Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Being Poor

Being Poor
(Another reprint from my old blog.)
With the minimum wage now being seriously debated again it's time to read what it means to be poor. There are several "lists" but this one is the best I've seen. The writer is John Scalzi. I don't think he's poor, but his heart is clearly in the right place. I referenced it in a footnote to a post in 2005 when the New Orleans victims were being blamed for their own plight, not only by a lot of ignorant citizens, but also by some really stupid public officials who eventually paid a serious political price for their thoughtless remarks.

Being poor is knowing exactly how much everything costs.
Being poor is getting angry at your kids for asking for all the crap they see on TV.
Being poor is having to keep buying $800 cars because they're what you can afford, and then having the cars break down on you, because there's not an $800 car in America that's worth a damn.
Being poor is hoping the toothache goes away.
Being poor is knowing your kid goes to friends' houses but never has friends over to yours.
Being poor is going to the restroom before you get in the school lunch line so your friends will be ahead of you and won't hear you say "I get free lunch" when you get to the cashier.
Being poor is living next to the freeway.
Being poor is coming back to the car with your children in the back seat, clutching that box of Raisin Bran you just bought and trying to think of a way to make the kids understand that the box has to last.
Being poor is wondering if your well-off sibling is lying when he says he doesn't mind when you ask for help.
Being poor is off-brand toys.
Being poor is a heater in only one room of the house.
Being poor is knowing you can't leave $5 on the coffee table when your friends are around.
Being poor is hoping your kids don't have a growth spurt.
Being poor is stealing meat from the store, frying it up before your mom gets home and then telling her she doesn't have make dinner tonight because you're not hungry anyway.
Being poor is Goodwill underwear.
Being poor is not enough space for everyone who lives
with you.
Being poor is feeling the glued soles tear off your supermarket shoes when you run around the playground.
Being poor is your kid's school being the one with the 15-year-old textbooks and no air conditioning.
Being poor is thinking $8 an hour is a really good deal.
Being poor is relying on people who don't give a damn about you.
Being poor is an overnight shift under florescent lights.
Being poor is finding the letter your mom wrote to your dad, begging him for the child support.
Being poor is a bathtub you have to empty into the toilet.
Being poor is stopping the car to take a lamp from a stranger's trash.
Being poor is making lunch for your kid when a cockroach skitters over the bread, and you looking over to see if your kid saw.
Being poor is believing a GED actually makes a goddamned difference.
Being poor is people angry at you just for walking around in the mall.
Being poor is not taking the job because you can't find someone you trust to watch your kids.
Being poor is the police busting into the apartment right next to yours.
Being poor is not talking to that girl because she'll probably just laugh at your clothes.
Being poor is hoping you'll be invited for dinner.
Being poor is a sidewalk with lots of brown glass on it.
Being poor is people thinking they know something about you by the way you talk.
Being poor is needing that 35-cent raise.
Being poor is your kid's teacher assuming you don't have any books in your home.
Being poor is six dollars short on the utility bill and no way to close the gap.
Being poor is crying when you drop the mac and cheese on the floor.
Being poor is knowing you work as hard as anyone, anywhere.
Being poor is people surprised to discover you're not actually stupid.
Being poor is people surprised to discover you're not actually lazy.
Being poor is a six-hour wait in an emergency room with a sick child asleep on your lap.
Being poor is never buying anything someone else hasn't bought first.
Being poor is picking the 10 cent ramen instead of the 12 cent ramen because that's two extra packages for every dollar.
Being poor is having to live with choices you didn't know you made when you were 14 years old.
Being poor is getting tired of people wanting you to be grateful.
Being poor is knowing you're being judged.
Being poor is a box of crayons and a $1 coloring book from a community center Santa.
Being poor is checking the coin return slot of every soda machine you go by.
Being poor is deciding that it's all right to base a relationship on shelter.
Being poor is knowing you really shouldn't spend that buck on a Lotto ticket.
Being poor is hoping the register lady will spot you the dime.
Being poor is feeling helpless when your child makes the same mistakes you did, and won't listen to you beg them against doing so.
Being poor is a cough that doesn't go away.
Being poor is making sure you don't spill on the couch, just in case you have to give it back before the lease is up.
Being poor is a $200 paycheck advance from a company that takes $250 when the paycheck comes in.
Being poor is four years of night classes for an Associates of Art degree.
Being poor is a lumpy futon bed.
Being poor is knowing where the shelter is.
Being poor is people who have never been poor wondering why you choose to be so.
Being poor is knowing how hard it is to stop being poor.
Being poor is seeing how few options you have.
Being poor is running in place.
Being poor is people wondering why you didn't leave.

If you skimmed the list, go back and read it more carefully. Every item represents a concrete problem for someone without enough financial resources. I know that many readers will scan this list with a bad attitude, quick to jump to the obvious conclusion that too often poverty is the consequence of "bad choices." I respectfully ask that if you are in that group you take a few minutes to read my rant about lifestyle choices.

I'm sick of hearing well-off people with bad habits they can afford complaining about poor people with bad habits they cannot afford. 
Having money means being able to escape the consequences of being irresponsible. 
Being judgmental about poverty makes a successful person look a bit trashy to me.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Bernie Sanders Footnote

Published 8/11/15
Updated 2/21/16

For me, a trip down Memory Lane...

