sex panic in her primary, accusing President Biden of promoting “this perverted sexual agenda of grooming our children.” And like other Republicans, she has taken particular aim at drag queens.
So much for old friends. Steven says they've known each for 20 years.
Waldman, as he often is, is insightful about Republican behavior:
First, until recently, even most conservatives had come to a place where they regarded drag not as a terrifying threat to the innocence of children but as a whimsical and amusing corner of the culture. Maybe you liked it (as Lake clearly did) or maybe it made you a little uncomfortable, but it was harmless. Nobody was terrified by “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
But now Republicans are supposed to say that drag is worse than satanic cults, the water fluoridation conspiracy, and the Garbage Pail Kids put together. So that’s what party leaders claim to believe.
Second, a key factor in the political normalization of gay rights was that by and large, Republican elites are okay with gay people. That is true to an extent of the Republican masses as well (or at least more true all the time), but party leaders move in circles where there’s a reasonable amount of acceptance of equality. ...
Go read it all -- it's worth it for this Pride Month.
Tuesday, June 21, 2022
2022 elections: governor contests that Dems need to win
Republicans are pushing hard to win races for governor this year in states where support for the two parties hangs on a few votes. And Democrats are doing everything they can to win, block, or hold governor's offices in the same states. These states deserve governors who give a damn about the well-being of their residents -- Democrats usually care more for that work. But furthermore, who holds these offices will matter in 2024 if there is another close national election and GOPers are running around screaming that the vote was "stolen." We're seeing all too much of what that can be like. A Democratic governor can help shut down a lot of bullshit.
So here's a rundown of some of the most critical governor races in 2022.
Arizona: Donald Trump has a favorite in the August 2 primary: GOPer Kari Lake, a Phoenix TV anchor. Lake is leading in the primary polls. She has advocated jailing Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, her opponent in the governor's race, so as to overturn the 2020 vote count.
“Frankly, I think she should be locked up,” Lake told the crowd in Cave Creek, which responded by starting a Trumpian chant of, “Lock her up!”
Her campaign could not explain what crime she's charging Hobbes with. Lake asserts that, if she had been governor, she would not have certified Joe Biden's 2020 Arizona victory.Doug Mastriano is an insurrectionist who has been subpoenaed by the January 6 investigation. There's video showing him crossing Capital police lines, though what else he did inside is not known.
He’s a first-term state senator who was relatively unknown — until Trump lost the 2020 presidential election, in large part by narrowly losing Pennsylvania to Joe Biden. ... [He] rose to prominence in the aftermath of the 2020 election by falsely claiming Trump won the state. Mastriano also helped commission an unauthorized audit of voting machines in a rural county ...
The Democratic Party nominee for Governor is the state’s attorney general, Josh Shapiro. The winner will get to name Pennsylvania's secretary of state, the official who oversees elections.
Michigan: Democratic governor Gretchen Whitmer has been a stalwart supporter of the rule of law against right wing mob pressure. Dogged by pushback against public health rules and mask mandates, she was even the intended target of a militia plot, according to the FBI. Two conspirators convinced a jury that they were just being blowhards (seems likely a role they know well); two more are awaiting a second trial.
Well known Republicans aspiring to run against her made a mess of their campaigns, hiring paid signature collectors who made up false voters on their papers. So their names will not appear on the August 2 primary list which now consists of a smaller field of also-rans.
GOP hopefuls who qualified for the Aug. 2 primary ballot include a conservative media personality, two COVID-19 lockdown protesters, a pastor and a wealthy businessman.
None has held an elected office before but are seeking to bring a fresh perspective to Lansing and unseat Whitmer, who has built up a big campaign war chest as she seeks re-election to a second term.
Let's hope Whitmer can overcome whoever comes out of this odd scrum.
Wisconsin: The Republican frontrunner in the August 9 primary was former Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch who fully supported Trump’s recount requests based on baseless claims of election fraud in 2020. That wasn't good enough for Trump; he liked construction executive Tim Michels better. He dropped an endorsement in his inimitable style. Here's why Trump liked Michels:
"Wisconsin needs a Governor who will Stop Inflation, Uphold the Rule of Law, strengthen our Borders (we had the strongest borders in history just two years ago, now we have the weakest!) and End the well-documented Fraud in our Elections," read a written statement from Trump ... "Tim Michels is the best candidate to deliver meaningful solutions to these problems, and he will produce jobs like no one else can even imagine."
The Democratic incumbent governor of Wisconsin is Tony Evers. Dems are aiming to re-elect Evers to preserve some honesty and sanity in state government.
