Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Anti-abortion extremism

I'm not going to make this blog "all abortion rights all the time" but I'm tempted. This is a terrific Democratic ad from Wisconsin publicizing the extreme position taken by the Republican candidate from governor. 

I sure wouldn't give this guy the time of day. Republican are like pursuing dogs that caught the car -- and the car is threatening to run over them. Michels is also a major donor to homophobia.

Abortion rights also alienate voters from Republicans here in Nevada where I'm working the campaign:

81 percent of Nevada Latino voters think abortion should be legal, personal beliefs aside

The survey, conducted from July 20 to Aug. 1 by Mi Familia Vota and UnidosUS, found that 81 percent of those surveyed opposed taking the choice of abortion away from others. The same poll found that only 25 percent believed religious leaders should tell their members which candidates and policies to vote for, and the rest opposed that practice.

Our canvassers find they can move people at the doors from saying "abortion is sin" to saying that -- yes sometimes abortion is necessary and the woman should make her own decision. Dobbs is forcing people to think through the hard choices life forces on us.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Foreign aid: from ingenious Mexicans to needy Texans

 Via the Texas Tribune

In parts of Mexico where abortion has not been legalized, women rely on volunteer networks to provide medication and emotional support for at-home abortions. As access to abortion is shut down in Texas, similar networks are being built in the U.S.

H/t Jessica Valenti.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Home coming ...

What happens to the men and women we send to meaningless wars that end badly? The question hung over the country in the immediate aftermath of the Vietnam war. Civilians were all too happy to forget. Broken veterans were designated patients -- the surviving crazy, not heroes emerging from brutal suffering. All that was left was the performative patriotism of the POW-MIA myth and a military that knew it would have to become professional and never again depend on draftees to fight.

Now we're living in the aftermath of our terrible, meaningless War on Terror in Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond. Elliot Ackerman is writer, a former Marine Corps Special Operations Team Leader, and one of the most thoughtful chroniclers of the long morass. He discusses our ignominious exit from Afghanistan and the implications of the divide between civilians and the military in a wide ranging podcast with Charlie Sykes of the Bulwark.  It's absolutely worth listening to in full.

Sykes asked whether we need fear that some part of a disgruntled military might be drawn into our domestic political struggles. 

Ackerman looks at the country that sent him and his comrades to war and worries:

I'm really not trying to be alarmist, but we have such high levels of dysfunction domestically, and every time we kind of set up these scenarios where we're asking our military to play a role in domestic politics, we're really tempting the fates.

The analogy I use is that these contested elections remind me of a drunk driver.

A drunk driver will go to the bar, right, and they will get completely hammered drunk, and they'll drive home.

And, probably the first time they do that, like, they make it home, and they do it and they make it home the second time, the third time.

And then on the fourth or fifth time, they get hammered drunk and try to drive home.

That's when they wrap their car around a telephone pole.

 When I look at our contested elections, it's like we're doing the equivalent as a nation of going to the bar getting just hammered drunk, and we try to drive home.

We've done it twice now, and we have sort of managed to make it home, but one of these days, if we keep doing this, we are going to wrap our proverbial car around a telephone pole.

Soldiers who have seen their buddies killed for no purpose have historically been very dangerous to democracy. The German military rolled over for Hitler in part because they'd clung for a couple of decades to their Big Lie that civilians had betrayed their valiant fight in what we call World War I.

General Douglas MacArthur was called home by President Truman for resisting civilian leadership in the faltering Korean war

This country has had generals with right leaning political aspirations come home before.

Might our soldiers respond to the futile waste that was the War on Terror by being attracted to fascism?

Under Donald Trump, the professional military resisted being used for the lawless purposes of the aspiring Orange King. But the military does seem to produce some nutcases, of whom General Michael Flynn is the prize specimen.

Ackerman thinks and talks knowledgeably about all this.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Reno milestone

When we arrived in Reno on July 10, I paid $5.49 a gallon to fill the car. So gas is down (some places) a full fifty cents a gallon. And the price has breached a psychological barrier.

I have to wonder whether this precipitous decline is enough to relieve some of what I call our post-pandemic pissy-ness.

Gotta say, for no particular reason, that Reno's sewer system covers are some of the best looking I have ever seen.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Credit where credit is due: student debt cancellation

Perry Bacon Jr. explains something the media seldom notes in a column on Joe Biden's decision to forgive much, but not all, of the burden of student debt that weighs down so many young people and their families. He explains in detail how activism won the day. This process was not easy, nor fast. But persistence furthers ...

President Biden’s decision to cancel $10,000 of college debt for virtually all Americans with student debt and $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients was a major victory for activists who have long been pushing for debt cancellation. ...So how did the debt cancellation advocates succeed? Through a combination of grass-roots organizing, smart messaging, the actions of a few politicians and a once-in-a-generation pandemic. 
 ... today’s movement really sprang from the Occupy Wall Street protests of 2011. Activists there rallied around the idea that the U.S. government had bailed out Wall Street after the 2008 financial crisis, but did little for everyday Americans, including young people who had limited job prospects after the Great Recession and tens of thousands of dollars in college debt. ... 
After those protests, activists at first focused on actions that didn’t require major government action, such as buying millions of dollars of student and medical debt from private collectors and then forgiving it. They then pressed the federal government to cancel the loans of people who attended for-profit colleges that had defrauded students by grossly overstating how easily they would get jobs after graduation. They also worked hard to build their coalition beyond the left-wing types who had been part of the Occupy protests. In particular, an organization called the Debt Collective not only helped Americans get their loans canceled but also encouraged debtors to speak to the media and elected officials and to become debt relief activists themselves. 
... The 2020 Democratic primaries were a turning point in the debt relief movement. Competing for left-wing support, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), both rolled out major plans on the issue. Sanders proposed to forgive all student debt; Warren, up to $50,000. 
... Then, the pandemic hit. Amid economic upheaval, congressional Democrats called for a pause on student loan repayments. Somewhat surprisingly, congressional Republicans such as then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also backed the idea. ...
... in April 2020, Biden was looking to unify the Democratic Party for the general election by wooing liberal and younger Democrats who had backed Warren and Sanders in the Democratic primary. And Trump, his general election opponent, had already taken action on student loans. So Biden called for an immediate forgiveness of $10,000, explicitly citing Warren’s support of that idea, and pledged as president to forgive all debt accrued from public colleges for people making less than $125,000 a year. ... 
...  the cancellation movement kept gaining momentum. More centrist figures in the party, including Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) and much of the Congressional Black Caucus, started urging Biden to cancel some student debt, often emphasizing the benefits to Black borrowers in particular. 
By last spring, more than 80 percent of Democratic voters, key leaders throughout the party and basically every prominent Black Democrat were all in favor of canceling at least some student debt. The question became not whether Biden would cancel student loans but when and by how much. It’s still not clear whether Biden really supports debt cancellation or was forced into this week’s step by the force of the movement within his party. In either case, this was a true activist triumph: Within 10 years, the idea went from pipe dream to policy.

