This is a very impressive snippet of visual story telling. And it's a hopeful story!I could give you a nice, grown-up set of charts about how renewable energy sources are out competing polluting fossil fuels. But this is more fun.
Wednesday, May 31, 2023
Tuesday, May 30, 2023
Before the doc wrenched out my dead monster molar yesterday morning, I asked whether the idea I'd heard that redheads are particularly subject to dental pain was true.
"Maybe 50 percent of the time," he offered.
I used to be a redhead, so perhaps that's why I have such troublesome teeth?
|The dead tooth wasn't as large as this, but it was large.|
A growing body of research shows that people with red hair need larger doses of anesthesia and often are resistant to local pain blockers like Novocaine. As a result, redheads tend to be particularly nervous about dental procedures and are twice as likely to avoid going to the dentist as people with other hair colors, according to new research published in The Journal of the American Dental Association.
Researchers believe redheads are more sensitive to pain because of a mutation in a gene that affects hair color. ...
... People with the MC1R gene variant had more dental care–related anxiety and fear of dental pain than those without the gene variant. And they were more than twice as likely to avoid dental care. ...
... “Because they’re resistant, many redheads have had bad experiences,” Dr. Sessler said. “If they go to the dentist or have a cut sutured, they’ll need more local anesthetic than other people.”
That's me. Or at least it used to be. Of late dentists have become more believing about this and dental visits have become mostly just expensive, not agonizing ...
Monday, May 29, 2023
My childhood memory of what is now called Memorial Day is of accompanying my slightly distressed mother to the cemetery to make sure some veterans' organization had placed flower urns next to the correct extended family graves. Whoever did this each year, they couldn't be relied upon to get it right. Mother, as the caretaker of family history and of good order, wanted to be sure all was flawless.
Most of the veteran graves were pretty obvious -- a sergeant who served in France in WWI; an airman lost over the Pacific in the run up to WWII. But a couple of overgrown 19th century stones were obscure to me -- marked with standards reading G.A.R.
Curious child that I was, I asked "what's G.A.R.?" "Why, the Grand Army of the Republic" she told me, "from the Civil War." She said it as if this was something everyone knew. I don't think I pursued the question at the time.
Writing about more contemporary matters, E.J. Dionne explained the origin of the G.A.R. markers in a Memorial Day column.
... the holiday — first held on May 5, 1868 — was called “Decoration Day” because it was an occasion to adorn the graves of fallen Union soldiers with flowers. It was initiated by the Grand Army of the Republic, the vast and politically influential organization of Union veterans, at a time when North/South divisions were still raw and the two parties decidedly polarized.
Republicans were for racial progress, pushing Reconstruction in the South to democratize the region and guarantee full political rights for Black Americans. Formerly enslaved people were winning elections and enacting more egalitarian policies. Democrats were the party of the Confederate South, reaction and outright racism. ...(Yes -- the political parties have subsequently switched constituencies and consequently policies on racial matters.)
It turns out that Union Civil War veterans, under the banner of the G.A.R., kept up a decades long political struggle to remind the nation that the Confederate soldiers they fought had been pursuing a traitorous cause.
The Angry Staff Officer provides a catalogue of G.A.R. stalwarts trying to keep alive the national understanding that their cause had been righteous and their opponents had been illegitimate rebels. An prescient example:
Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas, himself a Virginian who had remained loyal, summed up the swift change that was occurring in a letter to Grant in 1868: “[T]he greatest efforts made by the defeated insurgents since the close of the war have been to promulgate the idea that the cause of liberty, justice, humanity, equality, and all the calendar of the virtues of freedom, suffered violence and wrong when the effort for southern independence failed. This is, of course, intended as a species of political cant, whereby the crime of treason might be covered with a counterfeit varnish of patriotism, so that the precipitators of the rebellion might go down in history hand in hand with the defenders of the government, thus wiping out with their own hands their own stains; a species of self-forgiveness amazing in its effrontery, when it is considered that life and property—justly forfeited by the laws of the country, of war, and of nations, through the magnanimity of the government and people—was not exacted from them.” ...These Union soldiers provided little organized opposition to the South's revival of white supremacy after military occupation ended, but they did understand that what they had fought for was being erased.
U.S. veterans tended not to care what the former rebels were doing in the south – as evidenced by the nation’s apathy when it came to Jim Crow, lynching, and general disenfranchisement of African-Americans. But as time went on, and as the Lost Cause narrative grew in power, the GAR began to realize that it had been silent for too long.
Click to enlarge.
In 1885, the Indiana GAR attempted to remind the nation of what they had fought for: “The Union soldier stood embattled on the side of right and truth. The Confederate soldier was arrayed on the side of wrong and error. Under the blessing of God, the right and truth prevailed. There can be no compromise upon that. Right and wrong cannot be reconciled. Right is right and wrong is wrong to the end of the world’s reckoning.” ...
When the debate about Confederate monuments at Gettysburg began, the Patterson, Pennsylvania GAR Post had some very choice words: “As soldiers and citizens we have no apologies to make for calling words by their proper names, ‘traitor’ a traitor and ‘rebel’ a rebel…,” the Post wrote in an 1889 editorial. “We reiterate that we are opposed to the erection of monuments by the great or small upon the battlefields of Gettysburg or any other place that will in the slightest degree make glorious the deeds of those who trampled under foot the national ensign. We believe in making treason odious.” ...
In 1922, the National GAR decried the use of the phrase “The War Between the States” – invented by the former vice president of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens – rather than the War of the Rebellion, as it had been termed for decades: “The designation the ‘war between the States’ is to us peculiarly hateful and insulting. It is false in fact. There never has been a war between the States. While there have been causes of dispute and even threats of conflict, the American people have always found a way of peaceful settlement within the law and under the Constitution which was formed with that very end in view. We as participants did not go to war at the behest of a State or against a State but under the flag of the Federal Union and for its preservation.”And as the Library of Congress photo shows, apparently the G.A.R. was open to veterans of color -- as well it should have been, since by the end of the war, nearly 200,000 men of African descent were in the Union forces.
