Monday, October 31, 2022

Midterm election punditry I found descriptive ...

... of what our Reno canvassers are encountering as they try to convince and turn out infrequent, mostly working class, voters for the Democrats.

There are plenty of homes like this in Reno -- but canvassers report the house next door displayed a Trump banner.

First from Nicholas Lemann, who bothered to come to visit Nevada (as well as New Hampshire):

The aggressive mundaneness of Democratic candidates around the country, at least in competitive races, shouldn’t be mistaken for simple centrist, difference-splitting caution. It comes from a reading of American politics right now as an open competition for the loyalties of voters who aren’t especially affluent and who don’t feel especially secure or in control of their circumstances. ...

... Nevada Democrats, whose constituents are mainly blue-collar nonwhite residents, and New Hampshire Democrats, whose constituents are mainly white residents with small-government leanings, have a few things in common. They relentlessly emphasize the everyday practical benefits that the Party provides for its constituents. They are obsessively concerned with organizing, and especially with door-to-door, in-person campaigning. They try their best to get extreme Republicans as opponents. And, at least when I was visiting, they hardly ever mentioned their support for the Biden Administration’s major legislation. That’s partly because Biden isn’t very popular, and partly because of their conviction that voters, particularly in closely contested states, don’t care about whatever great changes are afoot in American government.

But that doesn’t mean there is no connection between what the Biden Administration has been doing and the way Democrats in purple states run for office. Both are animated by a critique, implied rather than directly stated, of past Democratic Party policies and politics. As Biden himself put it in a speech last year, “We’re now forty years into the experiment of letting giant corporations accumulate more and more power. And what have we gotten from it? Less growth, weakened investment, fewer small businesses. Too many Americans who feel left behind. Too many people who are poorer than their parents.” Politicians on the ground and a rising generation of policymakers in Washington are trying to reposition the Democratic Party as more focussed on the daily lives of the working-class voters it has been losing. For the economic-policy branch of the Party, that amounts to a revolution, one that hasn’t been sufficiently noticed.

Realizing that this is what might be persuasive to an electorate skeptical about the Democrats is changing the Democratic Party without loud breaches with the past, Lemann argues. And that's what our candidates, Catherine Cortez-Masto for U.S. Senate and Steve Sisolak for Governor, are talking about. They might seem very conventional Democrats, but they know the direction they have to take to reach voters. They appeal to working people who know they are getting a raw deal and blame the bosses. Our Culinary Union canvassers, who work in the tourist industry, have no trouble believing they are being ripped off. And they've walked and knocked for several months in heat and smoke to try to convince people much like them to vote. 

In the Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein lays out a view of what he labels The Double Negative Election.

Most Americans consistently say in polls that they believe that President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats have mismanaged crime, the border, and, above all, the economy and inflation. But roughly as many Americans say that they view the modern Republican Party as a threat to their rights, their values, or to democracy itself.

Based on Biden’s first two years in office, surveys show that most Americans are reluctant to continue following the policy path he has laid out. But polls also show no enthusiasm for returning to the programs, priorities, and daily chaos of Donald Trump’s presidency...

... [a] factor allowing Democrats to remain competitive is that, for all the doubts Americans are expressing about their performance, there is no evidence of rising confidence in Republicans. ... although half of voters said they disagreed with most of what Biden and the Democrats are trying to do, even more said they mostly disagreed with the agenda of congressional Republicans (53 percent) and Trump (56 percent).

On the ground, what our canvassers are trying to overcome is a pervasive cynicism about what any politician will do for ordinary people. If we pull our candidates through in Nevada, it will be because we convince enough of the disillusioned that their votes matter.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Lula defeats the rightwinger in Brazil

Good news is rare enough that this deserves an instant post. Watch Brazilians, mostly young, dance with delight.

Will Brazil's military and fascists accept the verdict of the people? That remains to be seen. But for this evening, the dancing is underway.

Can All Hallows Eve (Halloween) have an eve?

Gosh, Halloween has a full season even before we get to the day itself.

Commercial Halloween has been in full swing for weeks.

Once upon a time, the holiday was an occasion of familial creativity to entertain the children. I remember my doting grandmother made me a Robin Hood costume which I treasured. Certainly some folks still do this sort of thing with kids. But Halloween is also readily available ready-made and for sale.

Today, we can buy our monsters for a month or more at Home Depot.

Rows of shelves offer an array of possibilities.

How about an expensive goblin?

Or a looming witch? 
Nice werewolf you've got there ...

We're having an old fashioned pumpkin carving contest here on the Reno campaign. Let's see what kind of creativity team competition unleashes. To be continued ...

Saturday, October 29, 2022

San Franciscans: Vote Yes on Prop M

This is a common sense measure that might help the housing affordability crisis in our city, at least a little. Houses and apartments should be places to live, not a chips in a financial game. The city should make it costly for landlords to hold livable units off the market. I don't know whether this will work, but it might help.

Friday, October 28, 2022

Friday cat blogging

There's Janeway looking sweet, perhaps curious. Don't be fooled. Her response to getting into a sewing project is to try to eat straight pins, according to her tolerant host.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Good advice from a political pro

Dan Pfeiffer worked political communications for President Obama. He offers a sound prescription for a very tough Get Out The Vote season: 

For everyone other than the ad-makers and decision-makers at the party committees and Super PACs, the polls serve no purpose. None. Zero. Zilch. They are mood-altering statistical drugs.