Nevada: Democrat Steve Sisolak was elected governor in 2018 and has done a creditable job during a pandemic that crashed the state's vital hotel, casino, and restaurant industries. For months, Nevada had some of the nation's worst unemployment.
Trump offered a late endorsement to Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo who prevailed in the Republican primary held June 14. The former president wanted a high profile win by backing the guy who was already leading the GOP field. The race between Sisolak and Lombardo is expected to be close.
Georgia: Democrat Stacey Abrams is taking on incumbent Republican Governor Brian Kemp in a re-run of their 2018 contest. This will be a very tough race, possibly turning on some of the restrictive election laws Kemp has signed. In case you have forgotten, Georgia is the state where GOPers made it illegal to give out water to people waiting in line to vote.
There's nothing easy about any of these contests.
Monday, June 20, 2022
Juneteenth holiday observed
|West Oakland during a 2021 Juneteenth celebration. (Beth LaBerge)|
The still-novel federal holiday is a consequence of our nation's ongoing reckoning with our past and with our future aspirations. It also comes out of our messy politics. Even good politics is messy. Theodore R. Johnson, a writer at The Bulwark and the director of the Fellows Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, explains. My emphasis:
Juneteenth is a civic reminder to pause and appreciate how far the nation has come. If Independence Day on July 4th is a day to honor all the nation got right, Juneteenth is a call to always right the things it gets wrong.
... the politics of how Juneteenth became a holiday is a lesson in the unserious ways we grapple with race in America. The unflattering fact is that Juneteenth is federally observed today primarily because there was no political penalty to be paid by congressional members who voted in its favor and insufficient political incentive for those who would block it to follow through.
... [it is] likely that both parties surveyed the political landscape and determined that Juneteenth was low-hanging electoral fruit that could signal to black voters that their voices were being heard—without incurring much backlash from other constituencies. A constant refrain within black America is that politicians either do not come around at all, or do so only when an election is near. Making Juneteenth a federal holiday was a way of both recognizing the strategic role that black voters play—especially in the urban metro areas of closely contested states—as well as a symbolic, low-cost move to help each party shape part of the electorate in its favor.
... the actual reasons for Republicans opposing MLK Day and Election Day as national holidays were not about budgets but about politics. In the case of MLK Day, Republican strategists worried that voters fresh off the Dixiecrat train [in the 1980s] would reject their new party making an overture to a recently enlarged black electorate. And in the case of Election Day, Republicans seem to buy the flawed argument that easier voting automatically leads to Democratic victories.
And yet, on Juneteenth? The Republican party got onboard, largely because it intuited that there would be no political cost for supporting it. Why is that?
Hyperpartisan politics and voters’ entrenched partisanship have created conditions where there’s little risk of losing supporters to the other side on an issue to which most Americans aren’t paying close attention. ...
... But the politics of Juneteenth’s ascendance to a national holiday is actually a story about a democratic system that is presently incapable of doing hard things, and choosing instead to take the easiest path available.
And that’s a shame. Because Juneteenth should be the commemoration of an America that does the hardest of things.
Sunday, June 19, 2022
|Roger Keating Adams 1905-1991|
This stern likeness is a passport photo from the early 1970s. I suspect he looked "right" to himself in this pose. He would have been on the verge of retirement when this was taken.
My father probably wasn't very enthusiastic about getting the picture for a passport. He volubly disdained travel; it meant lots of discomfort and novelty for not much he wanted. The baseline of their sixty-year deeply loving marriage was that he could complain and then they'd do what Mother wanted, if she really cared.
Mother insisted on taking him to Ireland with this passport and, once there, to meet distant relatives. He didn't catch the travel bug; it rained. His verdict on Ireland was "they should put a roof over that country."
Yes, he was something of a curmudgeon. I often wonder what he would have said about Trump. In order to scandalize "polite society," I imagine he would have made nods toward approving of Trump as a roguish transgressor of bourgeois social propriety. But in reality, RKA was very much a creature of that propriety and lived by a set of strong, simple values: work hard, do your duty, be kind and sometimes generous, if you can. Any of us could do worse.
He would have seen immediately that Trump's various businesses were cons; he'd seen rich fraudsters before. In time, Trump's cruelty and lawless selfishness would have repelled him. But he would not have been very vocal about it. But Trump was never a right sort of man in his moral world.
I hope it comes across that, despite our considerable differences, we actually had a loving, respect-filled connection. He coud be warm, and was often sardonically funny. I loved my Father and he loved me. He's more than 30 years gone and I still miss him.
