Friday, December 16, 2016

Weekend Reading: The Post-News Conference Edition

So, that news conference was not such a big deal after all. I know a lot of people wanted President Obama to come out breathing fire and announce something that would change the fact that come January, he'll be transferring power to Trump... but the rumors that he was going to do that were what had me extra scared yesterday. Obama is a Constitutional scholar and a believer in laws and institutions. He would only act within the Constitution, and any act he could take within the Constitution at this point would be pretty scary, particularly since I suspect that the overlap between Trump's base and the people who never really accepted Obama as a legitimate president is quite high. If people are willing to occupy a wildlife office over grazing rights, what might they do if they think they are being denied the presidency?

Anyway, we got no new information from that press conference other than that President Obama supports the idea of a true bipartisan commission to investigate the Russian interference in our election. That is different from what Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell say they support, which is an investigation by the usual committees. (Nevermind that the chairman of the House Oversight Committee has already signaled he's NOT starting an investigation....) The difference is that the usual committees can choose to hold closed door sessions, don't necessarily provide the minority party with subpoena power, and have other competing priorities that could delay the completion of the investigation. So, if you want to call your representatives and press for an investigation, I recommend mentioning that you are supporting the bill Reps Swalwell and Cummings introduced, or you can say that you are urging a true bipartisan commission like the one we had after the September 11 attacks.

My worries are ratcheted back down to where they were at the beginning of the week, and I'm back to thinking that we need to prepare for a lengthy push to get investigations of Trump's many conflicts of interest and the Russian hacking. I was curious about precedent here, so I went and looked up the timeline for the Watergate scandal. It wasn't as fast as people seem to think. Nixon was re-elected in the middle of it. And that was with Democrats in control of Congress. I look forward to talking with my parents about what they remember from that time over the holidays, to see what lessons we might take for now. Forcing legislators to investigate a President from their own party is not going to be easy, but I think we have to try. And if they won't do it, we have to try to elect people in 2018 who will.

Why do we need an investigation if all our intelligence agencies agree the Russians were behind the hacks? David Frum poses five questions. I would also like to hear FBI Director Comey explain why he treated the hacking news so differently from the discovery of emails from Hillary Clinton on Anthony Weiner's laptop. Why did he keep the former quiet and announce the latter?

I expect to see more attempts at voter suppression bills between now and 2018. As I've said before, the voter suppression nonsense really bothers me. I consider it un-American, or given that it has clearly happened here before, I guess I should say I consider it unworthy of us and counter to our ideals. So here's a manifesto for how to fight it legislatively. I'm still working on a strategy for how I can get involved in that fight in the most meaningful way. There is room for improvement here in California and I will probably contact my state reps to push for it, but I also want to support the effort in places where it is more under threat. I'll let you know when I come up with something beyond donating to the North Carolina NAACP and Mi Familia Vota.

If you're not aware of what is happening in North Carolina right now, here is a short description that puts it into the broader context. I am genuinely curious to hear from any readers who see a defense for what the Republicans are doing right now. It seems so blatantly anti-democratic to me, and I have yet to find any conservative writer defending it. But bubbles, blah blah blah... so maybe I'm missing something. Let me know. I promise to listen!

If you're fired up and ready to fight, here are two things to read: The leader of the NC NAACP about creating a moral movement for change will help you think about why you fight and a document from a group of former Congressional staffers who watched the Tea Party stifle Obama's agenda will give you ideas about how to fight.

I know that I have at times felt like there is little I can do from my safely blue state, but Heather Gerken makes a case about how states like California can use state's rights arguments to fight back. My governor has already had this idea. He gave a rousing speech to the American Geophysical Union, which included a quote that is making the rounds of the internet:

“And, if Trump turns off the satellites, California will launch its own damn satellite”

(If you want to read a summary of the speech, the Sacramento Bee has one.)

Ta-Nehisi Coates' longread on President Obama, My President Was Black, is excellent. But don't miss Tressie McMillan Cottom's response, The Problem with Obama's Faith in White America. That one was a humbling read as I realize even more of how little I understand about how race really works in this country.

Zadie Smith's On Optimism and Despair is excellent, too.

Gianpiero Petriglieri's defense of cosmopolitanism was my favorite thing I read all week.

