Issues Are the Way Forward

Would add, as has been addressed in the comments, that the intersection of climate/jobs is a big one, which younger voters may be particularly attuned to. - promoted by charley-on-the-mta

In 1964, conservatives were out of power. They coalesced around Goldwater, and all of their successes seem to follow from that campaign. We forget now, but before Goldwater (and during), “conservative” was an insult. He rallied them around their issues.

When conservatives are in power, their issues fall by the wayside. Let me be the millionth person to point out that deficits are only important when Democrats are in power.

But we shouldn’t overstate that. They used issues to motivate their movement. Now they use a variety of tools, including holding on to power and hating us.

However, there are true, hardcore conservatives out there, and they are up in arms that six years of Republican control of Congress hasn’t reduced spending. They’re furious that the party hasn’t lived up to its rhetoric. Many of these people led to Trump, because they wouldn’t listen to old news guys like Graham.

We need to think about our core issues. The biggest, I think, is jobs (not the “economy,” jobs).

The second biggest is homeland security.

The third biggest is infrastructure. If you’re allowed to telecommute, have you ever hesitated because you think the T won’t work? I have. Now imagine you don’t have the option to telecommute.

“Income inequality,” as we’ve come to call it, is not the issue. The real issue is employment, or underemployment, and therefore social mobility.

Houses cost too much, at least here. College costs too much. We can’t fix that, but we could do a lot to improve the public colleges. The proverbial family of four is struggling to have a comfortable standard of living.

Quality of life is an issue. Travel is a hassle; we need to look at the security apparatus we uncritically adopted 15 years ago (during a time of crisis, and with an architecture led by George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Joe Lieberman as our sole voice).

Guns are an issue. We can argue over what to do, but we can never forget that basic public safety is at risk.

The Global War on Terror is also an issue, but it’s one that we can’t really focus on when we’re out of power.

Add anything you like — but the point is that we focus on stuff the government can control, and we force the Republicans to address them. We can even share the credit if we have to, because the issues are what matter.

In short, we will make government work. And our base will see the improvement, and the effort will feed itself. A focus on issues will help us recruit committed candidates.

December BMG Stammtisch

Gonna need a drink ... - promoted by charley-on-the-mta

The Saloon

Come, enjoy some libations, and talk politics at the first post-truth stammtisch. Our now-regular monthly BMG Stammtisch will happen, as usual, the first Wednesday of the month — 7-December— at The Saloon in Davis Square at 7p.

Hope to see you there!

Trump finally finds election fraud


Top Trump campaign aide in Michigan guilty on 10 felony counts

Brandon Hall, the controversial west Michigan blogger who served as a key figure in the Donald Trump campaign’s organizing efforts across the state, was found guilty today on 10 felony counts of election fraud.

In Ottawa County Circuit Court, a jury took less than an hour to find Hall guilty of forging signatures on nominating petitions for a circuit judge candidate who was a Hall political ally. In 2012, Hall, now 27, admitted to signing fake signatures on the petition of Chris Houghtaling as they traveled to the state capital of Lansing to beat the candidate filing deadline. Hall used different pens and both hands to make the signatures look distinct.

Though he hopes to appeal the verdict, Hall now faces up to five years in prison when he is sentenced on Dec. 27. …

Taking The President-Elect Seriously, Not Literally

As Masha Gessen said, "Believe the autocrat." - promoted by charley-on-the-mta

Another piece cross posted from my blog at Hope you like it.

Yesterday a column was posted on by a fellow named Brad Todd, titled “Dear journalists: Stop Taking Trump Literally”.  Mr. Todd says that while journalists take Trump literally, his voters take him seriously and that’s what matters. I read the piece and thought it was bad. After all, I had just a few days ago written a very long post on my own website about journalists doing the exact opposite, taking Trump seriously when he said he had an open mind to climate change and putting words in his mouth to indicate that he did have an open mind, rather than just taking a literal reading of what he said. I also thought the CNN article was written from the wrong perspective, an advertising man advising journalists to look at news as a for-profit industry, the reader as “customer,” and the important customers as Trump voters, and to stop trying to provide as much information possible in as complete a way as is necessary to tell the whole story to as many readers as may find it relevant. “This is seriously a bad take, and I mean that literally,” I said.