My mother came of age in the 1920s in a family that had been prominent Union supporters 70 years previously. No wonder she thought the G.A.R. was just part of the landscape, an obvious reference ...
Sunday, May 28, 2023
This giggling face is part of the branding of the Red Arrow Diner in Manchester, New Hampshire. All aspiring presidents have to pass through, shake hands, and hope to impress a somewhat jaded clientele.
I picked this up in a year when photos of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were prominent.
This season, there will be no meaningful Democratic contest but oh, these Republicans. ...
Saturday, May 27, 2023
It would be hard to find someone whose view of Western economic systems was more Olympian than Martin Wolf. The son of cultured eastern European Jews who escaped the Nazis in London, he's the longtime chief economics commentator for Britain's Financial Times. Senior world financial decision makers rate the newspaper as their most credible source. It seems fair to say the FT talks to capitalists about capitalism and Martin Wolf speaks to the better angels of capitalists in its pages.
In The Crisis of Democratic Capitalism Wolf comes off as an intelligent classical liberal, "fiscally conservative" and "socially liberal." He's profoundly troubled by anti-democratic authoritarian populism. He argues for an humane interpretation of societies that he believes arose from the marriage of Anglo-European capitalism and democracy.
I'm not going to try to survey Wolf's appraisal of the wonders of capitalism. So much of what "the system" looks like derives from where we sit within it. My friends who are gig workers, baristas, and hotel cleaners see a different world than Wolf.
But I do want discuss a little the question of citizenship in a democracy. Wolf insists that "the left" fails to appreciate that for most people, citizenship is a source of pride in a cold capitalist world.
A big mistake of the Brahmin left has been its contempt for patriotism, particularly working class patriotism. For the vast majority of ordinary people, citizenship is a source of pride, security, and identity.Wolf's observation is true to my experience. For a lot of us, citizenship is the extent of what we can trust we possess. All of us need to honor that. Those of us repelled by patriotism tend to be people who have been privileged live in a wider world, who have been repelled by America's successive imperial wars, who are sick and tired of being lied to -- and who can only be proud of our country insofar as it strives to do better. And the very word -- patriotism -- undercuts itself. Many of us just aren't into living into the land of the fathers. But we all have to understand that citizenship matters; there I can go along with Wolf.
The successful capitalist countries attract the world; people want to move here. And our economies need people. So we live with the question of how insistent migration meshes with citizenship. And nobody cares more about and often has more pride in citizenship than newcomers who successfully jump through the hoops we erect.
The big question about migration is how to control it, not whether it should be controlled. The democratic state belongs to its citizens, who are bound by ties of loyalty and trust in one another. It is inevitable that who becomes as member of this community and on what terms is at least as much a political as an economic question.We struggle over how immigration should be organized. Because of our American history, because Europeans settled this land by expropriating its inhabitants and also imported Black Africans striped of all human rights to do much of the work, we have a different history about citizenship and newcomers than old Europe.
The defeat of slavery resulted in the 14th amendment to the US Constitution which promised that, if you are born here, you are a citizen. That's among the most important contributions of the Black struggle for freedom in this country. And it is very novel in the history of nation states.
What is also novel about migration to this country, something Wolf is conscious of, is that in the United States, citizenship is not connected to participation in a welfare state. We've neglected to build such a structure to manage our capitalism even for existing citizens, despite incomplete, tentative approaches like Obamacare and Social Security. And much of our hotly contested immigration non-system denies even that to legally-arrived newcomers.
... citizenship must matter a great deal if one believes in funding a specific national welfare state, as people of the left do, since it is a system of solidarity with people who live in one's own country.
Controlled migration that leads to citizenship is a different struggle
here than in much of the rest of the capitalist world, for worse and for
better. I found Wolf at best incomplete on this conundrum which is central to our current discontents.
... the subservience of Republican elites is the product not so much of fear, as it was for many in the Germany of the 1930s, as of personal ambition and moral collapse.I find this refreshing. Too many earnest Never-Trump Republicans aren't willing to go there about their former friends, but moral weakness should be impossible to overlook.
Wolf's diagnosis of our ills seems alarming and sound, his prescriptions perhaps too modest:
... liberal democracy is vulnerable to the selfishness of elites and ambitions of would-be despots. Historically, democratic republics have been exceptions. The normal human patterns have been plutocracy or tyranny. ... the combination of new technology with laissez-faire ideology has accelerated the emergence of a plutocracy dedicated to increasing its wealth and power and of new technologies with extraordinarily destructive potential.
We do indeed need to build on the foundations we have. But we cannot go back to the past. ... Removing harms, not universal happiness is the objective.I kept hoping somehow such an intelligent, wide ranging observer of our ills would have more to offer than what reads to me as humane conventional wisdom. Wolf is clearly one of the good -- but hope for a decent future, if we find any, is likely to come from less establishment and younger voices. I read Wold as knowing that.
Friday, May 26, 2023
|It's not complicated. Click to enlarge. |
The United States’ debt ceiling crisis is, once again, provoking the usual commentary about the country’s presumed dysfunction. But the truth is that this unprovoked madness, causing self-inflicted wounds, is taking place against a backdrop of astonishing strength.
The facts cannot be disputed. The United States has recovered from the coronavirus pandemic faster than any major economy in the world. As Bloomberg’s Matthew A. Winkler recently pointed out, unemployment is stunningly low. Gross domestic product growth has grown at three times the average pace as under President Donald Trump, real incomes are rising, manufacturing is booming, and inflation has eased for 10 straight months. Even the budget deficit, which was at 15.6 percent of GDP at the end of the Trump presidency, has dropped to 5.5 percent of GDP at the end of last year.
... Unlike most rich countries, the United States has a strong working-age cohort that will not shrink, thanks to immigration. We still take in more than 1 million legal immigrants per year on average. ...We elect Democrats to keep it that way.
Wednesday, May 24, 2023
Yesterday I walked a lovely stretch of ocean coast in the beach town of Pacifica. I wasn't surprised to encounter this sign which has a bone to pick with local government. Pacificans are very participatory people.
