Bernie Sanders, the virtual Democrat

Bernie Sanders’ movement from longest-of-long-shots to contender has been built on the basis of two sets of voters: young and independent. Lots of overlap between these two groups, of course, but a common refrain has been heard from both: they love his message and they are tired of the two major parties.

So it might have been troubling for them to hear Sanders say this at his victory party in New Hampshire following his big primary win:

Because of a huge voter turnout - and I say huge - we won because we harnessed the energy and the excitement that the Democratic Party will need to succeed in November.

Yes, Bernie Sanders, the democratic socialist non-Democrat running against the Democratic establishment, endorsed – the Democratic Party.

Sanders is no fool, and he’s also not an enemy of the Democratic Party. He caucuses with them in the Senate. He depends on them as his colleagues. He even shares in their ill-gotten gains from Wall Street, bankers, and other Clinton-type supporters through the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. He’s not been a registered Democrat until he decided to run for the nomination, but he’s been a virtual Democrat his entire time in the Congress.

And if he wants to be our next President, he’s going to have to be totally committed to the party from here on.

He gets it. He’s smart, he’s tactical, and, I believe, he doesn’t believe the Democratic Party is no different than the Republican. He knows better than that. He voted with Hillary Clinton 93% of the time while they were in the Senate together. He supports much of what Obama has done. He knows that many Democrats agree with him on many issues. He has no problem associating with the...

I am not. "ist" versus "ism"

Gimlet Media’s “Start Up” podcast had an interesting discussion about racism among the users of dating apps. The co-founder of one service, looking over the comments and preferences of her company’s users, was clear in her assessment: a lot of her users were racists.

She hated saying it. She wanted to think well of people she was trying to help via the service. But the evidence, backed up by data from research into multiple sites and services, is clear: racism is abundant and open in these apps and services.

The discussion made me wonder: Is there a difference between “being a racist” and “racism”? Are these the same thing?

I am not a racist. Period. End of story. I do nothing that a racist does. I don’t base my decisions on race. I don’t treat people differently because of race. I don’t make assumptions based on treat. I not only know all people are created equal and hold the same rights because we’re all human beings; I practice that.

Notice the active verbs in that paragraph. I am not a racist because my actions are explicitly and determinedly, not just non-racist but anti-racist. I do what I can to support what people of color in my community are doing. I speak out against the racist words and actions of other white people. I try to be just, equitable, and non-racists.

Again: active verbs. What I am doing, or trying to do.

On the other hand: I am infected by the evil of racism. When I see a black man walking down the street, I see all kinds of stereotypes. I hear echoes of the fears about “thugs” and such. When I see a group of brown-skinned men speaking in Spanish on a street...

Polls, liars, and perceptions

Here’s a dirty secret about polls: People want to back winners more than they want to be honest about their own preferences.

Following the Iowa caucuses, both Bernie Sanders and Marco Rubio made gains in national polls. For voters in California, New York, Louisiana, and every other state that isn’t Iowa or New Hampshire, nothing changed following the caucuses. The candidates were still the same people with the same experience and policies and backgrounds. Nothing substantive happened to change people’s minds.

Except some candidates won, and some lost. And Americans hate associating themselves with losers. We throw people under the bus with a speed that is stunning. And nothing leads us to kick out one beloved political or pop culture figure like another person coming along who is shinier, sexier, winningier.

Sanders tied Clinton in Iowa when the common wisdom was he would lose. Rubio finished third, and it was not only a strong third but the national media couldn’t stop crowing about how well he’d done. So come Wednesday morning, the two winners from Iowa were Sanders and Rubio.

Lo and behold, they went zipping up the polls. Same old candidates, brand new results.

For Clinton, this phenomenon will haunt her another week and a half: she’s going to lose badly in New Hampshire but should win South Carolina and Nevada. If she can win those decisively, the barely committed poll respondents who are swayed by whoever the latest winner was may change their minds yet again. Or it could be too late by then.

Trump’s advantage is that he has a big lead in New Hampshire and far fewer religionists to undermine his campaign. He has a chance to stem the Rubio tide. Clinton needs to lose by as little as...

Background checks hearing: remove the 3-day limit

Did you know: If you submit your background check paperwork to buy a gun and the paperwork isn’t done in three days, you get your gun! What could possibly go wrong?

On Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee will hear a bill (HB 4147) that would remove that three-day time limit, requiring all background checks to be completed before a gun can be legally sold. This is the very definition of “sensible” and “responsible” gun legislation.