Bacon's Washington Post colleague Paul Waldman take a look at who is howling against Biden's decision.

... what’s at the heart of the objections to Biden’s loan forgiveness: Most of those making them are perfectly happy to have the government help some people, just not these people. And if that’s your argument against student loan forgiveness, you haven’t shown why the program is bad; all you’ve done is reveal yourself.

Friday, August 26, 2022

Friday cat blogging

Janeway doesn't look particularly comfortable. Perhaps there is another cat walking by she can pounce on? Or a sweet dog? She seems to be getting plenty of such hunting exercise at summer camp/reform school. Not so clear how the other animals feel about her attentions.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Enlighten me

Click to enlarge.
Who's this? A family of whatever they are was scrounging in burrows on the bank of an artificial water channel. (That's the dark strip in the back ground.) The other visible inhabitants of Mira Loma Park were flocks of Canada geese. 

What do we have here, naturalists?

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Repealing freedom is not a political winner

By overthrowing our expectation of a right to abortion, Republicans have put their radicalism front and center in the upcoming midterm election.

And smart Democrats are running hard against the cruel extremism of state abortion bans. Here's a powerful ad out of Texas.

Democratic messaging guru Dan Pfeiffer explains why abortion rights are so potent.
The sweet spot in political messaging are issues that unite your base and divide your opponent’s. The aftermath of the Dobbs decision created irreconcilable tension within the Republican coalition. The Far Right, having waited for years to overturn Roe, feels empowered to push extremist policies opposed by 70 to 80 percent of the electorate.  
This extremism pushes out the more moderate Republicans who voted for Joe Biden in 2020 out of antipathy for Trump but were considering voting for a Republican this fall. Repealing freedoms and inserting politicians and the government into people’s health care decisions also causes distress for the admittedly shrinking but still substantial Libertarian wing of the party. 
... By keeping the heat on Republicans for their extremist views on abortion, we are bringing fears of Right Wing extremism to the forefront and hoping these fears overtake concern about inflation as the main issue for a swath of voters. And that could be the difference.
A Democrat, Patrick Ryan, won a New York State special election on Tuesday in a Congressional district that prognosticators rank as strictly a toss up. He ran strong for women's rights. That's not what we expect in a midterm election with inflation running high and folks still post-pandemic pissy.

Democrats, take heed.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

When you are in a hole, stop digging

The inept cruelty which has characterized U.S. involvement with Afghanistan doesn't end.

A group of victims of the 9/11 attacks have written to President Biden: Afghan Central Bank Funds Belong to Afghans

President Biden: We all lost loved ones on September 11th and call upon you to return the Afghan Central Bank funds to the Afghan people. This is their money, not ours.

Their argument may not seem obvious, but certainly deserves consideration.  Robert Wright and Andrew Day explain.
In February, Biden signed an executive order freezing $7 billion in assets owned by Afghanistan’s central bank. The order reserved half that amount for 9/11 victims’ relatives who had successfully sued the Taliban for damages years ago. But this week 80 other relatives of 9/11 victims urged reconsideration of the policy. In a letter to Biden they wrote, “Ninety-five percent of Afghans are impoverished, and nearly nine million are at risk of starvation…this money is theirs, not ours.”
These families argue the impounded assets never belonged to the Taliban.
This money does not belong to the Taliban. This money comes from Afghanistan’s central bank, and as such, it belongs to the Afghan people. Victims of terrorism, including 9/11 victims, are entitled to their day in court. But they are not entitled to money that lawfully belongs to the Afghan people.
Our government has never been much concerned with the rightful claims of ordinary Afghans, but Biden should not be compounding the evils left by this misbegotten imperial adventure.

Monday, August 22, 2022

A warning of civil violence

Dr. Rachel Kleinfeld, a Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, has described a pattern of developing civil violence that should worry us all. She contends that in societies where political terrorism takes root, there's a pattern.

Violent groups that get involved in politics in other countries follow a common path ... 
At first, politicians recruit experts in violence and intimidation to use those tools as a campaign tactic.  
Later, those violent leaders run for office or take political roles directly, cutting out the political middleman. Usually, what they want is power and impunity, so that they can make money from more lucrative criminal activities, though sometimes they simply want power for its own sake.  
To understand where this can lead: 11 of India’s current national legislators face open cases for murder, 30 have attempted murder charges and 10 serving legislators have been convicted of such serious crimes – a doubling from ten years ago.
In India, with its long history of violent religious sectarian violence, this may not seem so surprising -- though sadly, India once proclaimed itself the world's largest democracy before the current Hindu nationalist government came to power.

In the U.S., we're seeing all too much of Kleinfeld's pattern. In Pennsylvania, the Republican candidate for governor paid for buses to Washington for supporters of Donald Trump's January 6 attempted coup. Doug Mastriano has been subpoenaed to testify about what he did that day.

Here in Nevada, Republican candidates for both U.S. Senate and state governor are adherents to the Big Lie. The GOP candidate for secretary of state (the official who runs elections) insists the vote in 2020 was rigged and that he wouldn't hesitate to overturn a majority vote of Nevadans if he were in office.