Here's a cropped image which should be legible:
No, I didn't know. And some elementary googling didn't much enlighten me. Among other mysteries, the next Pacifica Council meeting seems to be scheduled for June 6, not the 5th.
But I did find some information about the town's responses to state mandates that it build more housing. As everyone knows, more people want to live in California than there is housing to accommodate, driving prices and homelessness sky high. For years, the state government has defined what is obscurely named a "Housing Element," which prescribes how many new dwellings communities should be building. Most municipalities have ignored this, without consequence in the past. But the state is trying to get tough as the affordability crisis deepens.
Nearly a year ago, the Pacifica Tribune offered this summation:
As the housing shortage has become more acute, the state has significantly increased its demands for new housing. In the eight-year RHNA cycle that expires this year, Pacifica was expected to produce 413 units of new housing. In the next cycle, 2023-2031, that number jumps to 1,892.
With the increased expectations comes more enforcement from the state. “We never met the numbers before, and nothing happened,” said Pacifica Mayor Mary Bier. Now, she says, the city could lose its permitting and zoning authority. And the city could face financial penalties and legal actions.
“It’s not like we have to immediately build 1,892 units or else,” she said, “but we have to create opportunities for the development to happen” by opening up zoning and making other changes to the Housing Element section of the General Plan.
Because of these changes, “developers have more leverage now, and people who will listen,” says Pete Shoemaker, a local environmentalist and a member of the Tribune’s Editorial Advisory Committee. “Some of these proposals are spitballs. They’re throwing out ideas to see what sticks,” he said. But some are more serious.
While a high-density, affordable-income project on land already surrounded by development might be the most efficient and environmentally friendly way for the city to increase its housing stock, it’s not going to be the most profitable to a developer, said Shoemaker. ...
Will this pleasant coastal open space disappear under a development? Time and politics will tell. The town has an honorable record of preserving stretches of coast, but it also needs housing ...
Tuesday, May 23, 2023
And many liberal US intellectuals felt they had to have an opinion. I want to leap into that fray.
What happened here is an instance of forceful, nonviolent, war-by-peaceful means colliding with a culture that has forgotten the compromises raised up by life and death struggles. There's a genuine boycott on ...
Ukraine asks and demands that its soldiers, and by extension its partisans and friends, participate in that boycott of all people and things Russian. By invading a neighboring country and committing atrocities against its population, Russia has broken the compact of civilization between peoples and states. Ukrainians fight their war of resistance -- but they also aim to shame and stigmatize in the interest of a vision of justice.
This is not fair to Russian individuals, perhaps especially those likely to turn up at a PEN conference. These people are not part of Putin's war machine. But this sort of unfairness is exactly how boycotts work. Often those harmed are among the least guilty, either for lack of power or lack of intent to commit the offense that inspires the boycott. But they are also the ones who can be moved to destabilize a situation because they can feel shame.
Let's remember the boycott of South Africa which contributed to the end of that country's apartheid regime. For decades, the Black-led African National Congress called for the rest of the world to boycott and stigmatize white minority rule. Materially it was hard to tell whether this hurt. But when I worked with anti-racist newspapers in the country in 1990, it was abundantly clear which part of the worldwide effort was making a dent among privileged whites: the sports boycott. South African teams were barred from the Olympics and other international competitions. This stung and sapped support for maintaining white rule, even and especially among its white beneficiaries. There was grievance -- sure; but also exhaustion with pariah status. That's how well targeted, rigorously applied, boycotts work.
I don't fault Ukraine for pushing a Russian culture boycott. They are fighting extinction of their hopes and country with every tool they have got.
Yascha Mounk, speaking for highbrow Western liberalism, thinks PEN's decision to cave denigrated a proper concern for respect for each individual.
... a person’s moral standing is not defined by their nationality. There can be no collective guilt by virtue of wrongful birth. ...This is a powerful and hopeful principle -- but a right of self-defense for an invaded society is also a vital principle, especially those aspects of that defense that are not physically violent. As far as we know, Ukraine is not randomly killings its local remnant of Russia supporters, though the longer this goes on the more danger there is of tit-for-tat murder. (Yes, I know; being unjustly stigmatized and shamed is painful to individuals. So is being killed.)
A consequence of the cancellation of PEN's panel with the Russians was that the writer Masha Gessen resigned as the organization's vice president. They (Gessen uses they/them) had been supposed to moderate that event. No sensible person disputes Gessen's human rights bona fides.
Gessen, who immigrated from the former Soviet Union as a teenager in 1981 and holds both Russian and American citizenship, has been a prominent critical voice in Russia, where they returned in 1991 to work as a journalist. Their books include “The Man Without a Face,” a 2012 biography of Vladimir Putin, and “The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia,” which won the National Book Award in 2017. In 2013, Gessen moved back to the United States with their family, citing growing persecution of L.G.B.T.Q. people.But Gessen has been one of the most nuanced commentators here:
Gessen emphasized that they remained a member of PEN, and remained committed to the Russian Independent Media Archive, which they spearheaded. The decision to cancel the panel, Gessen said, “was a mistake, not a malicious act.”
“My objection is not to the Ukrainian participants’ demand,” Gessen said. “They are fighting a defensive war by all means available to them. My issue is solely with PEN’s response."
The whole kerfuffle is a reminder to me that worthy Western non-profits, even ambitious ones like PEN, are profoundly unable to navigate principled struggles where something more than funding is on the line. Most have not needed to be. But we live in times when we must grapple with these contradictions.
Monday, May 22, 2023
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The NAACP over the weekend issued a travel advisory for Florida, joining two other civil rights groups in warning potential tourists that recent laws and policies championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida lawmakers are “openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals.”
The NAACP, long an advocate for Black Americans, joined the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), a Latino civil rights organization, and Equality Florida, a gay rights advocacy group, in issuing travel advisories for the Sunshine State, where tourism is one of the state’s largest job sectors.