But yesterday, a twitter user named @ezlusztig posted a series of tweets that made me rethink the whole idea of taking Donald Trump seriously and not literally. Elliott Lusztig refers to a book by Hannah Arendt called “The Origin of Totalitarianism”, published in 1949, I have not read the book so I rely on his interpretation. He says Ms. Arendt noted how “decent liberals in 1930s Germany would ‘fact check’ the Nazis’ bizarre claims about Jews” failing to understand that the Nazis were not stating fact but intent, “not describing what was true, but what would have to be true to justify what they planned to do next.” Another user quotes Jean-Paul Sartre, from his 1944 book “Anti-Semite and Jew” as follows:

Never believe that anti-Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti-Semites have the right to play.

They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert. If you press them too closely, they will abruptly fall silent, loftily indicating by some phrase that the time for argument is past.

Lusztig concludes by referring to Trump’s tweeted falsehood about 3 million illegals voting in this context, which many mainstream news sources rushed to fact-check in its immediate aftermath:

What Trump is saying is not that 3m illegals voted. What he’s saying is: I’m going to steal the voting rights of millions of Americans.

I still think the main points of Todd’s piece are off base and many of his conclusions are wrong (at the very least it’s more relevant to cable-type news than factual reporting), but his ad-man sloganeering can be applied to many Trump’s statements in the context of seeing them as statements of intent rather than literal fact.

So when Trump tells you he thinks 3 million illegal immigrants voted, don’t take him literally and scream, “No they didn’t!” Take it seriously as a threat to take voting rights away from Americans. Often you can find corroboration of his “statement of intent”, like in his pick for Jeff Sessions for AG. Sessions has a 30-year “record of hostility” toward minority voting rights. The Justice Department has been involved in a number of lawsuits in recent years against states seen by the DoJ to be in violation of voting rights laws. This will likely end under Sessions, who cheered the 2013 gutting of the Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court. Or look at his pick of Steve Bannon as chief strategist. Bannon once said he thought only property owners should be allowed to vote, which leaves out large groups of minorities, young people (especially students), people who live in population centers, and, of course, poor people.

When Trump tells you he thinks that protesters are acting in bad faith, or that he believes flag burners ought to be put in jail or denaturalized, don’t take him literally and start talking about whether the public supports a ban on flag burning or argue about whether protesters are right to protest. Take it seriously as a threat to free speech and the right to protest, from a man who as shown over and over again that he can’t stand being criticized and has repeatedly expressed his admiration for totalitarian states that jail dissidents. Look for corroboration in his own history of disdain toward free expression, like when he proposed fighting ISIS in America by closing down our mosques and even threatening to restrict our internet speech like North Korea and other totalitarian states, saying, ”Somebody will say, ‘Oh freedom of speech, freedom of speech.’ These are foolish people. We have a lot of foolish people.

When Trump tells you he thinks this media outlet or that reporter treats him unfairly, don’t take him literally and examine whether the treatment was indeed correct and fair. Take it seriously as a threat to curb freedom of the press and subject it to heavy government interference by a man who has expressed a desire to “open up the libel laws” to make it easier to sue the press for writing about him, and who has first-hand experience in how much fake propaganda (no matter who it comes from) and control of the news cycle can help or hurt someone in the eyes of the American people.

Trump often speaks in an obfuscating manner, and reporters have a hard time getting him to state a position clearly. Trump’s surrogates – and one has to assume this will be true of a White House Press Secretary as well, as far as one exists in a Trump administration – often don’t bother to try to interpret or clarify his statements, deferring back to him or making light of his off-the-cuff way of speaking. When they do provide a “clarification” it will often be an outright lie itself. So reporters interpret Trump’s words for themselves and hack up his quotes to make it seem he said things they would like him to have said. This will continue to be a problem. But making sense of Trump’s nonsense will not be as simple as just listening to exactly what he says. Behind a literal statement that seems so outrageous and obviously incorrect that it must be just a pretext for controversy lies a serious threat feeling its way out into the public discourse, looking for approval from Trump’s followers while providing a cover of plausible deniability to the people making the threat.

