Bill McKibben reminds me of an Old Testament prophet. His decades of arguing and campaigning for action to prevent and mitigate human-caused climate change have often been an unheeded voice in a wilderness of noise.
Except that McKibben, though just as dedicated as those angry ancients, is more forgiving of human foibles. And, as he sees even Joe Manchin forced to take up a bit of the climate struggle (if the current Congressional deal survives), he wants to make sure credit is distributed where it belongs for what is being described as the best climate bill in thirty years.
Zeitgeist matters ... most of all it was, I think, the widespread public scorn. Somehow it began to break through to Manchin that the only thing history would ever remember about him is that he blocked action on the worst crisis humans have ever faced.
There’s no longer a real public doubt about climate change. Yes, for partisan Republicans it remains fun to pretend it’s a hoax, but after thirty years of science, fifteen years of movement building, and an ever-increasing cascade of fires, floods, heatwaves and droughts, the public mood is finally strong enough to at least begin to match the political power of the fossil fuel industry.
You could feel it building when Bernie made it a key campaign issue in 2016; by 2020, every Democratic candidate was on board, because primary polling showed it was one of the top two issues for voters. The political force most responsible for this victory was the Sunrise Movement; those young people built that wave and then rode it with immense skill.
But this is a win engineered by everyone who ever wrote a letter to the editor, carried a sign at a march, went to jail blocking a pipeline, voted to divest a university endowment, sent ten dollars to a climate group, made their book club read a climate book. It’s for the climate justice activists who brought this fight into whole new terrain, the scientists who’ve protested, the policy wonks who wonked, and the people whose particular fights may have been sacrificed by the terms of this deal. (Them in particular—if Manchin had to deal because a pipeline he wanted was going down in flames, well, the people who made that possible are heroes).
And when this climate package becomes law, McKibben has another direction in which climate activists need to turn our energies:
... the movement now needs to shift more of its attention and vigor from Politics to the other player big enough to matter, Finance. There’s been lots of wonderful work on banks and asset managers, but it’s never had the undivided attention given to politics (in part because it doesn’t have the regularly scheduled elections to drive that focus, though shareholder season in the spring gets a little more notice each year). Taking on the big banks is key (join our Banking on the Future pledge at Third Act if you haven’t already); if you had any doubts, note that it’s the strategy the fossil fuel industry is busily adopting. West Virginia, Texas, et al are trying to intimidate banks to keep lending to Big Carbon; we need the treasurers of blue cities and states (where most of the money lives) to match their game. ...
... I ... thought of the hundreds of thousands of people who have played roles large or small in those divestment campaigns around the world. There’s lots more we can do; we’ve got momentum now, and the best use of momentum is to roll over the opposition.
Listen to Mr. McKibben. He's been a faithful prophet.
Janeway has had to learn that, at reform school and summer camp, you only get to eat at meal times. She's gotten the hang of it -- and checks out the dishes belonging to her larger comrades when she gets a chance.
Okay naturalists, help me out. What kind of animal is eating or clawing this tree? There's no evidence that it's a animal human -- no sign of ax or saw marks. The tree grows (it's large) on the edge of the duck pond pictured in the blog header. It's one of the largest; none of the others show these marks? And ideas?
This was indeed a sunset. And this hotel proved more than the committed, hard-working folks who are UniteHERE union canvassers could bear. They know how a hotel should be run; how cleanliness and customer service matter; how guests should be treated. And this joint failed the hotel worker test, big time. And yes, some people complained of bed bugs.
So, although this interrupts the flow of the campaign, we're all moving nearby. The move may very likely interrupt this blog for a day or so ... but hey, that's what you need to know about campaigns: you should be ready to flex with the flow, whether material or in the political atmosphere.
Hey, I know something about this. I was working a campaign during the San Francisco earthquake of 1989. A whole city lost its equilibrium for days and there we were with a campaign to win. (We didn't.) But that's another story.
Picture of the new digs -- also temporary and a big step up -- for at least the next two weeks.
Perhaps not in history yet to be written, but certainly in this moment, it's the women who are deep-sixing the Donald. Not women I can identify with. Too many thought they could get something by going along with this misogynist, patriarchal boor -- until they couldn't stomach his selfishness and moral cowardice any longer.
If they are like most women, they had long been willing to give guys they like a little slack about some patriarchal habits -- we live in a society which doesn't make it easy for even good men to be good.
One might have thought Donald Trump exceeded the allowance women make for men a long time ago, but these women determined to follow their own agendas -- until Trump violated not only their own dignity, but the patriotic Constitutionalism in which they found a different loyalty.
Exhibit A is Liz Cheney. That's challenging for anyone who has been paying attention. Her wily political operator dad Dick was the central figure in making the United States a country that tortures its perceived enemies. If that's not a betrayal of any positive vision for this country, I don't know what is.
Once upon a time, not so long ago, Liz Cheney was willing to diss her own sister's lesbian family to stay in tune with the homophobic Republican voters who elect her. Only a year ago, she loudly recanted her past position on NPR:
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., expressed regret over her earlier opposition to same-sex marriage, a position she took eight years ago that led to a public falling out with her sister, Mary, who is gay and married with children.
"I was wrong. I was wrong. I love my sister very much. I love her family very much," the lawmaker said in an interview on CBS' 60 Minutes.
I have to wonder: did that moral realization perhaps prepare Cheney to recognize that in the case of the Donald, the only way forward was to do the thing she knows is right. And that she has a lot of women with her.
In the course of exposing Mr. Trump’s elaborate effort to overturn the 2020 election, the House committee has relied on the accounts of several women who came forward to publicly tell their stories. Their statements, and the attacks that ensued, laid bare how women often still pay a higher price than men for speaking up. ...
The result has been that as the committee unfurls the story of the Jan. 6 attack — playing footage of a mostly male crowd laying waste to the Capitol in Mr. Trump’s name, with the president looking on supportively from the West Wing — many of the witnesses who have emerged most prominently have been women, with Ms. Cheney as their defender. ... Yet while male witnesses have received some criticism from the right — in Mr. Cipollone’s case, Mr. Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., tweeted that he should “grow a spine & go on record” — the attacks have not been at the same volume or intensity, or of the same degree of personal nastiness, as those against Ms. Hutchinson in particular.