The warning approved Saturday by the NAACP’s board of directors tells tourists that, before traveling to Florida, they should understand the state of Florida “devalues and marginalizes the contributions of, and the challenges faced by African Americans and other communities of color.”
Once again, we are living in a States of Disunion. Sad -- and angry for my Florida friends.
Sunday, May 21, 2023
When you work on an election, pretty much everything you do is determined by the data. The data used to be called "the voter lists" despite living in a computer file, but perhaps became envisioned as the data when we moved away from paper and onto smart phones. The data is used to send campaigners to interact with a selection of voters. Which voters the campaign expends resources to interact with is the most fundamental choice made in designing a strategy. From the point of view of the canvasser or phoner, the reasons for any particular list can be opaque, though good campaigns teach their workers as much as is known about their target voters.
(Reuters published a nice visual about political data flow if you want a picture.)
The data is compiled from public sources and past campaigns by list brokers -- at the top end, TargetSmart for the Democrats and Data Trust for Republicans. Various organizations further massage the data, attaching additional information and speculation about individual voters. Think of this part of the process as marketing for politics; like all the businesses that create profiles of us to sell stuff to us, political actors use public information to decide who to pitch with what message and how to reach them.
On the Democratic side, the best of these enhanced data files come through a nonprofit outfit called Catalist. Here's how that entity describes itself:
Catalist compiles, enhances, stores, and dynamically updates data on over 256 million unique voting-age individuals across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. ... Our commitment is to strengthen the progressive community year after year by growing and maturing this community asset and related technology and services.When an election cycle is over, Catalist refines its data, using it now, not for targeting, but to discern what trends and changes are happening among the voters. Every two years, Catalists publishes a What Happened. Findings about the midterm elections of 2022 are encouraging :
Gen Z and Millennials played a remarkable role in the 2022 election, voting heavily for Democratic candidates and exceeding their turnout from 2018. That makes this the second midterm cycle in a row where young voters have not only defied conventional wisdom about their willingness to turn out, but delivered decisive victories for Democrats....
From the late 1970s to the early 2000s, young Democratic support was routinely between 50% and 60% and even dropped below 50% in some cycles, according to exit polls. While support rose dramatically in the 2006 midterms amidst opposition to the Iraq War and in 2008 during President Obama’s first election, the midterm years of 2010 and 2014 saw a substantial drop in support among young voters, in part due to young Democrats sitting out those elections but also due to across-the-board declines in support for Democrats in a Republican wave year.
Support has remained incredibly strong since 2016, however, notably including the past two midterms: peaking at 68% in the wave year of 2018, and remaining high in 2022. This marks the first time that young people's Democratic support has been greater than 60% for two consecutive midterm elections, and now includes a midterm with a Democratic incumbent president.
Democratic support among young voters is partly due to the diversity of this group, as America becomes more diverse over time. But that is not the whole story. Democratic support was higher among young voters of color, both nationally (78%) and in highly contested races (also 78%). But support among young white voters rose between 2018 (53% national, 52% highly contested races) and 2022 (58% nationally, 57% highly contested races). This 5-6 point support change is notable, indicating a broad base of Democratic support among young voters across the country.
What Does This Mean for Turnout in 2024? For practitioners, high turnout cycles mean that more voters have registered, cast ballots and engaged with campaigns, meaning there is more opportunity to re-engage these voters over time because they are visible to voter files and campaigns. Voting itself is also habitual and people who vote once are more likely to vote again than people who have never voted at all. We may remain in a high turnout era, but voters’ perceptions of how competitive and salient an election is can change dramatically. Higher turnout does not automatically confer advantages to Democrats and parties have been able to fight to near-parity in the past several general elections.Campaigns are about winning the immediate election -- and also about encouraging habits of participation among your target population. That's what we do out there. It's called citizenship and underlies functioning democracy.
|Here's an historical artifact from the days when we used paper to teach about voter files. In Nevada, by the way.|
Saturday, May 20, 2023
From a contemporary perspective, the history of the Democratic Party in the United States is too often the story of a political organization that was on the wrong side of inclusive human freedom and also, though perhaps not so morally culpably, on the "wrong side" of history. Michael Kazin has done the job in What It Took to Win: A History of the Democratic Party. I found the book interesting, sometimes a little off-kilter, and informative.
Here's my slightly idiosyncratic take on this history: before and during the Civil War, the Dems were the slavery-affirming empire builders who invaded Mexico to expand potential unfree territory. Their governing philosophy of "states rights" was the mantra of the enslavers. By comparison, the emerging Republican Party stood against slavery, if not broadly for the equal rights of Black people. But Republicans did produce Abraham Lincoln, probably the best president we ever had, who navigated the contradictions of his own coalition to military victory over the secessionist traitors, understood that slaves must be freed, and was assassinated for his pains.
For the next 80 years or so, both parties look pretty awful. The Dems were the party of white rule in the South and of anachronistic rural populism elsewhere. The Republicans were the party of kleptocratic railroad barons and industrialists. The GOP was "on the side of history" but that era looks simply corrupt and cruel in modern perspective. Early 20th century Progressivism, a sometimes bipartisan current, reined in some abuses of human dignity and of "free" white labor in an emerging capitalist world superpower.
It took the Great Depression of the 1930s for Democrats to become the party that decisively turned to using the power of the state to increase the well-being of the majority of the people. And yet, in order to keep a legislative majority in the national government, Democrats remained dependent on the white supremacists of the old Confederacy. Contradictions abounded.
These contradictions were heightened and partially resolved after the Vietnam war and the Civil Rights movement made straddling opposites impossible. The ensuing Democratic collapse in the 1970s led to Ronald Reagan and to thirty or maybe more years, mostly Republican-dominated, when Dems were dimly scrabbling toward a majority vision which includes all of us -- people of color, women, newcomers, queers, and young people staring down climate catastrophe. (Jesse Jackson knew by 1988, but that's another story.)
Is the Party there yet? I'd say closer. In this regard I think I agree with Democratic pundit and organizer Simon Rosenberg in the Hopium Chronicles:
Republicans have given us a big opportunity. We need to seize it, together. Friends this is a good time to be a Democrat.
