Showing posts with label #trustingovernment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #trustingovernment. Show all posts

Friday, April 14, 2023

Red States, Blue Cities, Dynamic America.

     
     
"President Barack Obama and Cabinet."
White House East Room, September 10, 2009.
via Wikimedia Commons.

In today's New York Times, David Brooks discusses the trend of people migrating from blue states to red states in the US. Between 2010 and 2020, the fastest-growing states were mostly red, such as Texas, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, and South Carolina. This growth is attributed to lower taxes, fewer restrictions on home construction, lower housing prices, and more pro-business policies. However, the growth in red states is concentrated in metro areas, often blue cities in red states. The dynamic success stories are a result of a red-blue policy mix where Republicans provide a business-friendly climate and Democrats influence education, social services, and civic atmosphere. The column argues that no political party is currently embracing this policy blend, which has proven effective in creating a dynamic and cosmopolitan society. The author suggests that the Democratic Party's growing strength in Southwestern states could potentially give rise to a new kind of Democrat that promotes this policy mix.

David Brook's career began as a police reporter in Chicago, and he recognizes the significant impact it had on his perspectives. His experiences on the crime beat shifted his views from a more liberal standpoint to a more conservative one. Brooks seems to be highly conscious of the concept of black-and-white morality, which leads him to seek a balanced approach where both sides of an argument have valid points. In essence, Brooks proposes that a third option, which incorporates ideas from both sides, is often attainable.

Here, I think Brooks misses some of the essential characteristics of how cabinet-style dynamics function, which I generally accept as a starting point for analysis of most government decisionmaking. In "The English Constitution," Walter Bagehot highlights the significance of blending old and new minds in the British parliamentary cabinet system for effective governance, emphasizing the importance of secrecy and trust in maintaining unity and functionality. By combining experienced ministers' continuity and institutional knowledge with new ministers' fresh ideas and energy, the cabinet can adapt to changing circumstances and address contemporary issues. Secrecy ensures confidential cabinet discussions and disagreements, fostering open dialogue and consensus-based decisions. Trust among cabinet members is essential for upholding collective responsibility and loyalty, even when personal disagreements occur. Ultimately, Bagehot argues that the balance of experience and innovation, combined with secrecy and trust, contributes to the effective functioning of the government.

Bagehot argues that the most dangerous person to a cabinet government is the disloyal insider. A disloyal insider can undermine the collective responsibility principle, where all ministers must publicly support cabinet decisions, even if they personally disagreed during internal discussions. By breaking this trust and revealing confidential information or dissenting opinions, the disloyal insider can weaken the solidarity and unity of the cabinet, disrupt its decision-making process, and potentially harm the government's credibility and stability. Thus, Bagehot emphasizes that disloyal insiders pose a significant threat to the cabinet government's effectiveness and overall political structure.

Bagehot's central argument highlights the importance of consensus in a government composed of both cautious old minds and and fresh energetic ones. Brooks fails to consider that a political party's drive to act stems from their shared values and the aspiration to advance them. Brooks appears to suggest that experienced and fresh minds together would embrace a logical compromise on the very shared values that unite them. However, it is more probable that both groups would view this approach as flawed and dismiss those promoting it.

Brooks doesn't offer realistic solutions for a feasible third way, and his argument appears at odds with the realities of media influence and political communication. Rather than individuals blending positions, a stronger argument would recognize that blue cities in red states play a vital role in holding their governments accountable, encouraging debate, and preventing complacency in the ruling red-state governments. By remaining committed to the nation and their democratic values, these blue cities enhance the political system's stability and effectiveness while pushing the red-state governments to improve and refine their policies. Ultimately a stronger America emerges from that dynamism, as has been noted in the Economist recently. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Carriage Court in Santa Rosa.

