Wednesday, November 30, 2022

I guess I wanted something different ...

Juliette Kayyem's new book raised a question for me: did I really have to learn the jargon of professional risk management in order to think usefully about disasters?

I think I concluded "no." That exercise is not necessary.

This could have been a fascinating book. Kayyem knows whereof she speaks. According to her Wikipedia biography, she "was the Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs in the United States Department of Homeland Security, in the Obama administration. ... Prior to her federal position, she was Massachusetts' first Undersecretary for Homeland Security, where she was responsible for developing statewide policy on homeland security, with a focus on preventing, protecting, responding to, and recovering from critical incidents." In that job, she oversaw the preparations for a terrorist attack on the Boston Marathon, and properly can take credit for the amazing fact that when the 2013 bombing happened, no victim who made it to a hospital died.

This book is full of intriguing stories of disasters past, of wildfires and the BP Gulf of Mexico oil gusher, of cyber hacks and the ill-sited Fukushima nuclear plant and more.

But it is also larded with paragraphs like this (my selection here is completely random):
Unity of effort describes the planning we can all do to ensure a collectiveness of effort when the boom arrives. Too often, preparedness is distributed, and security efforts are left vulnerable because the systems in place are too disjointed. The architecture of security is the idea that for an institution to maximize safety and security planning, it must first establish a governance structure that embraces all players and capacities. Empowering the security apparatus will maximize capabilities when they are needed.
I think I know what that means -- roughly that people do better in disasters when they can communicate and know who is supposed to be in charge of what. Couldn't she just say so?

I also find myself questioning one of Kayyem's premises -- that we live among simply more "disasters" than in the past. I'm not ignoring climate change in questioning that assertion. But I suspect that all anxiety-prone human societies (most societies that ever were) have thought themselves hedged around by potential for disaster. Certainly, one reason we think of ourselves as living in a time of "more" abrupt cataclysms is simply that we are more aware of events in faraway places. One third of Pakistan could  have been flooded any time before the last 70 years and most humans alive would never have heard of the tragedy. Now we contemplate the terrible pictures until the cameras look away.

Awhile back, friends turned me on to what I find a genuinely useful disaster preparedness portal, SF72, emerging from the too-often dysfunctional San Francisco local government working with lots of partners. In multiple languages, it's full of stories and practical advice, presented accessibly. As we move into what is supposed to be a bitter December cold snap, this sample seems to the point. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

The virus, precautions, and our biases

The current, and most likely continuing, risk profile of coronavirus infections is an invitation to ageism. And since ageism is an unspoken reality of our lives, it's influence cannot be discounted as we learn to live with the virus.

According to S. Matthew Liao, a professor of bioethics, philosophy and public health at New York University

“There’s a bit of ageism, so to speak, attached to it,” he said, adding, “People, even if they are older, they still have as much claim to live as me.”
The ageism in our understanding of the coronavirus isn't just prejudice, though both how we understand evidence and how we respond to risks will necessarily reflect out prejudices. The virus is more deadly to us old folks.

Unlike flu, which impacts both the very young and the very old, the coronavirus appears to put mostly older people at higher risk of severe disease and death. The proportion of deaths among those 65 or older has fluctuated from eight out of 10 in the first few months of the pandemic, to a low of 6 out of 10 when the delta wave struck in the summer of 2021, to a high of 9 out of 10 today.
Last month, people 85 and older represented 41.4 percent of deaths, those 75 to 84 were 30 percent of deaths, and those 65 to 74 were 17.5 percent of deaths, according to a Post analysis. All told, the 65-plus age group accounted for nearly 90 percent of covid deaths in the United States despite being only 16 percent of the population.

The only individual solution is to get fully vaxxed, take precautions that make us comfortable, and stay current with the best information we can find. And it doesn't hurt to advocate and agitate for stronger efforts to protect vulnerable old people who may not have the choices the more privileged among us enjoy.

• • • 

I write this coming off a season of serving as the "COVID officer" to a campaign involving nearly one hundred canvassers. Only one of these people contracted the coronavirus while working with each other every day, and that on the day after the election. We were determined to keep the crew as safe as possible -- for the well-being of individuals, of course, but also because an outbreak could have derailed our program.

UniteHERE can be proud that it chose to do what needed to be done to keep us COVID-free. All of us were required to be vaccinated and boosted. We wore masks indoors, though not religiously. Moreover, material safety precautions included housing everyone in separate units (no roommates on this campaign!) and renting cars for each driver, both expensive expedients which might not have been implemented with no pandemic. 

Being the COVID officer meant receiving the electronic forms everyone had to fill out each day which sought to alert folks if they had any suspicious symptoms. I spent a lot of time talking with canvassers who were plagued by allergic snuffles and providing antigen tests if they wanted them. Also providing fever thermometers.