• • •
Given all the campaigns I've worked, I especially appreciated Kazin's attention to the mechanics of campaigns in different eras. Here's how the New York State Democratic Central Committee in 1842 laid out its midterm strategy:
William L. Marcy and his fellow leaders instructed town and district committees to correct their voter lists, "procure speakers to address the people," and check off the names of good Democrats "as they arrive and vote." Activists were urged to bring such voters "to the polls in the early part of the day," knowing the Whigs were doing the same. The committee emphasized that, while the prospects for victory were "cheering," vigilance was mandatory. "Let us not, we beseech you, in a contest on which so much depends, be caught napping," it concluded.By the 1890s, Democratic urban bosses had developed a formula for delivering the vote. They had won a competition for mass loyalty with both the political idealists who adhered to Henry George's single tax notion and fledgling labor unions which exacerbated rather than managed class conflict. New York City's Tammany Hall ran a system of clubhouses which "mixed politics with wholesome pleasure" and served to tie families to the machine.
... Tammany commanded a white working class army of modest size that helped itself to the spoils of the city and passed some along to the civilians who harbored them. The machine operated as a welfare state in embryo, albeit one dependent on the protean political calculations of its leaders and the men they lifted into office and limited to efforts that aided individuals one by one instead of a class in need. ...It was only in the mid-1930s that a Democratic Party, based in a fighting labor movement, turned toward mass social improvement.
Under Samuel Gompers the old AFL ... had donated little money to ... campaigns and never undertook a major effort to convince unionists to vote Democratic.Kazin concludes with a rapturous description of the Democratic victory in Nevada in 2018 being celebrated by members of the Culinary Union in Las Vegas chanting, "We Vote! We Win!" In his telling, organized labor is still central to Democratic Party successes -- and I agree (naturally, having been part of that one.)
In contrast, the [CIO unions, through the confusingly named Non-Partisan League] embarked on an ambitious campaign of publicity and fundraising. The league produced dozens of radio speeches that framed the election in starkly class-conscious terms. ... The League held thousands of rallies -- including 344 in Ohio alone -- and contributed 10 percent of the funds the Democrats collected during the entire campaign.
Can Democrats extend their trajectory toward solidifying a majority in 2024? Once again, it's hard not to feel we must -- or too many hopes perish.
Those of us who sit in safe Democratic states that protect abortion access may have a hard time feeling, as opposed to understanding, what Republican bans mean to women who have to live with them.The Nebraska State Senator, with both emotion and poise, conveys the horror of what the state ban, since enacted, will do to women, their partners, and their children.
Friday, May 19, 2023
Thursday, May 18, 2023
Concurrently, Tomasky explores succinctly the demographic realities that are pulling the foundation from under Trump and his MAGA Republicans, leaving them so angry and confused. We no longer live in the America I was born into or even the world of my midlife in Reagan's time. Nor do a great many of us live in MAGA world. Another country is possible ... and largely already here. And therein lies the hope that should buoy a refashioned Democratic, pro-democracy, political party.
Yes, times have changed. Not in every way for the better. But in terms of broad cultural attitudes, Americans are far more open-minded today than they were in Reagan’s time. Gallup started asking people about same-sex marriage in 1996 (it didn’t even register as an issue in the ’80s). In 1996, respondents were opposed by 68 to 27 percent. By 2022, that had flipped almost precisely on its head, with 71 percent in favor and 28 percent opposed. The turning point came in 2011, and the number has basically climbed ever since. ...
The country is dramatically different. In 1985, the United States was 78 percent white (non-Hispanic white, that is, according to the Census Bureau), 12 percent Black, 7 percent Hispanic, and just under 3 percent Other (Asian Americans were still just “Others” then). In 2020, the country was 58 percent non-Hispanic white, 19 percent Hispanic, still 12 percent Black, 6 percent Asian, and about 3 percent Native American.
In 1985, 19 percent of Americans had completed four or more years of college. In 2021, that number was doubled—23.5 percent had four-year degrees and 14.4 percent had graduate degrees, for a total of nearly 38 percent.
In 1984, 76 percent of Americans lived in metropolitan areas; the share of those living in urban areas had nudged up to 80 percent in 2020.
In 1980, the share of the U.S. population that was foreign-born was around 6 percent; in 2021, it was 13.6 percent. Finally, in 1990, households headed by married couples made up 55 percent of all households; in 2022, that was down to 47 percent.
Now let’s turn to religion. According to Pew, throughout the 1980s, about 90 percent of Americans were Christian. The 1990s saw a fairly steep decline down to around 80 percent. This century, the erosion has been less sharp, but it’s been steady—the number who said they were Christian dropped to 63 percent in 2021. The number who said they were religious but named another religion has increased slightly from 1972, from 5 to 7 percent. And the number saying they were religiously unaffiliated has zoomed from 5 percent to 29 percent. Young people are abandoning religious belief at high rates. ...
I like this country better. From where I sit, there are somewhat less people who want to erase my existence. And a lot more people who are exploring what it all means. We can confidently assert that Trump is out of touch with who most of us are.
Tomasky translates, very concretely, what all this happy change means to our politics. We can feel it; this essay gives words and structure to intuitions. Highly recommended.
Wednesday, May 17, 2023
On May 17, 1968, nine Catholic activists appropriated 378 files about young, male, potential draftees from the Catonsville, Maryland draft board. They burned them in the parking lot and stood by until arrested. From jail, the group sent an apologetic letter and a basket of flowers to the clerk on duty at the office during the event. Found guilty of destruction of U.S. property, Mary Moylan, Philip Berrigan, Daniel Berrigan and George Mische failed to report for the beginning of their sentences. The men were eventually captured and served time; Moylan escaped the Feds until 1979 and then served one year. (Perhaps they had a hard time finding the girl?)
The Catonsville actions touched off many additional religiously rooted demonstrations of resistance to war among white dissidents, many involving property destruction and non-cooperation with authorities. At first these responded to the Vietnam War, later to nuclear weapons development and nuclear stockpiles. White, activist, Catholic religious witness for peace acquired a new foothold in the American religious miscellany.