So the next time you hear Trump or one of his surrogates say something outrageous, don’t take it as a literal statement. Take it as a serious threat.

Please pay attention!

See you soon.

(follow me on twitter @davibesman)

On getting played.

Winning in politics consists of 1. Activating the persuaded; 2. Persuading the persuadable; 3. Discouraging and softening the opposition. Not converting, not even “defeating”, per se. Ideologically-committed people don’t really change their minds, except perhaps over years and decades. But they — we — are susceptible to divide-and-conquer, and the sowing of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD). We might keep this in mind as we process the outcome of the election, thinking about what-might-have-worked and what-will-work in the future.

George Monbiot lays out what we’re up against:

Yes, Donald Trump’s politics are incoherent. But those who surround him know just what they want, and his lack of clarity enhances their power. To understand what is coming, we need to understand who they are. I know all too well, because I have spent the past 15 years fighting them.

Over this time, I have watched as tobacco, coal, oil, chemicals and biotech companies have poured billions of dollars into an international misinformation machine composed of thinktanks, bloggers and fake citizens’ groups. Its purpose is to portray the interests of billionaires as the interests of the common people, to wage war against trade unions and beat down attempts to regulate business and tax the very rich. Now the people who helped run this machine are shaping the government.

I first encountered the machine when writing about climate change. The fury and loathing directed at climate scientists and campaigners seemed incomprehensible until I realised they were fake: the hatred had been paid for. The bloggers and institutes whipping up this anger were funded by oil and coal companies …

As usual, the left and centre (myself included) are beating ourselves up about where we went wrong. There are plenty of answers, but one of them is that we have simply been outspent. Not by a little, but by orders of magnitude. A few billion dollars spent on persuasion buys you all the politics you want. Genuine campaigners, working in their free time, simply cannot match a professional network staffed by thousands of well-paid, unscrupulous people.

You cannot confront a power until you know what it is. Our first task in this struggle is to understand what we face. Only then can we work out what to do.

Well, for a while at least, we were fighting them to a draw. Look at the number of votes for President, for Senate, and Congress: The center+left is indeed a majority coalition at this point, and as such it is unruly and fractious. There are real differences, sometimes on the technical/policy side, and sometimes on ethical/first principles.

But there is much that unites us, particularly a democratic, logical, liberal, inclusive and collaborative way of working on problems. We believe in making life easier, and that government should do what it can within reason to help.

The Trump agenda, as represented in his Cabinet picks, is in no way a majority agenda. By and large, people want to keep Medicare; they want to protect the environment; they’re not Bannon/Sessions-style racists. They do not wish to hand over more wealth and power to the already wealthy and powerful just because. If you ask them, they’ll tell you so themselves.

We the majority have been cheated — partly by the undemocratic peculiarities of our Constitution, and partly by a breakdown of respect for norms and Constitutional duties. Any of these things may be lawful, but they are surely unjust: The 2000 and 2016 elections cheated us out of Democratic presidents. The Senate cheated us out of a balance-tilting Supreme Court justice — do elections only have consequences if a Republican president is elected? And in general, we’ve been cheated out of a minimally functional legislative process that responds to the needs of the public in reasonable order. The entire American system presupposes a heavy dose of compromise; we have been deprived of even that.

We should have the hard talks. We should strategize and shore up weaknesses. But we should remember we’re up against massive machines of propaganda, дезинформация (disinformation), and obfuscation. They want us to be frustrated and blame each other, and not them. Don’t take the bait. We need each other.

(I should have written this months ago.)

