Friday, September 30, 2022

Friday cat blogging

Feeling cat-deprived, we visited Reno's unique bookstore, The Radical Cat. Here you can find leftist and feminist books -- and a revolving cast of cats looking for a good home.

Today there were two astonishingly friendly resident felines:

Clumbsy is a dignified older gent -- til he starts playing with a blanket.

Decene is a young, very self-possessed, female.

We couldn't take them home. But someone will.

Update from Martha's Vineyard

The Venezuelan asylum seekers dumped on the remote Massachusetts island are gone -- moved to a base on the mainland where they have access to housing and immigration attorneys. 

Florida Republican Governor and aspiring presidential candidate Ron DeSantis has more urgent concerns today. His state is under water. Picking on poor people from abroad will have to wait while he bails out, with maximum help from the federal government.

But the Venezuelans made friends in the strange place they were dumped. The Martha's Vineyard Times reports on a return visit from a few of them.


Stallings told The Times that he and his wife Jackie visited with the Venezuelan migrants at the base on Sept. 21, and later enjoyed time on the Vineyard with four of those folks on Sunday.

“There was an extremely warm welcome when we got to the JBCC,” Stallings said. The general consensus from all he spoke with was “they were so appreciative of the Vineyard — really enjoyed their time with us, and all of them look forward to coming back to visit soon.”

Stallings said the migrants had good accommodations and food provided to them at Joint Base Cape Cod, with their own rooms — something that couldn’t be provided for them at St. Andrew’s.

Stallings said some of them “absolutely” want to make the Vineyard their home. “There’s a handful of them who would really like to relocate,” he said. The desire is tempered with the reality of the lack of housing, but also that there’s ample work, he said. He also said they are coming to grips with the notions of cold weather and snow....

The housing shortage on the island may make it unlikely these folks will be able to settle there.  But the Vineyard has long had a good sized Portuguese-speaking Cape Verdian population, migrants who made do, crowded together, and made a strong start on building a life in their new country. Maybe Venezuelans will be the next wave of newcomers to find opportunity in this cold and rocky place.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

While getting a flu shot ...

Today we ventured out to get the shots -- and while dealing with the helpful CVS pharmacy technician, I felt as if I were watching what's described here in front of my face.

The New Omicron Booster and Flu Season Have Pushed Pharmacy Workers to Their Limit

... “We were told Thursday that week would be the earliest,” she said. “Suddenly we received a shipment of two boxes that Monday.”

The first day wasn’t so bad—only one patient realized the new vaccine was available. But the following day, “chaos ensued,” she said. Shots were scheduled every 15 minutes from 9:30 a.m. to 6:15 p.m., with no breaks. “That first day, we didn’t even know how many milliliters the patient was to receive in the shot,” she said. “We didn’t know if it was OK to give with a flu vaccine. We didn’t know if it had any side effects. We didn’t even know how to properly post the vaccine to our inventory system.”

Pharmacists also felt the pressure in the early days of the new vaccine rollout. As Matt, a pharmacist and manager at a retail pharmacy near Tucson, Arizona, said, “As the new omicron boosters roll out, the extreme anxiety has returned”—worsened by his company’s requirement that pharmacies accommodate walk-ins at all hours of the day.

Making matters more dire, the new vaccine rollout coincides with flu season, typically the busiest time of year at the pharmacy. ...

Today our CVS pharmacy tech fielded three phone calls which trying to process our out-of-state medical and insurance records. Her work space was jammed with crates and boxes. She explained they were dealing with twice the volume of incoming drug packages and three times the number of requests they usually see -- all with a reduced staff because it's so hard to hire at present. 

She was surprisingly cheerful about it, though reporting that she found herself working 14 hour days without stopping to eat.

Corporate capitalism is not about efficiency -- it's about getting the most out of nice people who take pride in their work. That sucks.

US Senator Catherine Cortez Masto

This is the woman we are working to keep in the United States Senate.

She's well spoken and clear-eyed.

Our canvass team finds Nevadans very ready to vote to keep free access to all reproductive health care.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

This is what we are up against in Nevada

Not surprisingly, with this guy as the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, volunteers are beginning to trickle in from all over to help keep Nevada Democratic.

You can join us -- just use this link.

Monday, September 26, 2022

On the move again

Blogging will be delayed a couple of days as your Reno campaigners are moving residence -- again. Reno is a housing crisis in progress and finding spots for all our canvassers is a game of musical apartments ...