Cheney isn’t mad. She’s disappointed. Her demeanor is exactly that of a mom who has been called out of her office in the middle of a work day because her teenage kid is in the principal’s office for pulling some idiotic, illegal, and dangerous prank. She knows that he knows exactly how badly he’s fucked up, that the consequences will be serious and they are inevitable. She will entertain no excuses or evasions or any other form of trifling objection. She mostly wants him to acknowledge what he’s have done, and promise not to do it again.
But you can only be disappointed in someone who’s capable of better behavior, and that gives Cheney’s reproaches a sting that’s been missing in the often much louder denunciations from Democrats who routinely dismiss Republicans as hopeless deplorables.
I'll give a last word on Cheney (for now) to Marcy Wheeler, never someone who is conned by the ethical shenanigans of opportunists and politicians:
... minutes after saluting the bravery of women like Cassidy Hutchinson, Cheney pivoted to the historical moment of women’s suffrage.
"In this room, in 1918, the committee on women’s suffrage convened, to discuss and debate whether women should be granted the right to vote. This room is full of history and we on this committee know we have a solemn obligation not to idly squander what so many Americans have fought and died for. ..."
... as Cheney attempts to convince Republicans that Donald Trump made them betray their patriotism, she is pitching the alternative in distinctly female form.
Just before she goes home to lose her primary, badly, this woman is committing to coming back in September to continue the work of trying to persuade her fellow conservatives to believe in the truth again.
If I were a Wyoming voter with my convictions, would I switch parties briefly to vote for Liz? Not sure I would. A Cheney is a Cheney. But if I were a person who lived in Wyoming, I might be a Democrat who would make the temporary switch.
This time around he has to run against Georgia's beloved football hero, Hershel Walker. For fans of the Georgia Bulldogs, the Heisman-winning running back is close to a demi-god. But the Trump-endorsed GOP pick has NO qualifications to be a U.S. Senator. He's a serial domestic abuser whose ex-wife has charged he choked her. He has struggled with a mental health diagnosis of multiple personality disorder. Speaking about gun violence, he's downright incoherent.
Warnock goes straight at Walker's strength in this ad, bravely making fun of himself on Walker's athletic turf. Warnock insists he is the Senator the people of the state need, one who is representing Georgians.
It's a strong ad and Warnock is a fine comedic performer.
People I've never seen before and most likely will never see again have been doing me unlooked for kindnesses lately.
One day I dropped my phone while clambering into the car. A guy who works down the street picked it up and left me a note, saving my vital tool and much of my sanity.
Here in Reno, I walk briskly around what we call "the duck pond" in the cool of the morning. See the blog header for a glimpse of this lovely place. Because the path runs right next to townhouses, I figured as a courtesy to reduce clicking noises, I'd put rubber tips on the trekking poles I use to get velocity.
But the path also runs over several wooden bridges and I quickly lost the new tips to the cracks. A day or so later, another walker stopped to ask me: "did you lose some tips from your canes?"
"I sure did." He reached in his pocket and handed over the tips which he must have found at two different ends of the pond. He'd pocketed them hoping to meet the walker. It was a lovely moment.
The skies of this desert place put me in mind of the kindness and glory of the Creator almost every day. (The motel below, our temporary home, is not such a pleasure, but it grounds the photo and the hard pressed staff do their best, despite a shortage of people to do the work.)
The splendor of the daytime skies equals the drama of the sunsets.
Such splendor all around, as we labor on this campaign to keep Nevada blue.
Talking with voters -- persuading them that your candidates are the right ones -- is a very high skill. Nothing less than thousands of real conversations works. Training and practice help.
But nowadays, in any big operation, some amount of computer fluency is also a big part of campaigning.
• Voter databases, ultimately derived from each state's voter rolls, usually enhanced by various criteria including voting history and political party registration, make it possible to target people who need the extra shove of a human interaction from a canvasser. Maintaining and distributing those databases is the mysterious and wonderful work of campaign "data nerds."
• The canvassers using this data to guide their steps to the voters encounter the information in dedicated data applications on tablets or, in a pinch, on their smart phones. Voter list applications have gotten better and better. Still, canvassers are confronted by an unfamiliar interface of varying clarity. First they need to get into the current app; access is sometimes the initial hurdle depending on app, equipment, and canvasser ingenuity.
Then they have to understand how they are supposed to mark the various options presented by the scripts which the app presents. Simple questions present themselves: "How am I supposed to mark it if there is nobody home?" "What if the house has been condemned?" "What if she said she'd vote for one of our candidates but hates another?" The possibilities are legion and never entirely resolved. Canvassers learn over time to be more fluent at using the app to convey to the data nerds the valuable information their conversations yield.
• And using the canvassing app is not the only computer skill demanded of contemporary canvassers. We still have to worry about COVID, so canvassers have to sign into a Google form every day and report whether they have any symptoms. We don't want to be pandemic spreaders.
• And team leaders need to stay in touch with their canvassers. Text messages and meeting place announcements fly about all day!
Our folks come in all kinds. Most work in the hotel and restaurant industries that their union UniteHERE/Culinary Workers organizes. Others are ordinary individuals glad to take on a hard job to defeat Republicans. Some are happy, ingenious geeks, taking to the tech delightedly. Some find the technology daunting: they may be highly sophisticated chefs in a banquet hall kitchen or casino, but this computer stuff is new and confusing.
Everybody learns a lot, the digitally comfortable trying to help their comrades and the digitally anxious living on the internet for the first time. That's what working on a campaign is like.
This campaign still has paid places available. Anyone looking for meaningful work struggling against the Right from now to November should check out this link and apply to join the campaign!
The fire in our time burns all around Europe. Not so much in northern California yet this year, where we've become somewhat used to seasons of flame. But we all know fire is coming. Meanwhile, across "old Europe," this.
