Wednesday, June 21, 2017

WHITHER (WITHER?) THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY?

The defeat of Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff in the most expensive House of Reps election in history is a big downer for Democrats across the country. Ossoff ran as a moderate, tried not to offend Republican voters by demonizing Trump, and spent truckloads of cash. He lost anyway.

I have a few thoughts about this election result. First, it seems that political party might be more important than any individual politician, from candidates to president. No matter what Donald Trump does, Republican voters still seem to vote Republican. Perhaps party loyalty is stronger than any other factor in elections.

Second, I think the specifics of a candidate are more important than the party. This seems to contradict my first point, but let me play this out a bit. The strategy used by Ossoff was to run as a moderate in order to attract independent and less conservative Republican voters. This strategy didn't work. Perhaps the biggest problem for Ossoff was that he simply was not a good candidate for this kind of election. He is young, inexperienced in politics, and doesn't even live in the Congressional District he hoped to represent.

I want to use my state, Oregon, as an example. We have one Republican Member of the House, Greg Walden, who represents the more rural parts of the state. Walden is conservative, and was instrumental in passing the Repeal/Replace Obamacare legislation in the House. Unseating Walden will be a very difficult task for Democrats, perhaps an impossible task. Walden's district is majority Republican, made up of ranchers, farmers, loggers and other rural demographics. If a Democrat has a chance, a slim chance of unseating Walden, that person would need to be a well-established local who is part of the majority demographic in rural Oregon, a moderate, and someone with a political or government history.

To date, two Democratic candidates have anounced their intentions to run against Walden; both are from more liberal towns in Walden's district. One candidate, a Bernie Sanders supporter, ran against Walden in the last election and was soundly defeated by a huge margin. The other candidate is a political newbie, a woman dog-sled racer. Both candidates, in my humble opinion, are snowballs in hell regarding their chances to beat the Republican incumbent.

So, what is my conclusion? Well, I think loyalty to political party is probably the most important factor in elections, and any chance of upsetting a Republican, especially an incumbent, has to be based on understanding not only voter loyalty, but what factors make a candidate appealing to independent voters and voters in the other party who might be having serious qualms about their party candidate.

We Democrats need to understand that in this time of history, nominating very left candidates in traditionally conservative districts is not a good strategy. Both houses of Congress are controlled by one party, and that party gets to do whatever it wants, with limited options available to the minority party to stop them. So the most important thing Democrats can do for the forseeable future is put forward candidates who are Democrats who can win, whether or not they have each of our specific set of political "leftness." Our choice going forward is very simple: 1) keep putting forward candidates who have the best "left" credentials but can't win because they have no credibility with the majority of voters in their district, or 2) put forward candidates who have the best possibility of winning as Democrats, no matter how centrist they are. If we use strategy 2, we might have a chance to gain the majority in Congress.

My conclusion actually bothers me, because as a self-described "progressive realist" and long time some-kind-of-socialist I would prefer a more left-leaning majority party. The realist part of me, however, understands the present political realities of the United States, and the important context of the rest of the world, and so I am reluctantly comfortable with my aforementioned conclusion.

Any thoughts?
---

Friday, June 02, 2017

DEAR PEOPLE OF THE WORLD: MOST OF US AMERICANS DON'T AGREE WITH TRUMP

Dear people of the world:

It is important for you to know that most Americans did not vote for Donald Trump, and most Americans disagree with everything he has done and will do. I know this because: 1. his opponent received 3,000,000 more votes than he did; and 2. public poll after public poll show that most Americans do not approve of what he is doing.

Donald Trump has redefined American exceptionalism; this now means that the USA will do everything except what is right and just. This is not the Amercia you know, and it is most certainly not the America the majority of Americans know. Donald Trump has his base, meaning the people who support him and what he does. Those of us who are not part of his base, and again I have to assure you that I mean the majority of Americans, vascilate between thinking we should try to understand his base and simply understanding that they are ignorant people. Yes, l know, that previous thought is not very politically correct, but seriously....

American democracy is a strange system. Someone recently wrote that our democracy is still in Beta testing, and it has many major bugs that need to be fixed. We are a country in which big money has taken more and more control of our political system. One of our two major political parties, the Republican Party, is controlled by that big money, spouting free market economic theory mixed with Libertarianism and, now, Trumpian populism. (To be balanced, there is a lot of Big Money supporting the Democratic Party, also; however, that party has ideals that differ markedly from the R's.) Members of our elected Congress, the House of Representatives and the Senate, are charged by our Constitution to "promote the general welfare;" this is their basic job description. Unfortunately, there is no annual job review for these politicians, and the only way to remove one is to not re-elect her/him. Also unfortunately, it is too often the case that Republican politicians at the state level rearrange voting district boundaries to ensure that their party candidates win elections.