... We are in the final stretch. There is nothing left to do but persuade and mobilize.

... Always remember that there is a diverse, pro-democracy, pro-truth, anti-MAGA majority in the country. If we turn them out, we win. ...

In the many close contests this year, this is simply true.

Sidewalk decoration encountered by our Reno canvassers
No time to agonize -- let's organize.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Where you gonna go?

After decades of anxious women eyeing me suspiciously in public bathrooms (my appearance doesn't gender-track for some people), I'm conscious of bathroom signage.

Here's a fine specimen of New Hospital Modern -- welcoming in an antiseptic fashion.

And here's how we do it in a campaign office where a lot of people boasting different gender experiences and expressions, as well as different languages and cultures, mix and mingle.

I think of this one as Improvised Inclusive -- not a bad label for the culture some of us are striving to build in these UnUnited States.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

There's a ghoul on the loose in Reno

I doubt that whoever put up this Halloween decoration understood how well it went with their choice of U.S. Senate candidate. Adam Laxalt is a Big Lie Trump sycophant, eager to ban abortions nationally. Even his family urges voters to just say "no" to his ambitions.

But he's in a dead heat race with work-horse Nevada U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto. We're turning out her voters here in Reno.

Monday, October 24, 2022

What can we do about dying communities?

Click to enlarge

This chart is devastating. "Objector districts" refers to Congressional districts where, whether they were being honest or not, Republican Congress members felt they had to vote to reject the Electoral College tally that gave Joe Biden the presidency. In some states, that meant saying their own majorities were tainted by fraud.

Turns out, one of the characteristics that distinguishes these districts, even from other Republican districts, is higher adult mortality -- the so-called "deaths of despair" from addictions, the ill health often goes with hard lives, and high suicide rates. 

COVID exacerbated the existing pattern but didn't really change it.

The New York Times investigation from which this is drawn should be devastating even to those of us who have devoted ourselves to defeating the world view these districts cling to.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Tolkien woke?

Who knew that J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, was an anti-racist? Juan Cole did. I can't resist passing this morsel on.

... there was the character of the man. Despite living in a world of white male privilege at Oxford, a world he no doubt could not entirely escape, in some respects Tolkien was what white racialists would now call “woke.” He had been born to an English family in South Africa, and once said publicly that “I have the hatred of Apartheid in my bones.”

In 1938 when a German publisher wary of the Nazis’ racist policies wrote Tolkien to ask whether he could prove his Aryan descent, the author wrote out a couple replies, one of which said,

    “Thank you for your letter. I regret that I am not clear as to what you intend by arisch. I am not of Aryan extraction: that is Indo-Iranian; as far as I am aware none of my ancestors spoke Hindustani, Persian, Gypsy, or any related dialects. But if I am to understand that you are enquiring whether I am of Jewish origin, I can only reply that I regret that I appear to have no ancestors of that gifted people. My great-great-grandfather came to England in the eighteenth century from Germany: the main part of my descent is therefore purely English, and I am an English subject — which should be sufficient. I have been accustomed, nonetheless, to regard my German name with pride, and continued to do so throughout the period of the late regrettable war, in which I served in the English army. I cannot, however, forbear to comment that if impertinent and irrelevant inquiries of this sort are to become the rule in matters of literature, then the time is not far distant when a German name will no longer be a source of pride.”

... In the early 1940s, Tolkien wrote to his son, “I have in this war a burning private grudge against that ruddy little ignoramus Adolf Hitler.” Tolkien admired what he called “the northern spirit,” but he thought of it as broadminded and Hitler was ruining it for him.

I've long relished the fact that Tolkien's Middle Earth offered so many of us a glimpse of an attractive moral universe.  

Juan Cole's Informed Comment is frequently broadening and also a source of moral vision.

Saturday, October 22, 2022

I voted

All done. It was not a terribly gripping ballot. And having been out of the state for several months and not living in a part of San Francisco where we have a local supervisor contest, I didn't have huge personal interest in much of what I voted on. So I will skip writing my usual more thorough comments.

Statewide offices

All the people with a D after their names will almost certainly be elected. So I didn't feel I had to vote for most of them.

An exception was Shirley Weber, the Secretary of State, who has long been an honorable fighter for civil rights and justice in the San Diego area. I liked voting for her.

I also voted for Rob Bonta, the Attorney General, and Alex Padilla, our appointed U.S. Senator. They are at least novel incumbents. We needed new blood.

Statewide propositions

Prop. 1 -- YES! Let's cast an overwhelming vote to protect abortion rights.

Props. 26 & 27 -- dueling gambling measures. Enough already. NO

Prop. 31 -- banning flavored tobacco products. Why are we even voting on this? YES, of course.

San Francisco

I wish I knew what and who the School Board needed. I don't. The recall election meant that Mayor London Breed has appointed most of them. That's not a situation I trust. But what can an elected Board do about the schools?

I do know that City College of San Francisco is in trouble because the state wants it to be largely a feeder system for the UC colleges and universities, while traditionally it has severed a broader role for communities of adult learners. The union of City College teachers suggested we go with Susan Solomon, Anita Martinez, and Vick Chung to navigate the pressures created by a state system which doesn't give a damn about local priorities for City College. I voted for them. I also support San Francisco Prop. O which would create a local funding stream for the sort of adult educational institution we've had and still want.