Saturday, June 18, 2022
I have gigabytes of photos from the Walking San Francisco project. Every once in awhile, I'll drop one here.
Friday, June 17, 2022
Friday cat blogging
Today Janeway gives over her place to cats living amidst the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Where there are humans, there are cats, even among the rubble of a grinding war.
|Azovstal defender Vitaliy Zinchenko died May 5 covering his comrades from the enemy tank, receiving fatal shrapnel wounds. Via Euromaiden Press|
Humans are cheered by their feline companions.
You can follow more Ukrainian cats at Feline Defense Force.
Why so many Ukrainian cats? In my experience, there are cats anywhere there are humans -- and small rodents. Ukraine was and is the "breadbasket of Europe," the source of much of the world's wheat. Perhaps cats got a head start on the project of taming human companions when they moved into ancient granaries to feast off the vermin population?
More seriously, the crowd-funded parts of Ukrainian defenses still need all the help they can get. Chef José Andrés reports that the Russians successfully blew up one of World Central Kitchen's food trains this week. World Central Kitchen is feeding thousands of displaced Ukrainians inside the country and across Europe. You can help.
Thursday, June 16, 2022
Our dwindling rights
You may think the US Constitution gives you a right to demand a warrant before a federal agent comes on your property. You know, that Fourth Amendment thing about no warrantless search and seizure. (At least you are likely to think you have such a right if you are white, perhaps others less so.)
|H/t SBCC; much more info at link|
If you live in the area of the light orange line on this map, you have no such right. Two thirds of us live there -- the darker orange middle is relatively less populated. The Supremes recently decided that agents of the Border Patrol (CPB) are acting in the interests of "national security" and were not included in the Congressional statute that allows you to sue state and local officials who violate your body and property illegally. So abracadabra, poof -- search and seize away CPB!
People suspected of being illegal immigrants will obviously suffer most directly from this extension of unchecked powers, but note that former President Trump and his compliant Justice Department used some of the 20,000 CPB officers to attack protesters in Portland and DC.
Wednesday, June 15, 2022
Secretaries of State: a cascade of dangerous Republican crackpots
In most states, an elected Secretary of State administers elections; it's a lot of work and relatively low profile. For example, here in California, that's incumbent Shirley Weber who is running to stay in the job in November.
This year, in states that are expected to be battlegrounds between Dems and GOPers, some mighty sketchy kooks are trying to implant themselves in the system in anticipation of their Orange God/King (h/t Charlie Sykes) running in 2024. It's not pretty and it's dangerous. (Not all the members of this gallery of rogues have yet won their primaries, but the outlook is clear.)
Here's a rundown:
Arizona: The presumptive Republican nominee (primary August 2) is Mark Finchem. His website (I'm not linking to these nutjobs) declares:
Since my very first election, I knew something was very wrong with our elections process. Major defects such as chain-of-custody of ballots, hidden contributions, and expensive unnecessary technology have contributed to the decay of public confidence in our elections. Then on November 3rd, 2020, the unthinkable happened: Americans witnessed real-time reallocation of votes from one candidate to another, broadcast on national television.Finchem is not only a QAnon believer, he was present at the January 6 Capitol insurrection. It's not clear whether he was among the mob breaching the building. He's Trump-endorsed, naturally.
Two normie Democrats, Reginald Bolding and Adrian Fontes, are running to oppose Finchem in the primary.
Michigan: The incumbent Secretary of State, Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, is seeking reelection despite death threats when Biden prevailed in 2020. Kristina Karamo is the presumptive Republican nominee.
... the Oak Park Republican skyrocketed to fame in conservative circles after claiming she witnessed fraud at Detroit’s absentee counting board while working as a poll challenger in November 2020. ... Karamo referred to herself as an “anti-vaxxer,” opposed the teachings of evolution in schools, likened abortion to human sacrifice and said LGBT people and those who have sex outside of marriage “violate God's creative design” and are indicative of a culture of “sexual brokenness.”Michigan GOPers and the Donald think she's their kind of gal.
Nevada: Silver State Republicans joined the Secretary of State clown car in the June primary, nominating Jim Marchant for the office. The Nevada Independent reported:
Telling Republicans their votes haven’t counted for diddly-squat due to rampant fraud, then asking them to go cast a ballot, seems a bit counterintuitive for a “get out the vote” campaign. And yet, among at least some Republicans, that has been the message during much of the 2022 primaries. In February, Republican candidate for secretary of state, Jim Marchant, told a crowd in Reno that their vote “hasn't counted for decades.”