Despite the precautions, I still think we got lucky. There's still a pandemic going on.

And we weren't all young. We had a canvasser who is 82 ...

Monday, November 28, 2022

Urban improvements ...

You go away for 4 months and come back to find that Costco built an array of solar panels over its parking garage. Little by little ...

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Yet another piece of very good news from the 2022 election

Did you know that Arizona -- otherwise known as home to xenophobic politicians like Kari Lake and former Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio -- just voted for a ballot measure that will allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at their public universities? 

The best evidence of Arizona’s shift away from Republican policies was the passage of a ballot measure reinstating the right of undocumented Arizonans to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities.

At 2.48 percentage points, the margin of victory for “yes” on Proposition 308 was bigger than the margin that secured the governor’s seat for Democrat Katie Hobbs over Kari Lake and broke 13 years of Republican dominance in Arizona.

How did this victory come to be? As usual, the answer was organizing, combined with building the broadest coalition possible. Dreamers even lined up the Chamber of Commerce for this effort, convincing the business group and moderate Republicans that an educated Arizona Latinx population was in their interest.

A voter-approved in-state tuition ban had made college three times more expensive for the last decade, putting it out of reach for many undocumented students. But Arizona has demonstrated it can move on from a season of fear of the newcomer.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

On the trauma of our time

Mary Trump, in addition to having the misfortune of being Donald Trump's niece, is a psychologist. I did not read her first book, a best-selling memoir of growing up in unhappy proximity to her avaricious uncle. But her interviews, of which I heard plenty on podcasts, always seemed smart and insightful. So when I heard that she'd written The Reckoning, on the theme of the combined trauma of COVID and Donald's effort to overthrow U.S. democracy, I thought she might offer something from which I could learn.

The book turned out to be something different than I'd expected. Nearly half is devoted to an exposition of our country's original sin, what she calls "A Short History of American Failure: 1865–2020." White supremacy justified extermination of native peoples and the enslaving and exploitation of captive Africans. All of us are warped by this heritage, including white beneficiaries of privilege.

Mary Trump doesn't break any new historical ground here -- there are numerous other sources for the same insights. (I would start with W.E.B. DuBois' Black Reconstruction but your mileage may vary.) But her account is wonderfully clear and succinct, pitched at a good level for oblivious Americans. Anti-racism educators might do well to adopt it.

And for Trump herself, the meaning of that history is our enduring national trauma.
Ours is an ugly history full of depraved, barbaric, and inhumane behavior carried out by everyday people and encouraged or at least condoned by leaders at the highest levels of government. A denial of that history is a denial of our trauma.
... At almost every step of the way in our history, there were opportunities to make this country more democratic, more open, and more equitable. Instead, the North became more segregated and the South continued to be a closed fascist state.
Trump views our national failure to marginalize her sociopathic uncle and the political party he has gorged himself on as a consequence of our failure to make peace with and offer reparations for the inhuman crimes of our past and present.
Racism is something we white people inflict on our children as it was inflicted on us. It is a violence we commit against them — and as they grow up, they benefit from the same entrenched system that benefits us, because our racist, white supremacist society allows us to benefit from it. We become complacent and selfish and, in the end, just as guilty as the people, and the people before them , who did this to us. The cycle continues. Our ability to be decent and kind is stunted, our desire to belong to a broader community without fear is curtailed. It is a passive experience, until it’s not. The more we exercise our privilege, the easier it gets to cross that line between doing so unconsciously and doing so because we feel entitled to it. It is so easy to get used to the luxury of forgetting and the luxury of never having to know.
Trump the clinical psychologist insists that facing the truth is the only escape from our national trauma.
But if we want to heal, it’s important to resist calls to look to the future, not the past. The past is what shaped us. Trauma is enervating and it is entirely natural to want to move beyond it. But trauma changes us at the cellular level. We carry it with us in our bodies, and there is no moving on without facing what we want to run from, because to dismiss your own pain is to postpone your freedom from it.
... The impact of unacknowledged trauma can be catastrophic — at both the personal and the societal levels — and by failing to invest in the infrastructure necessary to prevent or at least mitigate these kinds of disasters in the future, we leave ourselves open to long-term damage that could be irreparable. One of the most striking developments of the last five years has been the trend toward cruelty, the cultivation of a callousness toward anybody who believes differently or thinks differently. The mantra of “Fuck your feelings” at Donald’s rallies reverberated and reminded us that, even though it goes underground from time to time, the impulse toward cruelty never completely goes away.
... Until the playing field is leveled, America is not a democracy. Until everybody eligible is allowed to vote unimpeded, America is not a democracy. As long as a majority of the majority doesn’t have a problem with the deliberate economic plunder and disenfranchisement of large swaths of the population, and as long as the rest of us ignore it — because to pay attention would be to challenge our privilege — nothing will change.