Scene from Spain
In a Berlin international confab, the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres spoke the obvious truth:
“Half of humanity is in the danger zone from floods, droughts, extreme storms and wildfires. No nation is immune. Yet we continue to feed our fossil fuel addiction,” Guterres said in a video message to the assembled leaders on Monday.
“What troubles me most is that, in facing this global crisis, we are failing to work together as a multilateral community. Nations continue to play the blame game instead of taking responsibility for our collective future. We cannot continue this way,” Guterres said.
“We have a choice. Collective action or collective suicide. It is in our hands.”
Yet here in the United States, the Biden climate agenda is stalled, unlikely to be resurrected against unanimous Republican obstruction and a political class captured by fossil fuel kleptocrats. We're not getting done what must be done. The United States acts as an impediment to what the peoples of the world need.
It is worth putting our failure in a global context as well as a domestic one. Here's what that wise economic historian Adam Tooze has to say about the inability of Congress to move on climate:
Reading the commentary ... you would be forgiven for thinking that it implied a death warrant for the world. But such exaggerations reflect the shock of the moment rather than clear-headed analysis of America’s actual influence on world affairs in 2022.
There may once have been a moment, in the 1990s perhaps, where global climate politics really did revolve around the battles in Washington DC. But today that is a deeply anachronistic view. America’s share of global emissions is less than 14 percent, half that of China, and its share is falling year by year.
Of course, a world with a cooperative, United States committed to the energy transition would be a better world. Trump showed how the US can anchor an anti climate coalition.
But even with an obstructive United States, the energy transition in Europe and large parts of Asia has a momentum that will carry it forward regardless. ...
As far as the world is concerned it merely confirms the fact that the US is an unreliable partner in the energy transition and has an in-built and profound structural bias towards fossil fuels.
The collapse of Build Back Better is bad news, above all, for America itself. ...
It's not as if large majorities of people in this country don't understand a roasting planet will hurt us all and should be avoided as much as we are able. But the other emergencies of our lives -- rising prices, inadequate wages, scarcity of affordable housing, assaults on women's freedom -- crowd out our ability to focus on making politicians do what needs to be done.
We aren't getting answers from the political class. I guess we have to be the political class; we must engage with every lever left in this flawed democracy to force the system to serve us all.
Well, I'be darned. My (courtesy) niece took the cause of women and girls who have lost their constitutional right to abortions to Congress yesterday. You go, girl!
Check out the organization she founded and leads:
We Testify is an organization dedicated to the leadership and representation of people who have abortions, increasing the spectrum of abortion storytellers in the public sphere, and shifting the way the media understands the context and complexity of accessing abortion care. We Testify invests in abortion storytellers to elevate their voices and expertise, particularly those of color, those from rural and conservative communities, those who are queer-identified, those with varying abilities and citizenship statuses, and those who needed support when navigating barriers while accessing abortion care.
We Testify unapologetically believes that people who have abortions are our future. We believe that everyone who has abortions deserves unconditional love and support. We believe that people who have abortions deserve to be in every space where decisions are being made. To borrow from the disability justice movement, there should be nothing about us without us. We are the leaders we’ve been waiting for.
We who love her are so proud! And ready to carry on the fight!
San Francisco may have hated Trump, but the yawning gap between our rich high flyers and our increasingly hard-pressed poor and working class residents has made us ripe for our own adoption of urban cruelty. In this post-pandemic time (is the pandemic really over?), we're suckers for apparent "solutions" to squalor on the streets -- "solutions" that aim to sweep away people and pain we don't want to see. This is what we are getting in our angry frustration.
A lightly edited thread from Peter Calloway (@petercalloway), a San Francisco public defender, reports what he is seeing.
The Drug War is officially back on in San Francisco. For the first time in years, people are being prosecuted for simply using drugs or possessing paraphernalia. It’s hard to fully comprehend the harm this will cause. I’ll try to lay it out below.
First, a bit of background. For a long time, San Francisco has generally declined to use armed government agents to enforce restrictions on what ppl can put in their bodies or hold in their hands.
That’s because prosecuting drug users (and dealers, for that matter) goes against all available science and evidence on how to reduce drug use. You cannot arrest and imprison your way out of it. That’s been tried before—repeatedly, across the country, for decades. Does not work.
As a nation, we’ve spend hundreds of billions of $$ over decades trying this approach. What do we have to show for it? More people in prison and jail than any other country in the history of the world. Entire communities devastated. Generational trauma. Incalculable suffering.
The new DA, Brooke Jenkins, posed as a progressive while she was jockeying to be appointed to the office once the former DA, Chesa Boudin, was recalled with her help. It didn’t take long for her to show her true colors.
In the first week, she essentially disbanded units in the office responsible for things like undoing wrongful convictions, prosecuting cops for murder and excessive force, and sharing with the public all the data on who the office prosecutes, for what, and what outcome.
Now, she’s started charging people for possessing substances the government says it’s a crime to have, and for having paraphernalia. This will dramatically increase the number of arrests in San Francisco and likely cause the jail population to explode.
Many people will remain in jail while they await trial because they can’t afford to pay money bail to be released (Jenkins announced she would again use money bail in this way).
When the Drug War is on, even the best-intentioned wellness check can lead to violence.
People will be beaten by the police. Some may be killed. These outcomes are inevitable when increasing # of police contacts.
Families will be separated. Undocumented immigrants will be deported, where they may face violence in their home country after prolonged detention in horrific immigration facilities. Many, many more people will experience the trauma of being shackled and caged.
And consistent with SFPD’s well-documented track record, this will happen disproportionately to people of color, and exclusively to poor people.
But never fear, Jenkins has hired an all-female management team. Supporters will point to this, and to the fact that she is a Black and Latina woman, to justify, excuse, or ignore the harm she will directly cause to Black and Latinx and poor people. That’s like saying we should support Clarence Thomas because he is Black, or Amy Coney Barrett because she’s a woman. ...