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Yes, this is apocalyptic -- and not a drill

There's so much to worry about -- wildfires, hurricanes, domestic and foreign fascists -- to list a few immediate local threats. But we can't entirely look away from this:

By early September a third of Pakistan was under water. 40 million people, one fifth of the population are displaced, a third of the country was under water and more than half of its 160 districts have been declared “calamity hit”. A million houses have been destroyed or damaged. More than 160 bridges had collapsed or are severely damaged and thousands of miles of roads have been damaged. Hundreds of thousands of farm animals have died, and as many as 73,000 women are expected to give birth over the next month without adequate medical support. In some ways it was a miracle that only 1400 people have so far been declared dead. 
It should be a world historic moment. At this point, our habit of talking about climate change as a future risk has once and for all, to stop. One third of the fifth most populous country in the world, one of the most sensitive geopolitical hotspots on the planet, is under water. 40 million people are displaced. The climate emergency has arrived. This is not a drill. 
... The final tally for the current disaster is anyone’s guess at this point. If the 2010 floods that affected 15-20 million Pakistanis came to $10 billion, it would not seem unreasonable to set the tally this year in region of $!5-20 billion, which would be 4-5 % of GDP. For an economy already reeling under the impact of devaluation, power cuts, and high energy prices and the extreme heat earlier in the summer, which seriously impaired the wheat crop, it is another body-blow. Both rice and cotton crops are likely to be severely affected. 
Even more urgent are the public health risks in a country a third of which has been underwater. Waterborne diseases — malaria, diarrhea, dengue - and apocalyptic clouds of mosquitos pose an acute risk. [My emphasis. By way of economist Adam Tooze, Sept 21, 2022]

The Scientific American explores "Why Are Pakistan’s Floods So Extreme This Year?"  The science is not simple, but deserves a read.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Organized and organizing workers on the move

I'm old enough that, when I hear the name "AFL-CIO," I think "stodgy" or a "relic" that has become uninspiring. 

Not these days. Here's a video from the contemporary labor federation that's full of life. At the UniteHERE Reno campaign, we watched it together this morning for inspiration before sending our canvassers off for another day of knocking on doors.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Friday cat blogging

Give her a chance, Janeway will find a spot at the foot of the bed -- even at summer camp. Her humans are tolerant. She's fine til she decides to pounce on a toe.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Happy Autumnal Equinox

First snow on Mt. Rose marks the change of seasons.

Observations from Nevada that expand on the media picture

The Los Angeles Times highlights the importance of Latino voters in the impending midterm election.

Latino voters strongly support Democrats’ policy priorities: letting Medicare negotiate prescription drug prices (91%), canceling student debt (74%) and protecting abortion rights (77%), according to a weekly tracking poll by the National Assn. of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. But Biden’s approval rating with Latinos is just 58%...
It's good to see the paper trying to dig into the issues that seem to be depressing Latino enthusiasm for Democrats, but as a person working in a campaign many of whose primary target voters are working class Latinos, I have some observations.

Most importantly, this was written as if all "Latino" voters are similar to each other. Nonsense -- people broadly labelled "Latinos" may have many common concerns. But they also have particular concerns that vary widely based on many variables including class status, language preferences, gender, immigration status, U.S. region, countries of family origin, etc. This is a wildly diverse population and can't be lumped together. I've pulled out below some themes touched upon by the LA Times.

• Representation
This writer found many prominent spokespersons for the idea that the Biden administration had appointed too few Latinos.
Although Biden appointed a historic four Latinos to his Cabinet, there have been no Latinos appointed as assistant attorneys general at the Justice Department, no Latinos named to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that addresses workplace discrimination, and no Latino leadership at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. 
“Appointments send a message,” said [Thomas] Saenz of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and a former counsel to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “This goes far beyond the notion of progress. We have actually seen some regression in comparison to the Obama administration.”
The Biden administration naturally has a Latina White House aide who says this ain't so. It's hard for me not to think that perhaps these advocates were the easiest quotes for a reporter to get -- a commentary on the sources readily available to the LA Times.

• Communication about Kitchen Table Issues
Another theme in the article is that Latinos are being hit particularly hard by the post-pandemic disruptions in our economy.