Sympathetic as I am to Mary Trump's account of our traumatized condition, I am also left wanting something more. There is an alternative to despair, even justified despair. 

We can still struggle for a better democracy, a better society. By razor thin margins, in places where choices were stark, in the recent election majorities of us said no to cruelty, no to lies, no to crushing the life out of the weak.

Trauma can be mitigated and exorcised by action. This may not be the only way, but I find it is my way. The work of the recent campaign, even beyond its relative success, was cleansing for me and I think for many. We can go on -- differently.

As my comrades in UniteHERE insist, "when we fight, we win!" The struggle for justice is the best remedy I know to the traumatized condition of which Mary Trump's uncle is such a national symptom.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Friday cat blogging and more ...

I hope any readers enjoyed a happy, grateful Thanksgiving holiday. I certainly did -- for the first time in months I did nothing socially useful unless one counts chowing down on Erudite Partner's duck feast. I needed that unburdened time. Janeway took advantage of my leg for a nap.

• • •

And I need a little more such time to read and recover -- so don't expect much here for a bit. But I'm reading up a storm ...

• • •

In the first photo, that's my left middle finder, obviously not in the best condition. About ten days ago, while cleaning out the campaign office, I pinched it. I knew right away that nothing serious had happened; the knuckle moves fine, even if the tip of the bone may be a bit pulverized. The swelling has receded; with time, it will stop hurting. 

But bizarrely, the uninjured right middle finger on my other hand has begun to throb similarly at its tip. My brain is trying to even things up? I find this both fascinating and annoying -- the pain discourages typing.

Has anyone ever experienced a similar phenomenon?

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Kilimanjaro: the snows are almost gone

Usually I don't post videos that are more than a couple of minutes long -- but this from Jack Dolan of the Los Angeles Times is too poignant for me not to share.

Dolan tells the story of his recent climb of the 19,000 foot Tanzanian peak with grace and respect -- for the mountain, for the Tanzanians who make the tourist expedtions possible, and for the changes that planetary warming is making to this forbidding environment. 

Erudite Partner and I trekked the same trails twenty years ago. The experience was so different as to make Dolan's path seem unrecognizable.

Partly that's just weather, not warming. We never saw the peak; from every vantage point, the mountain was obscured by clouds, rain, and snow. None of our eight days on on the trail was without downpours verging on sleet. We rushed up and over the summit as something like a white-out closed in. But in those days, though glacial melting was already underway, the high plateau and crater were not yet a dusty desert. 

Here are a few photos from that trip:

At the lowest elevations, this was the trail. Slippery mud was no fun.

Somehow, guide Freddy Chikima shepherded our crew up this pitch.

This, from about 12,000 feet, was as wide a view as we ever saw.

At the summit, we were eager to dash down before blizzard conditions engulfed us.
With Jack Dolan, I mourn what our civilization has done to the mountain. I'm glad to see what the mountain looks like today.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Like it is ...

Medication abortions -- the abortion pills -- weren't around back in the day when I heard from friends about what it was like to end an unwanted pregnancy. Too often, it was scary and involved dealing with a doctor who was mercenary rather than caring.

But not anymore. Safe and effective medicines are available -- and these women are willing to share what the experience was like for them, both the comforting and the uncomfortable moments.

You don't know unless somebody tells you -- and there are a lot of repressive people who want to keep women scared and helpless.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Let's celebrate the voters

Perry Bacon Jr.:
... in elections, the voters are the actors, the deciders. And this year, millions of Democratic-leaning voters turned out and stuck with the party, looking past sky-high inflation and a leadership team that spent much of its time courting people who would never vote for Democrats while ignoring key priorities of people who always vote for the Democrats.
These voters should be commended and celebrated.
And let's celebrate the union members and other citizen activists who listened to and talked with voters who might not have bothered to vote if they hadn't felt heard.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Giving up is not an option

Like Bill McKibben, who pointed me to this Pew Forum statistical picture of How Religion Intersects With Americans’ Views on the Environment, I experience the findings as more than a little demoralizing. 

Click to enlarge

In summary: 

... the survey ... finds that highly religious Americans (those who say they pray each day, regularly attend religious services and consider religion very important in their lives) are far less likely than other U.S. adults to express concern about warming temperatures around the globe.

... The main driver of U.S. public opinion about the climate is political party, not religion. Highly religious Americans are more inclined than others to identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, and Republicans tend to be much less likely than Democrats to believe that human activity (such as burning fossil fuels) is warming the Earth or to consider climate change a serious problem.

Religious Americans who express little or no concern about climate change also give a variety of other explanations for their views, including that there are much bigger problems in the world today, that God is in control of the climate, and that they do not believe the climate actually is changing. In addition, many religious Americans voice concerns about the potential consequences of environmental regulations, such as a loss of individual freedoms, fewer jobs or higher energy prices. 