... And watch, Jenkins and her office will couch their cruel and failed Drug War offensive in the language of compassion. They’ll say they want drug users to get help. That is false. What they are doing is utterly inconsistent with helping anyone.
Are they going to house people? Address trauma and poverty? Of course not. Remember, this is about wanting to hide from public view the consequences of enforcing their extractive utopia. Mayor Breed made that clear in what should have been a scandal here. ...
... San Francisco was far from perfect. Like anywhere, people suffer every day here because they are poor. The racial disparities in our criminal legal system are among the worst. But we have regressed immensely in just a matter of days. Things will almost certainly get worse.
Is this the city we San Franciscans want? I know we're tired and angry. But the city of St. Francis can do better.
In 2021 she was sentenced to 8 years in prison with a domestic terrorism enhancement. ... Under normal conditions Jess would have been sentenced to 37 months, but the terrorism enhancement resulted in a sentence of 96 months.
... repeatedly vandalized construction sites connected to the 1,172-mile [oil] pipeline in 2016 and 2017, setting a bulldozer on fire and using oxy-acetylene torches to damage pipeline valves across Iowa. The total cost of the damage is not known, but in one incident in Buena Vista County alone it was estimated at $2.5 million.
Nobody was hurt. Her protest damaged a corporation's bottom line and delayed the Dakota Access Pipeline much less than she, or many of us, would wish.
This tar sands oil pipeline could pollute the water supply of much of the Mississippi River Basin.
And more enhancements to the oil supply is the last thing any of us need in the era of climate change.
Reznicek did not try to hide from the feds when they came after her. This was classic civil disobedience.
But to a federal judge thinks she's a "terrorist" and sentenced her accordingly.
• • •
Meanwhile Heather Cox Richardson reports that in Washington, D.C., the courts are confronted by an offender who sure seems to me a better fit for the "terrorist" label.
... the Department of Justice requested that the first defendant from the January 6 insurrection to be convicted at trial, Guy Reffitt, be sentenced to 15 years in prison. This is an upward adjustment of sentencing guidelines because the department is asking the judge to consider Reffitt’s actions as terrorism, since the offense for which he was convicted “was calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct.”
Reffitt was a leader of the Texas Three Percenters militia gang, which calls for “rebellion” against the federal government. He came to Washington, D.C., for January 6. He attacked U.S. Capitol Police officers and encouraged others to do so before entering the Capitol armed with a handgun, where he targeted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and then–Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
A camera on his helmet recorded Reffitt’s words that day. “I’m taking the Capitol with everybody f*cking else,” Reffitt told the people around him. “We’re all going to drag them m*therf*ckers out kicking and screaming. I don’t give a sh*t. I just want to see Pelosi’s head hit every f*cking stair on the way out. (Inaudible) F*ck yeah. And Mitch McConnell too. F*ck ‘em all. They f*cked us too many g*dd*mn years for too f*cking long. It’s time to take our country back. I think everybody’s on the same d*mn wavelength. And I think we have the numbers to make it happen…. [W]e’ve got a f*cking president. We don’t need much more. We just get rid of them m*therf*ckers and start over.”
Afterward, he boasted, “We took the Capital [sic] of the United States of America and we will do it again.”
Now that's one scary guy. Prison is no good for anyone, But there are sure a lot of us who don't want him near by.
A winning political campaign is not a crowd of people running around hollering about their candidates. It's meticulous work to identify and talk with potential supporters and record their responses, so we will know who we must encourage to vote in November.
And having those conversations isn't a kind of magic. It's a learned skill. A very high skill indeed, in my opinion. So door knockers practice and then practice some more, refining their raps.
And then canvassers need to learn how to record the information on tablet computers. This should be simple, but as we all know, with electronic gadgets, there is a learning curve.
So this is the work we're learning to do here in the middle of July in Las Vegas and Reno. Nobody does a better job of training for campaigns as a kind of organizing than UniteHERE/Culinary workers. It's a pleasure to see this done well.
While I was getting my hair cut the other day to prepare for roasting in Nevada, another customer began talking about the upcoming midterm elections. (Okay, I prompted a bit.) A transplant from Phoenix, Arizona to San Francisco, she allowed as how there's nothing to work on around here. Now that's not quite true, but I could see how moving in from a battleground state might leave her feeling out of the fight politically.
And that reminded me that I want to post, courtesy of Dan Walters at CalMatters, a little about the few U.S. Congressional contests in California that could be highly significant. Walters' words with my commentary in italics:
—Republican Mike Garcia, a former fighter pilot, defeated Christy Smith, a Democratic assemblywoman, in a special election for a congressional seat in Los Angeles’ northern suburbs in 2020. He then eked out a 333-vote win over Smith for a full term later that year, despite a 7.5% Democratic voter registration edge. Garcia hopes his third matchup with Smith this year will also be a charm, but the new 27th Congressional District has a 12%-plus Democratic voter margin, making him decidedly more vulnerable. What a marathon battle those two have had! The new district could be a very necessary Democratic pick up.
—Katie Porter, a Democratic congresswoman from Orange County who has acquired a high national political profile, won her Irvine-centered district despite its slight Republican voter registration margin and her new district (CD 47) now has a slight Democratic edge, which should make re-election easier. However, Republican challenger Scott Baugh, a former assemblyman and current Orange County GOP chairman, is a formidable fundraiser whose hopes ride on Biden’s unpopularity. We need to keep Porter's white board out there. She's a hell of an asset, an Elizabeth Warren in the making, on the younger side of the necessary generational transition in our politics.
—Hanford Republican David Valadao has been elected and re-elected by San Joaquin Valley voters despite a lopsided Democratic voter registration advantage. His newly redrawn, three-county district (CD 22) favors Democrats by more than 17 percentage points but Valadao hopes that his independent image — he was one of 10 Republican House members who voted to impeach Trump — will save him again. Having overcome stiff primary challenges from two other GOP candidates, Valadao now faces Rudy Salas, a Democratic assemblyman from Kern County, who counts on a high turnout of Latino voters to flip the seat. Dems keep coming up short against David Valadao. He's enjoyed districts where Democrats just don't bother to vote except in presidential years. Yet they have the registration numbers to win the seat -- again, a very necessary Democratic pick up for the next Congress.