Stephen Lynch (D-MA-8th) Backing Tim Ryan (D-OH) for Minority Leader-And so should his colleagues

Rep. Moulton is also backing Ryan, as noted in the comments. Reps. Clark, Kennedy, and McGovern are with Pelosi. Rep. Capuano to my knowledge remains uncommitted. Others? - promoted by david

In a press release, Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA-8th) officially announced he was coming on board the Tim Ryan challenge to Nancy Pelosi’s leadership.

The Boston Democrat said Monday he respects Pelosi, but believes Democrats need to change direction and widen their focus to regain the trust of hard-working American families who are the party’s traditional base.

The former ironworker says he believes Ryan understands the plight of American workers and can help the party win back the support of what Lynch describes as “lunch bucket Democrats” who struggle to raise families but haven’t had a raise in a long time.

Lynch says Democrats are increasingly seen as a party of narrow interests backed by elites by ignoring the economic struggles of average Americans.

Lynch calls the recent election “an epic failure and another lost opportunity.”

I’ve had my disagreements with Lynch in the past over Iraq, ACA, choice, and LGBT rights. But he has really transformed himself since the loss to Ed Markey as a progressive on social and foreign policy while retaining an authenticity and consistency about labor, fair trade, and progressive economics. He ran against NAFTA long before Donald Trump did. Lynch grew up in a housing project and is a former labor organizer and iron worker, so he knows what it’s like to punch a clock that doesn’t have your name embossed on it. I still disagree with him from time to time, but I respect that he has always been his own man which allows him to take on long odd causes like this one.

Tim Ryan was a consistent critic of the Iraq Warthe and someone from humble origins having been raised by a single mother and going to state school on a football scholarship. His political mentor was Jim Traficant, the crazy and occasionally corrupt odd ball who used to say ‘beam me up’ on the floor of the House got his start as a sheriff who didn’t jail foreclosure victims and took their side. Ryan has followed in those populists footsteps consistently trying to keep and bring jobs to his district long hard hit by foreign trade, automation, and globalization.

This is the kind of district our party lost and needs to get back. And putting someone like Ryan in charge would be the fresh change we need from a party that only raises money from elites to a party that returns to grassroots organizing. He wants the DCCC to emulate Organizing for America, he wants to get the Sanders wing a leadership role in the House, and he refuses to waver on our historic commitment to equal justice for all-he just wants to emphasize the economic aspects of that mission just as much as the social aspects.

It’s time for a change. Our party can’t continue to languish in the minority and only represent the coasts. It’s time to make the Democratic Party democratic again, and this is a start. I will call my Congressmen Seth Moulton and urge him to join his colleague. I encourage you to do the same.

Resiliency in the age of Trump

Part of living in the Trump era is to find the points of resiliency — the parts of government we can still influence for the better, amidst the onslaught of bad faith, disenfranchisement, and kleptocracy that will issue from Washington. The swamp will flourish; but we still have gardens to tend at the state and local levels.

Trump will try to reverse the Obama administration’s environmental progress at the federal level. That means that we should try harder, and stretch farther, in our local efforts.The action is now here. There is no reason why Massachusetts, its cities, and New England generally can’t keep on the path to renewable energy and climate resiliency — and even encourage other states to take up the charge as well. Since cities produce 75% of greenhouse gas emissions, there is plenty we can do at a local level. It does add up, and cities all over the country are indeed taking the lead. Witness the commitments made by 14 Greater Boston mayors: By 2050, Greater Boston will be net-zero in carbon; efficient/low energy buildings; smart growth; and so forth. This is great, and ought to be expanded and followed by others.

In doing so we’ll bring a number of other states along. We’ve had the highly successful Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative for several years now. There’s also the Transportation and Climate Initiative, comprising eleven northeastern states, whose purpose is to reduce emissions from the stubborn transportation sector. (One of their current initiatives is to install electric-car charging stations along the major highways of the Northeast.)

We need to fix the things that were left behind from this year’s energy bill. Specifically, we need a higher Renewable Portfolio Standard growth requirement — that simply means that the state’s utilities have to buy more energy from renewables, at a 2% year-over-year increase.