Finally, climate change does not seem to be a topic discussed much in religious congregations, either from the pulpit or in the pews. And few Americans view efforts to conserve energy and limit carbon emissions as moral issues.

Notably, among Christians, Historically Black Protestants are far and away the religious grouping most likely to consider climate change an urgent concern. This perhaps should not be a surprise, since people of color are often less insulated from climate-induced disasters than are more influential and affluent communities. Black Protestants. members of "other religions," and religiously unaffiliated people show similar levels of concern. And this is true, even though Black Christians reported similar levels of belief that we are living in "end times" to white evangelicals who doubt or are indifferent to the climate crisis.

Of course these Black Christians know, come what may, giving up is not an option. It's more than time for the rest of us to listen up.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Ah, globalization ...

One of the small pleasures of our extended stay in Reno was that blueberries never stopped being available in grocery stores. 

How strange was that? Don't blueberries have a season, a short one in late spring, and then disappear from the shelves or become prohibitively expensive?

Not anymore. Adam Tooze shared a thread which explains:  

One guy’s experiment drove Peru to become the world’s #1 blueberry exporter and #2 overall producer.

Carlos Gereda was the spark that lit Peru's blueberry boom of the past decade. He asked a simple question: "can blueberries grow in Peru?" In 2006, he brought 14 varieties from Chile to see which ones adapted well to the Peruvian climate.

He narrowed it down to four and, in 2009, founded Inka's Berries. The company's service consisted of assisting the development of plantations that adhered to the growing standards Carlos had conceived. The blueberry revolution ensued. ...  production multiplied by more than 6,000x in ten years. Blueberries are now the country's 2nd most significant export, just behind grapes.

... Peru's climate allows for year-round production, giving the country a competitive edge over seasonal agriculture. The productivity of Peruvian land is 13 tons per hectare. The world's top player, the USA, produces 8 tons per hectare. Given the massive competitive edge, we believe it's only a matter of time before Peru becomes the blueberry capital of the world.

And so we could buy "out of season," reasonably-priced blueberries into November. What a world we are making!

Friday, November 18, 2022

Friday cat blogging

Janeway is on her way back home. Sentence served. We await the prisoner whose camp counselors report she is still the tiny terrorist she always was. They have our deep gratitude. She's our terrorist ...

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Washoe County won Nevada

Sparks Library, Nov. 8, 2022 - Reno Gazette Journal

Back when I was training non-profit organizations how to engage with electoral politics, one of the first admonitions I would offer was: "Remember, everyone is lying." 

I was not trying to reinforce the common suspicion among the folks I worked with that there was something polluting about the fight at the ballot box. Most of them were more comfortable denouncing the evil system and taking to the streets. That felt so much more pure than engaging with electoral politics. (There's not so much of this nowadays; we're all a lot less certain of our own virtue -- or maybe more desperate.) 

Rather, I wanted them to understand that the incentives in electoral work lead politicians, elections professionals, and campaigns to make exaggerated claims for their successes. Electoral victories are complex; multiple factors contribute to outcomes. Often it is hard to discern what mattered. Everyone involved wants to claim a piece. And, frequently, everyone can legitimately claim a piece of a victory. There's always the imperative to persuade essential donors that their money went to good use and they should pony up next time. And after working so hard, everyone wants to believe their particular piece of the effort was vital.

Truth is often a casualty of these pressures. 

So it is with delight that I pass on this from Erudite Partner in her role as data nerd. She makes a simple, convincing case that UniteHERE/Culinary Union work in Washoe County was the element of Senator Catherine Cortez Masto's run that put her back in office. 

Figures from the Nevada Secretary of State’s website show that it was Washoe County that brought the election home for Catherine Cortez Masto. Her 52,000-vote margin of victory in Clark County (home of Las Vegas) was entirely matched by Laxalt’s margin in the state’s 16 underpopulated rural counties. Cortez Masto won because of her 8,000-vote edge in Washoe. And that edge was created by the canvassers of UNITE-HERE.

We did that. And we can legitimately claim this victory would not have happened without us. It's an extraordinary feeling.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

On our way back home ...

After 4 months in Reno, we have somehow accumulated a lot of stuff.

Erudite Partner and data nerd extraordinaire has come to some conclusions about the role the UniteHERE/Culinary Reno campaign played in Catherine Cortez-Masto's victory and clinching the Senate for Democrats. Will share tomorrow when I'm settled. As is so rarely the case in elections, we can make an honest case that the work in Washoe County was essential to this win.

On the road now.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

"Common sense is not exciting. ... what you just saw was a victory for decency."

This post is hard for me. I come from a generation that learned, early on, if we had a conscience about American power, to distrust anything any president and any governing party might do or claim. The Indochina war of our youth was monstrous. We saw young people our age beaten and killed in the Black Freedom Struggle; we knew that government only grudgingly and under pressure upheld rights for all. We watched the destruction of unionized worker power under Democrats and Republicans alike. We saw global corporate capital crow that we had no alternative but to bow to it.

