“The Future Will Not Be Staffed,” Okay But You Better Have the Right Leaders

An article in The Nation by Becky Bond and Zack Exley, two uber-organizers from the Sanders campaign and MoveOn.org, lays out how organization is supposed to work and will prevail over paid-staff models (like the failed Clinton campaign).

One of the greatest lessons from the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign was that a relatively tiny number of staff using fairly basic technology can unleash hundreds of thousands of volunteers to do serious work to advance a nationwide movement. There is no reason this energy shouldn’t continue to grow. Passionate, moral, and urgent opposition to Trumpism could represent the greatest opportunity for mass participation in politics since the antiwar movement of a half-century ago.

Indeed.  But you better have the right people leading for such a phenomenon to exist. Sanders inspired so many people, not just the young.  Clinton did not.  If you have the right inspirational leaders, and a cause, then no problem.

And I imagine and hope that we will all come together in our common goal of vanquishing Trumpism:  Democrats, progressives, liberals, leftists, greens, vegans, furries – whatever you are or identify as, if you’re a sentient being that sees the future as more human and less corporate, we have to work together.

But that’s easier said than done because we can all seek to work together but still disagree on methods, tactics and goals… and leaders.

To that end the formidable Nancy Pelosi was re-elected as minority leader in the House.  I love Nancy Pelosi, she has delivered in the past, but the Democratic team has been losing since 2010 and it’s time to fire the coach.  Hell, it’s time to fire all the coaches in the party that brought us to 2016.  To put it in Godfather terms, we need a wartime consiglieri and maybe a grandma in her 70s from San Francisco isn’t the best choice.  You can make the case that Pelosi is tainted in many of the same ways that Hilary Clinton was –  she’s been a punching bag for the right for so long that many in the public have an image of her that is unfair, but also may cripple her effectiveness in reaching out to a broader coalition and making change.

I fear this decision to keep the coach is a long term loser.

It’s So Easy. It’s Like It Was Staged For Comedy

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This picture epitomizes what Trump has done to the Republican Party.  All that’s missing is a big pile of shit on Romney’s plate for him to eat to go along with the “how did I get here? (big sigh)” look on his face.

And of course Trump looks like the devil.  He is the devil.

As someone who believes in a moral universe, as much as I’ve had to rethink things the last 3 weeks, I have to believe all of the horrors we’re witnessing, and the party’s acquiescence to it all, will be a part of their ultimate downfall.

Why do so many people have to suffer before the horrible people get their comeuppance? God, if you exist, leave an answer in the comments, thank you!

An Entire Government of Brownies

George W. Bush, to his everlasting shame, had named Michael Brown a former counsel for the Arabian Show Horse league, or whatever, to be the head of FEMA.  Bush called him “Brownie” as in “heckuva job Brownie” in one of the many quotes of the Bush years that makes the skin crawl.  So “Brownie” will be forever known as the guy who headed the government agency tasked to help the people of Louisiana deal with and recover from Hurricane Katrina, but instead watched a city drown.

“Brownie” was unqualified for the job. His being named for the job evidenced a lack of seriousness in governing and a complete lack of understanding of how important that job is.  Lives depend on the person in that job.

Donald Trump is naming an entire government of Brownies.  Arrogant people unqualified, incompetent and ignorant of the responsibilities of their positions.  With the slightest bit of humility they’d have demurred the offer, but like Trump they imagine they’re brilliant people, and how hard can it be to run the Treasury Department?

From the WH down to the lowest levels of the lowest cabinet department we can expect Brownies.

There is one important proviso to this and that is that Trump’s Brownies aren’t just incompetent, they’re also malicious and have an agenda to push that nobody voted for.

Forget About Governing, Trump Can’t Even Run His Businesses

But we know this already.  So the new D.C. hotel he loves so much he should get a room in the hotel with the hotel, that’s leased to him by the government. So while we were focusing on the inherent conflict of interest that being his own landlord becomes, we and he missed the real detail:  The lease had already been crafted to preclude a conflict because it forbids any elected official from profiting from the lease.

The Post Office Lease differs from many of Mr. Trump’s other business arrangements. That’s because, in writing the contract, the federal and D.C. governments determined, in advance, that elected officials could play no role in this lease arrangement. The contract language is clear: “No … elected official of the Government of the United States shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom…”

So what will be done about that?  Democrats should pound him on the breach of the lease until he has to sell it.

Let that be the first blow in an unending four year (if he lasts that long) avalanche of blows so that Trump and his family regret running for president as the worst thing that ever happened to them.  It should ruin them.  It should leave them ruing the days the celebrated this, broken and destroyed.  They are horrible people.  The loathing they will endure should be epic and insuperable.