If there is a problem with the background check system, the answer isn’t to bypass the system. If legal gun sales are held up because the system isn’t providing background check responses in three days, the system needs to be fixed. Putting the public’s safety on the line is not the right answer.

I don’t know what the extent of the problem is; that’s probably something that will be made clear (or not, depending on who is testifying) at the hearing. But I’m pretty certain it’s not a huge problem or the gun “rights” extremists would be calling for the entire background check system to be dismantled. My assumption is that it’s working fine as it is. And in terms of a system this large, “fine” means “occasional glitches”.

But if it isn’t, hoping that the person who gets their gun without the check being completed isn’t someone who should be denied the permit is too big a risk. The system exists to protect those of us on the other side of the gun. If we require all permits to be completed, even if it takes more than three days because the system isn’t working properly, then we at least have that level of assurance.

The onus isn’t on gun safety advocates to prove that someone whose check doesn’t get done in time will use...

The mind of the evangelical

Here’s some “insider baseball” on being an evangelical Christian, based on my experiences as a young man. Most liberals/progressives have a flawed, incomplete understanding of evangelical ideology; I’d like to help expand that understanding.

Politics was not part of my evangelical experience initially; I grew up a Democrat, voted for Jimmy Carter, and kept my liberal sensibilities throughout. I think it was my grounding in liberalism, passively shared by my mother, that eventually led me to question and then abandon my faith. But i think this could help some of you not familiar with evangelicalism to understand that mindset.

As a born-again Christian, you are taught two things (beyond fundamentals of sin and salvation). One, that because of your faith, the “world” hates you and thinks you are foolish. In fact, you’re taught it’s the world’s beliefs that are foolish because of their sinfulness.

Second, those who hate you because of your faith are going to hell forever. And you, as one of the redeemed, will rule with the Messiah over them for eternity.

In short, to be born-again is to combine self-hatred, paranoia, and narcissism. Fortunately, proof of what you believe is irrelevant: faith is its own justification. Evangelical Christians, of course, are not unique in this mindset; it is common to any binary belief system. Plenty of lefties, in fact, believe in this way, albeit without the “I’m gonna live forever” element.

Humans want to believe they are right, beyond any doubt, because that makes life easier to live.

The world proves to evangelicals, over and over, that these basic tenets are correct: gays, abortion, sex, liberalism in general, hostility from other religions (ignoring Christianity’s historic role in fomenting that hostility), and so on. Add to this a slew of creative interpretations of...

History lesson: Federal lands belong to all U.S. citizens.

Let’s review history.

In 1789, the United States Constitution became, not just the law of the land but the basis for the laws of our land. At that time, there were thirteen states and the “western” territories – i.e., all the land that extended to the “frontier”, the Mississippi River.

in 1803, President Jefferson bought the Louisiana Purchase from France. This vast territory became the property of the federal government.

In 1848, the United States the Oregon Territory was created, following on a series of treaties with Great Britain. Also in 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo led to the U.S. gaining most of the territory that would become California and other states, as well as giving Texas its final border configuration.

And of course there were the smaller additions, like the Gadsden Purchase, and the purchase of Alaska as well as the theft of Hawaii. Every bit of this territory became property of the United States government – of the people of the United States.

Every time the federal government purchased or took new territory, they opened that land to settlers and the railroads. There was not a consistent plan that was followed over the years. At times, settlement was used to determine which territories would be free and which would be slave. Lands granted to the railroads were done in a strange “checkerboard” manner that continues to be a bane for ranchers as well as state and federal land managers.

Eventually, new states were created. By the time of the Civil War, there were 34 states, including California and Oregon on the Pacific coast. The 48 continental states – today’s map of the nation, excluding Alaska and Hawaii – was complted in 1912 with...

Flashback: Howard Dean, 2003. You have the power.

Wayback Machine: 2003. Dean for America, at its height. This is why so many of us joined to support Dr Dean. His campaign combined both an unprecedented use of the web but also told us to organize & campaign locally as we thought best; no top-down micromanaging. No, the campaign did not end as we'd hoped. But DFA got so many people involved in politics for the first time; it got me into the way I am today. It brought progressive candidates forward. Then Dr Dean became Chair of the DNC and won back the House & set the stage for Obama's victory.

