new york times

“We Should Be In A Rage”

I’m sharing this Op-Ed piece in yesterday’s New York Times by Charles M. Blow. It’s important. Americans should read it. And share it. Then ask yourself: do you know people who don’t vote? – and what will you do to make sure they do vote in this year’s elections? So here it is, followed by the link. Bold emphasis is mine. (If I’m breaking any rules, NYT, please let me know.)

We Should Be In A Rage

Voter apathy is a civic abdication. There is no other way to describe it.

If more Americans — particularly young people and less-wealthy people — went to the polls, we would have a better functioning government that actually reflected the will of the citizenry.

But, that’s not the way it works. Voting in general skews older and wealthier, and in midterm elections that skew is even more severe.

As David Wasserman wrote on the Cook Report last year:

“Voters under the age of 30 were 19 percent of all voters in 2012, but just 12 percent of all voters in 2010. Likewise, voters 65 and up were 17 percent of all voters in 2012, but 21 percent of all voters in 2010. Herein lies the biggest danger for Democratic candidates in 2014.”

Now we hear murmuring that Republicans hold a slight advantage going into 2014, not strictly because that’s the will of the American people, but because that may well be the will of the people willing to show up at the polls.

There is an astounding paradox in it: too many of those with the least economic and cultural power don’t fully avail themselves of their political power. A vote is the great equalizer, but only when it is cast.

The strategy here is simple: Break the spirit. Muddy the waters. Make voting feel onerous and outcomes ambiguous. And make it feel like a natural outgrowth of tedium and bickering, and not a well-funded, well-designed effort. Make us subsist on personality politics rather than principled ones.

The greatest trick up the sleeves of the moneyed and powerful is their diabolical ability to render themselves invisible and undetectable, to recede and operate behind a front, one relatable and common. Our politics are overrun with characters acting at the behest of shadows.

These are the politicians to whom we have become accustomed — too much polish, and too much beam — which is precisely the reason they should warrant our suspicion and not our trust, the way one cannot trust a cook with pots too pretty and not burned black on the bottoms.

And yet too many people shrug or sleep when they should seethe.

We should be in a rage over the Roberts court’s seemingly implacable drive to vest corporations with the rights of people and unleash the full fury of billionaires to bend our politics to their will.

We should be in a rage over the widespread attempts to disenfranchise voters, from the gutting of the Voting Rights Act to the rise of the Voter ID movement — a near-naked attempt by conservatives to diminish the number of Democratic voters.

We should be in a rage over Republican efforts, particularly on the state level, to drag the range of women’s reproductive options back to the 1960s.

We should be in a rage over the extraordinary pressures facing ordinary families. According to The New York Times’ Economix blog, college costs have risen over 500 percent since 1985, medical and gas costs more than 300 percent. And, the Pew Research Center reported Tuesday that “in inflation-adjusted dollars, average weekly child care expenses for families with working mothers who paid for child care” rose 70 percent from 1985 to 2011.

And yet, a report last week from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that “some 69 percent of the cuts in House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s new budget would come from programs that serve people of limited means.”

We should be in a rage over the fact that people in this country can work a full-time job and not earn a living wage.

We should be in a rage that this country’s infrastructure is literally crumbling beneath us. The “2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure,” produced by the American Society of Civil Engineers, gave our infrastructure an overall grade of D+ and estimated that $3.6 trillion would be needed by 2020 to fix it.

We should be in a rage that we are spiraling toward cataclysmic, irreversible climate change with little interest or effort in averting it, with little coverage and less than accurate coverage.

But where rage should be, there is too often a whimper.

When will we demand the country we deserve: reflective of its people, protective of its people, simply of its people? When will the young and the poor and the aggrieved and the forsaken walk abreast to the polls and then to the public squares?

If we don’t like the government we have, we can change it. If we don’t like the path we’re on, we can alter it.

Democracy is durable, but not incorruptible. The very purity of the concept invites those determined to alter it, to tilt it toward oligarchy, to slowly, imperceptibly if possible, bring it to a calamitous end.

The drift of the boat seems inconsequential until it encounters the falls.


Link to NYT Op-Ed 9 Apr 2014:

Link to featured image:


The End (so far)


Not From Around Here, Are You?

It’s hard to imagine life on earth without Harvard and The New York Times, isn’t it? Here’s something that is both fun and educational. But first, I digress.

In the mid-80s, I moved from New York to Seattle. I lasted a year. Because although I knew our planet orbits a star called the Sun every 365 days, I hadn’t had any proof of that during my time in the Great Northwest. So I fled back into the light. Now I’ve digressed in the midst of a digression. If there’s a word for that, please, keep it to yourself.

So there I was, cast into the overcast. People seemed nice. They were inordinately blond and big-toothed. A huge percentage of them had family names ending in -son. Plaid was in, forever probably. Oh, and carrying an umbrella marked you as a rube, and outlander, a wimp! “What rain?!” or “Liquid sunshine!” (That chirpy phrase alone must account for a large number of the annual suicides in the NW.)

One of my first experiences among these curious creaturesons was in a 7-Eleven. It might’ve been a Circle-K. I waited in line and when I got to the cashier, she rang up my items and said, “Wanchyerpopinnasak?” Our conversation spriraled downward:

“Pardon me?”


“Excuse me, I didn’t hear you…”


Now she was getting a little exasperated, and I was kind of embarrassed. I didn’t want to be rude, but I couldn’t begin to make out the language she was speaking.

“I’m sorry. I just don’t under—“

popsackJust then, a helpful voice chimed in from the ever-lengthening line behind me. She is asking you if you want your soda in a bag

Ah, so wanchyerpopinnasak = want your pop in a sack! OK, I’m down with that. But who the hell calls these things “pop” or “sack”?!

Later, as my journey took me to other corners of this country, I’ve learned first hand (ear?) that we Americans use different words to mean the same thing. And many of these are regional (or subregional) peculiarities. Because what is “soda” in New York is “pop” in Seattle is “coke” in Texas. (Yes, in TX they call every fizzy beverage “a coke”. Which reminds me to re-watch the Louis Black clip on NY vs TX. You’ll find that gem to the right, under ‘Top Shelf’. You’re welcome.) And regional differences are refreshing, I think, in a flattened landscape where every department store from sea to shining sea is now called Macy*s.

So Harvard guy figured out what-people-say-where. NYT guy figured out how to create a rich visual representation of the data. And here’s a 25-question online quiz that pinpoints where the people live who talk most like you. Of course, it’s very likely to be where you were raised. Overall, I say words similarly to others who started out in and around NYC. But you get a little mini-map with each question you answer, which shows that for any given response, your dialect may fall in more with the crowd from Cleveland or Chattanooga than your gaggle in Greenwich or Great Falls. If you spent time in Boston, you might lose an R here and theah. If you went to Brown or RISD, you might find those missing Rs on your pizzer or in the cushions of your sofer. And if you’ve never left the crib, then you can see how funny people talk in all those other funny places that you apparently never want to visit.

Have fun. You’ll learn something. And what were you going to do with the next five minutes, anyway?