“You haven't elected anybody. The people that are in office have been selected. You haven't had a choice,” Marchant said.
Trump likes this guy too. The normie Democrat running for the open office is Cisco Aguilar.
Georgia: Brad Raffensberger, the Republican incumbent Secretary of State, unexpectedly won his May primary to keep to his office over a Trump-endorsed challenger. He withstood Trump's pressure to "find 11,780 votes" to defeat Biden in 2020. Death threats followed. He is favored to keep the job, however a state law since passed removed the position of state election board chair from the Georgia Secretary of State's duties. He no longer has as much power as he did in 2020.
Senator Raphael Warnock and governor candidate Stacey Abrams will have to win indisputably in fall 2022 to overcome the obstacles state Republicans have erected to free and fair voting.
Pennsylvania: They don't have an elected secretary of state to run elections in Pennsylvania. The job is appointed, so the issue of who runs the 2024 election will be determined by who wins the governor's race this fall. State Republicans have nominated a real doozy. Doug Mastriano is another insurrectionist who has been subpoenaed by the January 6 investigation. There's video showing him crossing Capital police lines, though what else he did in not known.
He’s a first-term state senator who was relatively unknown — until Trump lost the 2020 presidential election, in large part by narrowly losing Pennsylvania to Joe Biden. ... [He] rose to prominence in the aftermath of the 2020 election by falsely claiming Trump won the state. Mastriano also helped commission an unauthorized audit of voting machines in a rural county ...Wisconsin: In this very contested state, elections are administered not by an elected official, but by a bipartisan regulatory agency, the Wisconsin Elections Commission. This supposedly neutral agency has been the location of complicated infighting over false Republican assertions that the 2020 election was fraudulent. UpNorthNews reported on the commission and former Attorney General Bill Barr's recorded testimony to the January 6 commission:
In a video played Monday during the second public hearing of a special congressional committee investigating the January 6, 2021 insurrection, former President Donald Trump’s attorney general Bill Barr laughs and scoffs at claims that cell phone data proves there was voter fraud in Wisconsin in the 2020 election. ...
[In response to these claims] Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) member Ann Jacobs mentioned [in a meeting] that the drop box at one Milwaukee library is directly below an apartment building—filled with digital pings from cell phones, laptop computers, tablets, and other devices from people not physically using the drop box.
In February, Assembly Elections Committee Chair Michelle Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls) turned the committee’s time over to a presentation from someone convicted of fraud who was claiming numerous irregularities with the state’s voter database. Only a week later did Brandtjen schedule time for WEC Administrator Meagan Wolfe and Technology Director Robert Kehoe to refute the baseless claims.
“Making unverified, fantastical claims without consulting real election officials has the effect of diverting lawmakers and the public from tracking real issues in need of improvement,” Kehoe told the committee. “That could end up causing real harm to Wisconsin elections.”Wisconsin election administrators will face constant pressure so long as Republicans are making false assertions about voting.
Tuesday, June 14, 2022
January 6 committee hearings: the 2020 election as process
The January 6 committee hearings into Donald Trump's attempted coup continue to make me a fan of the chair, Rep. Bennie Thompson. His opening statement on Monday goes to the heart of what is at stake.
Chairman Thompson: ... My colleagues and I don't want to spend time talking about ourselves during these hearings, but as someone who's run for office a few times, I can tell you: at the end of a campaign, it all comes down to the numbers. The numbers tell you the winner and the loser.
For the most part, the numbers don't lie.
But if something doesn't add up with the numbers, you go to court to get resolution. And that's the end of the line. We accept those results. That's what it means to respect the rule of law. That's what it means to seek elected office in our democracy.
Because those numbers aren't just numbers.
They are votes. They are your votes. They are the will and the voice of the people. And the very least we should expect from any person seeking a position of public trust is the acceptance of the will of the people—win or lose. ...
Watch here:Thompson is doing what all of us who work in elections have to do, over and over again: helping both participants and citizens at large understand what all the fuss and drama is about. We grow up in this country absorbing that elections are somehow important, but without intentional education about our democratic government, it can all just seem a blur. To become empowered citizens, we need to know that votes matters and that often implies learning more about what these people in government do. What can a President do? How about a Senators? What powers do state governors wield -- and all those other officials, state and local? Democratic governance requires constant education to make people actors, something more than bemused spectators.