—Democrat Mike Levin has won two terms in Congress from a coastal region — northern San Diego County and southern Orange County — that was long a Republican stronghold, but the very slight Democratic voter registration edge of his redrawn district (CD 49) fuels Republican hopes of a win if national trends invade the turf. Former San Juan Capistrano Mayor Brian Maryott beat four other Republican hopefuls for the right to take on Levin. This one could be tough to hold. This is a rematch from the 2020 election in which Levin defeated Maryott with 53 percent of the vote.
My new friend at the hair salon isn't likely to throw herself into helping in any of these California contests. But as we talked, she mentioned that she'd been talking to her son just the other day; he seemed so disillusioned with politics. He did the voting thing the last time and what did it get him? She realized she did have something she can do: she can make sure her son and every one of his friends DO turnout in November.
That's how winning midterms will come about: thousands of conversations that help voters move beyond discouragement.
Inflation is scary. When prices go up, we all wonder, "will I be able to afford gas? should I buy hot dogs instead of hamburger?" To most of us, inflation means mostly the higher prices we pay every day. But to a small business, inflation means a major disruption in the ecosystem in which they strive to survive.
Here's how a wonderful, small, creative business run by women with which I've had past dealings describes what inflation looks like to them. It's one of the clearer descriptions of an economic phenomenon I've ever read. Give it a read.
• Small business miseries
Our world has been on a very wild ride since the start of 2020. Our latest woe is inflation.
Here at [our little business], we are also struggling with inflation.
Inflation is a two-sided coin for a good business. We must keep our employee's wages up to combat their struggle with purchasing. ... we are doing our best to ensure our employee's economic welfare.
The other side of the coin is a business's need to purchase goods and services to run said business. Those costs are figured into the prices of a product. When expenses go up, the cost of a product goes up.
If every business raises the cost of their products, there is a cascade effect on the entire economy. It's a crazy cycle that can drive the economy into a tailspin.
Our raw materials are more expensive. The services we use, especially shipping, are more expensive. And our wages are through the roof. Yet for the next six months, we are going to hold the prices of our quilts where they are.
We are willing to forgo profits and break even for the next six months to see what happens to the overall economy.
We hope we don't need a huge price increase in January. But the inflation rate is over 8% right now.
Yes, I'm reproducing their ad here, because they deserve the publicity for the lucidity with which they explain what can feel like a mysterious, evil force of nature.
• • •
• People protecting themselves
And here's one of my favorite economic writers, Adam Tooze, offering some home truths about what inflation and economic policy responses means to workers and our societies. Like the small business owners, he too is realistic.
The BIS [Bank for International Settlements] may be of the view that on welfare and social justice grounds, low-inflation regimes dominate higher inflation regimes. But it nowhere spells out that argument. If that assumption does not hold, then favoring a low-inflation regime implies a distributional and a political choice.
And, more fundamentally, to view social and economic power, strictly from the point of view of price and wage setting is reductive. Indeed, it is reductive to view those institutions simply from the point of view of distribution.
Institutions of collective bargaining are not merely mechanisms for wage and price setting. One may value collective bargaining institutions in their own right, as complex articulations of social reality and as places where solidarity finds organized expression. One may value them as expressions of alternative visions of social balance. Up to the 1980s, organized labour was the backbone of social democratic politics and a partner of liberalism in the fashioning of democracy in capitalist societies.
Trade unions and structures of collective bargaining at all levels mattered not only because they counterbalanced elite power, but also because they gave intelligent and articulate expression to working-class grievances. They framed inequality in terms of social realities rather than imaginary enemies. Historically they did so in direct opposition to other forms of popular political mobilization - like fascism, for example. In recent decades it is not implausible to suggests that the rise of working-class support for nationalist populism is directly related to the decay of those collective institutions of labour organization. ...
Yes -- strong unions should help workers navigate turbulent economic seas with some hope of stability and safety. This is a moment in which unions making a comeback -- looking at you Amazon and Starbucks workers -- can breathe new energy into our struggling democracy.
It's all too easy to feel hopeless about curbing carbon emissions. The Supreme Court seems to be suggesting it won't let the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) do its job of reducing the amount of carbon we're pushing into the atmosphere. But even if the feds can't do much, states and cities can do a lot.
And Nevada is no slouch at adopting measures to mitigate climate change. Here's an argument from The Nevada Independent by Frank Fritz, a professor at the law school at UNLV, for local sustainability measures.
Clark County [Las Vegas] — and Nevada’s other urban areas — can take a big step forward by adopting a new and extremely promising kind of local law, called building performance standards. Clark County and other urban areas should start developing these laws now and adopt them as soon as possible. We should urge our local representatives (county commissioners, city council) to do so.
Building performance standards can help us save water, energy and money; reduce greenhouse gas emissions; avoid the worst consequences of climate change; and help businesses thrive. Reno adopted an early version of building performance standards in 2019....
The idea behind these standards fits well with Nevada's libertarian streak. In this model, cities establish standards and timelines -- it's up to builders and owners to figure out how to meet them.
And building performance standards needn't only be about reducing carbon emissions; such plans can also save water, the state's pressing emergency.
Erudite Partner is at it again, with an explanation of why, once again, we've returned to Reno for four months fighting the 2022 election campaign working with the union hotel and restaurant workers of UniteHERE. She comes to the project with plenty of misgivings:
How do I hate thee, electoral organizing? Let me count the ways. First,
such work requires that political activists like me go wide, but almost
never deep. It forces us to treat voters like so many items to be
checked off a list, not as political actors in their own right. Under
intense time pressure, your job is to try to reach as many people as
possible, immediately discarding those who clearly aren’t on your side
and, in some cases, even actively discouraging them from voting. In the
long run, treating elections this way can weaken the connection between
citizens and their government by reducing all the forms of democratic
participation to a single action, a vote. Such political work rarely
builds organized power that lasts beyond Election Day. ...