We did not come up fans of "American democracy" or "the rule of law."

David Rothkopf is a bit younger than I am, and worked the inside track -- in the Clinton Department off Commerce and as a security/foreign policy pundit. I became aware of him as a fierce, sophisticated, conscientious critic of the United States' mid-eastern imperial adventures. Life within the Beltway has given him a fine bullshit detector.

So when Rothkopf can find his way to appreciating the current turn our government has taken, I don't expect to nod in easy agreement. But to my surprise, these days confronting our white nationalist fascists,  I do largely agree with him.

What follows is a David Rothkopf Twitter thread, captured whole:

In '20, @JoeBiden was second guessed by many (me included). He wasn't exciting. Too old school. Talked about healing. Talked about a clear agenda when the other side had little to offer but hate & good TV ratings. And he won decisively despite the skepticism of the "smart money."

For two years, he was derided for reaching out to the other side, for his compromises with the left or with the centrists in his own party, for not be exciting enough. He ignored the Beltway buzz. He did the dullest thing imaginable: he governed.

The American Rescue Plan lifted millions out of poverty and helped stimulate a job boom that now has produced 10 million jobs, a record, more than the last three GOP administrations added up. Record numbers of quality judges were appointed. Executive orders undid Trump's damage.

He made the bold decision to end America's longest war. He passed the largest piece of infrastructure legislation in half a century. He helped tame a pandemic. Critics, even within his own party said, "Don't do too much, don't spend too much, the bond markets won't like it."

But the jobs kept being created. When Putin challenged the decency and the West in Ukraine, Biden led and has been central to NATO and global support for Kyiv that has produced extraordinary results and made all safer. It was all part of restoring American standing worldwide.

He and a disciplined Democratic Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act that also was the biggest piece of environmental legislation in US history. He took steps to reduce healthcare costs for Americans even when zero Republicans supported it.

In fact, with few exceptions, the Democrats passed a rich agenda, that also included the important Chips and Science Act that will help the country compete and create more and better jobs in the future, in the face of constant GOP obstruction.

Still, the savants and pundits said, the Democrats would be crushed in the 2022 elections. The GOP had momentum. Inflation would do Dems in--even though it was a global phenomenon and the GOP was closely linked to its causes from Putin to corporate profiteering.

There would be a Red Wave. Biden was too busy focusing on democracy and protecting the fundamental rights of women and voters when, the GOP talking heads and the bogus polls said what was front and center was inflation and only that and the Dems were doomed.

But Biden stayed laser focused. He said his first act in the new Congress would be to guarantee a woman's reproductive freedom. He made moving, heartfelt speeches about why it is essential to reject the lies, the election deniers, the coup plotters.

The result was the best result for a new president in a midterm election in sixty years, maybe longer. The Democrats held the Senate. It is still unclear how many seats they will lose in the House. But it won't be what was predicted.

... Election deniers running for top posts were rejected. Legislatures were flipped. The Republican leadership is turning on itself.

And Biden's first comments after the election were about the work to come, the governing ahead. Joe's too old. Joe's too boring. Joe's too quick to compromise. Joe's too stubborn. Joe's out of touch. Joe's...just off to the best start of any POTUS in more than half a century.

Left in his wake, defeated by his experience and his wisdom and his determination and his truly exceptional world class team, are the media favorites, the highly rated pundits, the best-selling columnists, the know-it-alls, the fancy insiders.

I could write the same thing about @SpeakerPelosi or @SenSchumer, co-authors of this remarkable record. You could say it about so many members of the united, mobilized Democratic team that this time around weathered the GOP efforts at suppression, ignored their lies & showed up.

You could say it about the Gen Z voters and the women and people of color who saw the threat and made the effort to fight for democracy. You could say it about all of you who have participated in the wholesale rejection of the greatest threat to our system we've seen since WWII.

Common sense is not exciting. But what we just saw was a victory for common sense. Decency doesn't drive clicks. But what you just saw was a victory for decency. Governing is tedious, incremental, arcane. But what you have seen for two years are the benefits of governing.

The conventional wisdom has been wrong about @POTUS @VP @SpeakerPelosi @SenSchumer @WHCOS, the president's cabinet, @TheDemocrats and their team from day one. Maybe we will learn. Probably we won't. But we can be grateful that they will ignore all that.

We can be grateful that at a perilous moment in US history, they will focus on the work that needs to be done, on the threats we face at home and abroad, and on what matters. And if the past is any indication, they will continue to succeed...against the odds, on behalf of us all.
Oh sure -- there's plenty more to do to enact justice and enhance freedom. But a dose of common decency is to be celebrated.