Sending working families $1,400 pandemic relief checks, canceling as much as $20,000 of student loan debt and enacting the first gun safety reforms in 30 years after the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, this year are “overwhelming policy successes,” said Chuck Rocha, a Democratic consultant and advisor on Latino outreach to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). “The problem is the Latino voters don’t know about it. You don’t see ads talking about the litany of successes this White House has delivered for the Latino community.” 
... “One of the first things that comes out of people’s mouths when I talk to them in the district is gas prices,” said Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Pacoima). “If gas prices weren’t where they were, then people would be talking more about what we have done.” In those conversations, Cárdenas said he looks to focus constituents on all the things Democrats have done to help working families, as well as last year’s bipartisan infrastructure overhaul. “Biden has a lot to brag about. But something people don’t realize is that over 50% of construction workers are Latinos,” he said. “That infrastructure bill is a tremendous boost to millions of Latino households.”
This agrees profoundly with our experience here in Reno, Nevada, where the hospitality workers' union, UniteHERE/Culinary, is campaigning to activate working class voters, many Latino. Even though there are many more jobs advertised here than workers to fill them, people are weighed down by a rising cost of living, particularly the cost of rental housing. And they have very little idea that their Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak and their Latina U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto have been working to ease their economic burdens. We enjoy talking with the people we meet about these efforts. Join us on the campaign and see for yourselves.

• Abortion/Women's Rights
The number two issue we hear from voters is fear that abortion rights will be restricted or women's rights undercut by Republicans.
In last week’s National Assn. of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials tracking poll, abortion rights were a top-three issue for 28% of respondents — a huge jump from 2018, when only 4% listed it as such.

These people have reason to worry; both of our Republican opponents have pandered to extreme anti-abortiionists, though they are now trying to walk this back. Sisolak and Cortez Masto won't let them.

• Immigration
The LA Times makes the assumption that immigration injustices are high among Latino priorities. This is not what we are hearing at the doors. I almost think there's stereotyping going on, though in other states the miseries of a broken immigration system may be central concerns. Those issues don't seem top of mind among voters here. This may not be so true in border states, but the folks here who are immigration obsessives seem to be white Republicans.

The University of Nevada Reno is working to be an officially designated Hispanic Serving Institution
Here in the Southwest (and I'd include southern California in this) it's almost an anachronism to think of "Latinos" as a separate constituency group. Sure, people have their own history and traditions which they honor, but they are also building, alongside other ethnicities, an inclusive, and new, Southwestern American society. For a sensitive discussion of this development on the occasion of the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month, see this article in the Nevada Independent.

When Latinos complain that no one talked with them, as they often do, they are not alone. National Democrats are too often behind the curve on the novel adaptation of U.S. culture being birthed throughout the Southwest.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

What's really like to work on an election campaign: the days fly by

And after what has seemed an endless season of campaign toil, the election -- the drop dead moment  -- looms. This morning the online newsletter from the Nevada Independent laid out our future.

Days until first rural ballots are sent out: 4

Days until Washoe County mail ballots are sent out: 18

Days until Clark County mail ballots are sent out: 28

Days until early voting begins: 31

Days until the 2022 general election: 48

Some 75-80 percent of the Nevada vote will be cast in Clark County; that's the Las Vegas area. Nearly fifteen percent more will come from Washoe County where Reno is located. The rest will be from the deeply red "rural" counties.

Nothing to do but redouble our efforts.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Love this book cover

Some of my co-workers would agree. This period piece was irresistable.

Monday, September 19, 2022

If enough of us vote, it doesn't have to be this bad

Robert Kagan is one of those Washington think-tankers who provided the intellectual impetus for our misbegotten adventures in regime change after 9/11 in societies of which we were manifestly ignorant. Not my kind of guy. He left the Republicans over the fascistic energies released by Donald Trump, so he's made himself part of the big resistance tent we all need if U.S. democracy is to survive.

Recently, in an interview with Johns Hopkins University political scientist Yascha Mounk, Kagan offered a dire, but imaginable, vision of where the Republican assault on majority rule might lead the country. I found Kagan's imaginings thought provoking because they go beyond the necessary description of our Constitutional dysfunction to what happens if ...?

... it's really up to people. It's up to individuals all the way up, down, and across society, from the president, the vice president, the Supreme Court, the members of Congress, down to volunteer election officials (those are the people who saved us, in a way, in 2020). Unfortunately, I don't know that there is a legal or constitutional fix to what ails us.
What I am most worried about is moving into a period where, let's say two or three states which hold the balance in the Electoral College are completely contested. There is every prospect of mass protests from both sides. People are increasingly tending to come to those protests heavily armed. We could be in a situation in 2024 where there is no obvious way out, and then we'll be left with President Biden, or whoever is in charge at that time, having to make what amounts to extra-constitutional decisions in order to save our democracy, because there is no constitutional remedy.