When a couple of local activists attempted to take over the podium at a Bernie Sanders event last week they bit off more than they could chew. Not only did their misguided direct action simply fail, it proved, in fact, to be counterproductive. Watching this from a distance, I'm reminded of the chaos of the Sixties when a small but growing minority of civil rights activists competed for influence. The ultimate goal came to pass with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but the years before that saw a chaotic mix of various groups, all ostensibly working for the same goal but hampered as much by infighting and quarreling among themselves as the systemic forces they wanted to change.

Little did we know that legislation was not the end. Another phase of the struggle was underway. When Congress and the White House followed up with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 the magnitude of the challenge should have been made clear. But that was not to happen. Infighting continued as though nothing had happened. I went with a friend to an early meeting of the Southern Students Organizing Committee (SSOC) in Atlanta a year or two later and was impressed with the array of radical literature and AV resources on display. There was a fabulous film featuring interviews with Lillian Smith and tracts from the whole spectrum of leftist groups. I still have my copy of the Port Huron Statement (SDS) I picked up at that time. SSOC was soon absorbed by SDS and quietly dismantled. Not only was it limited to a region, black members were disgusted with the Confederate flag as part of the logo. Wikipedia has some notes. 

Those were exciting and important times. Everyday people and high profile leaders were being assassinated (four children in Birmingham, Medgar Evers, JFK, MLK, RFK) and activists were going to jail in large numbers. Urban riots broke out all over the country. In 1963 my college roommate and I took part in what was supposed to have been a march on the capital (Tallahassee, Florida) organized by local activists to protest segregation, but at the last minute two busloads of better-organized NAACP activists rolled in and took over, diverting the destination to a segregated ball park instead for what turned into a fundraising and cheerleading event for NAACP. Many local activists dropped out, refusing to take part in what they saw as "giving in" to more moderate forces. Some called them Uncle Toms, overlooking the fact that they had been in the struggle since before the newcomers were born. Local activists apparently didn't know (or care) that those two busses had come from Jacksonville where the beginnings of one of those riots had just taken place, and the leaders only wanted to prevent the same from happening in Tallahassee. My roommate and I took part anyway, since we had stayed up late making a banner our of an old bedsheet proclaiming "Discrimination Must Go" and it needed two people to hold it. Only later did we learn that you don't take sticks or poles to demonstrations because they can be used as weapons against you in the wrong hands.

Bernie Sanders and I are about the same age, and I'm sure he knows a lot more about the dynamics of political organizing than most. (A younger Barack Obama might have benefitted from some Sanders coaching as a community organizer.  Bernie seems to have honed his skills to a fine edge.) Meantime, the Web brings about changes much faster than in the good old days. When King wrote his letter from a Birmingham Jail we learned about it as it was passed along by mimeograph copies, sometimes with typos. It was not professionally published until some time later. But now, thanks to the Web, we get information at the speed of light. 

So here are four references to last week's Podium Affair to read and study. Lots of pictures and a few videos can be found at the links. To his credit, Bernie never missed a beat, moving on to tens of thousands of people wanting to hear him. And without interruptions, thank you. 

Questions emerge in regards to Seattle activists’ connections to #BlackLivesMatter
posted by Sky Palma August 10, 2015

After the interruption of a Bernie Sanders rally in Seattle this Saturday by activists claiming to represent the city’s Black Lives Matter faction, many in the progressive sphere were left scratching their heads 
It was an awkward and confrontational spectacle, ultimately causing Sanders to leave without speaking and ending with the mostly liberal crowd booing and hissing the two women who commandeered the podium while speaking for this country’s fastest growing civil rights movement.

Now the focus turns to Marissa Jenae Johnson — the woman who grabbed the mic from Sanders — and story gets downright weird and confusing. 
The Internet is awash in conspiracy theories on Johnson’s motives: She’s a a paid operative from the Hillary camp sent to sow turmoil among Sanders supporters; she’s actually a Sarah Palin supporter (a cursory examination of the comment thread on the Facebook post where this originated, reveals that Johnson was referring to her early political leanings in high school which have since changed); she’s a conservative Christian who supports Sarah Palin (it’s true that she spouts some pretty nutty religious rhetoric on social media — she’s definitely a devout Christian of some sort — but there is no evidence that she is a “conservative” Christian).
Black Lives Matter Seattle Protestor Is A Former Tea Party Palin Supporter
August 10, 2015 Paul Loebe

An interesting development has occurred within the Black Lives Matter movement and it has caused many outside and from within the movement to question the wisdom in the most recent interruption of Bernie Sanders campaign. While no one can deny its effectiveness, especially considering Senator Sanders newest addition to his team is a Black Lives Matter activist, this interruption happened after Bernie had already begun shifting his campaign towards publicizing his stance on racial issues 
When individuals place themselves in the public eye they become scrutinized at every level. While looking into these activists for the Black Lives Matter movement, it became readily apparent that either they were not officially a part of the BLM movement, or they were not organized until just around the time of the incident. 
A pre-existing BLM_Seattle Facebook page put out a statement that initially distanced itself from the incident. The owner of that page also maintained an autonomous Twitter account that published a public apology as well.
BLM Activist Who Shut Down Sanders is Radical Christian, Sarah Palin Supporter
August 9, 2015 by Michael Stone