Monday, November 14, 2022

Shards from the embattled republic: post-midterm election edition

Eventually I may have the strength to share my own, experiential, musings about the election past, but for the moment here are some tidbits I find interesting:

Joyce Vance, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama from 2009 to 2017 and TV talking head:

We did this. We lived through all of it together, found ways to help, supported each other, and we voted. We ignored the polls that told us we would lose and voted anyhow. No matter how this turns out, we fought for this country. Apparently, a lot of us still think it’s worth fighting for. That’s a good thing, because we’ve still got a lot of work ahead of us! But we’ve seen proof tonight that we can get there if we all work on it. ...We’re in this together...
Walter Shapiro, seasoned political observer and reporter:
A major lesson from 2022: Fundamentals such as historical precedents and presidential approval ratings don’t turn out to be very fundamental after a pandemic, an insurrection, and a runaway Supreme Court overturns abortion rights. The election also reminds Democrats and those of us in the press that it is time to go back to trusting the American people. ... Maybe that isn’t enough to break out the champagne, especially if the Democrats lose the House ... . But it is certainly a powerful reason for liberals to climb down from the window ledge and realize that the future does not automatically belong to Trump and his MAGA minions.
Click to enlarge

Field Negro, blogger extraordinaire:

Maybe some of you really do care about democracy.  And maybe, just maybe, you realize that paying a little more for gas --and the food you buy-- is not quite as serious as having your  freedom taken away. 
Now comes the fun part. The right-wingnuts will start to turn on each other, as we all know that the malevolent narcissist living in South Florida had his ego seriously bruised. He has started already. He is now threatening to take his cult and their red hats and totally abandon the republican party.
I, for one, do not feel sorry for the republican establishment. This is what happens when you make a Faustian bargain; at some point you are sure to get burned.
Jamelle Bouie, the New York Times' resident explorer of the patterns of the American past:
I think we are in for another round — or two or three or four — of close, hard-fought elections cycles with no decisive victory or defeat for either party. But something will come; something — whether economic or environmental or constitutional — will shock the system and give one coalition or the other the chance to expand and attempt to win hegemony over the political system.
The question in my mind is which forces in this country are best organized, either for good or ill, to take advantage when that something eventually hits.
Robert P. Jones documents increasing support for legal abortion, even among Republicans:
PRRI’s pre-election American Values Survey and the national exit polls reveal that nearly seven in ten Americans and six in ten midterm voters say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. That is the mainstream view on abortion.
Only about 1 in 10 Americans and midterm voters believe that abortion should be illegal in ALL cases. Most notably, support for complete bans on abortion has fallen dramatically, even among Republicans and white evangelical Protestants...
Dan Pfeiffer, Democratic communications guy:
Going forward, we need to look at electoral outcomes through the prism of MAGA extremism as much as the economy. In the nation and in the key battleground states, there is a pro-democracy, anti-truth majority that will turn out when their freedoms are on the ballot. That is the coalition that won in 2017, 2018, 2020 and 2022.
The 2016 election changed things more than we thought. The repeal of Roe v. Wade, the Big Lie and the violence of January 6th engrained the dangers of MAGA extremism into the American political consciousness. ...

There will be so much more ... but for now I need sleep ...

Saturday, November 12, 2022

The people of Nevada have spoken

The election of Catherine Cortez Masto ensures a Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate. Let's go President Joe -- appoint some more diverse, broad-minded federal judges who respect the evolving republic of freedom and equality.

It has been a privilege to work with UniteHERE/Culinary workers to help bring about this happy result.

Still curing ballots here in Reno

Our Nevada Democratic Senator, Catherine Cortez Masto, is still 800 votes behind with some quantity of mail ballots still to be counted. The good news is that these outstanding ballots are mostly urban and she has been winning the urban mail vote. The bad news is that election authorities have not finished counting, so we are still at it, out in the cold, knocking on doors of people who could "cure" their ballots. Knowledgeable election observers expect Cortez Masto to win in the end. But the UniteHERE team is making sure, as much as we can. This twitter meme feels all too accurate:

Friday, November 11, 2022

Veterans Day

This Veterans Day, I want to raise up the memory of my first cousin Kirby. 

By the time I knew the fellow at all, he was a true deplorable, a drunk whose charm had worn off, kept alive by an abused wife who shared his addiction. Had he lived so long, he would have been a rabid MAGA fan, finding release for his id in the Trumpist grievance cult.

But as a very young man, he served his country and the war effort against Nazi Germany with the terrible heroism of necessity. He was a merchant seaman, plying the Murmansk run -- the Arctic Ocean sea supply voyage from the north Atlantic, skirting Norway and Finland, to the Russian port. In that war, the Atlantic allies, Britain and the U.S., supplied Russia with war materiel until Stalin's regime could bring to bear its vast armies against the invading fascists in eastern Europe. (We forget or never knew that Russian suffering broke the back of Hitler's empire.)