.. If you're a president in a situation where a couple of states are hopelessly deadlocked because you've got mobs in the street, how do you get out of that situation? At what point are you able to say, “No, I won,” or “they won,” and that's the end of it? Is he going to call out the National Guard? Is he going to call up the Army? Once you have gotten to the point where the established means of choosing a president and all that comes with that have been cast to the winds, you really are in an extra-constitutional situation. 
That just means that whatever a president does in that situation, the other side will accuse them of being a tyrant, just the way Lincoln was accused of being a tyrant—to some extent, justifiably so. I don't want Donald Trump to be president after 2024 because I think he will then dismantle American democracy. Because he doesn't have any belief in American democracy. But even before you would get to Trump being in office, you would be in this crisis where we do not have a legitimate president. That's what I'm worried about.

... There's no question that there are conditions in the United States in terms of the way people feel about things, the way people behave, what they value and what they don't—that is a problem that exists apart from Donald Trump. And the question then is, has it always existed? Is there something new about what we're seeing today? I think there's a reasonable case to be made. But racism is certainly not new in America. White anxiety is not new. We never think about this, but the 1920s were a very similar period. What you had then was intense xenophobia, intense anti-immigration, anti-science in the Scopes Trial, the rise of the second Klan—these tendencies have, I think, always existed and are sort of inherent to the American experience, unfortunately. The 1930s were a time that was ripe for a Donald Trump, and the Donald Trumps were out there in Father Coughlin and Huey Long.

... as to these other problems that exist independently of Trump, we do need to work on them, and we need to fight that battle. And that battle now, as we can see, needs to be fought again, at every level of society. You know, you have to fight it at the school board and in the local community center. We are in one of those moments where we can't just wait for our elected officials to solve everything for us. 
But to repeat myself for the umpteenth time, I do think that Trump is special. And so I do think if we can get past Trump, yes, there’s a chance that this group, which has always been around, will be out there simmering, bubbling, and occasionally giving rise to some politician’s trajectory, but it won’t be the kind of comprehensive threat that Trump has turned into.

 The sign above was captured by a doorknocker in Reno. Passions are high out there.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

What it's really like to work on a political campaign: Smoked!

The UniteHERE Reno campaign is all about door knocking. We're set up to talk with large numbers of voters, persuade them to support our candidates, -- U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto and Governor Steve Sisolak -- and get them out to vote.

But for the last week, wildfire smoke from the Mosquito fire has made the outdoors hazardous and, besides, who is going to open their door to talk to a stranger and let in the smoke?

So we've converted our office into a makeshift phone bank, everyone dialing on their own phones.

This site was a call center before we made it a campaign office, so it is somewhat suited. But all this dialing is very primitive for 2022 and not at all how intentional phone banks are organized. But it is the mark of a serious campaign that we figure out a way to keep doing the work despite obstacles.

For a little relief, we've gotten around to decorating the office which had been a barren shell.

Someone hung this affirmation across from my office. I doubt the attribution to Cesar Chavez. But I live among and honor the fierce determination of my co-workers every day.

And when the monotony of it all is too much, there's a stretch break.

The smoke has to clear someday soon. Maybe today? So far so good at dawn's early light.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

This does my heart good

Martha's Vineyard can seem precious, just a little too pretty and bucolic to be true. But the people who choose to live on this New England outpost have heart. When bully boy Florida governor Ron DeSantis shipped to them a group of bewildered Venezuelan refugees, people knew what to do. In two days, new friends were made and clothed in the colors of the local high school. The state of Massachusetts then stepped up to do government's job, moving the people to a base on Cape Cod where they can be processed with access to immigration attorneys.

Photos by way of the Martha's Vineyard Times, all by Rich Saltzberg except as noted.

A young refugee embraces new found friend Sara Piazza.

Like most everyone else who leaves the island, the migrants departed on the ferry. Photo by Abigail Rosen

Nice to know that some people in these dis-United States still know how to behave when confronted with poverty and pain.

Michelle Norris gets the Island.

Yes, there are Land Rovers and yachts here, but the Vineyard is primarily an island of farms and fishermen, a year-round population that lives close to the land and in many cases works hard to make ends meet.

It’s an island that seesaws between overwork and underemployment. It’s a place where everything — gas, food, housing, toothpaste, you name it — costs more than it does on the mainland. It’s a place where 1 in 6 year-round residents is a registered user of the Island Food Pantry and one-third of schoolchildren receive free or reduced-price lunch.

It’s a place where organized groups go “gleaning” each week, picking produce left behind by farming machines so it can be used in the food pantry. ...

The Vineyard says to MAGA Republicans, cruelty to the weak is not who we are.

Friday, September 16, 2022

It's a dangerous flying object they've launched

A bunch of Republicans and Christo-fascists thought they killed of the right for U.S. women and families to decide how many children to bring into the world. Let's make sure they get conked on the head in November. 