District Attorney: some votes are simple. I wouldn't vote for Mayor Breed's handpicked D.A., Brooke Jenkins, for toilet cleaner. She showed herself a politically ambitious, unprincipled opportunist while working to throw out her predecessor. Her policies seem to consist of tough posturing and little justice, so long as she performs the theater of "doing something" about people's fears for their safety. Doing something doesn't include challenging a police department that is both lazy and violent toward those who are poor, Black, and Brown. 

So who to replace Jenkins? I went with John Hamasaki who has his own flaws, but has been a critic of the SFPD on the Police Commission and a defense lawyer. There's nobody better on offer.

Public Defender: Manu Raja continues to lead a model department. Let's endorse his work.

City ballot measures

No on D; Yes on E - the city needs more affordable housing. It also doesn't need to let profiteering developers make a mint on building places where no ordinary San Franciscan can afford to live. Housing policy is complicated and full of fraudulent arguments. The people who care most about affordable housing say the better measure here is E and I believe them.

Yes on F - for the libraries, the city's most benevolent institutions.

Yes on H - move most city elections to high turnout presidential years. The current system of electing the mayor and others in off-years was put in place to protect traditional city elites in the turbulent 70s and 80s. Let's consolidate these choices.

Yes on M - that's the empty homes tax. Let's penalize landlords who keep livable spaces empty while waiting to speculate.

Yes on O - let's pay for the sort of City College San Francisco wants and needs!

Friday, October 21, 2022

Friday bird blogging

We're somewhat animal-deprived in the campaign office, so this fellow drew an admiring crowd as he tried to find a lose cage bar.
I think you could say he cast a baleful eye on his admirers.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

What it is really like to work on a campaign: GOTV is the final sprint

Ballots drop here in Washoe County today and tomorrow. Everyone registered gets a mailed ballot in Nevada. Most people vote early, whether by mail or in numerous neighborhood locations. 

Porch furniture
The door knockers turn their energy to making sure the infrequent voters we've been talking with for months follow through. These people are mostly folks who go through life not thinking much about politics or elections, so we work to Get Out the Vote. The only way to stop our polite entreaties is to cast that ballot.

The work is always hard, but what has been a marathon since July is now more like a sprint.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

When necessary medical care is denied ...

This is a little longer than clips I usually share here -- but a necessary reminder of what it means health interventions are made a criminal offense.

Eighteen weeks into her pregnancy, Amanda Zurawski felt something was "wrong"—and learned from doctors that her fetus could not survive. Miscarriage was inevitable—"but what happened next was not," she says. Under Texas's sweeping abortion ban, doctors could not provide her with care, starting a medical nightmare that put her in the ICU fighting a life-threatening infection. In this exclusive video, she and her husband sat down with the doctors behind Obstetricians for Reproductive Justice and The Meteor to share what happened.

H/t All in Her Head.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Antisemitism: thriving where the far right seeks power

John Ganz  writes what he calls Unpopular Front-the junk box of history. I find his musings and diatribes thought provoking. The other day he offered this in an essay prompted by narcissistic zillionaire Elon Musk's escapades:

Antisemitism is both symptom and cause of broader social decline: it is the most pornographic and salacious part of reactionary propaganda, the sign of the abandonment of democracy in favor of demagogues and the mob, and it reveals the utter cynicism and vulgarity of the ruling class, its willingness to indulge in any irresponsibility that will perpetuate its dominance.

Donald Trump is an unabashed anti-Semite. That's not news. He is spewing bile for his MAGA mob and undoubtedly provoking the sort of vile reaction he intends.

Sarah Posner explores Trump's transactional expectation that U.S. support for rightwing Israeli zionism put "the Jews" in his debt. Trump likely learned enough from palling with right-wing evangelical Christian pastors to know how to tickle their fantasies.

One interpretation is theological, a topic on which Trump is notoriously illiterate, although he’s likely spent enough time around evangelicals to know they believe they have an imperative to convert Jews to Christianity. They seek converts now, because you never know when Jesus is actually coming back, and you want to be saved already when it happens. The evangelicals who await Jesus’s return at the battle of Armageddon envision it as an event during which Jews will be forced to accept Christ, or perish in a lake of brimstone. “Before it is too late!” has a very particular meaning here. 
Another interpretation is purely political. Trump demands loyalty, and he gets it from an overwhelming majority of white evangelicals, but only a tiny minority of Jews. In this interpretation, Trump is angry not to see Jews at bended knee. Jews’ supposed failure to “appreciate what they have in Israel” is actually a failure to appreciate that Trump has done heroic things for Israel. ...
It's always about Donald Trump for Donald Trump

• • •

And here in Reno, Washoe County is afflicted by its own real estate-speculating, tech millionaire Republican nut job who has decided this a great place to spread viciousness. 