Kleinfeld has taken note of ominous developments in the state where we're working on the midterms:
In Nevada, it appears more clear that the Proud Boys are still at the first stage, being recruited by unscrupulous political actors who are using their violence to amass more power for themselves. ... Why would a faction of Republicans still in power or running for office at the federal, state, and local level make common cause with violent criminals? Because violence and intimidation are already bolstering their power. ...
We sometimes look away, but violence from the right has been escalating ever since Barack Obama broke the rule that a Black man could not be elected President.
... Americans may feel that these incidents of political violence are “high politics” that they can avoid if they steer clear of the political arena. That feeling is widespread in countries I have studied where political violence grows to dangerous levels. It Is always a false hope.  
In the United States, it is already far more dangerous to exercise freedom of speech than in the recent past. Driving cars into civilians used to be a tactic favored by overseas terrorists. It had been recorded just twice in the United States before James Alex Fields Jr. murdered Heather Heyer by driving into a crowd of counter-protestors at the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally. Yet from George Floyd’s murder on May 25, 2020 through September 30, 2021, at least 139 drivers drove their cars into protests across America, injuring 100 – sometimes severely – and killing four. ... 
... Violence begets violence – once its use mainstreams, moderates who espouse non-violence appear anemic and unable to offer protection to their side. The middle weakens, while violence eventually takes on a rhythm of reprisal far removed from the original causes. ... Even if Trump passes from the scene, the embrace of violence and intimidation as a political tactic by a faction of the GOP will cause violence of all types to rise – against all Americans.
No one is exempt. And our civil society could become a nightmare.

Sunday, August 21, 2022

New normal

The next generation to come along will see the lower image as simply the way things are. H/t Adam Tooze.

The present generation has seen this here in Nevada.

Click to enlarge. This is a branch of Lake Mead.
Some reminder that water is life!

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Shards from the Embattled Republic

An occasional list of links to thought provoking commentary on the condition our condition is in. 

In the wake of the Dobbs decision which allowed states to ban abortion, Jessica Valenti is observing Republican legislators: "We are dying and they are laughing. How the fuck do you have a conversation about that?"

Sarah Chayes, former NPR journalist and later aid organizer among Kandahar Afghans during American's war:
"So. Ayman al-Zawahiri is killed at last. Ayman al-Zawahiri, mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, successor to Usama bin Laden at the helm of a limping version of the organization we chose to consider an existential threat 20 years ago, launching two ill-conceived wars that left millions of people worse off than they’d been before, tens of thousands of service-members injured, confused and embittered, and a handful of defense contractors immeasurably richer. ... A closure, of sorts, I suppose."

Race and class in the city by the Bay: “To be Black in San Francisco is to be very lonely.” 

Peter Beinart of Jewish Currents and CUNY looks at how race diversity plays among Republican leaders: "The GOP is capable of racial and ethnic inclusion. Jindal and Haley were popular with grassroots Republicans, and so were Ben Carson and Marco Rubio. Mayra Flores, a Mexican American woman elected earlier this year from South Texas, is the congressional GOP’s newest star. But it’s almost always a shared conservative Christianity that allows white Republicans to embrace Black, Hispanic, or Asian candidates. Which means conservative Christianity, which can foster racial and ethnic inclusion can foster religious exclusion at the same time."

Diana Butler Bass, a theologian who writes for and to Christians: "Christians must stand up, speak up, and do good right now. Civil war isn’t funny. We can’t let it happen. We don’t need purity. We need decency. And peaceable community."

Via writer Steven Beschloss, two powerful visions of purpose:  

Liz Cheney: “This is not a game. Every one of us must be committed to the eternal defense of this miraculous experiment called America and at the heart of our democratic process—our elections. They are the foundational principle of our Constitution. Two years ago, I won this primary with 73 percent of the vote. I could easily have done the same again. The path was clear, but it would have required that I go along with President Trump's lie about the 2020 election. It would have required that I enable his ongoing efforts to unravel our democratic system and attack the foundations of our republic. That was a path I could not and would not take…"

Joe Biden: “I swore an oath of office to you and to God to faithfully execute the duties of this sacred office. To me, the critical duty—the critical duty of the presidency is to defend what is best about America. And that’s not hyperbole. Defend what’s best about America. To pursue justice, to ensure fairness, and to deliver results that create possibilities—possibilities that all of us—all of us can live a life of consequence and prosperity in a nation that’s safe and secure. That’s the job. Fulfilling that pledge to you guides me every single hour of every single day in this job.”

New York Times columnist and resident explorer of U.S. history Jamelle Bouie is skeptical of third parties in this country. "The biggest problem with the Forward Party, however, is that its leaders — like so many failed reformers — seem to think that you can take the conflict out of politics. 'On every issue facing this nation,' they write, 'we can find a reasonable approach most Americans agree on.' "

Historian of Russia and Ukraine Timothy Snyder sees Russia's imperial invasion flailing: "Russia has reached the stage in the war in which it is fighting because not to fight would be embarrassing.  It has reached this stage quickly. ... Our job is incomparably easier than the Ukrainians'.  The Ukrainians have to demonstrate resolution of every kind.  All we have to do to see things as they are, show some patience, and support the democracy that is under attack -- with the right attitude, and the right weapons.  The outcome of the war might well depend upon our capacity to do that."

Jonathan V. Last, Republican anti-Trumper, at the The Bulwark, is tired: 

"Who wants to live like this? Can’t we go back to Republicans trying to pass corporate tax breaks and roll back the regulatory regime while Democrats push to increase social safety-net spending? 
"Bring back the dysfunctional politics of 1980 - 2015! 
"The problem is that exhaustion is part of the authoritarian’s tool kit. They want to exhaust you so that you’ll check out of politics and try to take refuge in other areas of life. And then they take over. 
"Don’t give in to the exhaustion."

 We can't give in to exhaustion. Let's smash the Republican fantasy world in the midterms and beyond. The people of this country can do it.

Friday, August 19, 2022

What the Nevada campaign is up against

Here's a look at the candidate who is running against Nevada's senior U.S. Senator, Catherine Cortez Masto.