I still love Howard Dean & the campaign of 2003. Possibly the best thing I've ever been part of in politics. The Sanders people have nothing on what we did in 2003; we built a campaign that brought lasting change to American politics. And we showed that...

Spoiled & armed

I understand: the feds don’t want any martyrs to come out of Harney County. Bloodshed of any kind would be a disaster, and confrontation could easily escalate into gunfire. Some of the out-of-state seditionists at the refuge are itching for a fight, and that’s what the feds do not want to give them.

But I don’t understand why that means they still have electrical power and they get deliveries from FedEx. I don’t understand why they get to meet with the media and plan public events. They are criminals, without question, but apparently a special class of criminal – the kind law enforcement lets set the terms of engagement.

To which I say, Hell no!

I don’t know how much say Gov Kate Brown has in what’s going on, but she needs to pressure the feds to stop treating these guys like honored guests. Senators Wyden and Merkley need to add to that pressure. (Greg Walden, who represents that area in Congress, hasn’t the guts to do anything beyond being mealy-mouthed, but that’s what his Beltway masters pay him for.) Stop letting these thugs act like they’re on vacation at MilitiaWorld.

Cut the power to the site.

Blockade the roads.

No delivery vehicles. No media. Jam their cell phones.

If these guys want to be bad-ass armed “liberators”, they need to act like it. They need to deal with the consequences of committing criminal acts against the federal government, and they need to do it without whining for snacks and socks.

I might have a modicum of respect for these guys if they were acting like Western Men, but they are acting like spoiled thirteen-year-olds. They begin their arguments with “I have lots of guns” and where can reasoned dialogue go from there?...

Frozen Veggie Medley

Let me try to explain what a primary is and why refusing to vote for the other candidate in the general election is the worst possible choice.

Let’s say you have a family of ten people, and they are deciding what to do about dinner. Five of them want burgers; four of them want chicken. These nine are at an impasse, and the tie-breaker goes to Mom who has promised to make her “Frozen Veggie Medley with Cream of Mushroom Soup” along with “Extreme Jello Suprise” for dessert.

No one wants “Frozen Veggie Medley” but if they can’t come to an agreement, then dinner is going to be a nasty affair for everyone but Mom who has been in a very pissy mood of late. Either the four accept burgers – the majority vote – or they can either sulk dinnerlessly or inflict Dinner Hell on everyone.

Ok, not a perfect analogy, but I hope the intent comes through: Hillary or Bernie – or Trump?

A primary is where voters affiliated with a political party select the person they want to be their candidate for office. Because a primary is contested, voters won’t agree with one another. Duh. Many voters will be glad to vote for the winner even if their candidate lost in the primary. They understand that, all differences aside, their party’s nominee is a better choice than the other party’s. They may be disappointed their candidate lost, but they’re willing to suck it up and vote for the person they felt was second-best.

This doesn’t always happen, of course. In some cases, the division between primary opponents, not to mention their supporters, is stark. A campaign can get nasty. For a number of reasons, some supporters may feel resentful, angry,...

How not to do public participation

Engagement. Activism. Citizenship. Great words; hard to put into practice, as we know. In most elections, a majority of voters don’t bother. And when it comes to the on-going work of government, ever fewer Americans get involved.

Here’s one good reason why. This was submitted to Nextdoor.com, my “Mill Park” version (you sign up for your particular neighborhood). An invitation to participate in an important decision the City of Portland will be making. Here’s the web post (see image for screenshot):

Public hearings on draft 2035 Comprehensive Plan begin this week!
4h ago
Community Service Aid Chaise Jonsen from City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability

City Council will hold first hearing on Thursday, November 19. 

2 – 3 p.m.: Testimony will be taken on the Economic Opportunity Analysis, Growth Scenarios Report and other supporting documents. 
3 – 6 p.m.: Testimony will be taken on the Recommended Draft Comprehensive Plan. 

You must sign up to testify. Testimony sign-up sheets will be available one hour before the start of each hearing. 

Additional public hearings are scheduled for Thursday, December 3 and 10. Please check the City Council agenda to confirm dates, times and locations for all hearings.

Shared with all areas in City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability in General

So many problems here; so many barriers to public understanding, much less participation. Let’s start at the top.

“draft 2035 Comprehensive Plan”.

Thank you and good night. Who the hell is going to come within 20 feet of this other than a policy wonk or an insomniac looking for any relief? What a great way to drive away 99.9% of Portlanders: name this event in a way that scares holy hell out of them.

But even if you...

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