"A mobile home park in West Miami, Florida"
By Dr Zak 
https://tinyurl.com/22c4uctp
In Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0
https://tinyurl.com/2y9chhga 


Carriage Court, a mobile home park for seniors in Santa Rosa, it is reported today by the Press Democrat's Marisa Endicott, is being converted to an all-ages park by new management company Harmony Communities. The company claims that the change is necessary for the park to stay afloat and make a profit. However, residents are concerned about potential displacement and culture shift, as many of them rely on fixed incomes and have limited options if costs increase. The change comes in response to Santa Rosa's new mobile home rent control ordinance, which limits how much park owners can raise rent, according to Nick Ubaldi, regional manager for Harmony Communities. 

Residents are also worried about Harmony Communities' track record of litigation over evictions and rent increases. The company is involved in multiple lawsuits across the state and has a reputation for strict rule enforcement and eviction attempts. The Golden State Manufactured-home Owners League has noted that Harmony's "reputation is terrible." The director of communications for Harmony Communities identifies as a crude epithet, Heywood Jabl√≥m, a false name and a classic sign of a bad actor. Indeed, Mariah Thompson, a staff attorney with California Rural Legal Assistance, noted that Harmony Communities will "often just see what they can get away with[.]” 

Mobile home parks, especially in American culture, are stereotypically viewed as lower-income housing for occupants living at or below the poverty line who have low social status. As Wikipedia notes, despite the advances in trailer home technology, the image survives. Residents, especially the elderly, can be targets for unscrupulous business practices. 

Here, Ubaldi is contending that an updated rent control ordinance, designed to protect senior citizens, is in fact the source of senior citizens' distress. This is an obvious attempt to reverse victim and offender, which is harmful to the democratic process, beyond the specific harm it inflicts on the residents of Carriage Court. Sowing confusion and undermining accountability only weakens the norms we all rely upon to effectively address our housing crisis, which is bad and getting worse. Ideas, like housing, are more of a public good, like a forest, than a commercial context, like a marketplace.  We all must recognize that public discourse is vulnerable to the same damage that can be suffered by the woods should the balance between individual advantage and long-term sustainability be violated callously.

Thursday, April 6, 2023

The Mandela Rules.

Nelson Mandela. (1994, Oct. 4).

© John Mathew Smith 2001

Use by Permission, Wikipedia.

Approximately 90 inmates at the Sonoma County Main Adult Detention Facility (the county jail, sometimes abbreviated "MADF") recently participated in a 10-day hunger strike (Press Democrats, paywalled) to demand more time out of their cells, improved visitation hours, and lower commissary costs. The strike was initiated by the G module on March 23, whose out-of-cell time is limited, sometimes to an hour or less each day, which family members and friends say is insufficient for them to shower, make calls, or prepare meals from commissary items. Visitation and communication have also been impacted, with limited hours and staff shortages affecting both visitation and out-of-cell time. 

The jail has faced previous criticism for its management of inmate communication. A June 2021 civil grand jury investigation revealed high phone call costs and commissary markups. It also noted that there had been a diversion of funds intended for jail programming to staff salaries and other purposes.

As Nelson Mandela observed, "[n]o one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones." Sonoma County should strive to meet the standards set by the Nelson Mandela rules. The grand jury investigation and the hunger strike have brought attention to at least six separate rules (22-23, 42-43, 58, 103) that appear to have been violated in this area. 

Addressing these issues benefits the whole County, as maintaining a fair and just society requires the even-handed administration of the jail. This is widely recognized -- The California Democratic Platform, for example, acknowledges that family support is a key factor in determining the success of a person once they are released from prison. By investing in programs that facilitate visitation, communication, and re-entry planning, we can help improve the overall well-being of those affected by incarceration. This approach not only benefits the individuals and families directly involved but also contributes to a stronger and more resilient community.

Ultimately, the legitimacy of all our institutions hinges on their ability to treat everyone fairly, regardless of their social standing. Ensuring that Sonoma County adheres to the Nelson Mandela rules is a step toward fostering a more compassionate and just society. By addressing the grievances highlighted in the grand jury investigation and hunger strike, we can work together to create a future where every Californian's rights are respected and upheld. This will only serve to strengthen our communities and promote the values of fairness, equality, and justice.