The underlying story of Laxalt's life is familiar to Nevada voters. All of this came out when he ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2018. In that race, the Laxalt family he claims as relatives called him out as an imposter for adopting a good Nevada name to which he has only a marginal claim

However, the campaign to re-elect Cortez Masto will be tough. Nevadans are some of the most mobile people in the country. Huge numbers of them have no memory of Cortez Masto's 2016 campaign or Laxalt's well publicized opportunism. And Laxalt has gone full MAGA, a segment of the electorate of whom there are plenty around here.

So we knock doors ...

Friday cat blogging

For a few hours last week, a cat came to visit me. Reno campaign workers are living in extended stay accommodations which accept well-behaved animal companions for a small fee. You can guess why we didn't try this with Janeway.

Last week, we were all moving from one hotel to another. This black beauty needed a spot hide in while her human made the move. So I was privileged to spend the day with a cautious cat under my desk. 

I just can't see Janeway being so quiet ...

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Politics MAGA-Nevada style

You can't drive around Reno without seeing Joey Gilbert's billboards. He's the pugilistic lawyer who wants your business.

The guy is an evangelist for Trump's Big Lie and the generally violent id of the GOP.  Gilbert decided he should run for governor in the Republican primary.

Joey Gilbert lost his primary in June. By a lot. So he announced the election must have been fraudulent. And started his legal wheels whirling.
LAS VEGAS (KSNV) — Reno attorney Joey Gilbert has filed a lawsuit over his defeat in the Nevada GOP gubernatorial primary. 
... "It's simple; we prove with mathematical certainty Joey Gilbert is the winner of the primary gubernatorial race and that he had over 55,000 votes taken from him," [conservative blogger and activist Robert] Beadles wrote. 
... Gilbert finished second to Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo in last month's primary race. Lombardo had more than 87,000 tallies, about 38% of the vote in the GOP contest, while Gilbert finished about 26,000 votes behind with 27% of the ballots. 
Gilbert previously paid for a recount in all 17 Nevada counties. That effort ultimately changed the margin of the contest by one ballot in Clark County, as Lombardo lost eight votes while Gilbert lost seven.
Gilbert's crusade to overturn the primary infected the Washoe County (Reno) Republican Party. The Reno Gazette Journal got hold of a tape of a leadership meeting:
Carole Fineberg, party secretary, pleaded with [party chair Bruce] Parks on the recording to find someone to talk to Gilbert and ["election Integrity" committee chairman Robert] Beadles: “Ask them, ‘Please don’t tear down the party.’” 
“We’re being demolished, guys,” added [treasurer Sandra] Linares. 
Parks responded, “The one thing I'm not going to do is tell my election integrity committee chair to stop. … I want him to fuel up his flamethrower and burn this son of a bitch to the ground if he has to.” 
“And whoever he takes with it?” Linares asked. 
“Damn straight,” Parks said.
A few days ago, Gilbert's lawsuit to overthrow the primary was thrown out of court.
A Carson City judge has blocked Reno attorney and former Republican gubernatorial candidate Joey Gilbert’s effort to re-do the 2022 primary election, finding that “no competent evidence” was presented that would warrant the extraordinary changes Gilbert sought. 
District Court Judge James Wilson issued the ruling for summary judgment in favor of Clark County sheriff and Republican gubernatorial nominee Joe Lombardo from the bench on Wednesday, blocking the election contest from proceeding further.  
Gilbert’s election contest, filed after a statewide recount on July 15, heavily relied on testimony from Edward Solomon, identified by the suit as an “expert mathematician,” who has alleged since the 2020 election that “algorithms” have been responsible for switching votes in multiple states. 
Wilson called the Solomon report “hearsay, first of all,” and said there was no showing that the information provided by “the admitted non-expert Mr. Solomon … is the product of a reliable methodology.”
Our campaign is working to defeat the Republican who did win the primary -- and to re-elect Governor Steve Sisolak who has been a good governor for workers. Sisolak supported a measure which gave precedence in rehiring to workers laid off during the pandemic. That's particularly important in a state so dependent on casinos and hospitality to tourists. He has supported extension of state health care access and raising the minimum wage. 

Despite the national bad mood, we are proving that we can help voters remember that Sisolak is on their side.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

What it is really like to work on a political campaign

You may have noticed I've gone quiet around here for the last couple of days. Been busy. We're expanding from about 35 working staff to nearly 60 in Reno over this coming weekend. All those people need somewhere to live; I've been working on it.

Meanwhile, our loyal existing staff get a long weekend off. (I even get some hours off!) The canvassers have knocked on tens of thousands of doors in Washoe County and identified thousands of supporters while walking in 90 degree heat. They deserve a break.

So this morning we set up a spread. Then off they went to knock on more doors before going home tomorrow for the weekend.

Monday, August 15, 2022

A growing divergence between young women and young men

Thanks to Matt Yglesias (@mattyglesias) for this interesting data point:

Responses suggested several possible reasons for this trend.

There's the obvious: Republicans, especially since the rise of the Donald, have made themselves the party of male anger. Screaming misogyny and abortion bans are off-putting and liberals claim to point to a happier future for young women.

In addition, as Erudite Partner explored in June, almost two out of three current college students are women.

Democrats are speaking quite directly to this trend. In an upstate New York House race in which the vote is August 23, aspiring Congressman Democrat Pat Ryan is running this ad.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

They are ignorant of the facts of female humanity

Jessica Valenti is a feminist warrior. Her substack, All in Her Head, is a go-to read in this season of assault upon women's bodily freedom.

Valenti has taken upon herself the odious task of tracking the nonsense that anti-abortion campaigners -- mostly, but not solely, men -- spew about women's anatomy, the realities of pregnancy, and the physiology of birth and conception.  The examples are legion. Here's a short sample from her list, which she calls Shit Republicans Say. Valenti's commentary in bold type.

City Council member Dave Alvord, Salt Lake County, Utah, 2022, Responding to a tweet from Vice President Kamala Harris
“The baby is not part of the body of a woman. The umbilical cord and placenta do not directly connect to the woman. The baby floats inside the woman.”  
Factcheck: Babies don’t float.