But a well designed campaign can have compensations -- and nobody is better at making the work of encouraging our voters to turn out more fruitful than the hospitality union. Members leave their jobs and knock on doors six days a week, talking with potential supporters, learning to listen, and forming enough of a bond to get discouraged citizens off their butts. It's the most basic work of organizing and it changes people who learn to practice it, as well as the voters.
Because we've done this before, literally out of the same extended stay motel in Reno, Nevada, we know what we'll need for the next 4 and a half months. Instead of supporting the local Reno economy, we're driving and bringing much of it (too much?) along.
At the other end, we'll have to figure out how to stow it all away in a 350 square foot motel room. Can be done.
While I'm on campaign in Nevada, there will probably be more of these occasional lists of links to provoking commentary. Some annotated by me.
David Frum reacts to the January 6 hearings: But if there is one lesson to take from the Trump years, it’s not the cynical Twitter joke “LOL nothing matters.” The lesson is that everything mattered: every act of conscience, every act of honest reporting, every denial of the Big Lie, every ballot. ... if or when you read somebody saying today, tomorrow, or at any time during these hearings that the hearings failed to accomplish something important, keep in mind: That will only be true if you let it be true.Yes, what we do matters. That's so hard to believe because nothing we do pans out right away -- or almost nothing. But choosing to do what we can changes us and what the future can look like. Or so I believe.
Juliette Kayyem on what knocking down Trump looks like: ... most of the committee’s witnesses against the former president are or were members of Team Trump or the GOP. Look at them, the committee is saying—there is a way out. ... longtime Trump skeptics aren’t the committee’s target audience. The message to his remaining supporters is: Trump has peaked. His best days are behind him. You won’t be the first to take the off-ramp, but you don’t want to be the last. ... If the former president ends up a rich, lonely man who can no longer fill a stadium, begging a dwindling number of radical adherents for attention while his children grift off his name, then America will have won. Nice image. And with the Atlanta indictments, we might get more. But the strain of Christian nationalist terrorism in some of the old, white, Republican constituency will be with us, even after Trump.
Retired Chicago journalist Mark Jacob: Let’s look at the characteristics of fascism and whether they define MAGA Republicanism. There’s a cult of personality. Check. There’s demonization of “outsiders” as a threat to the culture’s survival. Check. There’s the mindset that political opponents pose such a danger that stopping them justifies all means necessary, including lying and cheating. Check. There’s propaganda overwhelming or extinguishing journalism. Check. There’s coercion of businesses to force submission to the autocrat’s wishes. See Disney and Ron DeSantis. There’s social regimentation. See the efforts to roll back rights for women and LGBTQ people and impose Christian values in a country that’s supposed to have separation of church and state. Fascism also means there’s a drumbeat of violent rhetoric and corresponding violent actions. See January 6, 2021. He's scared by the GOPers. So am I.
Rayne at Emptywheel: There will be a change as the nation becomes less white because this country’s potential is a true liberal democracy in which each citizen has the vote. The question is whether change to realize the fullness of potential comes with increasing violence or not. The GOP is fine with more violence because any resulting deaths are more likely to support their grip on power by diminishing their opposition. Survivor wisdom.
Historian Thomas Zimmer wonders: ... is it possible to establish a stable multiracial, pluralistic democracy? Such a political, social and cultural order has indeed never existed. There have been several stable, fairly liberal democracies – but either they have been culturally and ethnically homogeneous to begin with; or there has always been a pretty clearly defined ruling group: a white man’s democracy, a racial caste democracy, a “herrenvolk” democracy. A truly multiracial, pluralistic democracy in which an individual’s status was not determined to a significant degree by race, gender, or religion? I don’t think that’s ever been achieved anywhere. It’s a vision that reactionaries abhor – to them, it would be the end of “western civilization”. And they are determined to fight back by whatever means necessary. Building a stable multiracial, pluralistic democracy is our generation's challenge, our wildly expanded version of what Abraham Lincoln asked almost 160 years ago: "Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure." We can hope that struggle doesn't descend into greater violence.
Carlos Lozada: The justices sound just like the rest of us, even though their battles matter so much more. ... Consider the logic: Because the right to an abortion was not part of the American tradition back when women lacked political power, it cannot be a constitutional right today. And it need not be a constitutional right today because women, deprived of the right, at least still have the power to ask for it back. The Supremes are not offering wisdom; they are revealing what they care about and what they don't like. They don't like empowered women. Yes, that includes Barrett.
Jessica Valenti: Civility isn’t important, morality is. And Republicans want to focus on the former because they have none of the latter. They hope that by focusing on politeness—and painting understandable fury as improper or hysterical— Americans will forget just how unscrupulous and immoral they are. The only acceptable response to what’s happening in this country right now is constant and prolonged rage. The kind of anger that doesn’t give a fuck about politeness or ‘politics’—the kind of outrage that understands the power of unruliness.
But I think the evidence is pretty clear and unambiguous that
large-scale protest marches and demonstrations are an effective means of
changing the political situation. People often invoke the idea of
“organizing” in a non-specific way, but I think that time spent
specifically on organizing protests — on getting permits, picking days,
encouraging friends to attend, getting snacks and water together,
volunteering to drive people or host people when travel is needed — is
time very well spent. Matt is often an annoying troll, but as a
well-nigh professional campaigner and organizer, I cannot agree more.
It's the people who participate, even in the mundane work, who change themselves and make change possible for others.
Real journalism: “The harsh reality is we don’t have trans elders because they didn’t survive,” they said. Actually,
I'm fortunate enough to know a few trans elders. But I also know these
are special survivors who didn't know whether they could survive.