One of the Black Lives Matter activists who shut down the Bernie Sanders rally in Seattle is a self-identified “radical Christian” and former Sarah Palin supporter.
Marissa Jenae Johnson along with another protester, Mara Jacqueline, interrupted the planned Seattle rally for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Saturday afternoon, preventing the Vermont senator from addressing the massive crowd. 
The rally at Westlake Park ended around 3 p.m. with Sanders choosing to leave after the belligerent protesters took the stage and stayed there, controlling the microphone, and hurling racist insults at the progressive crowd gathered to hear Sanders speak.
After disrupting the Sanders’ event and taking the microphone, a hostile and obnoxious Johnson accused the audience of “white supremacist liberalism” before telling the Seattle crowd:

I was going to tell Bernie how racist this city is — with all of its progressives — but you’ve already done that for me. Thank you. 
As one might expect, the crowd did not take kindly to the childish insults. Perhaps even more puzzling, an obviously confused Johnson said:

If you care about Black Lives Matter, as you say you do, you will hold Bernie Sanders specifically accountable for his actions. 
Apparently Johnson is unaware that Bernie Sanders was marching with Martin Luther King Jr. before she was even born.
The Real Black Lives Matter Wants Activists To Publicly Apologize to Bernie Sanders
By: Adalia Woodbury (more from Adalia Woodbury)

Monday, August, 10th, 2015Black Lives Matter wants the two women who shut down a Bernie Sanders event in Seattle on Saturday to publicly apologize to the Senator and Presidential Candidate. 
Jason Easley wrote about Marissa Johnson and Mara Willaford shutting down Bernie Sanders’ rally in Seattle 
They led organizers and the media to believe they are part of Black Lives Matter. It’s not hard to understand why. BLM is succeeding in its efforts to raise awareness and get action on the multitude of issues that are a direct consequence of structural racism. The Black Lives Matter movement is very loosely structured without a central organization. 
That provides freedom to activists and supporters, but it means that BLM is also vulnerable to groups who may wish to co-opt their national reputation, as occurred on Saturday. Adding to the confusion is the fact that there are many groups who use black lives matter as a rallying call. 


It is now February 21, 2016 and much has changed since I posted these notes last August.  Now, half a year later, Sanders has not only plowed past those first clumsy encounters with what has become a national movement, but both he and they have grown into full-throated voices for their respective messages. Black Lives Matter has made Super Bowl halftime status and Sanders is at this writing a viable contender to become the Democrat nominee for the general election. (He likely will not be, because of Hillary Clinton's clear favorability with party leaders in the form of super-delegates to the convention.)

So this was my Facebook post last Friday that has been well-received.
Bernie's message may not result in concrete results but it's doing more to change the political will than any have done before. 
We already have single-payer in the form of Medicare. We also have pure government health care in the form of VA hospitals and all the branches of military medical service corps. We have private alternatives to Medicare in the form of Medicare Advantage (the insurance industry's answer in the form of PPO or HMO or other variants). And poor as they may be, local and county public health clinics and various Medicaid models represent existing models of public-private healthcare ripe for improvement and expansion. 
Every time I go to the health department to update my TB test I see lot of infants and toddlers, presumably to be checked for problems or get their immunizations up to date. And I wonder why there is not at least one doctor on duty -- pediatric or otherwise -- as a resource person. 
Any or all of the above are just waiting for public awareness and demands to deliver universal health care -- not in one form, but collectively when properly calibrated.Canadian Medicare is one model, with no insurance alternatives. Britain's NHS is another model, augmented by private alternatives and insurance. Every country with universal care has it's own variant of public/private participation -- although there will and must be a strong measure of regulatory oversight to make it happen here. 
It's not a dream. Universal health care is totally feasible for America. The main obstacle is the political will to make it happen, and Sanders is making that happen.
Bernie Sanders has much of the younger generation in his pocket to the dismay of the Hillary Clinton campaign. Here is one explanation why...