The Arctic sea convoys were terribly dangerous, threatened by both the German navy and awful sea conditions.

About 1,400 merchant ships delivered essential supplies to the Soviet Union under the Anglo-Soviet agreement and US Lend-Lease program, escorted by ships of the Royal Navy, Royal Canadian Navy, and the U.S. Navy. Eighty-five merchant vessels and 16 Royal Navy warships (two cruisers, six destroyers, eight other escort ships) were lost.

That was cousin Kirby's war -- though not a member of the U.S. military, he was indeed a veteran of the Allied war against fascism.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

What it is really like to work on a political campaign: extra innings!

This will be short; I'm frantically busy after this election. It ain't over.

In a state which allows "curing" of mail-in ballots with small errors like a missing date or perhaps a too-variant signature, voters have a grace period to fix their ballot. The list of who needs to fix is public record.

So our operation is now trying to chase down the voters in our target who need to do this before Monday. Our crew is literally staking out houses of some workers whose ballot requires curing -- to give them the information they need to fix things.

It could matter as the election is that close in Nevada. This Nevada Independent story tells the story in the Reno area:

In Washoe County, 1,421 ballots still required a signature cure as of Thursday morning, of which the plurality, 39 percent, were nonpartisan, another 32 percent were Democrats and 30 percent Republicans.

We are still trying to win this thing!

Wednesday, November 09, 2022

The young ones will seize their time

Too tired to post today. Nevada results still too close to call. But nationally, this exhortation seems to have been born out.

To the astonishment of prognosticators, voters just did it. The 18-29 age group is coming into its own and it's not wired quite the same way as many of their elders. It's their turn.

Tuesday, November 08, 2022

The valiant Reno canvass team gets out the vote

In July, we were few, sweltering, and determined, here in Washoe County, Nevada.

By September, our numbers had increased greatly, lifted by arrivals from all over the country, including tough casino workers from Atlantic City.

Here's the UniteHERE Reno crew in October. That sky was blustery; we were strong.

Over the last two weeks, we've been joined by 100s of volunteers organized by Seed the Vote, multiplying the Get Out the Vote push.

Today the temperature hovers around freezing -- canvassers are out there finishing the job, come sleet or rain. 

As in any battle, in the end we do it for love of our comrades, whatever the outcome. ¡Si se puede!

Monday, November 07, 2022

You know the election propaganda you toss in the garbage?

This is a nice piece about work of the union shop which prints it in Northern Nevada.

We don't mail our paper litter to your door -- in the UniteHERE/Culinary campaign, we deliver it along with a friendly knock.

All that went out the door, and many pallets more.

Getting out the vote

 Sometimes what an infrequent voter needs to get the deed done is a ride to the polls.

One more full day to E-Day.

Sunday, November 06, 2022

We're turning out our voters in Reno

Beatriz (in red), who has been at this work since July, helped a new friend get to the polls.

Saturday, November 05, 2022

We can’t let this painful moment hold us back

Lifted whole from CNN because, hey, I'm so proud of my younger friend and her life work; Renee demands that we listen.
Renee Bracey Sherman

This moment is incredibly painful for all of us, but the reality is that it has been building for well over a decade. Anti-abortion politicians used voter suppression and gerrymandering in their quest to consume and consolidate power while exploiting abortion access and trans justice to spread a White supremacist message. This has been a long time coming.

The modern anti-abortion movement grew out of the religious right’s effort to organize against school integration, secularism and busing of the late 1960s. When they could no longer use openly racist arguments, the 1973 Supreme Court decision provided an opening allowing them to divide the electorate along the same Jim Crow lines. The call for abortion bans became their dog whistle for politicians who fought tooth and nail to demonize immigrants, criminalize poor families and brutalize Black communities.

This moment is incredibly painful, and it’s a moment to rebuild and right the wrongs of the past. In order to rebuild abortion access, we must look at the root causes that got us here: anti-Black racism, misogyny and economic injustice.

We must create a nation in which everyone is able to access abortion care – and all health care – no matter who they are, how they identify or how much money they have in their pockets. We must call for the end of prosecuting people or putting them in jail for the outcomes of their pregnancies, for self-managing their abortions, or for parenting in poverty.

Our nation’s budgets are examples of where we want to put our priorities. They must become moral documents that prioritize the health of pregnant people and those living in poverty over violence and policing.

It starts with us creating a culture in which everyone who is pregnant is treated with love, dignity and respect. We cannot rely on politicians’ vague and empty promises to fight back when the campaign is over. We have to ask how they plan to do it now and get involved in our communities to make that vision of reality possible.

This moment is incredibly painful, but it is the perfect moment for us to rebuild a vision of reproductive justice for the future.