At the time, the property destruction and non-cooperation were extremely controversial among more traditional peace activists. Catholic pacifist groups did not universally applaud the Catonsville actions. Dorothy Day at the Catholic Worker deplored property destruction and especially the resisters' failing to show up for imprisonment -- though of course she delightedly hosted Fr. Daniel Berrigan saying mass when he emerged from Danbury Federal Prison a couple of years later.
Quite properly, people who engage in serious nonviolent actions still ponder whether their tactics accord with their vision of a more peaceful world.
In the publication Waging Nonviolence, Phil Berrigan's daughter Frida, an activist in her own right, offers a fascinating review/discussion of a film dealing with these issues in our contemporary setting. The depredations of the fossil fuel industry attract activists who are willing to put their bodies on the line to interrupt the carnage being let loose on our one and only planet. Is there a way, both ethical and effective, to protest our own destruction?
“How to Blow Up a Pipeline” is a different kind of climate catastrophe movie. There is no zombie horde, no nuclear-infused, super-sized gorilla, no metaphorical asteroid standing in for the end of the world. ... In this film (and in our lives) the wasteland is here and now. It is killing some people and making life uncomfortable or unlivable for the protagonists and their families. One character, Theo, has a cancer that leaves her gaunt and coughing up blood. She can’t afford the medicine. In a telling moment, a few of the team are at Dwayne’s West Texas home looking over maps. His wife offers beer. Shawn asks for water instead, but she replies: “We’re out of water,” without sentiment or apology. “Beer it is, then.” It is just a fact. Like the exposure to chemical plants and constant truck exhaust responsible for the bloom of rare cancer in Theo, or the heat wave that killed Xochitl’s mother.
These young people have had enough. They find one another and try to do something they hope will have an immediate and lasting impact on the companies that profit from polluting the planet. They are careful and methodical in their planning and take pains to avoid violence to human beings or more pollution to the Earth. The young people repeatedly put themselves in danger rather than risk others getting hurt. And they have all the discussions you’d expect a group of thoughtful, impassioned, young climate activists ...
... For my parents and their community of Plowshares activists, faith and friendship answered the questions and soothed the doubts. And I felt the absence of those two saving elements in this film.
You want the recipe for risky property-damaging actions? In my experience, it is faith that your actions are a few stitches in a larger tapestry of change-making, as well as friendships that fill your commissary and mailbox and protect you from the kinds of nasty deals the FBI tries to exact.
The closest to a real-life pipeline blower-upper I know is Jessica Reznicek, and she was sentenced to eight years in prison in June 2021. Once she’s done with that sentence, she will have to navigate three more years of probation and will owe more than $3 million in restitution to Energy Transfer LLC. She needs a lot of support to get through this next decade of prison and probation, and there is nothing in the film on how to do that.
... I am going to take all the activist energy stirred up in me by “How To Blow Up A Pipeline” and put it toward writing [and supporting] to Jessica Reznicek.I can't see myself searching out the movie. Not my idea of fun. But I do support Reznicek. More about her offense here.
I am always stirred by encountering communities of resistance whose members question themselves as they search for ways to act for more justice and more peace.
Tuesday, May 16, 2023
If you are into that sort of thing, there are multiple options for watching video of Banko Brown being shot by a Walgreens rent-a-cop after a shoplifting episode on San Francisco's Market Street. There followed an altercation in which Michael Earl-Wayne Anthony pummels and chokes the young man, then fires on him after Brown goes out the door. Our D.A. thinks there's no provable crime in that execution. Here's a succinct report:
It has come out that the Walgreen's security contractor, Kingdom Group Protective Services which employed the guard, had recently changed its policy:
Guards were instructed “to engage in ‘hands-on’ recovery of merchandise,” according to the report. “The guards … were to actively work to retrieve or recover any stolen items once it was clear that the individual who concealed the items intended to leave the store without paying.”
Anthony told the police officer interrogating him after the shooting that “we can ask for receipts if we suspect if somebody’s steals or something. I was in my right to ask that individual … um, if they paid for those items. In fact, I seen ’em stealing, so …”
So this was more than an untrained cosplay cop jacked up from a scuffle, turning his gun on a mouthy perp. Anthony had been ordered to play the badass. There's one heck of a wrongful death civil suit coming here. Brown's family has hired attorney John Burris who has spent a career fighting these cases.
In the Guardian, we learn who was lost when Banko Brown was killed:
In a statement released through the Young Women’s Freedom Center, a local non-profit group where Brown was a volunteer organizer, they argued: “In a city like San Francisco, where so many have to make tough decisions to meet their basic needs, arming stores with the pass to use armed force will result in much more tragedy.
Julia Arroyo, co-executive director of the group, which has demanded an end to armed guards at retail stores and increased investments in housing and resources for trans and queer youth, said in a statement on Monday: “We do not need to see the video to know that Banko Brown’s killing was unjustified. Armed force is not a justified response to poverty. Young people, especially Black and trans youth who experience poverty, deserve love, care and the resources they need to survive and thrive. Banko deserved to live. He deserved to be protected and cherished. He deserved housing and to have his basic needs met.”
This city can do better. Better than responding in frustration about a Downtown economic cycle in the doldrums, increased misery on the streets, assertive young transfolks, and an incompetent political D.A. who excuses a vigilante death sentence for shoplifting.
Monday, May 15, 2023
The Internal Revenue Service has up and admitted that it has been auditing Black taxpayers at a much higher rate than others.
... Commissioner Daniel Werfel told lawmakers Monday, confirming earlier findings by researchers at leading universities and the Treasury Department.
... Tax examiners do not know the race of the people they are auditing, but the algorithms the IRS uses to monitor fraud around the earned income tax credit — one of the U.S.'s largest social safety net programs — target filers that make errors on their returns and do not report business income. The result, the researchers found, is that the algorithms are more likely to identify Black taxpayers for audits.