Why Do Young People Have Such Visceral Dislike for Hillary?Here’s a theory.
By Jamelle Bouie
That Democrats have a generational split in their presidential primary isn’t a surprise. Young Democrats flocked to Barack Obama in 2008, to Howard Dean in 2004, to Bill Clinton in 1992, and in one of the most famous examples, to George McGovern in 1972. What’s different about this primary is the size of the gulf between young Democrats and the rest of the party. Eighty-four percent of voters between 17 and 29 backed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Iowa caucus, and in the latest New Hampshire polls, he leads Clinton by an almost 9-to-1 margin. 
Despite the many, many takes on “millennial” disenchantment with Clinton, the why of her weakness isn’t as obvious as it seems. The big, obvious problem is that in Iowa and New Hampshire we have a narrow sample of young people to choose from. Between the two states, we are looking at a distinctive group of young, white, largely college-educated liberals whose left-turn is both surprising—in its speed and intensity—and predictable given events (the shock of the Great Recession) and the usual divides in the Democratic Party. (In her youth, for example, Hillary Clinton was fighting the “establishment” from the trenches of the McGovern campaign. 
Because we don’t know what young black and Latino voters believe about the contest between Sanders and Clinton—so far, there’s little polling from either South Carolina or Nevada—it’s hard to make firm electoral conclusions about Clinton’s weakness and Sanders’ strength, although it is clear that we are witnessing a real ideological shift in the Democratic Party that will play out in the next 20 years. With that said, we can still glean insight from the divide, and try to pinpoint—in particular—the source of Clinton’s weakness. And to that point, I asked around. For young participants in presidential politics, what was the problem with Hillary Rodham Clinton? What was so off-putting? 
Speaking to students attending a Clinton event at Manchester Community College, the big answer was Wall Street. “I’m concerned with her talks with Goldman Sachs—the big money that is behind her,” said Sarah Kocher, who was there with a group from Hofstra University in New York. By contrast, she admired Sanders’ stance against “the big money and the banks.” “Bernie is very honest,” she said. 
“I think a lot of us are starting to realize that Hillary is just part of the establishment,” said Kate, another student from the same group, whose only hesitation on Sanders was his ability to deliver on his promises. 
Another group of students—who had come out of curiosity—sounded a similar note. “I get the impression from Hillary that as soon as she gets in office … she wouldn’t be an effective president,” said Michael Hathaway, “and if she was effective, it wouldn’t be for me, it would be for her banker friends who were giving her millions of dollars.” 
Sitting next to Michael was Lexis, who had less to say about Clinton’s ties to Wall Street, and more to say about her campaign appeals. “I have a very large problem with the fact that a very large part of her campaign is riding on the fact that she’s a woman, and expects people like me—women—to vote for her,” she said. She continued: “All I have heard so far is ‘I’m a woman vote for me, because we need a woman president.’ We’ll have plenty of time in the future for women to run, for qualified, worthy women to run. We need to get over this concept of immediate gratification that’s driving this campaign.” 
What’s striking in all of this is how visceral the dislike is, especially since Hillary—while important—isn’t a central figure in the story of American politics since the end of the George W. Bush administration. She backed the corporate-friendly policies that young Democrats are rebelling against, but she isn’t responsible for them. 
I don’t have an explanation here, but I have a theory. It’s obvious that the left turn among young voters is a product of the Great Recession. For Americans who left high school or finished college in 2008, 2009 and 2010 (I’m part of this group, for the record), the economy was a wasteland, with little opportunity and tremendous competition. Young people—and especially college graduates—were promised a pathway into the middle-class and received, instead, a dead end. 
Clinton isn’t responsible for this state of affairs, but she comes out of a governing class that played a large and important part in letting it happen. And while she has moved to the left to accommodate the concerns of younger voters, she’s still tainted by her history. That this is complicated—that it interacts with her gender in important ways—is almost irrelevant, as evidenced by the resistance to her gendered appeals. 
What matters is that to these young voters Hillary Clinton was on the wrong side when it mattered. And that Bernie Sanders, as flawed as he might be, wasn’t.
The logic is straightforward. I think Bouie is right. And that lacerating contest between her and Obama in the months leading up to his final selection are sure to have left scar tissue on anyone paying attention. I was watching closely because I felt at the time she had a better chance at being elected than he, but I had no problem shifting gears when he was named the candidate. Then when he immediately named her as his Secretary of State I could not imagine a more conciliatory gesture.

All that is recent past for me and my peers. But I can easily understand how that can be seen differently by anyone in their thirties or below. To a younger crowd that recent part of history suggests political gamesmanship more than the exercise in democratic give and take that it was.

In a different Facebook post I "shared" a short video of Bernie Sanders opposing one of the many crime bills that have come through Congress over the years. Unfortunately it is timed to persuade voters to select him instead of Hillary Clinton to be the Democrat nominee in this year's presidential election. I like and respect them both, so I passed the video along with the following comments...
Watch and listen, but take many of the comments under advisement. This video is now being used to excoriate Hillary Clinton, and much of what is now being said about her in the comments thread is accurate. But accurate and "true" are not exactly the same. I say that because she and Bill Clinton are no more blameworthy of the events, conditions and legislation that was passed under his watch than you, I and all the rest of the country that allowed those measures to come to pass.

Whether or not we like it, living in a democracy means that when the majority makes a decision, those of us in the minority agree to allow that sentiment to prevail. But it does not mean we cannot rail against it, argue, complain, teach, persuade and cajole others to change their minds (and hopefully their vote) for the next occasion the same issue is presented for reconsideration. That's how we make progress. And that's what is happening again in 2016 with these elections.

This video of Bernie Sanders is testimony to his insight, foresight and stubborn refusal to yield the moral high ground when matters of principle reach the floor of Congress. We owe a debt of gratitude to the people of Vermont for sending this man to Washington for the years he has been there, both as a Congressman and a Senator. And we now owe it to ourselves to once again hear his admonitions and help him as he continues to bring issues into the spotlight that have too long been overlooked.
If elected president Bernie Sanders would be the oldest person in history to have done so. He is an American version of what the Japanese call living national treasures -- someone dedicated to causes greater than himself. He is like Socrates to ancient Greece, Old Testament prophets or writers of fiction warning society about the dangers that await if we make poor choices. Bernie Sanders uses his time under the spotlight to talk about principles and goals, not himself. He is an American gadfly.