U.S. Senator. Tim Scott, South Carolina, 2022, In a fundraising email
“If we don’t take back the Senate, Dems will pack the courts, give DC statehood, grant abortions up to 52 weeks, and Republicans will never win again.” 
Factcheck: Pregnancy lasts approx. 40 weeks.

Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, Utah, 2022, Responding to the criticism that she doesn’t trust women to control their own bodies
“My response is I do trust women enough to control when they allow a man to ejaculate inside of them and to control that intake of semen.”
Factcheck: GROSS.

Rep. Barry Hovis, Missouri, 2019, Defending an abortion ban, talking about his time in law enforcement
“Most of my rapes were not the gentlemen jumping out of the bushes that nobody had ever met...Most of them were date rapes or consensual rapes.”  
Factcheck: Rape cannot be consensual

Sen. Republican Clyde Chambliss, Alabama, 2019, Explaining when an abortion ban allows a rape or incest victim to obtain an abortion
“Until she knows she’s pregnant.”  
Factcheck: You cannot have an abortion before you know you’re pregnant

We just are not real to these people. Yet they want laws to control what they don't understand. They don't have a glimmer how our bodies work and it has never served them to find out. No wonder women are so furious.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

There's no keeping young Californians down

As a veteran of the unsuccessful struggle in the mid-1990s to preserve access for the young Californians designated by the ungainly label "under-represented minorities (URM)" to the UC education system, I'm always interested when the system releases its annual break down of its incoming classes. The Los Angeles Times summarizes: 

In a revised playbook guiding University of California admissions, the system’s nine undergraduate campuses accepted a record number of California first-year students for fall 2022, while significantly narrowing entry to out-of-state and international applicants amid widespread demands to preserve coveted seats for state residents, according to preliminary data released Wednesday. ... Offers to out-of-state applicants declined by 19%, or 5,359 students, and those to international students decreased by 12.2%, or 2,442 students.

Campuses also set records for diversity, as students from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups increased to 43.8% of the admitted first-year class. For the third straight year, Latinos were the largest ethnic group at 37.3%, followed by Asian Americans at 35%, white students at 18.6% and Black students at 5.7%. Overall, both applications and admission offers increased for Latino, Asian American, Black and Native American students and declined among white and Pacific Islander students.

... About 47% of admitted California first-year students are low-income, and 44% would be the first in their families to earn a bachelor’s degree.

It was pretty clear in the years after 1996 when California's voters outlawed affirmative action by way of Prop. 209 that diversity plummeted, especially at the premier campuses.

In what some media insisted on calling a "majority-minority" state, that's a problem. And the California higher ed system has adopted a series of expedients to try to admit classes whose demographic make up looked more like the state's. It guaranteed admission to the top four percent of high school grads -- without reference to other criteria, a program called "Eligibility in the Local Context (ELC)". That increased the percentage of URM by about 3.5%. Some campuses adopted "holistic review" of applicants which partially mitigated URM declines. (Source.)

And now, the system is cutting back on tuition-paying out-of-state and foreign student admissions, whose numbers were close 25 percent in the years of lean California budgets for higher ed. The money had to come from someone ... or so the UC bureaucracy acted. 

As a consequence, admittances are looking more like the people of the state. Yes, the system still doesn't welcome Black students in their proportion to the population. And there are still distortions at the prestige campuses. But over all, good for California higher ed.

There's another simple reason why California higher ed is getting more diverse. Look who is graduating from California high schools these days:

Click to enlarge.

This is who Californians are.

Friday, August 12, 2022

Shifting winds: Dems rising

Brian Beutler is no fan of the fossilized aspects of the Democratic party, though like so many of us, he knows Democrats are the force we've got to prop up in the fight against radical Republican authoritarianism.

He suggests, and I agree, the last week has been good for the Dems. He lists what he thinks are the elements of a Democratic surge:

    • Republican anti-abortion extremism;
    • The looming enactment of the Inflation Reduction Act ... in contrast to the listlessness of the past year;
   • Republican culpability for January 6 and subsequent efforts to cover it up.
"By dint of circumstance—the abolition of the right to abortion, the securing of votes for the IRA, the process of January 6 investigation and discovery—Democrats began acting like a party that fights for things its supporters care about, and against forces that threaten to harm them. "

Many of us want to see out candidates fight for us. If you haven't seen it, enjoy this clip of Democrat  Beto O'Rourke, running for governor of Texas, dispose of a pro-gun heckler.

 "It may be funny to you motherf---er, but it's not funny to me": Texas gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke snapped at a man during a town hall on Wednesday who started laughing as O'Rourke discussed the gun used in the deadly Uvalde mass shooting.

Friday cat blogging

Yes, we're a little cat deprived, living here in hotels in Reno for four months, while Janeway goes to summer camp/reform school.

But the sort of hotels we're placed in allow guests to bring their animals. And so, when I came in last night, I looked up and realized I was being scrutinized.

At least one of our canvassers brought his cat with him. Evidently a patient animal that can stand being locked up alone in a hotel room 10 hours a day. Might this be Stephen's cat? I will be asking?

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Freedom is what it's all about

A group of funders has decided that it's time for Democrats to grasp and speak up for the cause of "freedom."
“Freedom is a powerful frame for this election, to make clear what the stakes are,” said Jenifer Fernandez Ancona, an architect of the messaging project as well as a co-founder and vice president of Way to Win, a collective of left-leaning Democratic donors and political strategists. 
... “For far too long, we’ve witnessed how the right wing has masterfully sort of owned and captured the language of freedom,” said Maurice Mitchell, the national director of the Working Families Party, one of the organizations involved in the “Protect Our Freedoms” effort.
I couldn't agree more. 

The brave women of Kansas who drowned an anti-abortion measure with their votes showed Democratic elites the way. 

Here in Reno, many Nevadans we meet when knocking on doors are afraid Republicans will take away their freedom to decide when to start or grow a family.