The Last Person Born in the 19th Century Turns 117

So interesting.  We are on the cusp. The last person born in the 19th century turns 117 in Italy and she had a shitty life.  She doesn’t seem all that happy now either so consider that.

This fascinates me, the bridging of periods of time that seem so remote in one lifetime.

Born on 29 November 1899, four years before the Wright brothers first took to the air, she is the world’s oldest living person. Her life has spanned three centuries, two world wars and over 90 Italian governments.

Like when we found out a few years ago that President John Tyler’s grandsons are still alive.  Now that’s freaky. Tyler was born in 1790.  He had a son in 1853.  That son had boys in 1924 and 1928.  His grandsons are younger than my dad.

When I think about the world my father was born into in 1919 it is amazing.  Woodrow Wilson was president and we started prohibition the next year.  His world was still powered by coal, streetlamps by gas, transportation was still largely by steam or horse, cars were just taking off.  The first commercial radio broadcast was when he was 3. Movies were silent until he was 10.  There was no air conditioning.  Refrigeration was getting a block of ice for your ice box.

As The Last Generation That Saw Government Save the World Goes, So Goes Government

My father’s generation lived through the Great Depression and served in World War II. That generation became the most Democratic in history because of their connection with FDR and the New Deal.  They were also unabashed fans of government because of the New Deal and what they achieved in 4 years during WWII.  Every assault on Medicare and Social Security was met by the outrage of that generation in particular.  And now they’re almost gone.  And with their passing we lose not the greatest generation, that hyperbole is silly, but we do lose the generation with the greatest connection to what good government can achieve with concerted effort.

Side note – when I hear about the “greatest generation” I am reminded of the Larry Miller joke “My parents came to this country speaking no English, they worked three jobs, went to school and learned English, and took care of a family.  When I go to the dry cleaners and the post office in the same day I’m exhausted.”

I’ve been thinking about this lately and then I re-read a Josh Marshall piece from last July that explores along the same lines.  It’s not just about trust in government, and the reasons for protections and the big social safety net programs of the New Deal and The Great Society (we already saw the disastrous financial reforms in the 90s that rolled back the New Deal protections the really smart people thought we didn’t need anymore).  It’s also the horrors of autocracy, the witnesses to the holocaust, the extremes that countries can be so blithely led to by charismatic maniacs.

As John says, the horror of autocracy is diminishing as the living memory of World War II drifts into oblivion. But it’s not just autocracy. It’s the world of cycles of killing, ‘high fear’ rather than ‘high trust’ patterns of international relations and domestic accord that we take for granted as the natural order of things but most definitely are not.

Of course, government started it’s shrink backwards in the 80s as Reagan, who was an FDR fan and part of that generation, cynically used anti-governmental propaganda to create a political movement from the backlash to the excesses and also the human progress of the 60s and 70s.  Civil Rights, Feminism, the beginnings of globalism, Vietnam War protesters with long hair, drugs, music – everything was changing and those that did not want it to change struck back angrily.  Reagan represented the old order.  The old law and order, in fact, an affable, lovable Nixon without the scowl.  He was angry about change too and gave voice to that anger saying that he would make America great again.

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Part of their attack was on government excess – but that meant and means different things to different people.  That rhetoric was just an easy way to focus anger and create a mandate to remake government in the conservative image.  It didn’t get smaller, it got in fact much larger with a massive military build up that was completely unnecessary, but Reagan had learned the lesson that nobody ever lost by promising more defense.  He tripled the deficit as he derided deficits and his childish conservative mythologizers forgive it like those with daddy fixations always look up to those fathers and forget their faults.

Reagan was not a libertarian.  As corporatist and pro-business as he was he would never have thought to privatize Social Security.  He was part of the generation that lived and coped before FDR lifted 50% of the elderly out of poverty through Social Security.  Reagan derided Medicare as socialism in 1961, four years before it was enacted; however, as president 20 years later he never went along with privatization of Medicare language.  If nothing else he was a smart enough demagogue to know those were losing arguments for his own generation.  But now that generation is almost gone and the Reagan’s GOP is almost unrecognizable.   This isn’t Reagan’s GOP, but The Koch Brothers’.

Will enough people from this generation be alarmed enough to stop it?

That Thing Where a Smart Person Does and Says Stupid Things and Some People Can’t Believe He’s a Racist

Steve Bannon is a horrible person.  The NY Times found a few people who knew or know him who won’t go that far (I mean he’s not Ted Cruz horrible where you can’t find anybody who likes the guy), but they will say he’s a contentious, driven, ideologue who believes crazy, racist and anti-democratic things.  He’s a workaholic and a rageaholic on his 3rd marriage, so I’d have doubts about the guy even if he were on my side.