Donald Trump, unfortunately now the President of the United States, has rejected the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. This is a shameful, selfish and ignorant action by a shameless, selfish and ignorant man; a very privileged man, I might add. By rejecting the Paris Agreement, Mr. Trump has rejected every principle of justice, peace, understanding, tolerance, human rights and common sense. I assume that Mr. Trump has never read the Paris Agreement; he does not read lengthy documents. He, or someone close to him, has cherry-picked themes that he has misapplied. One only needs to read or listen to his speech on rejecting the Agreement to understand what a completely ignorant person Mr. Trump is. Perhaps the funniest and saddest line in his speech was that he was not elected by the people of Paris!

In rejecting the Paris Agreement, Mr. Trump also rejected everything contained in it, including these words and phrases:
- equity,
- responsibility,
- respective capabilities,
- urgent threat of climate change,
- best available scientific knowledge,
- specific needs and special circumstances of developing country Parties,
- (Parties) vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change,
- effective and progressive response,
- equitable access to sustainable development and eradication of poverty,
- safeguarding food security and ending hunger,
- just transition of the workforce and creation of decent work and quality jobs,
- obligations on human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity,
- importance of the conservation and enhancement, as appropriate, of sinks and reservoirs of the greenhouse gases,
- importance of ensuring the integrity of all ecosystems,
- protection of biodiversity,
- the importance of the concept of "climate justice,"
- importance of education, training, public awareness, public participation, public access to information and cooperation at all levels,
- importance of the engagements of all levels of government and various actors in addressing climate change,
- recognizing that sustainable lifestyles and sustainable patterns of consumption and production, with developed country Parties taking the lead, play an important role in addressing climate change.

In other words, by rejecting the Paris Agreement, Mr. Trump, claiming to act on behalf of the American people, has rejected the rest of the world, and all the people in it! He has rejected all notions of equity, fairness, science, justice, sustainable development. He has damned the vulnerable people of future generations everywhere on Earth to continued poverty, disruption, misery and death. This is truly a crime against humanity.

Let me be very clear here: Donald Trump, the elected leader of what until now has been the leading country of the free world, has given away the mantle of leadership, has abandoned everything that makes America America, has let the poor, aspiring peoples of the world know that America no longer gives a damn about them, has slapped our allies across the face, and has heaped scorn on the ideals, real and aspirational, of the United States of America.

I, like most Americans, am ashamed and embarassed that Donald Trump is the president of my country. In the few short months he has been in office, Mr. Trump has wreaked much havoc on the instituions of American government. He has, through his own statements and actions, condoned the emergence into broad daylight of the most hate-filled and bigoted elements of our society. And on the world stage, he has publicly embraced our traditional enemies while insulting our closest allies. The President of the United States is no longer the leader of the free world, let alone the leader of his own country except in title.

I want to conclude by telling you, people of the world, that Americans are not being silent and passive. As of June 1, 30 mayors of American cities, 3 governors, more than 80 university presidents, and more than 100 businesses have come together to submit a plan to the United Nations pledging to meet the greenhouse gas targets of the United States under the Paris Agreement. As individuals, huge numbers of us will continue to be politically active, outspoken, and engaged in efforts to thwart and reverse Trump and the Republicans wherever and whenever possible.

This is our pledge to you, made by true American patriots.

---








Saturday, May 27, 2017

TRUMP 360 - THE SIGNATURE

I have always been puzzled by the seismic signature of Donal J. Trump. I've studied it, tried to trace the line of his pen, tried to discern any letter in the alphabet - all for naught.

So I decided to take The Donald's scrawl as written, and also repeatedly turned 90 degrees, yielding 4 views. Perhaps this would reveal something. Maybe The Donald's brain turns words a certain number of degrees.

This worked. In fact, each of the 4 positions revealed something that makes sense about The Donald.

What do you think?




Wednesday, May 24, 2017

THE POLITICS OF POLICING: WHY CAN'T PORTLAND GET IT RIGHT?