Monday, April 3, 2023

Grayer Angels.

Kim, Richard. (2012, June 22). The Nation. 
In a recent Press Democrat article, Phil Barber discusses Braver Angels, an organization run and co-founded by David Blankenhorn, who was a proponent of Proposition 8, which was designed to ban same-sex marriage. Notwithstanding that, the article seeks to present Braver Angels in a positive light, discussing a recent meeting held in Petaluma. But Barber fails to address Blankenhorn's past actions, which may contribute to the very polarization the organization seeks to remedy.

Some background on Blankenhorn's work illuminates the issue. As Richard Kim noted in his piece in the Nation, Blankenhorn's Institute for American Values "has attacked single mothers, championed federal marriage promotion as welfare policy, railed against cohabitation and no-fault divorce, and opposed access to new reproductive technologies. One of his institute’s latest crusades has been against anonymous sperm donors (because they lead to “fatherless” children, an abiding preoccupation of his)." This amounts to a comprehensive assault on some of the most powerless groups in our society, with little evidence to support the positions themselves.

The article takes a one-sided approach to highlighting Braver Angels' stated mission to bridge the political divide through dialogue, empathy, and understanding. With 92 chapters and events in all 50 states, the organization seems to target an older demographic, as evidenced by its appeal to the rapidly growing gray population in America. However, this approach has obvious limitations with younger generations, who face unique challenges and navigate their social and political lives through social media and identity-driven communities.

Young people today grapple with unprecedented economic hurdles and may feel alienated by Braver Angels' workshops, which cater to an older generation that enjoyed greater economic stability. Participating in these workshops could very well exacerbate young people's feelings of financial insecurity and anxiety. Furthermore, young people often engage with political discussions through the lens of their identity, which they defend and support in online communities. Braver Angels' approach, then, might feel more like (and might indeed be) an attempt to dismantle a protective shield rather than extend a hand of understanding. There are some members of the local community, such as Mary Munat, who are involved in the organization, who are trusted, and who I think mean well. But given the group's president's past and continuing actions, and the fact that nearly 10% of the money raised by the organization goes directly to Blankenhorn, it is tough to see how such concerns can be mitigated. 

Acknowledging the unique challenges faced by younger generations, such as economic insecurities and the importance of identity, is critical in seeking to create a more inclusive and resonant political discussion. Only then can we genuinely bridge the troublesome divide that so many have come to recognize is our central challenge to furthering public trust, without which all efforts in government come to naught. 


Monday, October 3, 2022

Trust in the Supreme Court.

"Confidence in Institutions"
Gallup, June 1-4, 2013, 
available at http://tinyurl.com/m8dl5vg
 From Gallup this morning:

"Trust in many U.S. institutions has declined in recent years, but the loss of faith in the Supreme Court is especially notable, given the high levels of trust it has enjoyed historically."

As I wrote back in 2013, and as I have done pretty often over time, trust in government is the sine qua non of democracy. The "great deal/quite a lot" level of trust for the Supreme Court is down to 25%; this is less than banks used to be in 2013, and is within the margin of error for big business at that time. Most institutions in American life (with the exception of organized labor) have lost trust recently, but none from so high a starting place, and so precipitously. As the article's lede notes:

"This represents a 20-percentage-point drop from two years ago, including seven points since last year, and is now the lowest in Gallup's trend by six points. The judicial branch's current tarnished image contrasts with trust levels exceeding two-thirds in most years in Gallup's trend that began in 1972."

Prior posts re the United States Supreme Court:

  1. Turnout, Serrano, and the Outlier.
  2. 34 Cents of Your Property Tax Dollar Goes To Our Schools. 
  3. Brown, Budgets, Prisons, and Contempt.
  4. A Society Can Be Judged By Entering Its Prisons.
  5. Standing, Blogging, and Prop 8.