Perry Bacon Jr: The most important contest in American politics is, of course, between the Democrats and the Republicans. But the Democrats are having a far more interesting and consequential intraparty fight than the Republicans, who are increasingly all Trump-like. On the Democratic side, there is a real divide: Does the party want a few more AOCs, particularly in very blue areas, or more-traditional Democrats in basically every seat? Primaries provide an arena in which we figure out what kind of future we are struggling for.
Audra J. Wolfe: Is Nuclear Power Just Too Dangerous? A survey of the world’s worst nuclear disasters highlights the catastrophic consequences of technical hubris. Some days it seems as if you can't ask this question if you are properly alarmed about climate catastrophe. But events like the Russians clomping through radioactive Chernobyl are a reminder of some implications.
Seth Masket at Mischiefs of Fortune: Religiosity is highly statistically significant and is positively related to gun violence. The more religious a state, the more gun deaths it has. This doesn't prove a causal relationship, but it also really doesn't support the idea that increased faith will reduce shootings. (Also, the idea that shootings came into the classroom because we drove God out is a particularly monstrous claim, however the mechanism is supposed to work, portraying God as either callous or vicious or homicidal.) Plain talk from a political scientist.
This little BLM group on Martha's Vineyard meets every summer Sunday to honor people who have been harmed or killed by police or the criminal justice system. This is what local organizing for justice looks like. Here, Dana remembers the people killed by a white Supremacist in a Buffalo supermarket.
And in more heartening news from Heather Cox Richardson: "former president Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter celebrated their 76th wedding anniversary [July 8]. Theirs is the longest presidential marriage in our history. They were married in Plains, Georgia on this date in 1946."
Feeling miserable because of the recent US Supreme Court massacre of our personal choices? Skeptical that a log-jammed Congress will come to the rescue for those people who need/want an abortion?
You should know that activists are DOING something in a couple of dicey states.
In Michigan: State Rep. MalloryMcMorrow (@Mallory McMorrow) shouts on Twitter ...
You are NOT powerless. A ballot initiative to get an amendment to the state Constitution on the Nov ballot which would enshrine abortion access and reproductive rights in Michigan has collected the most signatures of any ballot effort IN STATE HISTORY. Volunteers are STILL GOING.
Activists explain that they must submit 429,000 signatures to qualify. So far, they have 800,000 signers and still going.
“We are past the threshold, and we are very confident that we are going to have a large cushion,” [Merissa] Kovach [policy strategist with American Civil Liberties Union] said Tuesday.
... More than 10,000 donors from across the country have given more than $100,000 to the campaign since Friday, Kovach said Tuesday.
The campaign told reporters Friday it had attracted a total 30,000 volunteers to circulate the petition and collect signatures.
“Our volunteers have exploded,” Kovach said.
Winning in November will be a fight -- in Michigan it always is for progressives. But this popular outpouring bodes well.
In Kansas: On August 2, voters will have a chance to vote their desire for legal abortions even sooner. The state constitution currently protects a right to abortion. The forced pregnancy forces thought to overturn this rule in a very low-turnout summer primary election. The Supremes have unleashed outrage that may spoil their plan.
In 2019, the Kansas Supreme Court found that the state constitution protects the right to an abortion. Anti-abortion groups wasted little time in strategizing how to nullify that decision.
They settled on a ballot vote to amend the constitution with language making it clear that the constitution protects no such right, and asserting that the state does not require government funding of abortion services. It guarantees the very conservative legislature’s right to pass abortion laws “including, but not limited to, laws that account for circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest, or circumstances of necessity to save the life of the mother.”
... The sleepy primary is suddenly being held in a time where abortion is headlining the national conversation. The fresh wave of attention has given opponents of the amendment, many of whom admitted to TPM that they were very worried about the vote before the leak and final decision came out, a dose of renewed hope.
When they knock you down, girls get up and fight some more.
How odd -- here I am, turning age 75. Still here and still kicking.
What does 75 mean? Guess I'll find out this year.
I've learned that I can't do physically what I could do even a couple of years ago. Physical training just doesn't produce the same bodily results. But I keep going. Of necessity, I've learned, at my much lesser level, what the mountaineer Conrad Anker observed:
“Eventually,” he allows, “the bell-curve of what I do will get to the point where walking down a path will be my personal Everest. And I’m fine with that."
Well, I'm fine most days.
I concur with my Clydesdale Virtual Racing Team compatriot Byron Oost:
"It's okay to grow old. Just don't grow old and fat!"
Working on that one, just as most of us Clydes have been for decades.
Dhruv Khullar made these observations writing about the pandemic, but they seem true more generally.
Aging involves confronting an ever-expanding set of risks; it means accepting that one’s days are growing more dangerous. A strain, a pain, a virus that in youth might have passed without notice—each new malady becomes saturated with a sense of foreboding. There is no escaping the bodily tax of time.
I find that, having got to this age, many of the people I've known and loved have died. I miss them every day. I notice people my own age falling away. The locution "passed on" stops feeling like an annoying euphemism for death and seems more an accurate description of the great flowing course of humanity.
I cling to the wisdom of my friend Malkia, written from within boundless grief for the woman they loved, for their enduring struggling community, for their suffering ancestors:
It’s never too late It’s never too late to change or maybe to become more and more myself
Nationally, Republicans are pushing the Big Lie about voting fraud and trying to get rid of non-partisan election officials who won't play along. And this attack seems to have taken one scalp in Washoe County -- that's Reno and surroundings, where Erudite Partner and I will be working this fall.
You may have missed the recent story on the resignation of Washoe County Registrar of Voters Deanna Spikula, who departed after 15 years on the job.
Prior to her announcement, Spikula had taken a leave of absence after receiving threats at her office from promoters of baseless claims of voter fraud. The pressure faced by Spikula and other county registrars and clerks responsible for election security in Nevada has been intense and continues even as Donald Trump’s big lie continues to collapse in scandal.
In a week that saw a former White House insider calmly tell the House Jan. 6 committee that former President Trump knew many of his supporters were armed on the day they stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power, the departure of a respected protector of one Nevada county’s election didn’t rate as a top-line news event. ...