The Portland Police Bureau, Oregon, has limped through what seems like a slow-motion train wreck over the past few years. The Bureau was the subject of a US Department of Justice investigation primarily about use of force in dealing with people experiencing mental illness, and also in dealing with minority members of the community; this resulted in a Settlement Agreement still being implemented (with great difficulty within a citizen oversight Board). A newly appointed Chief of Police from within the Bureau had to resign after accidentally shooting a friend while hunting and allegedly lying about it during the subsequent investigation of the incident. The former mayor negotiated a new contract with the Police Association (union) shortly before the end of his term that generated controversy among some community activists. Community activists held increasingly vocal and violent demonstrations against the Mayor and Police Bureau after police cracked down on demonstrators who were taking over streets and freeways, blocking mass transit, and anarchists destroying and vandalizing public and private property. The newly appointed interim Chief was put on leave during an investigation related to his presence at a training; he was eventually cleared.
And now this: a job listing for Chief of Police was posted by the City this month, and it has sparked controversy within the Bureau as well as the community. I have studied the job listing, as well as the statement issued by the President of the Police Association and a reply by the Mayor (the Mayor oversees the Police Bureau). I have to say that I agree with the opinion that the job listing is amazingly insensitive to the hard work done by rank-and-file officers in the Bureau, and conveys the impression that the major issue in the City of Portland regarding police work is relationships with "communities of color."

Here is the first paragraph of the job listing:

The City of Portland is seeking a highly qualified and transformative Police Chief to lead the Portland Police Bureau. The Portland Police Chief serves as the Chief of the largest law enforcement agency in the State of Oregon. This individual reports to the Mayor and is responsible for directing and leading all aspects of bureau operations. The State of Oregon and its largest city, Portland, share a history of legally sanctioned systemic racism with legally enforced exclusionary practises. Given this history, the successful candidate must demonstrate the capacity and commitment to expand on existing strategies to improve relationships with and service provision to Portland's communities of color, ensuring that equity is a bedrock of policing in Portland.

For someone not familiar with Portland, this leading paragraph certainly conveys the message that systemic racism is the main problem with the Portland Police Bureau, even today. This is not true. It is true that Oregon and Portland have shameful histories of racial policies and actions; however, it is also true that the State, City and Police Bureau have been addressing these problems for many years, and much progress has been made. Yes, there is much work to be done to improve relationships between police and citizens, especially marginalized communities.In fact, later in the job announcement, this statement appears:

Highly skilled in facilitating, negotiating and building consensus and trust among diverse customers and stakeholders with competing and differing needs.
In other words, Portland is a community with a diversity of people ("customers") who the police interact with and serve.

The Portland Police Association President issued a statement responding to this job announcement.
Understandably, the verbiage and the tenor of the job posting left many in the rank and file angry and confused, as the clear implication from the posting is that the Police Bureau and its members have supported a racist culture in the City.

The union statement went on to list the many recent positive accomplishments of the Bureau. It also pointed out that the job announcement had nothing positive to say about the hard-working and dedicated officers of the Bureau.

I have worked with the Portland Police Bureau on neighborhood projects, and was involved for over a year in the public part of the Settlement Agreement. Although I am not a member of the Bureau, I feel that the job announcement for Chief of Police is an insult to the many good people of the Bureau.
I don't understand this. Is this a huge human resources blunder by the City of Portland? Is this an example of political correctness gone wild? Or is this, for some reason, an intentional insult?
Portland, Oregon is not la-la-land; we have real problems that need to be addressed, including, but not exclusively, issues of systemic racism. Our Police Bureau is seriously under-staffed and consistently criticized by certain elements of the community. The Bureau has been plagued by internal problems and incidents, and the Mayor has initiated a nation-wide search for a new Chief of Police. Unfortunately, the job announcement for Chief doesn't help matters.
---

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

TRUMP IS THE TOOL, NOT THE OPERATOR

Donald J. Trump is not a smart person. Trump the person is not the reason he is president; Trump the idea is the reason. It has never made sense that working people, poor people, college-educated people, and other demographics voted for, and many still support Trump. Really, does Trump care about any people other than himself and his close family? The obvious answer is, he does not.

No, Donald Trump is not the brains behind the Trump ascendency and the Trump presidency. He is the tool, and, if we change one letter, the fool. Trump was not the brains behind his campaign. He did not plan the strategy, develop the message, write the speeches. (To be fair, most candidates don't either, but most are certainly very involved.) Trump was good at one general theme that encompassed provoking the crowd, firing up populist ideas, race-baiting, thuggery and name-calling. He is terrific at self-promotion, and terrible at everything else. He has not written any Executive Orders; he has not conceptualized any legislation. He has only signed his seismographic signature and smiled for the cameras.