There is no evidence that Black taxpayers perpetrate fraud at a higher rate than any other demographic.
... “While there is a need for further research, our initial findings support the conclusion that Black taxpayers may be audited at higher rates than would be expected given their share of the population,” Werfel wrote. Washington Post
The study estimates that Humphreys [Miss.], with a median annual household income of just $26,000, is audited at a rate 51 percent higher than Loudoun County, Virginia, which boasts a median income of $130,000, the highest in the country.
|Click to enlarge. Darker is more audits.|
And note that the GOP wants to claw back the funds appropriated in the Inflation Reduction Act to staff up and modernize the I.R.S. After years of budget cuts instigated by Republicans, no wonder the agency turned to computer prompts to choose which tax payers to audit. Rich people are so much better at hiding any deviation from the tax rules. But rich people are where the money is.
Sunday, May 14, 2023
He does not look depleted to me.
We’re living through one of the most consequential moments in our history with fundamental questions at stake for our nation. Who are we? What do we stand for? What do we believe? Who will we be? You’re going to help answer those questions.
... I don’t have to tell you that fearless progress towards justice often meets ferocious pushback from the oldest and most sinister of forces. That’s because hate never goes away.
... The sacred proposition rooted in Scripture and enshrined in the Declaration of Independence that we’re all created equal in the image of God and deserve to be treated equally throughout our lives. While we’ve never fully lived up to that promise, we never before fully walked away from it.
We know that American history has not always been a fairytale. From the start, it’s been a constant push and pull for more than 240 years between the best of us, the American ideal that we’re all create equal — and the worst of us, the harsh reality that racism has long torn us apart. It’s a battle that’s never really over.
But on the best days, enough of us have the guts and the hearts to stand up for the best in us. To choose love over hate, unity over disunion, progress over retreat. To stand up against the poison of white supremacy, as I did in my Inaugural Address — to single it out as the most dangerous terrorist threat to our homeland is white supremacy.
... To stand up for truth over lies — lies told for power and profit.
To confront the ongoing assault to subvert our elections and suppress our right to vote. That assault came just as you cast your first ballots in ‘20 and ‘22. Record turnouts. You delivered historic progress.
I made it clear that America — Americans of all backgrounds have an obligation to call out political violence that has been unleashed and emboldened. As was mentioned already, bomb threats to this very university and HBCUs across the country.
To put democracy on the ballot. To reject political extremism and reject political violence. ...
... We can finally resolve those ongoing questions about who we are as a nation. That puts strength of our diversity at the center of American life. A future that celebrates and learns from history. A future for all Americans. A future I see you leading. And I’m not, again, exaggerating. You are going to be leading it. ...
Text excerpted from Whitehouse transcript. They do a very honorable job; it's all there. They even preserve the very brief stumbles when his stutter forced him to pause slightly.
I don't look to presidents for salvation. Presidents are as good as the movements of people who push them around. But this one is a good one and worth pushing, which is all we get in this life. Let's keep him.
In other photos from that year, Martha looks more self-assured, perhaps a little flirtatious. But not here, in what I think was a formal portrait taken before she launched off to college, wearing her most serious coat and her prized fox neck wrap.
Mother never quite knew how to dress to present herself as she might have wished to be seen.
She was quite beautiful actually, tall, and moved with confidence. But there was a diffidence too -- you can see it in her expression here. She already shows a little wistfulness -- why, I don't know.
She was smart and curious. College looked to her like heaven; she could read constantly. Physical culture (gym classes) were not required, though she happily walked and swam. She might have become an academic, except that the economic collapse of 1929 meant she had to come home and help with the family.
She meant always to do her duty and to be responsible. Whatever that meant.
One of the things responsibility meant was that she and my father didn't bring a child (me) into the world until after 15 years of marriage during the Depression and World War II.
She was an excellent, loving, conscientious mother. I'm glad the photos of the younger Martha exist to show me a little of the earnest girl-woman she was before my happy incursion into their life.
Saturday, May 13, 2023
Friday, May 12, 2023
|Click to enlarge.|
I look at this informative map of COVID death densities from the New York Times and I see our US history of inequity and dispossession. Those very dark chunks in Arizona, New Mexico and Montana are traditional native lands, still largely the home of indigenous peoples. That dark smudge in Georgia is the old Black belt where formerly enslaved people still exist in rural poverty. The dark bits in South Texas are the home of impoverished Hispanics who found themselves on the Anglo side of a border imposed in the 1840s.
It's still a better deal to be white non-Hispanic, in this country, even though, since most of us are white, we have had the largest raw number of deaths:
Find more statistics at Statista
Thursday, May 11, 2023
Apparently last night CNN enabled Donald Trump and his ghoulish admirers to project his "World Class Demogogue" act. Scary. And the pants-on-fire emergency Trump constitutes to any half-decent American democracy continues.
So I suggest attending to Fintan O'Toole who uses commentary on porn star Stormy Daniels' memoir to scratch at the demogogue's tawdry underbelly. Remember Stormy? She's the woman who Trump was so eager to erase that he fudged his books and rendered himself subject to prosecution by the Manhattan D.A.
More importantly, as she is acutely aware, her fans and Trump’s came from the same constituency. Presumably, most of them have since protested her betrayal by deciding to spill their seed before some other goddess. But in 2006 Trump was right to sense that she and he were in the same business. She recalled in her memoir,
As my fan base grew over two decades of work in film and feature dancing, my demographic was usually middle-aged white men. Forty-five- to sixty-five-year-old white dudes—Republicans, basically.Perhaps they saw the same thing in him as they did in her. A middle-aged man at a Trump rally could experience the same ritual reassurance about the security of his status as a white dude that he might get from having Daniels strip and dance before him. In addition, just as Trump’s live appearances were his TV image made flesh, the god coming out of the machine, Daniels was paid a premium for her live act because the clubs knew that their customers already felt connected to her filmed image from her porn movies.
Very close to the surface of her amply displayed skin, Daniels had the same raw nerve that Trump became so good at touching: the resentment of those who fear that uniquely American term of contempt, white trash. ...