From The Nevada Independent:

In the days after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, Robert Beadles logged onto a video-streaming platform and blamed former President Donald Trump’s electoral defeat on an international Jewish conspiracy. 
The chaotic events of the day, he said, were choreographed by outside forces, not Trump supporters. Beadles pointed to the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” — a long-debunked antisemitic pamphlet claiming that Jews are conspiring to take over the world. 
“Just like the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion,’ when you infiltrate every single layer of civilization of a society, they put their people in these prominent positions to keep the information from leaking out or to keep their narrative in place,” Beadles said. “And we’re seeing that.” 
... he has made a name for himself as an election denier, far-right provocateur and prominent GOP donor who has given more than $1 million over the past two years to Republican candidates up and down the ballot. He charged into Nevada Republican Party politics, using his power and influence to win a seat on the Washoe GOP executive committee and push the party’s agenda to more extreme positions. ...
This too is what we struggle against, here in the UniteHERE Reno campaign. Join us.

Monday, October 17, 2022

The limits of political ads

Walter Shapiro is a wise old political writer. He observes:

Politics is always a struggle for the future rather than a toast of gratitude for the past ...

Messaging by both parties is probably overrated in our saturated media environment. Political ad spending during the 2022 midterms is expected to approach $10 billion. Amid this cacophony of voice-of-doom attack ads, it will be hard for even the cleverest messaging to break through to swing voters and the politically under-motivated. ...

Mostly, political ads are boring. Every once in a while, someone makes a charming one that breaks through. I count this one of those, from Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Tim Ryan, running in Ohio.

Not my aesthetic or my politics, but sweet in its own terms. Ryan is a surprisingly telegenic figure for someone running on white-working class cred in a white working-class state. He's about as suitable a candidate as Dems could have found. Just maybe, he'll succeed against the odds in a state turning hard right. We can hope so.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Reno boomtown and battleground

The story we're meeting while canvassing the neighborhoods of Reno, Nevada, has turned into a national story. Here's the New York Times describing this fascinating place:

These are boom times in and around Reno. Warehousing and casinos have long been the city’s main businesses, and the surge in e-commerce since the start of the pandemic has companies snapping up facilities as fast as they can be built. 
Yet Reno and the surrounding area have also seen the cost of things like housing, gas and groceries rise, making daily existence in this growing metropolis increasingly difficult for many of the people who live here...  
“Now Hiring” billboards dot Reno’s interstate and back roads. A chocolate factory was willing to pay as much as $25 an hour. A sign outside a Petco warehouse says a starting salary could be as high as $22 an hour. Hidden Valley Ranch’s plant says its starting hourly wage is $21, with other benefits including a 401(k), paid time off, and health care with dental and vision. Many retailers like Walmart are also trying to attract seasonal workers.
And yet for all the nominally "high" wages, people in Reno find that this booming economy doesn't give them enough to live on and they balance on edge, stressed and precarious.

So in this environment, Democratic U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto is trying to win re-election -- and the contest is attracting national focus as the result might decide which party will control the Senate. Her opponent, Adam Laxalt, is something of a Nevada perennial candidate and a Trumpish Big Lie proponent.
More than any Senate candidate, Cortez Masto has made the Big Lie and Jan. 6 central to her campaign, running harrowing footage of the violence in TV ads and touting the support of law enforcement officials who’ve endorsed her campaign, in part because of her opponent’s recklessness. 
“Laxalt could not bring himself to show an ounce of remorse for his actions,” Cortez Masto said at an appearance last week with peace officers in Las Vegas. “It is unforgivable, and Nevada will not forget his actions.” 
... “He should know better,” Cortez Masto said in an interview Wednesday, her eyes narrowing as she discussed her opponent after a campaign stop at a Mexican restaurant in eastern Las Vegas. “But he doesn’t. And he’s leaning into this for a political extreme agenda.”

Laxalt's own relatives repudiate him as a phony, an opportunist, and an extremist.

But Cortez Masto could lose to this guy. The polls point to a cliffhanger.

A CNN/SSRS poll conducted 9/26 to 10/2 in Nevada gave Catherine Cortez Masto a +3 advantage among registered voters and -2 among likely voters.

That's why members of the hospitality union, UniteHERE, and dozens of volunteers are working, day in and day out, knocking on doors, explaining the stakes for women and for all working people. Join us.

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Wise woman speaking


Loretta Ross inspires. If the system works to violate your human rights, that's the system you work to take apart -- and rebuild better. I can live by that.

Friday, October 14, 2022

Friday cat blogging

Reconstruction worker in Ukraine shares lunch with a friend.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

A danger to democracy in Nevada

The Republican MAGA man running for Secretary of State here is a fanatic extremist. Will voters put him in office without really knowing what he's about because he comes with an R after his name?

His Democratic opponent, Cisco Aguilar, just wants to run this usually obscure office which manages state elections professionally and fairly. He would be following in the path of the current Secretary of State who is an honest, competent Republican -- not a Big Lie-affirming crank like Marchant. 

Says Aguilar: 

Growing up, my parents not only taught me that life is most meaningful when in service of others, they lived it. My grandfather and father were lifelong members of labor unions and they instilled the honor of a good day’s work, the importance of protecting working families, and standing up for their right to have a voice in democracy. I have made it my mission to be in service to the community I call home by being a fierce advocate for educational opportunities for all of Nevada’s children and an advocate for innovative public private partnership programs in our most vulnerable neighborhoods.  I’m running to be Nevada’s next Secretary of State because we must recognize that our government must work for all Nevadans.