I meant to share this essay from someone who worked as a voter protection volunteer in Philadelphia earlier, but I forgot. It is an eye opening read. My voting experiences have been uniformly good. I am sad that this is not universally true.

This is a sad story of one type of heartbreak associated with illegal border crossings. So many deaths, so many families who don't know what has happened to their love ones. I wish I thought that the policy changes promised by our new administration would stop this sort of heartbreak, but I don't. I've lived in a border state for all except 6 years of my life. I have never seen an enforcement policy stop people from coming. Changes to enforcement policies just lead to changes in how people come. It is a very big border that covers a lot of wilderness. The amount of money it would take to physically block it boggles my mind. I suspect what we'll do is make it still possible to cross, but even more dangerous. So more people will die. Will fewer people decide to try? I don't know.

(I was going to put in a link to a story I saw earlier today about immigration from Mexico already being much lower than it was earlier, but I can't find that. I don't suppose it would change any minds, anyway. Immigration has become an issue like abortion: land of true beliefs and no room for finding common ground to work towards shared goals. It is too bad, because I think this leads to more death and suffering. In both cases.)

Enough politics... this is a surprisingly interesting deep dive about the F word and its surrogates.

And here's my favorite bunny picture of the week!

Happy weekend, everyone.


  1. Anonymous12:03 PM

    Okay, longtime lurker who politically is left of you, and now feels like an exile rather than an expat from the US. But the way you talk about grazing rights, like it is trivial, grates on my nerves. The armed occupation was stupid, and I am doubtful of the true motivations of at least some of those people, but look, grazing rights are IMPORTANT for a rancher. It is just as much worth fighting for as for what the people at Standing Rock are fighting for: the freedom to not have your traditions and livelihood trampled upon by the government. Changes to grazing rights and other agricultural issues have a major impact on the bottom line for families who already live close to the bone, and make a gamble every year about weather and sickness and a host of things out of the control of humans, while trying to plan long term at the same time. Grazing rights are not trivial.
    Coming from the agricultural community, it really just annoys me that you make it sound like grazing rights are not something to get worked up over. Be worried about the people who favor violence to legal response, but don't trivialize what is a serious issue for the people who provide the food American eat.
    Ranting aside, I really like your blog, and how you're trying to find things to do to preserve democratic principles, and gives me hope that my friends and family in the US might not suffer TOO much in the next couple years.

    1. I'm glad you like my blog. I did not mean to imply grazing rights are trivial, just that they are probably less likely to provoke violence than a constitutional crisis. I am aware of the importance of grazing rights, but will try to be more careful in my wording in case some of my readers are not. I don't really see how to change this post, though, since even after re-reading it several times, I do not see how it is dismissive of grazing rights. They did occupy a wildlife office over grazing rights. I do worry they might do something worse if the current situation proceeds into a Constitutional crisis. I do, though, think the this is a tiny number of people.

      However, I would not characterize the ranchers who have essentially occupied federal land because of changes to grazing rights laws as having the same standing as the people at Standing Rock. In the grazing rights case, a law was changed by a government in which the ranchers have representatives. I understand and respect that the change had a big impact on their ranching businesses, but it was done by their own government. At Standing Rock, a treaty with another sovereign nation was violated. This is made even more egregious by the long history of treaty violations. The Standing Rock people are fighting to have their sovereignty respected. The militia folks can make no such claim, and it is in fact their willingness to try to make sovereignty claims that I find most disturbing. If we all think we get to make our own rules when our government's legitimately enacted laws force us to change our life in some way, we are headed towards something very dangerous.

      I guess it comes down to: I respect farmers and ranchers and the unique difficulties of their business, but do not think their concerns necessarily take precedence over other concerns. I expect them to deal with concerns like the rest of us do: elect representatives that will make our case and work to find acceptable compromises, and settle any disputes with the government in court. We have some big resource use issues to figure out in the not too distant future, including some really thorny water rights issues. We're all going to have to compromise and accept it when the final result requires us to change our lives. The militia guys make it harder to do this, and that is bad for all of us.

    2. Anonymous12:31 PM

      Thanks for the response: it makes the context of your words so much clearer! I suppose since I tend to exclude the people who try to deal with changes in a legal way from the militias, I thought you were lumping them all in together. My fault - sorry.

    3. No apology needed! I'm always happy to discuss my political posts as long as we stay polite, and you did.


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