There's Lots We Can Do
Indivisible on the Offense: New Congress, New Strategy
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"But is this really how change happens?"
Many of the critical advances of the last century and a half – the end of slavery, women’s suffrage, the restriction of child labor and implementation of workplace safety standards, and the outlawing of many forms of discrimination – owe less to the legislative endgame that formalized acceptance of these causes and much more to the social movement that put them on the map.
Likewise, on the international scene, an increasing umber of unelected leaders have ceded power not as a result of traditional diplomacy or military maneuvering. Instead, they were ousted through the demands of unarmed mass mobilizations.
Engler & Engler
This is An Uprising, 2016
"Non-violent demonstrations are twice as effective as violent demonstrations in effecting regime change."
Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict
(Columbia University Press, August 2011)
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"At their core, the principles of civil resistance are inherently democratic:
non-violent campaigns require mass public support & participation if they are to succeed."
(This is an Uprising, Engler & Engler, 2016)
The Politics of Non-Violent Action, 1973
From Dictatorship to Democracy Handbook, 1993
Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals, 1971
Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict
(New York, NY: Columbia University Press, August 2011)
Accomplishments of the Obama Administration
- The Economy -
When Obama took office, the Dow was 6,626; now it is 19,875
The deficit was cut by $800 billion and gone from 9.8% to 3.2% of GDP
By January 2017, the US recorded 82 straight months of private sector job growth, the longest streak in our history
11.3 million new jobs were created under President Obama (far more than President Bush)
Obama has taken unemployment from 10% down to 4.7%
Obama preserved the middle class tax cuts
Consumer confidence has gone from 37.7 to 98.1 during Obama’s tenure
Corporate profits are up by 144%
The Obama administration saved the US Auto industry; 10.4m American cars were sold at the beginning of his term and 17.5m upon his exit
US Exports are up 28%
President Obama passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act
He signed Credit Card reform so that rates could not be raised without notification
- Education -
He doubled Pell Grants
High School Graduation rates hit 83%, an all time high
- Military -
Homelessness among US Veterans has dropped by half
Obama added Billions of dollars to mental health care for our Veterans
He reduced the number of troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan
President Obama repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
Obama shut down the US secret overseas prisons
He banned torture
- Healthcare -
Uninsured adults decreased to <10%; 90% of adults are now insured, an increase of 20 million adults
People are now medically covered for pre-existing conditions
Insurance Premiums increased 58% under Bush; the growth rate of insurance premiums has slowed under Obama
Obamacare has extended the life of the Medicare insurance trust fund until 2030
Abortion is down
- Equality & Fairness -
He appointed the most diverse cabinet ever
Gays and Lesbians can now marry and enjoy the benefits they had been deprived of
He outlawed Government contractors from discriminating against LGBT persons
He passed the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act
Obama banned solitary confinement for juveniles in federal prisons
Violent crime is down
- Security -
He negotiated with Syria to give up and destroy its chemical weapons
His bi-annual Nuclear Summit convinced 16 countries to give up and destroy their loose nuclear material so it could not be stolen
He normalized relations with Cuba
He killed Osama Bin Laden and retrieved all the documents in his possession for analysis
- Science -
He overturned the scientific ban on stem cell research
NASA landed a rover on Mars
Solar and Wind Power are at an all time high
Reliance on foreign oil is at a 40 year low
The New Yorker, 2/2017: Why Facts Don't Change Our Minds
Steven Sloman, a professor at Brown, and Philip Fernbach, a professor at the University of Colorado, both cognitive scientists, believe sociability is the key to how the human mind functions or, perhaps more pertinently, malfunctions. They begin their book, “The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone” (Riverhead), with a look at toilets.
Virtually everyone in the United States, and indeed throughout the developed world, is familiar with toilets. A typical flush toilet has a ceramic bowl filled with water. When the handle is depressed, or the button pushed, the water—and everything that’s been deposited in it—gets sucked into a pipe and from there into the sewage system. But how does this actually happen?
In a study conducted at Yale, graduate students were asked to rate their understanding of everyday devices, including toilets, zippers, and cylinder locks. They were then asked to write detailed, step-by-step explanations of how the devices work, and to rate their understanding again. Apparently, the effort revealed to the students their own ignorance, because their self-assessments dropped. (Toilets, it turns out, are more complicated than they appear.)
Sloman and Fernbach see this effect, which they call the “illusion of explanatory depth,” just about everywhere. People believe that they know way more than they actually do. What allows us to persist in this belief is other people. In the case of my toilet, someone else designed it so that I can operate it easily. This is something humans are very good at. We’ve been relying on one another’s expertise ever since we figured out how to hunt together, which was probably a key development in our evolutionary history. So well do we collaborate, Sloman and Fernbach argue, that we can hardly tell where our own understanding ends and others’ begins.
“One implication of the naturalness with which we divide cognitive labor,” they write, is that there’s “no sharp boundary between one person’s ideas and knowledge” and “those of other members” of the group.
This borderlessness, or, if you prefer, confusion, is also crucial to what we consider progress. As people invented new tools for new ways of living, they simultaneously created new realms of ignorance; if everyone had insisted on, say, mastering the principles of metalworking before picking up a knife, the Bronze Age wouldn’t have amounted to much. When it comes to new technologies, incomplete understanding is empowering.
Where it gets us into trouble, according to Sloman and Fernbach, is in the political domain. It’s one thing for me to flush a toilet without knowing how it operates, and another for me to favor (or oppose) an immigration ban without knowing what I’m talking about. Sloman and Fernbach cite a survey conducted in 2014, not long after Russia annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea. Respondents were asked how they thought the U.S. should react, and also whether they could identify Ukraine on a map. The farther off base they were about the geography, the more likely they were to favor military intervention. (Respondents were so unsure of Ukraine’s location that the median guess was wrong by eighteen hundred miles, roughly the distance from Kiev to Madrid.)
Surveys on many other issues have yielded similarly dismaying results. “As a rule, strong feelings about issues do not emerge from deep understanding,” Sloman and Fernbach write. And here our dependence on other minds reinforces the problem. If your position on, say, the Affordable Care Act is baseless and I rely on it, then my opinion is also baseless. When I talk to Tom and he decides he agrees with me, his opinion is also baseless, but now that the three of us concur we feel that much more smug about our views. If we all now dismiss as unconvincing any information that contradicts our opinion, you get, well, the Trump Administration.