Why is it so hard for people to reconcile the idea that he’s not unpleasant to them, but that he might be really unpleasant to others?  That a guy who went to Harvard and is really smart can still think some really crazy counterfactual things? And above all, that a guy who is decent to some women and minority members to their faces, can’t still believe at his core that as a while man he’s better than they are.

Ms. Jones, the film colleague, said that in their years working together, Mr. Bannon occasionally talked about the genetic superiority of some people and once mused about the desirability of limiting the vote to property owners.

“I said, ‘That would exclude a lot of African-Americans,’” Ms. Jones recalled. “He said, ‘Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.’ I said, ‘But what about Wendy?’” referring to Mr. Bannon’s executive assistant. “He said, ‘She’s different. She’s family.’”

So Bannon can vouch for the black people he personally knows as being some of the good ones.  His actions and rhetoric evidence, over and over again, that he is indeed the monster we think he is.  He may like you, but he’d take your right to vote away, nothing personal.

And by the way son-in-law-in-chief Jared Cushner is also a horrible person who thought that the George Washington Bridge caper in NJ was “badass”.  He too went to Harvard, like Bannon (although he got in because his parents donated a shitload of money), so as an Orthodox Jew, he might just be stupid in accepting the anti-semitism his father-in-law and Bannon have been spreading.  Or maybe it’s just that fellow Harvard alum brotherhood that only allows you to see what a nice guy Bannon is to you and your wife.

Another possibility is that Cushner is looking to be one of the Judenrat in his very expensive ghetto – Cushner is the banality of evil incarnate.  This piece by Masha Gessen in the NY Review of Books is a must and an essential follow up to her piece on Autocracy: Rules for Survival.

Trump: The Choice We Face.

We cannot know what political strategy, if any, can be effective in containing, rather than abetting, the threat that a Trump administration now poses to some of our most fundamental democratic principles. But we can know what is right. What separates Americans in 2016 from Europeans in the 1940s and 1950s is a little bit of historical time but a whole lot of historical knowledge. We know what my great-grandfather did not know: that the people who wanted to keep the people fed ended up compiling lists of their neighbors to be killed. That they had a rationale for doing so. And also, that one of the greatest thinkers of their age (Hannah Arendt) judged their actions as harshly as they could be judged.

Battle for the DNC – Ilyse Hogue Announces a Battleplan

Some good people have announced their intention to run for the chair of the DNC:  Howard Dean (a previous chair), Rep. Keith Ellison and Ilyse Hogue who is presently the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.  I’m open to any of these people, I just want a good plan and I wish the election was sooner rather than later as 2018 is (sadly) just around the corner.

Hogue released a lengthy battleplan to DC members.  It was reprinted at Daily Kos by her permission.  It’s worth reading in its entirety.  I’ll just reprint her 10 point plan.

1. UNITY THROUGH RESISTANCE: Fighting Trump’s agenda has to be top priority for the Party in order to serve the health and wellbeing of the majority of citizens and for us to be the standard-bearer of American values. We must immediately oppose any attempt to circumscribe our Constitutional rights to free speech and assembly, marginalize and attack our fellow Americans, and debase the office of the President for private gain. Fighting against the Iraq War showed that we have to provide many different avenues of engagement for people to resist, so our approaches are multi-faceted and our numbers are undeniable.

2. GO LOCAL: President Obama was correct: Change doesn’t come fromWashington, change comes to Washington. The primary role of the DNC should be to create ways for Party members and advocates across the country — from the first-timer to the lifer — to learn from each other and strategize together. We need to bring people off the sidelines. The DNC’s office in Washington can leverage organizing energy from around the country on policy fights of the day. And it should prioritize boosting the role of State Parties so the national reflects what is happening in the states, not the other way around.

3. STAY TRUE TO OUR IDENTITY: We recognize that the world is complicated, and we know it’s worth fighting for dignity and a fair shake for everybody. We know that race, gender, geography, education, and age all affect our economic prospects, and we can engage in authentic conversation that acknowledges that reality and is inclusive of tailored, community-based solutions. Fighting Wall Street greed and protecting women’s fundamental rights aren’t at odds, they’re intertwined. Recognizing these intersections will be critical to build momentum from the outset for the hard policy fights and for electoral accountability come mid-terms. Diversity is our strength and must be our aspiration and our future.

4. FOCUS ON THE RIGGED SYSTEM: Democratic gains are being undermined by a series of structural — and intentional — obstacles that thwart the will of the people. We have to tackle these head-on by creating coordinated campaigns to fight the GOP effort to keep people from participating.

· Fight voter suppression: When more people vote, Democrats win. A full court press that is tailored to state legislatures around the country can challenge cynical laws like Voter ID and restrictions on registration and early voting that hurt Democrats from state house races all the way up to the Presidency.