• • •
This hearing was also a short course in what elections feel like to the people who work in them (as I long have). I recognized Fox data journalist Chris Stirewalt's obvious pride in his team; their early, and accurate, call that Biden would eventually win Arizona certainly told me that night that, whatever bumps came along in the count, Dems had pulled through. As a pure instance of electoral professionalism, Stirewalt's delight in his work was a joy to see. (By the way, Fox later fired him for getting it right.)
I could even recognize how Trump's sad sack campaign manager Bill Stepien described watching the election slip away as votes came in and he could see the campaign was not hitting its goals. I remember doing that as New Mexico gave its electors to George W. Bush by a mere 4000 votes in 2004. Not feeling sorry for Stepien though: he's managing the campaign of the Trump-endorsed GOPer trying to supplant Liz Cheney as Wyoming's one congresscritter.
More to come.
Monday, June 13, 2022
Wisconsin: back to basics against kleptocracy and authoritarianism
It's depressing, but I'm grateful.
This journalist, originally from the Badger State, lays out the story of how Wisconsin became a kind of tightly-walled right wing preserve, more like Victor Orban's Hungary than I could have imagined.
Donald Trump's victory [in 2016] may have shocked the Clinton campaign and media pundits, but the result merely heralded the final stage of Wisconsin's dramatic transformation from a pioneering beacon of progressive, democratic politics to the embodiment of that legacy's unraveling. ... Throughout the twentieth century, Wisconsin led the country in devising ... progressive legislation that aided the vast majority of its citizens. ... If conservatives cannot tolerate a state that offers what Wisconsin once did, what kind of future is there for the American citizen?Kaufman is thorough and devastating. His approach is thematic:
• He describes how Scandinavian immigrants brought a communitarian ethos to their new home; these settlers were instinctive abolitionists, appalled by the Fugitive Slave Law of 1854 which empowered slavers to chase their "lost property" to free states. They founded the Republican Party at Ripon, Wisconsin that year.
• In the latter 19th and early 20th century, Robert "Fighting Bob" LaFollette Sr., governor from 1906 to 1925, articulated a bold vision for his democratic, farmer, labor coalition:
The purpose of government, [LaFollette] believed, was to alleviate economic suffering, foster equality, and encourage active citizenship to preserve American democracy.• But a contemporary Republican governor Scott Walker (in office 2011 to 2019) managed to do away with all that.
• With his Republican buddies in the legislature, he succeeded in outlawing collective bargaining and the union shop in the public sector. (Not including the police unions, of course.) The complacency and anti-Black racism of the established union leadership didn't help Walker's opposition.
• Walker managed to shut tribal people and environmentalists out of the process of giving over parts of the state for oil pipelines.
• The local Dems and some unions sought, unsuccessfully, to recall Walker. The national Democratic Party under Obama's designates didn't assist. As Californians have reason to know, when a recall fails, the surviving office holder is cemented in place. (See Difi and Gavin.)
• Walker's Republican buddies then enacted a Koch Brothers-designed legislative program to weaken unions, shrink public services, and eviscerate higher public education. They gerrymandered the state legislature so GOPers have a death grip on state law-making, despite not winning a majority of the statewide vote.
• Even the election -- statewide -- of Democratic governor Tony Evers in 2018 didn't reverse the tide as that legislature stripped the governor's office of many of its powers.
• Joe Biden did win Wisconsin in 2020 -- when all those cheeseheads turn out, Dems can still win.
All is not lost in Wisconsin. Kaufman's book dates from 2018 and is an important description of how democracy has been overthrown in one state while a pretense of rule of law endures. But Wisconsin Democrats are fighting back. The Wisconsin Democratic Party is one of the most activist anywhere, carrying on grassroots base organizing, in and out of season. For our Future WI is a coalition project of unions and nonprofits meeting citizens where they are and organizing a progressive civil society base.
In Wisconsin, it's not enough to mourn -- progressives are also organizing.
Sunday, June 12, 2022
The GOP is killing its own base among old people
This isn't about vaccine-rejection and anti-masking hysteria. This was pre-COVID:
In this national analysis [from the BMJ - a peer reviewed publication from the trade union of the British Medical Association], we found that Americans living in counties that voted Democratic during presidential elections from 2000 to 2016 experienced lower age adjusted mortality rates (AAMRs) than residents of counties that voted for a Republican candidate, and these patterns were consistent across subgroups (sex, race and ethnicity, urban-rural location). The gap in overall AAMR between Democratic and Republican counties increased more than sixfold from 2001 to 2019, driven primarily by changes in deaths due to heart disease, cancer, lower respiratory tract diseases, unintentional injuries, and suicide.
|Click to enlarge|
"Unintentional injuries" is a euphemism for opioid deaths.