People care about freedom and they believe freedom is what this country promises. Let's remind them who has their back.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

She's on her way back to Congress

Ilhan Omar won her Democratic primary for her Congressional seat in Minnesota yesterday. It was a hard fight; there are plenty of people who would rather have someone else representing her state instead of this outspoken woman. Along the way, she put out this rather charming ad.

It's heart-warming, and very serious, featuring Omar's daughter.

Tuesday, August 09, 2022

We defend our democracy by doing democracy

Those of us who live in big Democratic cities in Blue states may not realize how rough it is out there in more politically contested areas. Election officials in much of the country feel under assault from the radical elements of the Republican Party who believe any election is rigged if their side doesn't win. And further believe that election officials must be part of a fraud conspiracy ...

Here in Reno, the Registrar of Washoe County resigned July 31. Deanna Spikula left the job as the stress on her mounted. She used to enjoy traveling around the county making presentations about how the county system worked. No longer.

It’s really been just since the beginning of this year. The speaking engagements were no longer a platform for sharing information and having a productive conversation. We’d go out there and just get beat up. 
... I don't think I ever would have imagined that elections would get to this level of intensity and difficulty in just being able to perform your normal functions without harassment. But it’s so much more than that. A lot of it works on your nerves. What really gets hard is you're trying to get a job done and you're constantly being distracted and pulled away from that to do things that are not conducive to performing the functions of administering an election. 
There were a couple of incidents. We've had calls where people who have said, “I'm gonna come down there and you're going to be sorry,” that kind of stuff. There was one email that we got saying, “Count the votes as if your life depends on it because it does.” You start to get that fight-or-flight feeling when you're on the receiving end of that stuff. When you're trying to talk to somebody and they're belligerently yelling at you, you get a little worried. In this day and age, you don't know what somebody's going to do.
You might think these pressures only surface in Red states, but they exist even in Blue areas of very Blue states. 

The town of Aquinnah sits at the far end of Martha's Vineyard Island, off the Massachusetts coast. It's home to many members of the Wampanoag tribe, as well as a goodly number of white residents. Most people who have heard of Martha's Vineyard think it as a playground for liberal Democratic celebrities and they wouldn't be wrong. Kennedys and Clintons go way back on the Island and the retired Obamas have purchased a classy getaway. But in the offseason, when the tourists and the summer people depart, the Vineyard population shrinks by 90 percent, leaving a sprinkling of New England towns with their working class four-season residents and citizen town meeting governments. 

There are plenty of somewhat conservative people, but this is not where you'd look to find the MAGA Republicans. But you might be surprised. According the to the Martha's Vineyard Times:

During a Tuesday meeting, the Aquinnah select board unanimously approved town clerk Gabriella Camilleri’s request to have a police presence during the state primary and state elections, which take place at the town hall from 7 am to 8 pm on September 6 and November 8 respectively. The officer would also stay during the vote counting until 10 pm. 
In an email to the board, which was read aloud during the meeting by board chair Juli Vanderhoop, Camilleri stated in the almost five years as the town clerk, she had “never felt any concern for my safety or the safety of our poll workers or voters.” However, “some of the negative tone coming from certain groups” regarding the elections and voting system led Camilleri to make the request.  
“Oh, yeah … I can see her concern,” board member Gary Haley said after seeing an example Camilleri put from another town, which read “(expletive) you Biden cheated” scrawled on a vote by mail application form.
If you can do nothing else to help defend democracy in the upcoming elections, consider being a volunteer poll worker in your home town, even if home is a Blue city. We maintain our democracy by engaging with its processes.

Monday, August 08, 2022

Democrats passed a big one

The measure (the so-called "Inflation Reduction Act") required the Vice-President's tie breaking vote, but Democratic Senators got their big climate bill done. And Nancy Pelosi isn't going to allow any quibbling in the House when it goes over for final passage.

I'll leave it to economist Noah Smith to explain why this is a big deal for all of us.

Stunningly rapid advances in green energy technology — especially solar photovoltaic power and lithium-ion batteries, but also various other things — have changed the facts on the ground. At this point, a rapid transition to green energy won’t leave us impoverished — it’ll give us cheaper electricity, faster cars, and a world of greater material abundance in general. Even more crucially, much of the cost decline in renewables has been driven by learning curves — the more renewables we install, the cheaper they get.

These new technological facts — which were the result of decades of dedication and sacrifice by environmentally aware elites — don’t solve the climate crisis all by themselves. But they provide a powerful accelerant to progressive policy, allowing us to push rapid decarbonization through a virtuous cycle. We install more renewables, we get cheaper, demand increases, we install more, they get cheaper. And this cheapness draws in a whole lot of other players — corporations who are fine going green as long as they can save some money, politicians who are happy to push renewables as long as it also lowers their voters’ electricity bills, entrepreneurs who suddenly have a bigger market for their high-tech energy products, and so on. Robinson Meyer calls this the Green Vortex.

The Green Vortex could happen even without a big government push, but it would take longer to get started. Until about a week ago when the Inflation Reduction Act was unveiled, it looked as if this was what we were going to have to do. And we would have done it. But now, it looks as if the government is going to give the Green Vortex a rapid start.

My emphasis. This is what we elected Democrats and Joe Biden to do!

This is what an engaged and enraged movement looks like

Judd Legum asks: what can we learn from Kansas?  What can we learn when a red, Trump-suppporting, state turns back by 18 percentage points a measure to take away abortion rights from women? 

Well, here's one thing: when abortion is on the ballot, women will jump over themselves to be able to vote:

Click to enlarge.
It will be political malpractice if Democrats shy away from running to correct this wrenching assault on our rights. We need two new Dem senators (how about PA and WI -- or maybe NC and OH) and to hold the House. And a promise from Dem Senators to ditch the filibuster. We the people can do this!

Sunday, August 07, 2022

What unifies Americans: Free Brittney!

I was in a laundromat in Reno the other day. The place is a little seedy; the neighborhood is solid working class, but in a slightly decayed sort of way. Mostly white, as far as I could tell. Women were diligently washing and drying mountains of laundry. The place seemed a sort of community gathering center. Retired white men clustered in the corner, talking animatedly.