· Reform the Electoral College: We need to revisit the basic mission of the institution and consider efforts like the National Popular Vote compact which would compel electors to vote with the majority of the people.

· Stop gerrymandering: The current system stacks the deck against Democrats. We’re winning national majorities while losing seats in Congress. Our next shot at redistricting is in 2021, which means 2018 and 2020 will be crucial to make gains in state houses and put fairness back in the system. We need to prioritize state legislative wins and redistricting efforts in state houses that put the voters’ interest front and center and seek to keep politics out of the process.

· Eliminate Super Delegates: There’s no doubt the Party should have a place of honor for our leaders, but the idea of super delegates who might overturn the will of the voters is antithetical to the democratic principles we stand for. Super delegates were a 1984 innovation that didn’t pan out, and contribute to a negative narrative about what our Party stands for. Let’s find new innovations and move on from failed ones.

5. BUILD THE BENCH: Running for office is often a thankless task. The more local we go on the ballot, the fewer resources and compensation for jobs well done. Yet those down-ballot candidates are not only serving critical roles in enacting policy that affect the everyday lives of people, they are often the up-and-comers who go on to seek higher office in the coming cycles. The DNC needs to better support our future candidates and leaders with strategic trainings, capacity building, and connections to voters.

6. JUMPSTART DNC 2.0: Technology can’t solve all problems, but it can help us scale engagement to the local and individual level. The DNC should play a central role in creating tools that effectively bring like-minded individuals together to build a shared vision for their neighborhoods and states. Technology can be used to communicate better, organize better, advocate better, persuade better, volunteer better, and GOTV better — all the way down to the neighborhood and household level.

7. INVEST IN FUNDAMENTALS: I knocked hundreds of doors this cycle, and the targeting and real-time information feedback loop was lacking. Offices in swing states often could not make good use of the dozens of volunteers we brought to them. First-time volunteers were disheartened by voters who told them they had just been visited by other doorknockers hours before. Cutting turf is not glamorous, but it is the lifeblood of effective electoral work, and investing in the basics of field organizing is critical for the future of the Party. It’s easy to blame the Clinton campaign for all of this, and certainly Brooklyn bears some responsibility. But the problems transcend one cycle and represent a lack of centralized investment in the basics over a long period of time. This has to be paramount. Without the foundation, there is no house.

8. PRIMARIES SHOULD REFLECT AMERICA: We can and should find ways for the primaries to reflect the broader diversity of our party. The issues that drive campaigns in those two “first” states are important but unrepresentative of the Democratic base, and of the broader American mainstream. There are several compelling alternative avenues to make sure a broader array of issues frame our primary debate and they should all be considered. A robust debate on those choices would be healthy for the Party.

9. GET FUNDED FROM THE GROUND UP: A genuinely people-powered fundraising base can help not just to fund national efforts, but also to provide state parties a source of local donors. My experience at MoveOn showed me how to build email programs at the national and state levels to instill both personal and financial investment in organizations. People open up and donate to those who inspire and motivate them. Thus, the stronger we fight against Trump, and the more we champion our best champions, the easier it will be for our grassroots to fund us.

10. LEAD WITH VALUES AND EMPATHY: As Democrats, we love to talk policy. Too often though, we end up ceding the language of values to Republicans. People want leaders who listen and reinforce our commonly held values — values of inclusion, economic security, and opportunity for advancement. These are the values of the Democratic Party and they need to suffuse everything we do. When we stand for something, we win. While some say that focus on issues like transgender rights hurt Democrats, remember that we won the governor’s race in North Carolina, in what turned out to be a difficult political environment. This is not a time to shy away from the values that bind our coalition. Rather, it’s time to clarify and celebrate them.

Sign me up for a big hunk of ALLLLLLLLL of that!

The Great Molassis Flood of 1919 Killed 21 People. Yes, Molassis

Fascinating piece of history.  In 1919, 21 people were killed when a faulty tank broke and 2.3 million of gallons of molassis flooded out into the streets at a potential speed of 35 miles per hour based on a review of the science done by Harvard Fluid Dynamics students.

They covered it on the amazingly entertaining Drunk History this season, click the link to watch the sequence.

“It’s a ridiculous thing to imagine, a tsunami of molasses drowning the North End of Boston, but then you look at the pictures,” said Shmuel M. Rubinstein, a Harvard professor whose students investigated the disaster.

The students performed experiments in a walk-in refrigerator to model how corn syrup, standing in for the molasses, would behave in cold temperatures. With that data in hand, they applied the results to a full-scale flood, projecting it over a map of the North End. Their results, Ms. Sharp said, generally matched the accounts from the time.

“The historical record says that the initial wave of molasses moved at 35 miles per hour,” Ms. Sharp said, “which sounds outrageously fast.”