I've worked with Registrar's offices all over the country. In 2018, Washoe was probably the best organized, most informative, most responsive one I've ever encountered. That's what Nevada Republicans can't stand. Washoe has been run so as to encourage eligible Nevadans to vote. Working in Reno, we'll see whether this professionalism survives Spikula's exit.
Meanwhile, Nevada's Democratic governor who is running for re-election is out with an early ad.
This might seem pedestrian, but Sisolak is addressing what will probably be a central difficulty for Democrats this fall: the economy really is doing well, people have jobs if they want them, but rising prices and the residue of the pandemic leave us all in a lousy mood. And there's real hurt out there. We all easily can ask reflexively, what have you done for me lately? Sisolak toots his administration's horn and recognizes people's pain. Will this work? Probably not easily. But it's worth getting started.
In The Light That Failed: Why the West Is Losing the Fight for Democracy, Bulgarian political scientist Ivan Krastev and US law professor Stephen Holmes offer their account of why Poland and Hungary have embraced authoritarian illiberalism. When the long Soviet Russian deep freeze finally melted away in eastern Europe in 1989, westerners and many eastern Europeans themselves expected their countries would make a quick transition to consumer capitalism and long repressed individual liberties. And some of that came to pass, as well as a great deal of kleptocratic appropriation of national treasure by newly minted robber barons, as well as culture shock when the rest of Europe became accessible.
Krastev and Holmes posit that these countries went through an "Age of Imitation" during which they tried to mirror western European societies, attempting "copycat Westernization." And what many felt they got was national humiliation. For their mimicry, they were looked down on by the prosperous neighbors they imitated. And so eastern Europeans were ripe for xenophobic nationalisms and anti-democratic leaders who staunched their psychic wounds.
Illiberal politicians owe their political success to popular resentment at having spent two decades genuflecting before putatively canonical foreign models.
Observing this from the United States, it is easy to look at, for example, Orbán's Hungary and see a society bent on building a vicious wall to exclude immigrants. And that's a reality. But Krastev and Holmes insist the actual demographic panic is about emigration.
This fear ... is fuelled by a largely unspoken preoccupation with demographic collapse. In the period 1989-2017, Latvia haemorrhaged 27 per cent of its population, Lithuania 22.5 per cent, Bulgaria almost 21 per cent. Two million East Germans, or almost 14 per cent of the country's pre-1989 inhabitants, went to West Germany in search of work and a better life. 3.4 million Romanians, a vast majority of them younger than forty, left the country only after the country joined the EU in 2007. The combination of an ageing population, low birth rates and an unending stream of emigration is arguably the principal source of demographic panic in Central and Eastern Europe. The fear of nation-killing depopulation is seldom openly voiced, perhaps because publicizing high rates of expatriation will encourage imitators. ...
... An otherwise inexplicable panic in the face of a non-existent immigrant invasion from Central Europe can therefore be understood as a distorted echo of a more realistic underlying fear that huge swathes of one's own population, including the most talented youth, will leave the country and remain permanently abroad. ...
And there's more that riles these places. A gulf between generations commonly existing in a rapidly changing world has been exacerbated in countries where Soviet Russian domination induced cultural stasis.
For those born after 1989, in particular, it was as easy to "synchronize' their attitudes and behavior with Western standards as it was uncool to "coordinate" their expectations with those of earlier generations at home. In post-communist societies, as a result, parents lost their ability to transfer their values and attitudes to offspring. How the parents lived and what they achieved or suffered under communism ceased to matter in either material or moral terms. The young were not really revolting against their parents, as happened in the West in 1968. Instead they started feeling sorry for them and otherwise ignoring them.
Now there's a combustible set up! No wonder the youth leave, an opportunity which the European Union offers.
Could this conjunction of ills Krastev and Holmes describe have been avoided? Probably not, once these countries gave market capitalism free rein. Liberal societies in the West have grown up in tandem with rapacious capitalism and, as a consequence of long push-and-pull, have built some obstacles to its total dominance. Eastern Europeans got the worst of it without historical defenses. The result is not pretty.
• • •
I found this book very interesting -- and also wondered whether the framing the two authors have created doesn't leave much out. I'm not nearly enough of a student of these countries to be able say for sure, but I scanned the index and found no mention anywhere of the Catholic Church. Both Poland and Hungary are famously Catholic countries -- might this be part of why liberal democracy failed to take root?
• • •
And the eastern European disjunctions and discontents that point toward authoritarianism seem all too familiar here in our country. I'm an escapee myself from mid-twentieth century Buffalo, New York, a city losing its steel and auto industry and thus its pride and innovative energy.
And just the other day, I read this sad report from rural Montana, once the home of Wobblies, union members who resisted their exploitation by mining tycoons.
It is hard to overstate the love and attention that rural towns lavish on their children. Local newspapers devote pages of coverage to high school sports and other school news. Many towns have banners hanging from streetlights, each with a picture of a member of the graduating high school class. Each graduate also gets a sponsored picture in the local newspaper, with a paragraph detailing their parents, siblings, and plans after graduation. ... Rural towns pour their scarce resources into school kids, and most of them end up moving to either bigger towns in the state, or to big cities out of state. That’s real, not manufactured, rejection and loss.
The movement of rural kids is mainly driven by lack of opportunity in small towns, but I can’t see that the Republican desire to revert to Sharia Law will do anything but accelerate the exodus. It’s easy for a 70 year-old to put up an “abortion stops a beating heart” sign, a common sight along rural plains roads. It’s quite another thing to be a 19 year-old young woman who has to travel hundreds or thousands of miles to get an abortion, or to live somewhere they’ll get hassled if they want contraception.
Montanans were smart enough to enshrine the right of privacy into their constitution, so at least they won’t lose the abortion right because of a trigger law (unlike all the bordering states). But who knows how long that will last. And why stick around to find out? Better to get out of town, get a college degree, and move somewhere where freedom is more than a bumper sticker slogan.
And so the divides in our country grow -- but there is reason to believe that there are more of us -- and the future is progressive. If the place remains habitable ...