"It's a terrible thing, what they are doing! They are locking her up for nine years; she didn't do anything. ... She was just trying to do what she does for a living ... we should get her free ..."

I realized they were talking about Russia's imprisonment of Britteny Griner, the WNBA star, tatooed, dreadlocked, Black, married lesbian beauty. 

I could have taken them for likely Trump voters -- in this knife-edge state, there's a good chance I might be right. But they're behind "that gal."

• • •

Tom Nichols, Atlantic writer, puts Brittney Griner's situation into the international context:

Griner was arrested just days before the invasion of Ukraine, which is to say that she was grabbed after Putin and his circle had almost certainly made the decision to go to war. She was perfect for the part that the Russians wanted her to play as a possible bargaining chip. She is a prominent American, but not too prominent. She is gay, Black, and covered in tattoos, the kind of defendant for whom the average Russian will have no sympathy. Detaining her for a minor drug charge must have been an easy call for the Russian intelligence services.

Better yet for the Kremlin, the American determination to get her back home serves a Russian-propaganda purpose. Russia does not value all its citizens equally; some Russians matter and others vanish without trace. The efforts to spring Griner, however, almost certainly feed into a Russian narrative that America, too, does not care about all of its citizens equally and that we value racial or sexual minorities disproportionately—exactly the case that anti-Western hysterics like Putin have been making for years. ...

Unionized sports leaders are keeping keeping the heat on the Biden administration to get her out of there. Sign on with them at Free Brittney!

Saturday, August 06, 2022

Humanity's terrible warning shot against itself

This weekend is the 77th anniversary of the U.S. dropping the first atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

We don't usually live in daily terror of The Bomb these days, though maybe we should.

We've been reminded this week that we (most immediately Ukrainians and other Europeans) live in danger of explosive nuclear discharge as Russia and Ukraine trade artillery blasts in the vicinity of Europe's largest nuclear power plant at Zaporizhzhia. The plant has been occupied by invading Russians but is still run by its Ukrainian technicians. When it comes to blowing up a nuke plant, who is at fault is less important than just not taking the risk!

Meanwhile in Japan, citizens observe the terrible anniversary. In the memory of ultimate terror, quiet and prayer seem what is left to humanity. 

Even after the war against fascism in Europe and the even more brutal race war in the Pacific, there were voices in the United States that cried out against the news of The Bomb. 

Here's what Dwight MacDonald wrote on August 9, 1945:

At 9.15 on the morning of August 6, 1945, an American plane dropped a single bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Ex­ploding with the force of 20,000 tons of TNT, The Bomb destroyed in a twinkling two-thirds of the city, including, presumably, most of the 343,000 human beings who lived there. No warning was given. This atrocious action places “ us” , the defenders of civilization, on a moral level with “them” , the beasts of Maidanek. And “we”, the American people, are just as much and as little responsible for this horror as “they", the German people.  
So much is obvious. But more must be said. For the “atomic” bomb renders anticlimactical even the ending of the greatest war in history.  
(1) The concepts, “war” and “progress”, are now obsolete. Both suggest human aspirations, emotions, aims, consciousness. “The greatest achievement of organized science in history,” said President Truman after the Hiroshima catastrophe—which it probably was, and so much the worse for organized science.  
(2) The futility of modern warfare should now be clear. Must we not now conclude, with Simone Weil, that the technical aspect of war today is the evil, regardless of political factors? Can one imagine that The Bomb could ever be used “in a good cause” ? Do not such means instantly, of themselves, corrupt any cause?  
(3) The bomb is the natural product of the kind of society we have created. It is as easy, normal, and unforced an expression of the American Way of Life as electric ice-boxes, banana splits, and hydromatic-drive automobiles. We do not dream of a world in which atomic fission will be “harnessed to constructive ends”. The new energy will be at the service of the rulers; it will change their strength but not their aims. The underlying populations should regard this new source of energy with lively interest— the interest of victims.  
(4) Those who wield such destructive power are outcasts from humanity. They may be gods, they may be brutes, but they are not men.  
(5) We must “get” the national State before it “gets” us. Every individual who wants to save his humanity— and indeed his skin— had better begin thinking “dangerous thoughts” about sabotage, resistance, rebellion, and the fraternity of all men everywhere. The mental attitude known as “negativism” is a good start.
Some of this has not aged well. But most has. There are truths that war-ravaged people knew in 1945 that we may have forgotten.

Friday, August 05, 2022

Nicaraguans also want a better future

For today I'll be thinking not about winning our campaign to keep Nevada blue, but about another vital project: helping Nicaraguans help themselves to improve water quality and sanitation in the kind of communities you find at the ends of the roads in the countryside. El Porvenir is having its annual board retreat. 
Via Zoom, as we do these things these days.

Take a look at the video. Any donation you make to El Porvenir goes right to aiding the people you see in this short film.

Thursday, August 04, 2022

Why women are so mad

 On reflection, this is perhaps more trollish than I should have posted. But there are plenty of women who feel this way!

A twitter thread from my friend @phbehnken, lightly edited. Yes, many women are fighting mad. We showed it in the vote in Kansas.

People who don't give birth have tried to take over their decision-making re: childbirth. Men have so little concern for women, they didn't bother to look up or learn about childbirth problems beforehand. It's not like we INVENTED childbirth anomalies!

One in 5 pregnancies ends in miscarriage, but you never noticed? You didn't ask why? You're so turned off by all yucky women's body issues, you stuck your collective heads in the sand and said: Just do it! Have the baby, for crying out loud! When that didn't work you tried guilt.

When that didn't work, you turned to threats. Do it or else! Go to jail! Lose your other kids! Lose your job, friends, life outside momhood. Or lose your life completely. We don't care! Don't argue or we'll make it even worse: No birth control! Get it? Shut up and have the kid.

At the end of the day, you guys didn't even acknowledge how forced births would change family life; More work. More mouths to feed. Loss of one income. Need for more space, another car. Loss of a woman's identity outside marriage, motherhood. You never thought of that either?