Hear the words of Socrates...
I am the gadfly of the Athenian people, given to them by God, and they will never have another, if they kill me. And now, Athenians, I am not going to argue for my own sake, as you may think, but for yours, that you may not sin against the God by condemning me, who am his gift to you. For if you kill me you will not easily find a successor to me, who, if I may use such a ludicrous figure of speech, am a sort of gadfly, given to the state by God; and the state is a great and noble steed who is tardy in his motions owing to his very size, and requires to be stirred into life. I am that gadfly which God has attached to the state, and all day long 1and in all places am always fastening upon you, arousing and persuading and reproaching you. You will not easily find another like me, and therefore I would advise you to spare me.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Clay Shirky on Social Media and the Two-Party System

Wikipedia image
boingboing-splains Clay Shirky
In an "essay in 50 tweets," Clay Shirky explains how the growth of direct-to-voter channels has ruptured the mainstream political parties in America, who relied upon party power-brokers to enforce a prohibition on mentioning the third-rail topics that are the fissure lines the parties paper over. 
The parties refused to allow their frontrunners to speak out about these issues -- which revolve around race and class -- though the public and the press were hungry for statements on one side or the other. Politicians who broke ranks were lavished with press attention (because they were hot stories), but without the parties, couldn't mobilize voters. 
Social media's capacity for mobilizing voters upends this. Now, politicians who dance on those third rails get tons of press attention, and bypass the party to reach voters. 
It's a sharply argued explanation for how a RINO (Republican in Name Only) and an independent senator came to be the frontrunners for the GOP and the Dems.
Social media has turned Republican & Democratic Parties into host bodies for 3rd party candidates.
by Clay Shirky
Feb. 17, 2016

I started writing about both parties becoming host bodies for 3rd party candidates. Instead of an essay, it turned into 50 tweets. Here goes

Social media is breaking the political 'Overton Window' -- the ability of elites to determine the outside edges of acceptable conversation.

The Overton Window was imagined as a limit on public opinion, but in politics, it's the limit on what politicians will express in public.

Politically acceptable discourse is limited by supply, not demand. The public is hungry for more than politicians are willing to discuss.

This is especially important in the U.S., because our two-party system creates ideologically unstable parties *by design.*

In order to preserve inherently unstable coalitions, party elites & press had to put some issues into the 'Don't Mention X' category.

These limits were enforced by party discipline, and mass media whose economics meant political centrism was the best way to make money.

This was BC: Before Cable. One or two newspapers per town, three TV stations; all centrist, white, pro-business, respectful of authority.

Cable changed things, allowing outsiders to campaign more easily. In '92, Ross Perot, 3rd party candidate, campaigned through infomercials.

That year, the GOP's 'Don't Mention X' issue was the weakness of Reaganomics. Party orthodoxy said reducing tax rates would raise revenues.

Perot's ads attacked GOP management of the economy head on. He was the first candidate to purchase national attention at market rates.

Post-Perot, cable became outside candidates' tool for jailbreaking Don't Mention X: Buchanan on culture war, Nader on consumer protection.

After Cable but Before Web lasted only a dozen years. Cable added a new stream of media access. The web added a torrent.

What's special about After Web -- now -- is that politicians talking about "Don't mention X" issues are doing so from *inside* the parties.

This started with Howard Dean (the OG) in '03. Poverty was the mother of invention; Dean didn't have enough $ to buy ads, even on cable.

But his team had Meetup & blogs and their candidate believed something many voters did too, something actively Not Being Mentioned.

In '03, All Serious People (aka DC insiders) agreed the U.S. *had* to invade Iraq. Opposition to the war was not to be a campaign issue.

Dean didn't care. In February of 2003, he said "If the war lasts more than a few weeks, the danger of humanitarian disaster is high."

Dean said "Iraq is a divided country, with Sunni, Shia and Kurdish factions that share both bitter rivalries and large quantities of arms."

Dean said "There is a very real danger that war in Iraq will fuel the fires of international terror."

For All Serious People, this was crazy talk. (Dean was, of course, completely correct.) This was also tonic to a passionate set of voters.

Mentioning X became Dean's hallmark. Far from marginalizing him, it got him tons of free news coverage. Trump is just biting those rhymes.

After webifying Perot's media tactics, Dean pioneered online fundraising. Unfortunately for him, his Get Out The Vote operation didn't.

That took Obama.
Obama was less of an outsider than Dean (though still regarded as unelectable in '07) but used most of Dean's playbook.

Besides charisma, he had two advantages Dean didn't have. First, the anti-war position had gone from principled opposition to common sense.

Obama could campaign not just on being prescient (as Dean also was) but on having been proved right years earlier.

The second advantage was that Obama's voter mobilization strategy--the crown jewels--was superior to that of the Democratic Party itself.

This was the last piece. Perot adopted non-centrist media, Dean distributed fundraising, Obama non-party voter mobilization.

Social media is at the heart of all of this. Meetup and Myspace meant Dean and Obama didn't have to be billionaires to get a message out.

Online fundraising let outsiders raise funds, and it became a symbol of purity. Anyone *not* raising money at $25 a pop is now a plutocrat.

And then there was vote-getting. Facebook and MyBarackObama let the Obama campaign run their own vote-getting machine out of Chicago.

McLuhan famously said "The medium is the message." This is often regarded as inscrutably gnomic, but he explained it perfectly clearly.

"The personal and social consequences of any medium result from the new scale introduced into our affairs by any new technology."

The new scale Facebook introduces into politics is this: all registered American voters, ~150M people, are now a *medium-sized* group.

'All voters' used to be a big number. Now it's <10% of FB's audience. "A million users isn't cool. You know what's cool? A billion users."

Reaching & persuading even a fraction of the electorate used to be so daunting that only two national orgs could do it. Now dozens can.

This set up the current catastrophe for the parties. They no longer control any essential resource, and can no longer censor wedge issues.