Renee Bracey Sherman is the founder and executive director of We Testify, an organization dedicated to the leadership and representation of people who have abortions and seeks to shift the way the public understands the context and complexity of accessing abortion care.

Friday, November 04, 2022

Friday cat blogging

It's the last day of early voting here in Nevada (polls close over the weekend and reopen Tuesday). For a campaign, this can be as hectic as an Election Day as latecomers rush to get the deed done. 

So it seems right to offer a Reno cat. This fellow prowls the the neighborhood around our office, disdaining human attention. It took me months to persuade him to let me take this picture. He'll stride down the middle of the street at a quiet moment, then bolt into the bushes if you get close.

He looks well fed. Who knows where, or by whom.

Thursday, November 03, 2022

Our unlikely leader lays it all on the line


“Democracy itself” is at stake in the upcoming election, Biden said. He appealed “to all Americans, regardless of party, to meet this moment of national and generational importance.” Nothing is guaranteed about democracy in America, he said, “Every generation has had to defend it, protect it, preserve it, choose it. For that’s what democracy is. It’s a choice, a decision of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

“We the people must decide whether we will have fair and free elections and every vote counts. We the people must decide whether we’re going to sustain a republic, where reality’s accepted, the law is obeyed, and your vote is truly sacred. We the people must decide whether the rule of law will prevail or whether we will allow the dark forces and thirst for power put ahead of the principles that have long guided us.”

... “What we’re doing now is going to determine whether democracy will long endure and… whether the American system that prizes the individual bends toward justice and depends on the rule of law, whether that system will prevail. This is the struggle we’re now in, a struggle for democracy, a struggle for decency and dignity, a struggle for prosperity and progress, a struggle for the very soul of America itself.”

... He urged voters to judge the candidates by whether they would accept the legitimate will of the American people. “Will that person accept the outcome of the election, win or lose?” The answer to that question should be decisive. “Too many people have sacrificed too much for too many years for us to walk away from the American project and democracy…. It’s within our power, each and every one of us, to preserve our democracy.”

“You have the power, it’s your choice, it’s your decision, the fate of the nation, the fate of the soul of America lies where it always does, with the people, in your hands, in your heart, in your ballot.”

Cribbed from Heather Cox Richardson.

Reno morning view ...

five days out from the election.

This will probably melt during the day, but we can expect day time temperatures in the 30s. 

This Nevada town is a land of extremes -- 105° to below freezing -- all in one campaign season. It's also a place of political extremes. Our crew labors on in the hope that decency and democracy can still prevail.

Wednesday, November 02, 2022

All Souls Day

In the Christian tradition, November 2 is All Souls Day, the Day of the Dead, a day to remember those we knew who have died. We believe we are surrounded and supported by a community of souls who have completed their life on earth, a great crowd of witnesses upholding our toil in this plane of existence -- whatever that means.

This year I am particularly remembering two among those witnesses who left us this year.

Raquel was a Roman Catholic sister of the Presentation order who left her native Los Angeles to live among and serve the poor in Peru and Nicaragua. Father David Forbes was quite simply the kindest and holiest man I have ever known, an educator, liturgist, canon of the Episcopal cathedral in San Francisco, and sometime interim parish priest. From different worlds, their memorial services fell on the same day last April.

In this commemoration of saints gone before, I must mention the passing of John Crew who was a warrior for justice in the criminal justice realm and a fierce critic of biassed policing. Gone at age 65 which seems too young, he will be sorely missed among advocates for reform and constraint on the San Francisco Police department. He did not shrink from the good fight.

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

What it is really like to work on a campaign: interludes of normal creative expression

Campaign season, from Labor Day to Election Day, contains moments when voters, if not campaigners, have better things to do than focus on how to support, manage, and constrain their politicians.

In a city with a large immigrant population, there's Mexican Independence Day on Sept. 16.

If there are Canadians aboot, Thanksgiving falls in early October.

That other immigrant holiday on October 10 won by Italian-Americans in the last century -- Columbus Day --  is being superseded by Indigenous Peoples Day in recognition of the explorer's victims.

The fall season offers sports extravaganzas that might, depending on location, command all local attention, such as the World Series and some football games.

But the most universal interruption in the campaign season is Halloween. On the one hand, people are often in a good mood and tolerant of people coming to their doors. On the other hand, costumed revelers can get a little sketchy or raucous as the day wears on.

So the UniteHERE Reno crew had an early dinner and a pumpkin carving contest on Halloween. Which would you judge to be the most creative? Here's a sampling:

Matthew paints the Data department pumpkin.

Some pumpkins were a team effort, just as they work together every day.

Loki the Sun Valley mascot goes wherever his team is sent daily.
 This pumpkin participated in the stomach flu and migraine wave that has run through the canvass crew.

I'd recognize that comb over anywhere.

When we fight, we win! When we vote, we win! ¡Si se puede!