And needless to say, in order to de-carbonize transportation, we need to revive and sustain the MBTA. With a Governor and a Speaker of the House that refuse to provide anything other than Band-Aids to the T’s ongoing, maddening decay, one isn’t optimistic. We need the pressure of the gubernatorial race in 2018 to highlight the deficiencies in Baker’s no-revenue approach: He hasn’t fixed anything yet, and he’s not going to without a real commitment to the system.

These may all seem trivial by themselves, until one realizes that municipalities all over the country are doing many of the same things, coordinating with each other, learning best practices, and hopefully now moving with a sense of real urgency — panic — since we’ve got an actual madman at the helm.

What is your town doing to lower emissions?

Automation takes its toll

Lots of important stuff in this post, and in the excellent comment thread. - promoted by david

Automated toll gantry

I realized this holiday, while doing my annual shuttle duty for children arriving and departing Logan airport, that an era truly has ended. The toll plaza at the Callahan tunnel, along with all the others, is dark. A construction crew is working their way from left to right, demolishing the empty structure.

We have a great deal of conversation here, much of it acrimonious, about the loss of low-skill hourly jobs that pay well. We have read passionate and heart-felt expositions about the suffering of workers, about how the Democrats “abandoned” workers, about how the GOP “betrays” workers, and about the endless promises of both parties to “bring back” these “good jobs”. We are being told that we Democrats lost because we didn’t make such promises loudly enough and frequently enough.

So I want to use the automation of the MA Pike tolls as an example, and ask how serious we really are about all this. I note that this changes means that about 400 workers will lose their jobs. These have been well-paid jobs that do not require a college education. For decades, these jobs were political plums handed out as part of patronage deals routinely conducted by both parties.

The economics are unavoidable. Conservative organs like the Pioneer Institute tell us how much these jobs cost. As is always the case, the economics of automation are compelling.

So why are we not marching in the street to demand that these jobs be saved? Why do we Democrats join our conservative brothers in the GOP in removing the livelihood of these 400 toll collectors? Where is our much-vaunted solidarity with fellow working men and women?

This is part of my fundamental argument with our post-truth society, and especially with my fellow Democrats who argue that we “betrayed” labor — working-class white men especially, and even more than that, working-class white men without college degrees.

Did any of us demand that the toll booths stay in place to protect these jobs? NO. Hell no.

Constructive Brainstorming

Excellent questions. - promoted by Bob_Neer

Sanders lost to Clinton who lost to Trump. Both are well admired, well qualified, strongly progressive candidates who lost. Instead of the primary being relitigated constantly, let us concede that both candidates were flawed and both failed at their respective goals.

How do we as a movement move past a candidate driven model and towards an issues driven model like the religious right and economic right have? How do we create a generation of activists excited about issues and working towards candidates that advance those issues? What should those issues be and which voters should they target? How do we do this in all 50 states? How do we do this in our own state and community which is too frequently Democratic in Name Only or Liberal Except Where it Affects My Bottom Line?

The Butterfly Effect: Trump's Election, Randomness, and Lessons Learned

Events with momentous consequences don't necessarily have momentous causes - promoted by hesterprynne

Trump’s win was somewhat flukish, taking advantage of a big Electoral College-popular vote split and an opponent who was really disliked and had some bad news hit at the wrong time.

–Nate Silver

At 6:15 AM on November 9, I was surprised to find myself as Jonah Goldberg’s strange bedfellow. In the parking lot of Cumberland Farms, I heard the National Review editor on NPR saying he felt traumatized. That’s how I felt. He was much less upset about the direction our country would take than I was, but like me, he felt that the world had been turned upside down. Democrats had lost the Presidency, Senate, House, and Supreme Court. Almost no one saw this coming. Like many, I thought we were on the cusp of a gradual change to Democratic dominance; instead, an unanticipated explosion of national proportions blew us backwards 20 years and breathed new life into a Republican Party whose imminent death was greatly exaggerated.