Each party has an unmentionable Issue X that divide its voters. Each overestimated their ability to keep X out of the campaign.

Jeb(!) Bush, who advocates *religious litmus tests* for immigrants, has to attack Trump's anti-immigrant stance, because it went too far.

Clinton can't say "Break out the pitchforks", because Democratic consensus says "We've done as much to banks as our donors will allow."

n '15, a 3rd party candidate challenging her on those issues *from inside the party* was inconceivable.("I don't think that word means...")

So here we are, with quasi-parlimentarianism. We now have four medium-sized and considerably more coherent voter blocs.

2 rump establishment parties, Trump representing 'racist welfare state' voters, and Sanders representing people who want a Nordic system.

Trump is RINO, Sanders not even a Dem. That either one could become their party's nominee is amazing. Both would mark the end of an era.

We will know by March 15th whether a major party's apparatus can be hijacked by mere voters. (Last time it was: McGovern.)

But the social media piece, and growing expertise around it, means that this is now a long-term challenge to our two-party system.

Over-large party coalitions require discipline to prevent people from taking an impassioned 30% of the base in order to win the primaries.

The old defense against this by the parties was "You and what army?" No third party has been anything other than a spoiler in a century.

The answer to that question this year, from both Trump and Sanders, is "Me and this army I can mobilize without your help."

Who needs a third party when the existing two parties have become powerless to stop insurgencies from within?

Friday, February 19, 2016

Remembering 1963

Remembering 1963

It was about this time in the afternoon. I was in one of those lecture hall classes, a core curriculum survey of world history. The professor was so far away that I couldn't make out the details of his facial expression, but we could hear clearly because he used a microphone. Someone walked in from the right of the room, interrupted the lecture and spoke with the teacher. He then turned to the class and said, "We have just received word that the President has been shot in Dallas. We don't know whether he was killed, but he has been shot."

He paused for a few seconds. Nobody said anything. He then said, "Anyone who thinks that by killing the president they will stop his policies does not understand history. Shooting him will do nothing to stop what he was trying to do."

The place was Tallahassee, Florida and the campus had at that point been polarized over the picketing of two off-campus eating establishments because they refused to serve Negroes, as they were then respectfully called. In 1962 the graduate school at Florida State Uiversity had accepted its first black student. And that year, 1963, the first undergraduate student was attending classes.

I was only nineteen at the time, but something in me felt that if those restaurants, which only existed because the students and faculty of that school were there, refused to allow a black student to be served, something was badly out of balance. As a Southern Baptist I had already been struck by a contradiction of the same sort when an African student who came to America was not able to stay at a Baptist school because the dormitory was reserved for white students only. That had struck me wrong also.

Acting on a blind and unreasonable impulse that makes young people sometimes hard to endure because they can't understand why wrong things can't just change for the better, I allied myself with a group of students meeting weekly at a Unitarian Church at the edge of the campus, calling itself -- and it sounds so corny now -- The Liberal Forum. We had contributed to the closing of one of three restaurants, and were picketing the second. I was kicked out of my cheap off-campus room because of my activities and had put up with an even cheaper space, a garage apartment, shared with one of my radical peers.

The news of John Kennedy's assasination was devastating. The days which followed were among the saddest I can remember. The university arranged for continuous television coverage of the news and funeral, which of course included the subsequent killing of Lee Harvey Oswald. I still remember the endless playing of Chopin's funeral dirge and the funeral procession. It was the beginning of a turbulent chapter in modern history.

The teacher was right. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed the following year and the Public Accommodations section validated the reason that we were picketing.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Scalia Links