Washington Post editorial cartoonist Ann Telnaes provides the picture.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

We need national health insurance!

Usually I write that we need Medicare for All. And we do. But today's little insurance-compelled jaunt reminded me that's not all we need.

As readers here know, I'm living in Reno temporarily. So today, in order for my Kaiser insurance to provide a urinalysis, I had to take a 220 mile round trip to Roseville, California. Two hundred twenty miles to pee in a cup. Kaiser insurance doesn't reach me in Nevada. 

That's nuts. Just glad I could do it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

A country for the old?

There's plenty of chatter on Twitter about the implications the increasingly aging Congress. 

To some extent, the aging Congress merely reflects an aging population. Fully 17 percent of us are over 65, and old people are increasing as a share of the population inexorably. And we vote. So it's not surprising we look to our age peers for leadership.

It does seem clear to me that there is a generation (my generation) for whom it is time to let go. If we're even minimally self-reflective, we know we aren't what we used to be. Maybe a little wiser -- but it is younger people's time.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

A prescription

The Ukrainians seem, for the moment, to be succeeding in their war against Russian invaders.

In a rapid counteroffensive, Ukraine recaptured much of Kharkiv Province in the northeast of the country, including the city of Izium. The advance, which continues, enabled Kyiv to gain a broader initiative in the war. ... A sudden Ukrainian success on the battlefield provided a boost not only to Ukrainians but to their supporters in Europe, who face a difficult winter of soaring energy prices and inflation. New York Times

Ukrainian success encourages continued European solidarity with this embattled people, despite their justified fear of Russia's ability to cut off energy supplies in winter.

Some folks on Twitter had another prescription for resisting the aggressor.

Monday, September 12, 2022

We have decided to trust the voters

Brian Beutler, editor-in-chief at Crooked Media, thinks that if Democrats just tell voters the truth, they'll sort themselves out and land on the side of decency and democracy.

Here’s something I don’t know for sure, but believe is true: Ask focus groups for their views on fascism, they will generally answer how you’d hope they’d answer—fascism is abhorrent, dangerous, un-American, etc etc.  
Ask focus groups to choose between various political appeals, including one in which Democrats say ultra-MAGA Republicans are semi-fascists, the general preference will be for gentler messages (reflecting common human distaste for conflict). Recite for them various antics—threatening the lives of judges, law-enforcement officers, and election officials; trying to steal elections; fomenting insurrection—and ask them which are reminiscent of fascism, and they’ll answer correctly almost every time.
[Beutler concludes] Democratic strategists tend to be obsessed with the middle phenomenon, but it's the bookends that ought to drive Democratic politics now. They have the goods on the GOP, the GOP’s defining endeavors in 2022 are fascistic, so let it be known, and people will sort themselves between good and evil. The fact that, deep down, most people wish politics could be a kinder sport is irrelevant.

Click to enlarge.

The UniteHERE campaign in Reno to retain U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto and Governor Steve Sisolak is taking the route Beutler suggests. Both these candidates stand in the way of the repressive Republican agenda. Here's the door hanger we're leaving when we knock.

We're trusting that if voters hear what our opponents stand for they'll sort out what they want for this state. And it won't be the undemocratic choice to deny  freedom to women and families to make their own decisions. We might as well just shout it.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Oh what a beautiful morning!

Some canvassers are phone banking. Others prefer to door knock, wearing masks.

The air became dramatically worst this evening.

The strange place I'm living in

Reno is a place with many faces. There's the old downtown, built along the Truckee River, a site of casinos but also an urban core. This is where the "Biggest Little City" arch spans the street. The outskirts were ranches not so long ago; wild horses sometimes wander among the housing tracts which have mushroomed out from the center. There are plenty of malls and strip malls. There are some lovely, thoughtfully developed, parks and bike routes. And quite ordinary urban neighborhoods where our hearty canvassers knock on doors.

And there are what I think of as the territories of aspiring office parks. Both our office and my temporary residence are among those.

If we didn't all use Google maps, we'd describe the location of the campaign office as being on Equity Ave., midway between Corporate and Financial.

Should the heat permit a leisurely walk around the block, you'd pass Financial and Wall Streets.

Most of the time, there's little visible life on these streets, rudimentary sidewalks, well manicured landscaping, and parking lots. Our building was a call center in a previous life, divided into 100s of carrels. There's another vacant call center around the corner. The pandemic took a toll here.

I'm housed at present (after a couple of moves) at a splendid extended stay hotel, the Staybridge Suites. It's clear who their hoped for clientele consists of -- it wasn't quite our merry band of hotel and casino workers. But we pay the bills.

Our street address is aspirational, like so much of Reno.