More than ever, we need to defend every eligible American’s right to vote, remove barriers to voter participation, and make our elections as transparent as possible to maintain the public trust. But, there are individuals and groups who are determined to take us backwards making it harder to vote, creating barriers to register, and subverting public confidence in our elections. I am committed to building on the work that many have started in a bi-partisan way, including modernizing, safeguarding and strengthening our democracy, our elections process and the voting rights of every Nevadan.

Nevada has fair election laws and hardworking, professional election administrators. Cisco Aguilar is trying to keep it that way.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Guilty - he loves his son

Our right wingers think that Joe Biden speaking to his irresponsible addict son this way somehow condemns the father. This seems to be an accurate tidbit of stolen audio messaging. The wingers' judgment of Biden here speaks volumes about the damage they do to themselves by choosing rage over love.

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

No hiding this ...

Down the road from Reno, the Orange Cry Baby held one of his rallies the other day. 

Republican US Senator Tommy Tuberville, of Auburn U. college football fame, came along for the festivities. Tuberville, one of the Senate's dumbest bulbs, shouted the quiet part out loud. By way of Judd Legum

On Saturday, Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) appeared at a rally in Minden, Nevada, to support the Republican nominee for Senate, Adam Laxit. During his speech at the event, which also featured Donald Trump, Tuberville unleashed a racist diatribe against Black Americans. Tuberville said that reparations, which would provide benefits to Black descendants of slaves, would only benefit criminals. 

Some people say, well, [Democrats are] soft on crime. No, they’re not soft on crime. They’re pro-crime. They want crime. They want crime because they want to take over what you got. They want to control what you have. They want reparation because they think the people that do the crime are owed that! Bullshit!

The crowd, full of people wearing Trump hats and other MAGA paraphernalia, responded by erupting in applause.

I raise this racist morsel up because, at the UniteHERE Reno campaign, something like half our folks knocking doors are Black workers - cooks and housekeepers - from the east coast, come to help out among the cowboys and tech bros of the high desert. They encounter this racism every day. And they just keep searching out our voters. I am in awe. 

You can join us for a weekend or a week.

Monday, October 10, 2022

Republicans - the party of "do as I say, not as I do"

Dan Pfeiffer, one of former President Obama's communications guys and now a political commentator, said something I find thought provoking in his Substack, The Message Box

Elections are fundamentally about issue salience — which topics are top of mind when people make their decisions. ... most voters — the voters who decide elections — already assume the worst about politicians. Hypocrisy and dishonesty are priced into the baseline. You are not giving them new or actionable information when you point out hypocrisy.

We're about to find out whether accusations of hypocrisy retain any salience in US politics. Can Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker really run as a "pro-life" Christian  -- who, after he was "born again," paid a woman, not his wife, to abort a child he fathered? And now wants to further criminalize all abortions? Can kindly Doctor Mehmet Oz escape the story of hundreds of dogs murdered in lab experiments?

I got to thinking about hypocrisy when reading the New York Time's exhaustive exploration of how Trump's Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen captured the allegiance of the entire Republican Party. Suffice to say, GOPers are sold on a crackpot legal theory that advantages their political party -- and which might even prevail at the corrupt Supreme Court.

But it was a small detail that grabbed my attention. These Republicans who work so urgently to restrict mail and early voting sure like it for themselves; here's how the same House Republicans who objected to certifying Biden's win on January 6, 2021 cast their own ballots.

Click to enlarge

Sunday, October 09, 2022

A wall against the world is suicidal

Wherever I go in Reno, there are signs like this in store windows. From what I hear, that's true most everywhere. Employers can't find the workers they want; some are even raising wages to try to attract applicants. Yet in this full employment economy, nobody -- or maybe not enough somebodies -- seem to want the jobs on offer.

What's going on? Actually, the problem may be pretty simple: a combination of Donald Trump and the MAGA xenophobes, plus the pandemic, have dried up the stream of immigrants whose continuing arrival is what gives the US economy its dynamism.


Due to increased restrictions on immigration and travel, which began with the COVID-19 pandemic in the early months of 2020, the net inflow of immigrants into the United States has essentially halted for almost 2 years. By the end of 2021 there were about 2 million fewer working-age immigrants living in the United States than there would have been if the pre-2020 immigration trend had continued unchanged.

... [the] decline in immigrant and nonimmigrant visa arrivals resulted in zero growth in working-age foreign-born people in the United States. Prior to 2019, the foreign born population of working age (18 to 65) grew by about 660,000 people per year, as reported in data from the monthly Current Population survey (see the first chart). This trend came to a stop already in 2019 before the pandemic, due to a combination of stricter immigration enforcement and a drop in the inflow of Mexican immigrants. The halt to international travel in 2020 added a significant drop in the working-age immigrant population.

Interestingly, this article makes the point that only half the shortfall of new immigrant workers was in the low wage sector we associate with newcomers. The US economy is also hurting because of the disappearance of a large cohort of people I think of as "brain drain" immigrants -- educated scientists and professionals. And that's before mentioning that much of the risk-taking entrepreneurship in our economy is the work of new immigrants. 

We're hurting because our way of life depends on new Americans. This is what building a wall against the world gets us.