Did Scalia Really Have an Outsized Influence on the Court?
February 15, 2016 
In response to [Corey Robin's] bolded question [Should his colleagues ever force him to abide by the same rules of liberal civility, or treat him as he treats them, who knows what might happen?], I would just say “nothing.” Whatever the merits of this Stanley Fish-like “liberals refuse to stand up for themselves” argument in other contexts, in the context of the Supreme Court liberals stood up to Scalia perfectly well, and approaching his histrionics with give-’em-enough-rope dispassion seems entirely appropriate. I honestly have no idea how Scalia’s talk-radio tone is really materially relevant to anything. As I said at the time, my fundamental disagreement is that I think Scalia’s “dominance” of the Court has been vastly overrated. When has he ever persuaded anyone who didn’t already agree with him? I don’t know whether Scalia’s insulting language caused it, but O’Connor moved further from Scalia, not closer, over time. From Casey to King, his Republican colleagues have never let the possibility of one of his BLISTERING dissents stop them from doing something they wanted to do. I would also say that, as a matter of rhetorical strategy, to the very limited extent that it matters the calm, rational tone represented by Roberts’s opinion for the Court in King or Ginsburg’s dissent in Shelby County is more effective than Scalia’s increasingly pathetic ranting. 
I’d say something similar about the alleged influence of Scalia’s originalism. First of all, grand theory does pretty much no work in deciding cases. And second, I don’t really see that Scalia has made it all that much more important. George W. Bush’s two appointees have been notably uninterested in grand theory (and, for the reasons stated above, Alito is a scarier operative than Scalia ever was.) It’s true that both sides in Hellermade arguments that largely rested on history, but this is nothing new. Supreme Court opinions have been citing historical factoids when they can help and ignoring them when they don’t for time out of mind. The fact that Heller broke down on a party-line vote anyway demonstrates that which grand theory (if any) Supreme Court opinions use to justify their conclusions just isn’t very important. And to the limited extent that it matters, Thomas, not Scalia, is the justice who cares most about originalism and has done the most to advance it.
Scalia: The Donald Trump of the Supreme Court
Corey Robin
In the coming days, the retrospectives on Scalia’s career and predictions of what is to come will be many; they’ve  already  begun. 
But for me Scalia is a figure of neither the past nor the future but of the present.If you want to understand how Donald Trump became the soul of the Republican Party, you need look no further than Antonin Scalia. Scalia is the id, ego, and super-ego of modern conservatism. He was as outrageous in his rhetoric (his unvarying response to any challenge to Bush v. Gore was “Get over it!”) as he was cruel in his comportment. Sandra Day O’Connor was the frequent object of his taunts. Hardly an opinion of hers would go by without Scalia calling it—and by implication, her—stupid. “Oh, that’s just Nino,” she’d sigh helplessly in response. Even Clarence Thomas was forced to note drily, “He loves killing unarmed animals.” He was a pig and a thug. (Sunstein, by contrast, believes “he was a great man, and a deeply good one.”) And he was obsessed, as his dissent in PGA Tour v. Casey Martin shows, with winners and losers. They were the alpha and omega of his social vision. He was the Donald Trump of the Supreme Court. 
And the second most misunderstood judge of the Supreme Court, as I argued in a lengthy profile of Scalia, which originally appeared in the London Review of Books and which I revised extensively for one of my chapters in The Reactionary Mind. I reproduced that chapter in four parts on my blog. [More at the link]
Gawker: Antonin Scalia (1936-2016)
Antonin Scalia died a failure. He failed at the thing he liked to claim he was doing, and he failed at the thing he genuinely was trying to do. Both failures are captured by the furious and immediate response to his death, as Republican members of the Senate hastily announced that they will preemptively withhold their advice or consent from whoever the President of the United States might nominate to fill the vacancy. 
This is a strange way to honor a man who insisted that his loyalty was always to the Constitution. He was, he said, a humble lawyer, obedient to the texts he was given. He followed the law where it led. To do otherwise was a “threat to American democracy,” as he wrote in his dissent in Obergefell v. Hodges, denouncing his colleagues on the Supreme Court for having denied the people of the states the right to pass laws against gay marriage. 
The moment he died, his Republican colleagues in the legislative branch stopped pretending he was anything else. All that was left of his philosophy was: How do we get a win out of this? 
That was Scalia’s first failure. His second failure was visible in the Senators’ desperation: Having abandoned judicial persuasion for naked power politics, he never got the power he wanted. He grew more pugnacious and less influential. In the end he was left to fume on the sidelines, writing yet another raging dissent, as Chief Justice John Roberts, a loyal but pragmatic member of the judicial conservative movement, voted to uphold the Affordable Care Act. 
The book is closed on the Scalia wing of the court. It peaked at four solid votes, with the fickle Anthony Kennedy flitting in and out of the majority. Now the Republicans are threatening a constitutional crisis in the hopes of even getting it back to four. There is Antonin Scalia’s legacy. He aimed low, and he missed. [My bold]
Finally, this revealing New Yorker interview from 2013 tells me all I care to know about this man...

In Conversation: Antonin Scalia
On the eve of a new Supreme Court session, the firebrand justice discusses gay rights and media echo chambers, Seinfeld and the Devil, and how much he cares about his intellectual legacy (“I don’t”).
By Jennifer Senior
Published Oct 6, 2013

What’s your media diet? Where do you get your news?Well, we get newspapers in the morning. 
“We” meaning the justices?No! Maureen and I 
Oh, you and your wife …I usually skim them. We just get The Wall Street Journal and the WashingtonTimes. We used to get the Washington Post, but it just … went too far for me. I couldn’t handle it anymore. 
What tipped you over the edge?It was the treatment of almost any conservative issue. It was slanted and often nasty. And, you know, why should I get upset every morning? I don’t think I’m the only one. I think they lost subscriptions partly because they became so shrilly,shrilly liberal. 
So no New York Times, either?No New York Times, no Post. 
And do you look at anything online?I get most of my news, probably, driving back and forth to work, on the radio. 
Not NPR?
Sometimes NPR. But not usually. 
Talk guys?Talk guys, usually. 
Do you have a favorite?You know who my favorite is? My good friend Bill Bennett. He’s off the air by the time I’m driving in, but I listen to him sometimes when I’m shaving. He has a wonderful talk show. It’s very thoughtful. He has good callers. I think they keep off stupid people. 
That’s what producers get paid for.That’s what’s wrong with those talk shows. 
Let’s talk about the state of our politics for a moment. I know you haven’t been to a State of the Union address for a while, and I wanted to know why.
It’s childish.

Monday, February 15, 2016

"Life Dances Inside a Circle Made By Living, They Say"

This wonderful story is copied from my old blog. The original source appears to have disappeared from the Web so I'm glad I copied it.   The original is still out there, but it takes a looooong time for the Interwebs to find it....

I love real stories about real people, especially when they reveal a sweetness of spirit in unexpected places. 

Image lifted from the source. 
That ["Life Dances Inside a Circle Made By Living"] is a repetitive line in many of the old Apache prayers. For most of my life I figured it was one of those nice sounding, but essentially meaningless things that they put into prayers. Like the poetic devices Homer would use. It was never simply "Hector" or "Achilles," it would be "Hector of the shining helm" and "Achilles, the swift footed mankiller." The device allowed the person reciting the poem to conjure up the next line or scene. It buys time for somebody in performance.