Don't get me wrong. Reno grows on me. The surroundings are gorgeous high desert when you escape the sprawl, heat, and smoke from California wildfires. Here was the view at sunrise today.

If you feel moved to help combat the MAGA fascists, join us and meet a few voters.

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Is it over?

Tonight Erudite Partner and I will get our third COVID boosters. It's been nearly a year; I'm sure we need an immunity upgrade.

Here on the Reno campaign, I'm the COVID safety officer. We are very careful, far more than most people around us. Every canvasser who can drive has their own rented car. Everyone has their own separate lodgings. We ask that all of us wear masks when inside and try to eat outside at restaurants. And, every day, all of us fill out an electronic form that comes to me, examining ourselves for symptoms.

If someone reports possible symptoms, I have them stay home at the motel and visit with a rapid test and a thermometer. So far it's always been allergies and/or exhaustion. We're going as far as we can to keep ourselves COVID-free.

So far so good. No coronaviruses here (nor were there any on the Reno campaign using the same protocols in 2020). Obviously we don't want our folks getting sick, but we are also very aware that a super-spreading event could shut down the whole operation. 

• • •

New York journalist Jill Filipovic had an interesting and quite different reaction to receding coronavirus restrictions than we're having here. 

I am definitely in the relief camp when it comes to lifting Covid restrictions. I’m also generally physically healthy, and I have a relatively high tolerance for risk. At some point, every society has to make cost-benefit decisions, including about health and safety. ...

But it also means an opportunity for straightforward conversations about how we weigh the various costs and benefits of any policy change. And it’s an opportunity to get a little more creative: What worked during the pandemic? What didn’t? What could we try to maximize people’s health and their desire to return to normal?

... [I] chafe at a return-to-normal path that simply tries to recreate Before Times without much thought to how we could integrate the lessons of the past three years as we chart our way forward — when it comes to health and safety, but also work, family, culture, and society. There is ample opportunity here to rethink the way we’re living. It’s a shame our policy-makers largely aren’t taking it.

Certainly the level of careful distancing we're maintaining here isn't appropriate to most lives. But have we learned anything enduring from the precautions of the last few years? All comments welcome.

Friday, September 09, 2022

The Queen passes

While cleaning out my parents' house 20 years ago, I came across this card -- a keepsake from Queen Elizabeth's coronation year of 1952. Mother was an Anglophile and one of the royalist Americans. The British monarchy was defined for her by its steely performance of patriotic perseverance during World War II. Elizabeth II was the teenager who trained as an auto mechanic during that war. Her coronation was the first TV I remember seeing -- my parents' marveling at the grainy live broadcast from Westminster Abbey -- boring processions of people in strange clothes it seemed to me, but still marvelous. As Elizabeth aged, Mother admired her stamina. Mother knew a thing or two about stamina herself. The monarchy doesn't much suit the contemporary world. Will Charles III be able to continue her myth-sustaining performance?

Friday cat blogging

Remember the cat who visited my office last month? Here he is, giving me a fixed stare early one morning this week. Cat and human campaigners all live in this extended stay hotel. Most resident pets are dogs, but my friend here seems quite content.

Thursday, September 08, 2022

Republican extremism is not popular

This really is becoming a midterm election about who controls child bearing -- women and families or the state. And more and more us don't think it should be up to Republican lawmakers and courts. 

Kevin Drum presented this chart summarizing Wall Street Journal polling:

A radical Supreme Court has rubbed the American majority the wrong way.

Some internal findings from the polling:

  • 62% opposed an abortion ban at 6 weeks of pregnancy that only included an exception for the health of the mother
  • 57% opposed a ban at 15 weeks with an exception only for the health of the mother
  • 77% opposed banning women who live in states where abortion is illegal from traveling to other states to get an abortion.
  • 81% were against banning all abortions.

Here in Nevada, the Republican seeking to replace U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto has run as a hardline anti-abortion activist. 

We're working night and day to be sure this fanatic extremist doesn't win in November.

Wednesday, September 07, 2022

War makes human flotsam

A poignant story in the Washington Post tells of young Afghans who, as part of the chaotic collapse of the U.S. military adventure in their country, find themselves in an Adriatic Sea beach resort on the coast of Albania. It's a beautiful and friendly haven ... but what next?