Saturday, October 08, 2022

Street protests ain't what they used to be

The New York Time's Max Fisher has summarized some recent scholarly research on the effectiveness of mass protest all over the world in the last decade -- and for an inveterate believer in taking to the streets, the results are not encouraging.

... Mass protests like the ones in Iran, whose participants have cited economic hardships, political repression and corruption, were once considered such a powerful force that even the strongest autocrat might not survive their rise. But their odds of success have plummeted worldwide, research finds. 
Such movements are today more likely to fail than they were at any other point since at least the 1930s, according to a data set managed by Harvard University researchers. 
... This sharp and relatively recent shift may mark the end of a decades-long era when so-called people power represented a major force for democracy’s spread. 
... Throughout most of the 20th century, mass protests grew both more common and more likely to succeed, in many cases helping to topple autocrats or bring about greater democracy. 
By the early 2000s, two in three protest movements demanding systemic change ultimately succeeded, according to the Harvard data. In retrospect, it was a high-water mark. 
Around that decade’s midpoint, the trend began to reverse. ... “Nonviolent campaigns are seeing their lowest success rates in more than a century,” Erica Chenoweth, a political scientist who oversees the protest-tracking project, wrote in a recent paper
Researchers find that, in sharply divided societies like ours, those divisions can offer leverage points that bolster repressive authorities.
Polarized societies, in moments of turmoil, become likelier to split over mass protests. This can bolster even despised governments, helping them to cast protesters as representing a narrow interest group rather than the citizenry as a whole.
I suppose that's what the MAGA people think is happening to them when they are prosecuted for violently invading the U.S. Capitol.

No study of any contemporary phenomenon would be complete without throwing some shade -- rightly or wrongly -- at our social media lives.
In earlier eras, activists might spend months or years building the organizational structures and real-world ties necessary to launch a mass protest. This also made movements durable, instilling discipline and chains of command. 
Social media allows would-be protesters to skip those steps, spurring one another to action with as little as a viral post. The result is rallies that put thousands or millions of bodies in the street overnight — but that often fizzle just as quickly. 
Without that traditional activist infrastructure, social media protests are less equipped to endure government repression. Leaderless, they more easily fracture and struggle to coordinate strategically.
This seems to me accurate -- but incomplete. These viral incitements only catch fire when the social preparation exists. It still takes absorbing a certain consciousness to get people off the sofas and that is seldom the work of an instant. Even the filmed murder of George Floyd could not have ignited mass protests without half a decade of consciousness raising by Black Lives Matter activists. It all seems sudden and unpredictable to much of the comfortable mainstream -- until it seems obvious and unstoppable.

This study of protests does remark on one strength of street actions which past researchers might easily have overlooked.
... Because women in any country come from all walks of life, their participation can transcend social or demographic divides associated with polarization. Observers also tend to see movements as more legitimate when women are visibly involved, research finds. ...
In the Atlantic, political analyst Ronald Brownstein, writing about the midterm races in the highly polarized state of Georgia, may have got wind of a social development which could partially explain the eclipse of street protests. Mass protests have always found the bodies willing to put themselves at risk among young people. What if a generation of young people is actively experimenting with a different path to make itself heard?
More young adults may vote in 2022 simply because so many of them registered and voted in 2018 and 2020. One reason for that is structural: “There are more young people on the voter rolls because of the [2018 and 2020] elections, which is a huge boost, because it means they are more likely to be contacted by parties and organizations,” and those contacts increase the likelihood of people voting, Abby Kiesa, Circle’s deputy director, told me. 
The other key reason is attitudinal: Higher youth turnout may mean that not only is voting becoming a habit for those who have already done it; it is also becoming more expected among the 18-year-olds who age into the electorate every two years (more than 8 million of them since 2020, Circle projects). At the AME event, for instance, Kendeius Mitchell, a disability-claims manager, told me that youth engagement in Georgia is feeding on itself. 
“Just having it around so much in the conversation now is making people take accountability,” he said. 
John Della Volpe, the director of polling at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics, sees the same trend in the institute’s national surveys. “Voting … could be becoming a part of this new generation and how they think,” he told me.
Have we really spawned a generation that thinks social progress comes through voting? That would be novel to a boomer like me. There are some signs of it. Brownstein is an acute observer.

Though I have no doubt that the women and men of this age cohort, if blocked, will take to the streets like their parents and grandparents. These things are cyclical but youth will make its own future.

Friday, October 07, 2022

Friday cat blogging

She looks slightly tentative. It's a sweet look. But we know that Janeway can also act the Tiny Terrorist. 

We enjoyed a meal last week with her head councilor at her temporary summer camp (our friend was visiting Reno). We were asked -- "when might you be picking up Janeway? ..." She's lovable, but a handful. We'll be glad to see her -- when this election is over.

Thursday, October 06, 2022

What the climate transition looks like

Here's a picture:

If David Roberts, who has struggled against our climate failures for decades believes we can do it, I'm ready to hope. We are ingenious beasts.

Wednesday, October 05, 2022

Nevada crosscurrents

In 2021, in the Journal of Democracy, Rachel Kleinfeld published a solid survey of the social science research into rising U.S. rightwing political violence. Much of it restates the obvious in academese -- Republicans are a highly homogenous white bunch whose grievances, mostly imaginary, are manipulable by power-seeking pols like Donald Trump and his tribe of imitators.