It's not so much that old Republicans were dying of different causes than old Democrats -- both were mostly afflicted by heart disease, cancer, and cardio-vascular ailments. But Democratic counties did a better job of reducing mortality among their old people, based on such factors as Medicaid expansion (access to health insurance coverage), stronger tobacco and gun control, and more generous social welfare systems in general.
It does seem counter-productive -- no, ghoulish -- for a political party to cooperate in killing off its supporters.
H/t commenters at Emptywheel.
Saturday, June 11, 2022
San Francisco doldrums
The ejection by recall of San Francisco D.A. Chesa Boudin only spotlights our broader season of discontent. I decided several months ago that my adjective for the public mood was "pissy" and I'm sticking with it.
Consider what the Examiner found in a late May poll: Mayor London Breed is no favorite either.
Only 16% of The City’s voters plan to vote for Breed in the next election, according to The Examiner poll. Twenty-nine percent of voters said they would “definitely vote for someone else,” 40% said they would “consider voting for someone else” and 15% were not sure. These terrible figures seem even more grim when you consider that even the beleaguered Boudin won 40% of the vote.
Of course, under The City’s convoluted ranked-choice voting system, Breed could still manage to pull off a win. But such dismal voter ratings are hardly an argument in favor of her re-election, much less a vote of confidence in San Francisco’s future.I wouldn't bet on Breed being overthrown in the next election; you need a potent candidate to oust even an unpopular incumbent. But we're not happy with the Mayor.
We are just not happy. We experienced a deadly pandemic and nobody fixed it. And it lingers on.
Although the official count says less people are living on the streets, an awful lot visibly are. And they are dying of drug overdoses all too often. And nobody seems to have fixed anything about this visible misery.tell pollsters that crime is rising -- though objectively our individual danger of experiencing a crime has fallen for decades. The pandemic seems to have unleashed threats to Asian-origin people. Somebody must be to blame. We hear almost daily about yet another shooter somewhere in the country ... We're pissy.
Meanwhile, less publicly than the problems in the prosecutor's office, the San Francisco Police Department seems to be a futile bunch:
The head of the police union, Tony Montoya, has been forced to step down amid accusations of theft and/or embezzlement.
Though Chief Scott complains he doesn't have enough officers and wants more spiffy facilities, SFPD simply doesn't do a very good job (vis Mission Local.)
The SFPD’s arrest rate is typically low — 8.1 percent in 2021 — and clearances (rates of charging suspects) dropped further in many categories this year. Seven percent of rapes, six percent of motor vehicle thefts, and fewer than 10 percent of burglaries have been cleared in 2022.
And the department’s track record in arresting and using force against people of color still points to extreme racial bias: Black people are 12 times as likely to have force used on them, and 10 times as likely to be searched as whites.Those stats makes me pissy. Why should we spend yet more money on these stiffs? Yet that's the Mayor's plan, endorsed by most of the Board of Supervisors.
San Francisco doldrums indeed.
Friday, June 10, 2022
January 6 committee hearings: a surprising ethical emphasis
Thompson invoked the example of the greatest exponent of democratic civic virtue the country has produced, President Lincoln:
Thinking back again to the Civil War, in the summer of 1864, the President of the United States was staring down what he believed would be a doomed bid for reelection. He believed his opponent, General George McClellan, would wave the white flag when it came to preserving the Union. But even with that grim fate hanging in the balance, President Lincoln was ready to accept the will of the voters, come what may. He made a quiet pledge.
He wrote down the words, “This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so co-operate with the President elect....”
It will be my duty.
Lincoln sealed that memo and asked his cabinet secretaries to sign it, sight unseen. He asked them to make the same commitment he did. To accept defeat if indeed defeat was the will of the people. To uphold the rule of law. To do what every other President who came before him did... and what every President who followed him would do.
Until Donald Trump.Both Thompson and Cheney recalled to listeners that Congressmembers and all federal workers swear an oath (introduced during what my ancestors would have called the Rebellion of the South against Union, freedom, and modernity) to defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic.
Cheney evoked the oft un-noted notion of political honor:
“Tonight, I say this to my Republican colleagues who are defending the indefensible: There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.”This is not how we talk about our politics. There is good reason. Many citizens feel they have been lied to over and over about unjust and unjustifiable U.S. wars ever since Vietnam. Too many have seen promises of prosperity crumble into rust and privation. Religious charlatans spew fear and vitriol in place of inspiration -- and often directly abuse and exploit their vulnerable flocks. Anger and cynicism eclipse civic virtue.