SHËNGJIN, Albania — The 21-year-old university student did not realize it at the time, but he got on the wrong plane out of Afghanistan. 
... For the student, his siblings and hundreds like them who were taken to Albania, a country they had never heard of — and to a beach resort, no less — it has become the strangest of limbos. 
For nearly a year, they have lived in a sprawling beach hotel in Shëngjin, a resort town with a long, wide swath of sand on Albania’s north coast, a little over an hour’s drive from the capital, Tirana. 
“The food is good, and the room is good,” said the student, whose brother had worked for the Americans, and who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect relatives in Afghanistan from possible retaliation by the Taliban. “But we are in a psychological prison because we don’t know what will happen.”
They are more likely to be able to migrate to Canada than to the United States which is being inexplicably stingy with visas for Afghans whose lives we tore to shreds.

• • •

The Adriatic coastline is rugged and beautiful.
This story of exiled Afghans puts me in mind of my uncle's remarkable trajectory out of a Serbian farming village located within the Hapsburg Empire, by way of a desperate season as a child soldier in the Serbian Army during the Great War (World War I, 1914-1918) to England, then the U.S., finally landing in Buffalo, New York. The Austrians shot his father, simply for being a Serb, on the outbreak of war. He swam a river under fire and joined up with other Serbs. The ragtag Serbian army, beset by typhus and outgunned by invading Bulgarians, trekked over rugged passes in winter to the Adriatic Coast.

And suddenly, Stevan Idjidovic's life took another wild turn. The Brits hadn't been particularly useful allies to Serbia, but they offered to take a small number of young Serbian men to Oxford to be trained up as proper English gentlemen. My uncle was one of the lucky ones, suddenly transported from an Adriatic beach to imperial luxury. From photos of that time, you get the sense that the Balkan transplants may have been looked upon as belonging to a category not-unlike Indian subjects receiving their finishing in the imperial center.

Stevan thrived and hustled his way to America, to meeting my aunt, and to landing in Buffalo in the 1930s. He wrote a little book about his war, The Snows of Serbia

I wrote a lengthy summary which you might enjoy if Stevan's tale piques your interest.

Tuesday, September 06, 2022

Exceptional indeed

Well, that's happened. Today, life expectancy at birth is lower in the United States than in China. Or, for that matter, in much of the world.

Economist Adam Tooze writes:

... it is not only China that has overtaken the United States based on this metric. In 2021 Cuba has a higher life expectancy than the US. So does Albania.

Why? Well, the United States did a uniquely bad job of containing COVID. And we're afflicted by an opioid epidemic. But in addition, we're a society where some people are more equal than others.

A life expectancy of 66.7 means that Black men in the United States have, at birth, the same life expectancy as men in Pakistan, a country which ranks #150 out of 193 on the global list. In 2021, a boy born in an African success story like Rwanda has a longer life expectancy than a Black boy born in the United States. Men in India, Laos and North Korea have a higher life expectancy than Black men in America.

The most disadvantaged populations of all are Native Americans. In 2021, according to the CDC, Native American men have a life expectancy that puts them on a par with low-income Sub-Saharan African countries such as Togo or Burkina Faso, some of the poorest countries in the world.

Tooze calls these statistics "shameful" -- and he's right.

Monday, September 05, 2022

They really are fascists ...

This Labor Day, in addition to everyone else who toils for pay and sometimes pride, let's remember professional election workers. They are under siege.

Here's a thread from @GraceBannasch, town clerk of her home town. This is what she is being subjected to:

Here's her account:

I want people to understand what local election officials are dealing with behind the scenes, so I’ve decided to share a letter making extreme demands that has been received by election officials all over the country over the last week.

... The demand here is extremely burdensome. It isn’t practical to retain all election records permanently. Also, even I, an actual election administrator, don’t recognize half the terms utilized here.

... the tactics of the Big Lie crowd are moving in the direction of targeting specific election workers, especially poll workers. This is obviously a coordinated campaign to interfere with the ability of election officials to perform our duties according to state and federal law.

I’ve gotten this exact same letter from 3 different people this week alone. I’d be shocked if any of them had heard of my tiny little hilltown with only around 1,500 registered voters before they copied and pasted my email address. 
Please note, they aren’t just talking about the 2020 Nov 3 Presidential Election. They are demanding we retain ALL records for ALL state/federal election records beyond the retention deadline, indefinitely.

... When we say that democracy is under attack, this is one example of what we’re talking about. Just one. Out of countless. This has to stop. It’s not okay. Election administrators need help. We have elections to run, and real work to get done.

And that's without the death threats.

Sunday, September 04, 2022

Another day on the Reno campaign trail

Statewide campaign director Mario Yedidia fires up canvassers who have retreated to the shade of the office parking lot

People we meet keep saying "enjoy your weekend." What weekend? The campaign is canvassing all the way through Labor Day -- after all, a lot of people we hope to talk with are at home.