But I found several of her concrete descriptive observations worth highlighting. 

Although incidents from the left are on the rise, political violence still comes overwhelmingly from the right, whether one looks at the Global Terrorism Database, FBI statistics, or other government or independent counts. Yet people committing far-right violence—particularly planned violence rather than spontaneous hate crimes—are older and more established than typical terrorists and violent criminals. They often hold jobs, are married, and have children. Those who attend church or belong to community groups are more likely to hold violent, conspiratorial beliefs. These are not isolated “lone wolves”; they are part of a broad community that echoes their ideas.
The MAGA crowd are emphatically not the dispossessed.
... the people most likely to support political violence were both Democrats and Republicans who espoused hostility toward women. A sense of racial threat may be priming more conservatives to express greater resentment in ways that normalize violence and create a more permissive atmosphere, while men in both parties who feel particularly aggrieved toward women may be most willing to act on those feelings.
So often, misogyny unleashes violent behavior that might not have been actively expressed if underlying hatred and fear of women wasn't present.
The bedrock idea uniting right-wing communities who condone violence is that white Christian men in the United States are under cultural and demographic threat and require defending—and that it is the Republican Party and Donald Trump, in particular, who will safeguard their way of life. This pattern is similar to that of political violence in the nineteenth-century United States, where partisan identity was conflated with race, ethnicity, religion, and immigration status; many U.S.-born citizens felt they were losing cultural power and status to other social groups; and the violence was committed not by a few deviant outliers, but by many otherwise ordinary citizens engaged in normal civic life.
They think a cultural status that was their birthright has been stolen from them; no wonder they are suckers for a fraudulent claim of a stolen election by a sociopathic politician.

These angry folks exist in plenty here in northern Nevada -- as do plenty of other Nevadans intent on building a  pluralistic, somewhat free and easy, but hard working and prosperous, community. The clash between these currents are what this election is all about. Ah ... democracy.

Tuesday, October 04, 2022

Cheer, of a sort

Amy Schumer's ad for enjoyable excursions to Colorado is not to be missed. 

Monday, October 03, 2022

Shards from bleeding Ukraine

Putin's imperial war to conquer Ukraine could be the end of us all, so I can hardly ignore it. 

George Packer, usually a pretty hard-boiled journalist, felt he had to see for himself. He questions his own objectivity. His story is worth reading in full.

Journalism that waves the banner of moral clarity makes me uneasy. Moral clarity can be blinding, and most subjects worth writing about are complicated. But a few things are morally clear: slavery, and genocide, and Russia’s attempt to destroy Ukraine. ...
It’s absurd to approach this war from a position of neutrality. As a journalistic stance, neutrality is worthless, and usually spurious, because everyone is a partisan of some kind. Objectivity is different: the necessary effort, always doomed to fall short, of rendering reality exactly, like a carpenter striving for plumb, level, and square. What’s most crucial is independence: refusing to surrender your judgment of the truth for the sake of a political cause. 
Journalism doesn’t require an anesthetized moral faculty. It ought to be possible to want Ukraine to win this war and still tell what you see and hear there honestly. 
... Here was another motive [to go to Ukraine]—the strongest and most dubious of all. I wanted a gulp of Ukrainian air. I wanted to breathe its hope. What a thing to ask of people fighting for their lives. 
...I don’t know if Ukraine can win this war, but I know it must. Putin’s Russia is committing crimes that have not been seen in Europe since Hitler and Stalin—leveling cities, terror-bombing civilian populations, creating millions of refugees, using rape and torture to break the will of those under occupation, separating families, detaining and interrogating at least 1 million Ukrainians and sending many to far-off internment camps, preparing to annex entire regions, erasing their language and culture, burning crops, using vital food and energy supplies to blackmail the world. If Western leaders are too afraid of Putin and their own voters to stop him and punish him for these crimes, he’ll know that the West is as weak and pleasure-seeking as he’s always believed. ...
Packer's full-throated endorsement of Ukrainians' struggle to preserve their country and future is wonderfully attractive. I share his moral enthusiasm; I think he's right. But I don't know how many of us that conclusion will leave unscathed.

• • •

Pundits struggle to discern whether Putin is wily and/or evil and/or simply has drunk a disorienting Koolaid. In this tidbit, Susan Glasser wonders ...

... There is also the matter of Putin getting the West wrong. We in Washington hardly have a monopoly on misguided assumptions being a driving factor in international affairs. Many indicators suggest, in fact, that they were a major reason why this war happened. Putin not only failed to understand that Ukrainians would stand and fight against his aggression; he also failed to foresee the U.S. and its NATO allies remaining united and funding the Ukrainian resistance. Moscow’s bogus annexations of more Ukrainian territory seems likely to produce only more Western sanctions—and the possible extension of the war that Putin looks increasingly like he is losing. “The problem is, of course, us misreading him, but also him misreading us,” [security analyst Fiona] Hill observed. 

• • •

Click to enlarge. This is hard to look at.
Retired U.S. General Mark Hertling argues plausibly that the poor condition of the Russian military means "Putin’s recruits are heading for slaughter."

• • •

Kateryna Kibarova explains why she came Home to Bucha.