O'Toole's conclusion is an indictment of our culture.
... Trump himself understood that to the fans he shared with Daniels, having sex with her was not a negative. As he told Cohen about the Daniels story, “If it comes out, I’m not sure how it would play with my supporters. But I’d bet they think it’s cool that I slept with a porn star.” For her part, Daniels was ever more certain that “Me saying I slept with him would just be another consensual notch on his belt that his fans could pat him on the back about.”
This is the ironic twist in the tale—there was no scandal to hush up. In Trumpworld, scandal no longer exists. The shameless cannot be shamed. ... Making a drama out of Trump’s sex life is turning politics back into another freak show, the very genre in which he thrives.
The guy's a ghoul and he brings out the worst in his fans. Despite the bravery of E. Jean Carroll, and a Manhattan prosecutor, and most likely many more legal guardians, we're stuck with fighting this foul monster so long as he has breath.
Wednesday, May 10, 2023
I'm a sucker for maps. Here are two that seem worth pondering:
|Click to enlarge.|
Not looking good for democracy outside of Europe (though the sheer extent of Canada and Australia make things look better than they might.) I have my doubts about Chile's ranking here (a progressive elected president was immediately challenged from the right) and I'm pretty sure that Modi's Hindustan makes India more than flawed. But still worth thinking about.Danny Quah from Singapore provides another way to look at this, a salutary reminder of where most of humankind lives. For those of us who think democracy matters, we are reminded that the truly large states are not democracies. Whether that's what their people want may be invisible from where we sit.
Tuesday, May 09, 2023
The "debt ceiling" thing which Republicans are planning to use to crash a season of strong economy and thus hurt Joe Biden is one of those nonsense accretions in which our creaky government structure abounds. More directly, this is bullshit. And beyond stupid.
The U.S. Constitution of 1787 gave the country lots of structures, but not much of a blueprint for funding a significant size, active federal government. Such a thing wasn't on the Founders menu. Maybe the government could be funded by tariff receipts?
Vast steps toward a developed finance capital system were forced by the demands of funding the Union army and federal state during the Civil War. Out of that necessity, we got paper money and lots and lots of government bonds sold to investors.
But each of those Treasury bond sales required an act of Congress. Another war -- the Great War of 1917 -- convinced Congress to make it easier for the government to borrow: why not just set a high ceiling so federal bond sales didn't take up Congressional time? The debt ceiling was invented to make federal financing easier!
And so it remained until modern conservatism transformed the Republic Party from a recalcitrant participant in (bad) government into a random wrecking ball.
Under the Constitution, the national House of Representatives proposes a budget; that House and the Senate and the President haggle and eventually compromise over that budget and a law gets passed; and the executive branch spends money based on that legally authorized budget. The Treasury collects taxes and sells bonds to enable the government to do what its lawful institutions have ordered in the budget process.
Where does the "debt ceiling" come in? Nowhere in a sane universe. Congress has told the government to make various expenditures -- like more aircraft carriers, veterans benefits, and Social Security payments -- and thereby take on debts to creditors small and large. And the budget authorizes the feds to pay its bills. Over time, the United States has been highly reliable about paying its bills, so the country has a lot of credit and uses that earned trust to grease the financial wheels by selling bonds. Yes, those bonds create a "debt," but so does your credit card bill and your mortgage. Most of us most of the time just keep paying off past debt and taking on future debt, and so does the U.S. government.
So the strange requirement that Congress periodically enact a "debt ceiling" is a ridiculous artifact of an obsolete funding process that ended a century ago. It serves no purpose except to enable Republican obstructionism. GOPers know this; they voted happily three times during the Trump years to raise the limit.
There are all sorts of permutations and possible work-arounds through which the administration might get through this Republicans tantrum. I'm offended that we are supposed to waste brain cells on these bypasses and I am not going to go into them here. One of the truly offensive realities of the Republican debt ceiling clown show is that, but because the whole thing is bullshit, there's very little space for citizen activism to engage with it, aside from calling out Republican Congresscritters as assholes. But we already knew that. And perhaps bucking up Biden and Dems who show spines.
Here's how from Brian Beutler:
... we need Democrats who will stop treating the Republicans' serial default threat as a prompt to outmaneuver them, and instead simply overturn the game board; who will say it doesn’t matter if they pass an extortionate debt-limit bill or not, because there’s nothing to negotiate. They are the minority, trying to impose their will on the whole country by threat of mass harm, and that isn’t compatible with freedom or self-government. It isn’t hard bargaining, it’s terrorism. ...
The country can’t survive in the long run if one shameless faction wields power in a consequence-free realm, while the other quietly acclimates itself to the mounting extremism. Eventually the trespasses will be incompatible with self-rule, and it will bring the whole republic down.
Most of us are not willing to acquiesce in the Republican attempt to trash the country. How many times do we have to prove this?
Monday, May 08, 2023
I was going to take a day off from the blog, but instead I'll offer this from the Sierra Club.
I grew up swimming in the Niagara River which runs between the Great Lakes of Erie and Ontario. It was not a particularly pleasant environment. Paying attention to what else was in the river was a necessity. If you didn't keep your head up, you could find yourself stuck in great floating masses of dead river grasses and bumping against corpse after fish corpse floating down river belly up. All this death was the evidence of Lake Erie "dying" upstream, poisoned by industrial pollution and fertilizer run off.
The lake is apparently less subject to these dead zones after some clean up in the 1970s.
But I carry in my body the awareness that we can kill these vast bodies of water. The video explores the struggle to save the more inland lakes of Huron and Michigan from further contamination by a 70 year old, vulnerable pipeline. A spill here could contaminate 20 percent of the earth's fresh water. We have to get off our addiction to gas and oil. And we are well on the way to technology that can replace fossil fuels.
The progressive Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan has revoked the easement for the pipeline through the Straits of Mackinac and ordered it decommissioned. The oil companies hope they can get Joe Biden to overturn her order. The people of Michigan's Upper Peninsula struggle for their water and their way of life.