Temperatures are still hitting the 100s in Reno despite increasing cooling overnight, but folks head out gamely everyday. A new batch from the east are getting used to these tough days.

Field director Eunice gives directions for the day.

Smitty shows everyone how to chant. "Si! Se Puede!" with heart.

Another day, more doors knocked, more voters engaged to vote Governor Sisolak and U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, working together, grinding out a victory!

Saturday, September 03, 2022

Remember the newcomers ...

Jay Caspian Kang, a very thoughtful New York Times opinion writer, included the following paragraphs in an announcement that he is ending his subscriber-only newsletter. It brought me up short; he catches something I knew, but seldom see articulated in political commentary.

Almost all of today’s politics, whether the actual policies enacted by local, state and federal government or the intensely polarized culture wars, come out of four events. The first three — the 2008 financial crash, the 2016 election of Donald Trump and the near-decade-long Black Lives Matter movement, which culminated in the mass George Floyd protests in 2020 — shouldn’t be particularly controversial or novel. 
But the fourth — the 1965 Immigration Act — being a bit older and obscure, does not get discussed all that much outside of xenophobic right-wing media figures like Tucker Carlson, who called it “the worst attack on our democracy in 160 years.” Carlson’s fixation on this moment is not unwarranted: The multiethnic country we live in today would not be possible without the 1965 Immigration Act, which opened up the country to millions of people from all over the world, including my parents, who moved to the United States in the late 1970s.
My emphasis. Being a Californian whose life in politics has been deeply enmeshed in the stresses and strains of demographic transition, I know this is true in my bones. But Kang is right -- for comfortable-class white people, especially on the East Coast which still sets the media narrative, the breadth and implications of our multiethnic evolution seems something of a sideshow. I'm with Kang. How we shape the exciting but difficult community we have made is the central arena of struggle.

Which brings me to Joe Biden's pro-democracy barn burner of a speech yesterday at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. The President came out swinging and I'm delighted with nuggets such as these, cribbed from Heather Cox Richardson's summary.

"Too much of what’s happening in our country today is not normal. Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our Republic."

"There’s no question that the Republican Party today is dominated, driven and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans. And that is a threat to this country."
"MAGA Republicans do not respect the Constitution. They do not believe in the rule of law. They do not recognize the will of the people. They refuse to accept the results of a free election, and they’re working right now as I speak in state after state to give power to decide elections in America to partisans and cronies, empowering election deniers to undermine democracy itself."
"MAGA forces...promote authoritarian leaders, and they fan the flames of political violence that are a threat to our personal rights, to the pursuit of justice, to the rule of law, to the very soul of this country."
You go, Joe! This country needs a brave leader speaking harsh truths. We may very well need a Lincoln whose political savvy and vision combined to hold a divided country together in another moment of crisis. At terrible cost.

Yet I also understand why, in some parts of this country, a speech like Biden's doesn't break through. I fear he's not speaking some of the aspirational vision that is most important to the new citizens whose lives are a consequence of the 1965 Immigration Act.

Here's how I attempted to explain this at Dan Pfeiffer's Message Box this morning:
Watching this from Nevada -- I thought this a terrific speech. He said what needed to be said. 
And, working in a massive voter turnout out operation in Nevada, I'm aware he's largely inaudible here. It's not just the media; it's cultural. (Addendum: the Republican challenger to Nevada's Democratic governor thinks the way to win is to put up pictures of Gov. Sisolak with Biden.)  
Biden simply doesn't read as a leader in this western, heavily Latino, state. He doesn't resonate culturally in the West -- and he probably doesn't understand the West. The tropes he appeals to are foreign to this state. Not that folks don't want democracy and honest government, but the messages need to be a little different. On the coast -- CA, OR, WA -- this doesn't matter as Democratic-led government has, at present, established itself as a "good thing." But the Southwest is different territory, needing to build new visions of freedom. 
We're a sprawling country. But at least Joe believes in us.
Independence Hall and the promise of the rule of law aren't enough. People desperately want to be told that their government respects them and that it honors the sacrifices they are willing to live for their children. They want to believe in the fairness of the system -- and too often they can't. Yes, they want to believe no one is going to take away their votes, but they want to hear other themes even more.

And they don't want anyone interfering with their bodies or their families. A polling insight that I keep returning to:

About 81% of Latino voters in Nevada believe abortion should remain legal, no matter what their own personal beliefs on abortion are.

Friday, September 02, 2022

Friday cat blogging

Jon Tester is the senior (longest sitting) U.S. Senator from Montana. He knows who is important. And though he represents a Trump-liking state, he doesn't make himself a preening obstructionist like some Senators I could name.