I'm Ukrainian. I have no children. I am not putting anyone in any danger. I can be useful to my country. I have a very close friend who lives in Great Britain. I had options to go to Poland. But if we all leave, who will defend the country? Who will support the economy? Who will sustain the belief that we will win? And who will make sense of the fact that we have had to endure it all? This is my home. I'm staying here.

• • •

This is still the disunited United States and there are millions of us who are suspicious of our country's repeated martial adventures. We've lived through decades of misbegotten imperial wars. Some caution about enthusiasm for our righteous endorsement of Ukrainian is certainly advised. Author Robert Wright brings a warning.  

Yet many American elites—politicians, journalists, even “think” tankers—have been reacting to this war as if it were a football game or some other purely zero-sum contest. They’ve celebrated Ukrainian gains on the battlefield with no ambivalence, blissfully unaware that dramatic Ukrainian military success was always bound to encourage Kremlin risk taking, raising the chances of regional or even nuclear war. 
Now, with Ukraine’s big battlefield success having been followed by Russian mobilization and Putin’s declared annexation, bliss will be harder to come by even if awareness fails to grow.
Wright published before Putin's current round of nuclear threats. I just know I don't know what to think, but I choose not to entirely look away.

Sunday, October 02, 2022

Shards from the Embattled Republic

An occasional list of links to thought provoking commentary. Very likely the last of these link collections until after the election on November 8. I'm busy doing my bit to uphold democratic [small "d"] governance; are you?

[New Hampshire] Congresswoman Ann] Kuster said that the abortion decision, the Jan. 6 inquiry, and rising concern about gun violence have altered the terms of the election.

“For the first time, I’m running on freedom and safety, which used to be bedrock Republican issues,” she said. “The Republicans are running on chaos.” H/t E.J. Dionne

MAGAs on the march

 Eve Fairbanks has some thoughts about the MAGA millions.  

"... As much as they superficially wish for it, I don’t think many liberals or anti-Trump Republicans have thought through what would happen if there were a mass change of opinion against Trump. We have called Trump supporters bigots, cultists, “psychotic” and developmentally injured, “pathological,” stricken by “mental shortcomings,” and “akin to drug addicts.” I’m not saying any one of these characterizations is necessarily unfair. 

"But if Trump voters did come around to a more left-wing view, then that would mean that a whole bunch of irredeemably warped people we spent years fearing and loathing would suddenly be in our boat. In our camp. ... The corollary to them turning out to have some of our capacities is that we may be a little more like them than we prefer to think — a prospect too gruesome for many Democrats to imagine."

That student of national security Juliette Kayyem draws a picture of what holding off the Trump movement might look like.

"A win, at this stage, isn’t that Trump’s troops make an apology. It is that they remain an online threat, a cosplay movement, a pretend army that can’t deliver, whose greatest strength is in their heads rather than reality."
Laura Jedeed reminds us how many of our neighbors we're up against.
"Trump voters comprise 28.6% of the adult population of the United States, that’s over one in four people. You cannot exclude the Trump voter from public life because they are the public.... Not everyone grew up with the quintessentially American promise of increasing prosperity and moral virtue, but a lot of us did. We are all dealing with the death of that dream in different ways. And some of those ways are monstrous. 74 million monsters. Could that be true?"
An experienced interim pastor, who works with religious congregations in conflict, looks at the British Windsor royal family and these divided States of America and offers observations about how healing comes about.
"Until we as a nation are willing to honestly look at our ugly reality, we will never heal."

As so often is the case, Peter Beinart wishes we could see ourselves as others see us.

"One of the easiest things for an American politician to say about China is that China’s government fears the United States because it fears freedom. One of the hardest things to say is that China’s government—and many of its constituents—fear the United States because they see it as the successor to the imperial powers that ravaged China for one hundred years."
Carlos Lozada has moved on from cultural criticism to offering opinion at the New York Times.
"Together, the big joke and the big lie have turned the nation’s political life into a dark comedy, one staged for the benefit of aggrieved supporters who, imagining that the performance is real and acting on that belief, become its only punchline."
Karen Attiah hopes we'll take ourselves serioiusly.

"Watching all the U.S. cheerleading of women in Iran against abusive police forces, let’s also make sure we are willing to be just as brave when it comes to police brutality and control of our bodies at home."

Gabriel Winant appreciating recently deceased socialist, feminist, firebrand and writer Barbara Ehrenreich:

With Ehrenreich, you cannot count on safe passage. Look at yourself, she always asks the reader; what do you see there? This procedure, which linked social critique to the ethics of the self and the politics of authenticity, allowed Ehrenreich to bottle the magic of the New Left in her writing. Some of the libidinal and political force that ripped through college campuses and consciousness-raising circles is encapsulated in her pages, and it was still available for us decades later when we needed it; this is the basic source of her tremendous standing among young socialists. To rework historically specific political experiences into ideas durable enough to be transferred to the next generation for their own use—this is among the highest possible achievements of a radical. 

Saturday, October 01, 2022


I mentioned last week that the necessities of campaigning in Reno forced us to move from one temporary residence to another. When this is all over, I'll write something about our housing odyssey in this strange boom economy where jobs aren't filled and housing is in very short supply.

Suffice to say, the move involved a drastic change of environmental aesthetics. 

The former hotel-click to enlarge

The new place-click to enlarge
Both serviceable for the short term, but utterly different.