And if you thought doctors, the home-birth midwives or hospitals would save you, think again. If they try, we will destroy them. Eventually they won't be able to get insured and will give up. We mean business.

This is a lot to handle and we have guy-things to do---play w/guns, watch sports, complain about gas prices---so we're putting bounties on your heads/turning over enforcement to your nosey neighbors and county prosecutors. By now, you should see you are ours. We own you.

And if you had any delusions of escaping your fate by ignoring is completely by changing your orientation or even your gender, forget that. We're getting rid of that, too. And if you fuss about this, we'll pull the Bible card on you and treat you like a heathen sinner.

You see, we've got you cornered. You may have thought we saw you as far more than a vagina, uterus and breasts, but that was wishful thinking. Bottom line: Do what you were put on earth for.

Have the kids under control by the time I get home and dinner on the table at 6. I want steak.

• • •

Maybe not how I would have written this -- but it's so real! Notably, it was young people of both sexes who ran up the score against abortion restrictions in Kansas. They know. And they know the lives they want to build which are not the kind a certain kind of fossil male wants for them.

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Challenges to progressive "resistance" energy -- and some bits that work

Micah Sifry and Lara Putnam have written a powerful indictment of how progressives have wasted the enormous surge of resistance energy let loose by the Trump occupation of the White House.

They are unquestionably correct in some respects. But I think the picture is also more complex. I'm sharing some of their points here and will offer some commentary. They write:

National Democratic and progressive groups together burned through the surge of liberal organizing under Mr. Trump, treating impassioned newcomers like cash cows, gig workers and stamp machines to be exploited, not a grass-roots base to be tended. ... 
Recent studies show that the effectiveness of such approaches varies from small to nil to negative. People who volunteer on campaigns are often nothing like other Americans in their politics. The gulf is particularly wide on the Democratic side, where infrequent and swing voters of all ethnicities, ages and life experiences tend to encounter highly educated, liberal and white volunteers. ...
There are places where resistance energy has successfully built potent local efforts, starting with electing local officials. Lara Putnam reports on studying one such area, outside Pittsburgh. But overall, Democrats have not been able to harness the new energy in a way that wins elections and gains power for progressive policies.
A political party that has few, if any, year-round structures in place to reach voters through trusted interlocutors — and learn from how they respond — can do no more than lurch from crisis to crisis, raising money off increasingly apocalyptic emails, with dire warnings “sounding the alarm” about a democracy in “immediate danger of falling.”  
Republicans, of course, also treat the news as an endless series of crises. But their calls to oppose socialism or critical race theory or transgender-inclusive bathrooms generate energy that flows into local groups that have a lasting, visible presence in their communities, such as anti-abortion networks, Christian home-schoolers, and gun clubs. ... When not connected to such networks, Democrats receiving apocalyptic messages can feel more battered than activated, leading to demoralization and despair. 
... If democracy is indeed on fire, the thing to do is to stop asking people to buy water bottles and organize them into fire brigades instead. Neither the national Democratic Party nor progressive leaders seem to have learned that lesson. They aren’t wrong to call the next election the most important in our lifetimes. And abortion bans and the Jan. 6 committee hearings may well recharge their base. But it’s what the base manages to build with that energy that will matter.
This indictment seems to me to miss some real forces whose modes of organization seem invisible to these analysts.

The "resistance" in the 2020 election included (and still usually includes) a lot more forces than just middle class white progressives. In particular, most of the leaders of the Black Lives Matter eruption in the summer of 2020 lent themselves generously to the wide coalition effort to elect Joe Biden -- certainly not their candidate of choice. And though this is largely outside the radar of white progressives, there is some real organization and base building that lives under the label BLM.

Likewise, the Sunrise Movement, a very diverse assemblage of young climate activists with a plan, is a real force doing its darnedest to create a sustainable society they can hope to live in. These are not pie-in-the-sky college students; they believe they are fighting the extinction of their future. And because they know viscerally that survival requires power, many quite pragmatically threw themselves into replacing Trump.

Of course the labor movement also kept fighting through the Trump years, more and less efficaciously. The force of organized working people also disappears in this analysis. In most areas that have effective on the ground Democratic-supporting campaign programs, labor remains the key coalition component.

Progressive institutional forms may look weak or too new to matter to a broad coalition. They don't had the history of evangelical churches or gun enthusiast clubs. But the future is going to have to be different and new organizational forms are struggling to emerge.

I need to add that I have some sympathy for liberal progressives who find that their supporters are simply clustered in the wrong locations, living where it's hard to put their energy to good use. I live in such a place. Big cities can be prone to producing loud progressive noise and infighting over not much. No wonder it's attractive to aspiring resistance organizations to use people on tasks of dubious electoral effect, such as mass texting or mailing postcards.

Some of the best of emerging forces in very blue cities have organized themselves to send their members to work where organized local forces can use them well. For example, Seed the Vote in the San Francisco Bay Area does this.

This is what I've been able to do with myself for several election cycles. I am right now working in Nevada with UniteHERE/the Culinary Workers to keep this knife-edge state blue. There are paid canvasser positions still available.

And short term volunteers are also welcome. Let's get out and knock those door and talk with voters.

Tuesday, August 02, 2022

Monday, August 01, 2022

A picture of our fossil fuel problem

Philip Bump, Washington Post data visualization master, has done himself proud with this chart. If the hope of mitigating climate change consists of replacing coal and other fossil fuels with clean electricity, here's the current story.

Click to enlarge. There's so much worth thinking about. The West Coast is doing pretty well at getting off coal -- but California still uses a lot of natural gas which is also a CO2 problem. All of New England is also doing well. And then there are the coal-addicted states in the middle.

Bump opines:

What probably stands out here is how little green there is: relatively little wind and solar in the mix. Still lots of fossil fuels being burned. You'll also notice that D.C. has a lot of electricity generated from what the EIA calls “other biomass.” My assumption is that the District has somehow managed to convert human discomfort at high humidity into a form of electricity.

Erudite Partner, who grew up in DC, points out that the capitol is still an outlier in using a lot of heating oil.