My daughter has begun her internship. Despite the grueling march of 72 hour shifts, the endless parade of mind numbing sameness that gets punctuated by something wild and critical, she is loving it.

Her only complaint is that the King of the Docs took a look at her name tag with the Apache name Ga'age Biitsahkesh, tried a couple of times to pronounce it and has dubbed her "Gidget." To her dismay the name has stuck. To the other interns, the residents, and the attendings, she is now "Dr. Gidget." I suggested that she start dubbing her collegues "Moondoggy" and "Ratfink" which provided a tired chuckle but little consolation.

To tell you the rest of the story, I have to tell you this one.

The winter of 1958 on the White Mountain Apache Reservation was hard. Unusually heavy snowfalls, very low temperatures and a sudden freeze all contributed to the dangerous misery there. The Bureau of Indian Affairs was not responding to the pleading of the people for help and aid. They ignored the missionaries who were trying to keep our tiny school going. It was a Mormon year that time. One of the "teachers" was from a Mormon Ward in Mesa.

Their Bishop, his family has asked that I not name him, because they are old school Mormons who believe that doing good, and caring for your fellow human beings is something that should be expected, it is not something to be celebrated, so I'll just call him The Bishop, hearing of the plight on the rez, opened his Bishop's stores. This is something that the Mormons take very seriously. They encourage their members to keep a year's supply of canned and preserved foods, and each Ward's Bishop has control of an even larger storage.

The Bishop opened his stores. He directed the members of his Ward to gather at the storehouse, bringing their trucks and vans. They loaded them down with food, blankets, and warm clothes. They drove 350 miles from Mesa to the rez. They began to distribute those badly needed items. They did this without preaching or doing anything but try to find out where what the greatest needs were. When they had finished, they drove back to their home, loaded up again, and drove back.

Countless times during that bitter winter, they would load up their vehicles and drive the long bad roads to us. The Bishop contacted other Bishops and the Church President and even the Prophet in Salt Lake City. The efforts of those people saved our people. Washington would have let us starve. The government was still crying poor from fighting WWII and Korea. All of our cries for help fell on ears that were turned deaf by lack of funds and the ability to do anything.

The Mormons, but especially the Bishop refused to let that happen. I have my own differences with the LDS church. Even as offshoot sects of Christianity go, they have some really bizarre ass tenets of faith. I dislike the theocracy they have forged in Utah, I object to their meddling in politics.

With all of that though, I must say, the majority of Mormons that I have met were plain old good human beings. They are capable of great compassion, and limitless generosity. They spent an entire winter driving up to our rez to share their bounty and their food with us for the simple reason that we were hungry and they knew it.

Another program that the Mormons had was the "Indian Placement" program. They would take promising kids off of the reservations and house them with Mormon families so that we could attend high schools that had little luxuries, like teachers, and books.

The Bishop, when my cousin, the brilliant attorney, and I were at high school age, made it possible for us to enroll in placement. He went so far as to pull strings which made it possible for us to attend the same high school and be housed in the same neighborhood. He was kind enough to look the other way when my cousin and I would openly defy one of their most sacred rules by speaking to each other in Apache. We lied a little bit, we told him that he had been given an Apache name by the people and that the name was "Inago'it Ditah Tazhii." We told him that the name meant "Give Away Food Eagle," it really meant "Generous Turkey." White people like Indian names that say Eagle. It makes them feel all special and stuff.

No matter what measure of disapproval or even anger I might work up for the Mormons, I know that I owe them, and especially The Bishop, a debt that can never be truly reconciled. I owe not only the measure of the help they gave me and my people. I owe them my life. I owe them for allowing me to get a decent education, which they did after they made sure I didn't starve to death.

I will oppose them when they meddle in politics, but I will never do so without curbing any anger. I owe them that.

So, here we are with Dr. Gidget in one of her 72 hour runs. She goes in to see a patient, it's a 70ish year old man. She recognises the name, and the city he's from. She asks him straight out if he is any relation to The Bishop. The old man tells her "That was my father."

Dr. Gidget says "Your father saved my father's life."

They spent a long time talking about old times. The old man, as a boy, had made that long trip up to the rez many times. He says that he remembers our family from those trips and from when my cousin and I were living with members of his Ward while we went to high school.

My cousin and I sent flowers to his room the very next day. Our card wished him a full and a speedy recovery.

The life that I have lived has been danced truly within a circle made by living that life. Most of the cycles and spirals don't have such a tidy arc. There's a lot more jazz than Bach in my soundtrack.

Even with the reputation that the Apache have as fierce warriors from a ferocious warrior's culture, something that most folks don't know is that to go to war, with neighboring tribes, with other Apache, with anybody, the warrior's first had to get the approval of a council of grandmothers. The grandmothers try, in their council, to consider the impact of present decisions down through five to seven generations.

The rough, tough, badass of the world Apache warriors, wouldn't go to war unless their grammies said it was OK. It worked well for us.

I'm not sure what the meanings of all this are, maybe you can offer some meanings in the comments. I know that I am trying to take more care in the things I do today.

Yexaaiidela, go deyah, tc'iindii.
(having been prepared, he walks, they say)