And yet, if this country is to make it through the challenges of our time, we need to be able to speak of and promote civic virtue.
Perhaps coincidentally, a religion professor at the conservative Wheaton College, Esau McCaulley, offers a challenging call in today's New York Times to Christians -- mostly of the more conservative sort -- who hold what he labels "a deficient doctrine of sin and evil, limiting it to the individual." Writing about opposition to controls of guns, he concludes:
If some Christians refuse to do this good it will not be because believing in “evil hearts” eliminates the need for gun reform. It will be because they refuse to accept what the Christian faith teaches: Societies, like individual hearts, can be broken and twisted.As we are by the January 6 hearings, we are recalled to collective civic virtue.
Friday cat blogging
Thursday, June 09, 2022
What Does It Mean that Women Now Dominate Higher Education?
Erudite Partner has wondered for awhile, "where did the boys go?" They have haven't been in the college classes she's taught for the last 15 years -- at least not as many of them as girls of the same age. And her own bright nephew didn't want any part of college either.
I started teaching ethics at the University of San Francisco in 2005. It soon struck me that there were invariably more women in my classes than men. Nor was the subject matter responsible, since everyone had to pass a semester of ethics to graduate from that Jesuit university. No, as it turned out, my always-full classes represented the school’s overall gender balance. For a few years, I wondered whether such an overrepresentation of women could be attributed to parents who felt safer sending their daughters to a Catholic school, especially in a city with San Francisco’s reputation for sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.
Recently, though, I came to realize that my classes were simply part of a much larger phenomenon already beginning to worry some observers. Until about 1990, men invariably outnumbered women at every level of post-secondary education and more of them graduated, too. At four-year colleges and in post-graduate programs or in community colleges (once they became more prevalent), more men earned two-year, four-year, master’s, and doctorate-level degrees.
It was during the 1970s that the ratio began to shift. ...
For her new article from Tom Dispatch, posted at DailyKos, she did the research and looks at the implications of the growing predominance of women in higher education ...
School's out in the 'hood
Wednesday, June 08, 2022
To be continued ...
Being a San Francisco progressive is always about living to fight another day. (At least, usually -- didn't work out that way for George Moscone and Harvey Milk.)
So on the morning after moderate Democrats succeeded in throwing out Chesa Boudin, I find myself contemplating again the map of yesterday's recall and the new 2022 supervisor districts.
Here's the Boudin recall map:
|Click to enlarge.|
Here are the districts:
|Click to enlarge.|
As I noted when these districts were enacted, the major implications were that the Boudin-supporting Inner Sunset and Cole Valley areas are now moved to Districts 7 and 8.
Meanwhile we await the next time the SFPD kills someone and people have to take to the streets to demand action from whoever London Breed installs ...
Tuesday, June 07, 2022
Good news from California
Too often, it feels hard to believe that the state of California is doing something right. Wealth disparities between haves and have nots are so vast; the gas our car-dependent culture requires is so expensive; our big cities seem a little squalid these days. So it's heartening to see some good news about the post-pandemic recovery. It seems to be advancing the well-being of some of us who most need it.
PPIC explains in part:
...Black and Latino unemployment rates are closer to pre-pandemic levels than those of other groups: 6.5% and 5.5% in the first quarter of 2022, respectively. These patterns are driven largely by sectors of work. Though Latino workers are overrepresented in sectors that saw the largest pandemic downturns, like leisure and hospitality, they are also overrepresented in construction and agriculture jobs, which have fared relatively well. Transportation and warehousing is one of the more common industries of work for Black Californians, and the strength of that sector during the pandemic also contributes to the stronger recovery pattern here.
Monday, June 06, 2022
Intellectual honesty about Russia
Moscow-born historian Vladislav Zubok, a professor at the London School of Economics, writes a blow-by-blow account of the previously unimaginable in Collapse: The Fall of the Soviet Union. The unraveling of the second most powerful state in the world involved an intricate dance of actions and inactions, political calculations and miscalculations, internal jealousies and external pressures; Zubok catalogues these exhaustively.
From a slightly more distanced perspective, what happened to the USSR is simpler.
• The state-run command economy installed by Stalin in the 1930s, which endured largely intact to the end, failed to meet the needs or answer the aspirations of Russians and the Soviet empire's associated states.
