Politicians Raising Money

We all hear that politicians have to spend a lot of time raising money to fund their ongoing campaigns. Quartz was able to quantify what that means:

$24,149

Median amount of money raised every week in the third quarter by a member of Congress in a competitive race. The 37 incumbents analyzed had a median $317,380 raised in Q3. [Michael Beckel, Issue One]

Not long ago I attended a breakfast with our Washington Senator Patty Murray, and my calculation was that she took away just about that much. If so, it means she has to attend an event like that a week, and her staff has to do the work of filling those events with people willing to write checks. And/or, she has to find some deep-pocketed donors who can move the number up without so much face time. Or, she has to align with something like the Koch network, and promise to do their bidding in return for not having to worry about political fund-raising at all. I know she hasn’t done the latter, so I have to add fund-raising to her considerable array of skills as a senator. The amount of time she must have to spend on it makes me wonder how anyone holds on to their idealistic sense of public service at all. I think she does, and it’s something of a miracle.

 

Justices Averse to Numbers

I don’t have a great math background, despite my years in the financial services industry. My late husband Jerry could look at a page of complex numerical projections and tell immediately that something was amiss, before he even picked up his calculator to figure out what it was. I can figure out what’s off kilter with a page of writing with just a quick look, but never with numbers.

Quantitative evidence-based data can be gathered in most fields, and illuminates aspects of complex problems. Now we have computers to churn the data, but understanding what’s been churned is critical in overall decision making.

Turns out that most judges, including the very smart Harvard and Yale graduates that sit on the Supreme Court, are either not very good at applying quantitative data in their decisions, or are resistant to doing so for ideological reasons.

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-supreme-court-is-allergic-to-math/?ex_cid=SigDig

I was startled when I read this article, as I’d assumed the justices use all the available information in making their far-reaching decisions. That they do not, either because they lack the mental tools to employ quantitative data or prefer to be guided by their own core beliefs and assumptions, is yet another blow to the credibility of the nation’s highest court.

Lily’s Latest Adventures

I wonder if you remember when you took your first real trip, far enough away to realize that everyplace isn’t the same. As kids we went from our home of Kearny in north Jersey to the Jersey shore, which wasn’t really that far away. After all, it was still Jersey. But my father was an Iowa boy, and every August we drove to the midwest to visit his family. Once the Pennsylvania Turnpike was built, that meant a rapid fire highway trip through the tunnels, across Pennsylvania, through Ohio and Indiana and Illinois, across the Mississippi and into Burlington, Iowa, where my Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Owen lived. We stayed in Howard Johnson’s motels along the way; hot turkey sandwiches on white bread with gravy, and 31 flavors of ice cream. Once we got there, we ate mashed potatoes and sausage gravy, corn and tomatoes from the garden, and home made fruit pies. We didn’t eat things like that much at home.

Lily had her first taste of travel when she visited Seattle, and New Jersey, and New York. Now she’s in Tegucigalpa, and loving every moment. She’s doing the full-on tourist thing: panoramic vistas, iconic churches and statuary, food. It’s all good, and it’s called becoming a seasoned traveler.

Update on Minga: A Fall

Having a daughter traveling abroad is not a common experience for a village woman, and Lily’s mother Rufina wants to stay in close touch with her daughter during this Honduras-Nicaragua trip. Because of that daily phone call, Lily is getting news of Minga as well. Then she’s messaging me on WhatsApp.

While spending a day at home in Rio Hato, Minga tripped and fell, hitting her face and splitting her lip open. She’s been treated and is recovering, but it was an unfortunate mis-step that only adds to her misery. Eating is harder, and her entire mouth aches. Sounds as if she has what we might think of as a boxer’s fat lip.

When you’re dealing with a complex medical condition, we’d all like to think we’d get a pass on things like falling down and hurting ourselves. But life isn’t like that, and the ordinary and the profound continue to enter our lives all in one.

General Kelly’s Son

Trump will use anyone and anything to make himself look better — including his Chief of Staff John Kelly’s dead son, killed in Afghanistan. The question now is whether John Kelly will stand silent in the face of Trump’s disgusting manipulation.

Getting to Know Seattle: The Way We Feel At Home

I walked back home from the downtown YMCA, through Pike Place market, and noticed that at this time of year, Seattle smells like roasting coffee, pot smoke, and fall leaves. Hershey, PA, smells like chocolate year round. The Jersey shore towns that I frequented growing up often had a salty, briny smell, when the breeze was coming on land from the ocean. Rainy season in rural Panama smells like rotten mangoes, and at the end of the growing season when they burn the cane fields, like caramelized sugar.

I wonder if part of what makes us feel at home is the familiarity of how a place smells?

What do you think? Does the place where you live have a distinctive smell at this, or any time of year?

Lily in Tegucigalpa

Lily is in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. Clearly she’s relishing seeing, doing, meeting new people, and eating new things. That’s a chocolate covered banana, likely frozen, which is evidently a popular treat. She’s also having a pupusa, which is a corn tortilla topped with cheese and any of a number of other things, like chicharron [fried pork rind], bacon bits, shredded meats, refried beans and local root vegetables like ayote.

The young men are twins: Carlos Ramon and Carlos Eduardo, and that is her friend Zulma.

 

Don’t Pine for Pence

Jane Mayer is an extremely talented investigative reporter. She wrote Dark Money, which traces the long term strategy and huge investment which the Koch brothers have made since 2008 to promote libertarian causes. Among those causes are deregulation of the energy sector, where Koch Industries makes its money, and abolishing the estate tax, which will save the brothers billions of dollars.

Mike Pence is a Koch network boy. So, to my surprise, are a lot of Trump cabinet-level appointees: Betsy deVos, Scott Pruitt, Don McGahn, Mike Pompeo.

Pence is a really bad combination of doctrinaire ideologue, keen political ambition, a mediocre intellect, and a highly deficient moral sense.  He was in deep political trouble as Indiana’s governor, mostly for having forced through the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which make it legal to discriminate against LGBTQ people who lived in the state. Business revolted. The legislature passed a less discriminatory version of the bill, and Pence signed it. Both sides were angry: those who supported civil rights for all Indiana citizens, and the right wing religious conservatives who thought Pence had compromised to save his political skin. He was not expected to win re-election, and then he was discovered by Trump.

Pence is right out of central casting for a political figure, and he says mean and ugly things in a soft voice and with a smile. In that he’s more palatable than Trump, which may make him even more dangerous. He’s no improvement on what we now contend with, as Mayer’s reporting makes clear.

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/10/23/the-danger-of-president-pence

John McCain, American Patriot

I didn’t vote for John McCain when he ran for president. I thought his choice of Sarah Palin was a terrible misstep. I disagree with a lot of the Republican policies he’s promoted over the years.

And yet…

He is, unarguably, an American hero and a patriot. He is also a decent man. When a supporter in 2008 shouted that she was sure then-candidate Obama was a closet Muslim, McCain broke in to say that his opponent was an honorable man with whom he had policy differences.

McCain took a hard shot at Trump during a speech as McCain received the Liberty Medal in Philadelphia on Monday. The hard shot was justified. What worries me is that the line against Trump cruelty, craziness, and venality is being held by 81 year old John McCain, 64 year old Susan Collins, 67 year old Patty Murray, 66 year old Chuck Schumer, 77 year old Nancy Pelosi, 84 year old Diane Feinstein, and 84 year old Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Where are all the younger people with political courage and a conscience?