So who are the Operators of the Trump tool? Are they his children? Are they the people he has placed close to him in the White House, like Steve Bannon? Well, no. These people are his handlers, the ones who try to tell (suggest to?) him what to do and how to do it, to stay on-message, and to get in front of the cameras and try to explain that the alternative facts are the real facts, no matter what the Fool in Chief tweets. These are not the high level Operators.

The Operators are people most of us have never heard about. They are people the mainstream media don't talk about, either. They are members of the Billionaire Class who actually, unlike Trump, are intelligent and have tremendous amounts of control in our society, and others around the globe.

This all sounds shady and thriller novel-like, doesn't it? Conspiracy theory stuff. Shadowy figures pulling levers and strings. Well, yes, it does. And I believe it is something we all need to look at. For starters, take a look at this piece in the Guardian about Robert Mercer, Steve Bannon, and Cambridge Analytica. Is it getting chilly in here?

---

Saturday, April 29, 2017

ONLY SOME REMEMBERED THE LIGHT

Portland, Oregon USA. April 29, 2017.

Only the elders remembered it, but even they sat amazed, squinting at the glowing windows. It was somehow familiar, and yet not familiar. For many, not just the elders, it was discomfiting, somehow alien. Bright. Light.

Hopefully, many thought, this will be fleeting, an aberration. And then it will be normal again; grey, wet, rain falling constantly, puddles on the sidewalk, streams running in the gutters. "April showers bring May flowers," some said. "The sun is dangerous on your skin," said others. "Vitamin D pills are just as good!"

I sat rocking on the porch swing, moving over to stay in the shade as the warm light moved across the porch. I thought that I could take off my socks and feel the warm wood boards on my soles, but why risk the tender white skin on the top of my feet? Perhaps we will go for a walk today; I should carry a raincoat and umbrella, just in case.

There are diffuse clouds in the blue sky (that's right, it is actually blue!), and in the east the sky is totally grey. I guess this is transitory, after all, and the world will be normal again, soon.

I feel better.

---

Friday, April 28, 2017

RESIST: EVERY GENERATION HAS TO DO IT AGAIN

We received a mailing from the United Farm Workers last week, asking for support. I took some time and visited their website, and confirmed what I knew I would find; they are very actively working as part of the resistance to support undocumented people (as well as everything else they do). I thought about the old organizing song with the line that "every generation has to do it again." Then I went to my dresser and opened the infamous Junk Drawer (you all have one too, don't you). I dug around: miscellaneous keys that I have absolutely no idea what they are for, a nose whistle, a small vial of baby teeth, a deck of naughty playing cards my Aunt Laura sent when I was sick - I was probably 12-13 years old, a real sardine embedded in acrylic with a pin on the back that I sometimes put on a sport jacket lapel, an ancient package of Zig-Zag rolling papers (21 cents!), and the button box. The button box has a bunch of political buttons. I also found the small United Farmworkers flag, and pinned some of the buttons to it; here's the photo:


OK, I tend to be a hoarder, but these items each have an attached memory. This grouping brings back a flood of past activism, the teacher's union, the Farmworkers struggle, the car trip to Coachella Valley for a rally where Cesar Chavez spoke, various boycotts, and so on.

There is a point here, and this is why I dug through the junk drawer: our work is not done! So many have struggled for so long, and yet there is so much still to do. Especially now. Especially now that so many of our sisters and brothers are under attack by people and organizations, including the president and the majority in Congress. The onslaught is daunting, and yet we, the people, are fighting back, each in her/his own way. How many rallies and marches have there been in this country since January 20, 2017? How much media coverage has focused on exposing the corruption of this president and this Congress? It's gratifying to see it happening daily.

I am convinced that America will survive this explosion of populism, because Trump has failed greatly over the course of the first 100 days of Trumpism. The Republican Congressional leadership has also failed in big, visible ways, demonstrating that they have no skills for governing, only for saying no. America will be damaged by the time we dump Trump, and the global effects will be huge and dangerous. But I think our democracy is strong enough to survive and rebuild.

Donald Trump is a buffoon, a dangerous buffoon. He has and will continue to ruin many lives, make many people miserable, shake the foundations of both domestic and foreign policy. Hopefully there are a few good men (yes, he has surrounded himself with men - I'll write about the daughter separately) in his circle who have the knowledge and experience to know when to tell him "NO!" and to avert a disaster, such as war with North Korea. He is causing damage on so many fronts that the results will be horrifying and way too real. But I have hope.

So, brothers and sisters, don't get discouraged, don't shrink from action, fight the good fight, RESIST! (And wear those political buttons!)

---

Twitter