• The Communist Party of the USSR didn't have a fix -- and its leaders and functionaries plodded on grimly under Stalin's successors without coming to terms with the country's stasis.
• Somehow this sclerotic system elevated Mikhail Gorbachev to its top job as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1985. Gorbachev proved to have more innovative ideas for resolving Soviet stasis than his predecessors, but was also ignorant of the nuts and bolts of economic policy and given to naive illusions about how state power worked. He opened up the system, but Zubok passes on a metaphor for what followed:
'He and his followers have no map; their compass is broken. They are under the impression that the ship is sailing westwards, whereas in reality it is heading south. As the voyage becomes more and more difficult, the captain decides that his crew are unreliable saboteurs. So he turns to inexperienced passengers keen to take part in the voyage and lets them deliberate among themselves on the best ways to reach the Promised Land’.That a person so inept at using power could have risen to the commanding heights of the Soviet Communist edifice is the greatest mystery of it all. One might have expected an authoritarian system would raise up a determined, cunning autocrat (such as Mr. Putin.) Instead, according to Zubok, Gorbachev was a hapless dreamer.
• Boris Yeltsin, with a lot of help from the incompetence of other political figures and Western leaders led by President GHW Bush, pushed his way to the top of the heap in the crack up, pushing out Gorbachev. He served his own interests by facilitating the dissolving of the Soviet Union into a dysfunctional federation of states. He then ruled the Russia that remained intact. In this era, the Warsaw Pact nations of Eastern Europe had bolted for the exits when a chance opened; the Baltic nations followed. The resulting Russian Federation was much diminished, a far cry from the czarist Russian and Soviet empires. And further defections and discontents followed.
• Back in the early 1990s, as the dissolution was happening, the current conflict with an independent Ukraine was foreshadowed; fully 80 percent of Ukrainians voted in a referendum back then to split off from Russia. Neither Gorbachev nor Yeltsin understood then that Ukrainian nationalism was a genuine force. Putin's Ukraine delusions about Ukrainian affection for Russia have a long history.
All the details of this evolution are there in Zubok's volume. I have to admit, collapse still seems a bit incomprehensible in Collapse. The economic context comes closest to making some sense of it all, but the political actors don't quite compute for this reader. No wonder a Vladimir Putin was able to seize control of the resulting rickety Federation. Nonetheless I appreciated reading more background because Russia matters all the more at present.
Zubok has summarized his best explanation for his enormous effort:
‘My book is not an exercise in ‘how the evil empire could have been preserved.’ Rather it is an attempt to be intellectually honest about what happened’.
A closing argument for a District Attorney who is breaking the mold
Sunday, June 05, 2022
A lawn-ordure mayor for LA?
In which I violate my own usual practice and engage in horserace election commentary ...
Bass came out of working as a physician assistant and founded the grassroots development organization Community Coalition in South LA. She jumped to the state Assembly in 2004 and the US Congress in 2011. She's an accomplished, solid Democratic urban politician, with perhaps more on the ground experience with the hard stuff than most.
Caruso is an unheralded eruption in the Los Angeles political landscape. He has no government experience to speak of beyond serving on an appointed commission. He's a shape shifter who has changed his party registration four times in the last eleven years. And he's spending literally millions of his own money -- $34 million so far -- mostly on TV ads. Bass has raised some $5 million and spent $2 million on TV. Caruso has used his advertising advantage to keep the campaign focused on tickling those usual urban post-pandemic sore spots: homelessness and crime.
... the Los Angeles Police Protective League, which represents more than 9,000 rank-and-file officers, [is] making another major push at City Hall. ... So far, the union has moved nearly $4 million into an independent campaign committee targeting the mayoral bid of Rep. Karen Bass.As if Caruso needed any more cash for his attempt to buy California's big city.
Current polling shows Bass marginally ahead but neither candidate with enough support to prevent a second round. To be continued in November ...
Preview of what the Congressional committee investigating January 6 will try to show
This guy is not someone I'd expect to find myself appreciating. He's a security spook who served as a Republican Congressman from Virginia. He's almost a caricature of a jargon spewing military guy. But what he saw working with the committee wrenched his being. Watch this.
In this clip, Anderson Cooper comes off as a serious journalist.
Denver Riggleman, a former Republican congressman who helped the January 6 committee link text messages sent to and from Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, tells CNN's Anderson Cooper what scared him about what he uncovered about the January 6 insurrection.
Apparently the Committee is fuming about Riggleman going public. The televised hearings starting on Thursday promise to be interesting.