The Monday morning quarterbacking began that Wednesday, though much of it was hard to take seriously. After all, almost everyone in the know (including me) turned out to be wrong, and they didn’t have much data to base their thoughts on. The predictions of the direction of Trump’s future presidency were even more ridiculous. The President-Elect had no record of governing. On the campaign trail, he consistently contradicted himself, sometimes in the same sentence, there was nothing to go on. A few weeks later, there is a bit more clarity. Trump has appointed some officials. We have some data about who voted and who didn’t. To understand this election, however, we have a long, long way to go. Having all the right information doesn’t guarantee a sound conclusion.

There’s a temptation to attribute big causes to big effects. It’s a version of salience bias. The outcome of this election was so cataclysmic, we assume that there must have been a huge reason and ignore the fact that the race was so close that the winner actually lost the popular vote. Changing one or two of the innumerable factors in this election could have easily changed the electoral result.

Unremarked upon, in fact, ironically so, is another factor that we tend not to consider: randomness. Sometimes there is no pattern. Sometimes there is no predictability. If we could hold the election 100 times, we’d have a good idea of just how much randomness is involved, but the fact is, the election result, while legitimate, might have been an accident. Millions of people making intentional decisions doesn’t mean the election result was a result of collective intention.

For better or worse, political commitment means trying to learn what we can do to get the votes we need to make our country a better place. Here are my lessons:

"The end of identity liberalism"?

Bumped, for glory. - promoted by Bob_Neer

Columbia professor Mark Lilla argues in the NYT “One of the many lessons of the recent presidential election campaign and its repugnant outcome is that the age of identity liberalism must be brought to an end.”

He continues:

A convenient liberal interpretation of the recent presidential election would have it that Mr. Trump won in large part because he managed to transform economic disadvantage into racial rage — the “whitelash” thesis. This is convenient because it sanctions a conviction of moral superiority and allows liberals to ignore what those voters said were their overriding concerns. It also encourages the fantasy that the Republican right is doomed to demographic extinction in the long run — which means liberals have only to wait for the country to fall into their laps. The surprisingly high percentage of the Latino vote that went to Mr. Trump should remind us that the longer ethnic groups are here in this country, the more politically diverse they become.

An alternate interpretation is that while 2016 may indeed mark the end of “identity liberalism,” or at least its decline despite capturing a majority of votes (thanks, Electoral College!), it also marks the success of “identity conservativism” after the victory of an explicitly racist and sexist candidate. (As a point of reference with respect to Latinos, an estimated 79 percent voted for Clinton). In other words, the biggest identity group exploited an explicitly anti-democratic system it created to cling to power.

What do you think?

Draining the swamp

Nice. - promoted by Bob_Neer

Donald Trump famously promised, during his campaign, to “drain the swamp” of Washington DC. Various reports like this suggest that he is instead surrounding himself with alligators (emphasis mine):

Trump taps into DeVos family to head education.

The DeVos family, heirs to the Amway fortune, has long been a leading source of money for Republicans in Michigan and beyond. Just in the last three elections before 2016, members of the family gave nearly $9.5 million to party committees and candidates.

Mrs. DeVos had money of her own before she married Richard DeVos Jr., the Amway scion. Her father, Edgar Prince, built his own auto parts supplier, in Holland, Mich. Her brother, Erik Prince, founded Blackwater USA, a private security contractor whose guards were convicted of killing 14 civilians in Baghdad in 2007.

So in just one appointment, Mr. Trump has returned to his pyramid-scheme roots and his love of torture. We heard a lot about “Trump University” during the campaign. We did not hear as much about another Donald Trump fraud, the Trump Network. The family that Ms. DeVos married into succeeded where Mr. Trump failed — Amway at least sells real (even if mediocre) products in its pyramid scheme.

Blackwater, as the NYTimes piece points out, was the consulting firm that earned handsome profits from torture. Their reputation was so bad that they’ve had to change their name not just once (to “Xe”) but twice — most recently to “Academi”.

Long a proponent of private school vouchers. Ms. Devos will supplement Mr. Trump’s outreach to his white racist supporters, as she does all in her power to destroy public education and replace it with private (and of course, all-white) schools.