Sunday, August 20, 2017

Last Call For Running A Marathon, Not A Sprint

Staffers from Obama agencies are getting involved in running for Congress, and given how many Republicans ran unopposed in the House in the last midterm cycle in 2014 (30 House, and Jeff Sessions in the Senate) it's good to see Democrats lining up to take on Trump regime Republicans.

Some House races have even drawn multiple former Obama hands into the arena. In Texas, former Obama chief of staff Denis McDonough and ex-Treasury Secretary Jack Lew have lined up behind Ed Meier, a former State Department official, while ex-Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro is backing his former employee, Colin Allred, who was also an Obama White House intern and professional football player. Meier and Allred are competing in a crowded primary to take on Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), who didn’t attract a single Democratic opponent last year.

Alums of Obama’s State and Veterans Affairs departments are also among nine candidates facing off for the Democratic nomination in a Northern Virginia battleground district. And outside Detroit, the former chief of staff for the Obama administration’s auto bailout raked in donations from a host of former White House officials to get her campaign off the ground.

“What drew them to the Obama world are the same qualities that make them want to run for office,” said Erik Smith, a former Obama presidential campaign consultant. “But their participation is accelerated as the Obama diaspora moved home — more so since some would’ve stayed under a Democratic administration — and with Obama’s call to action in their heads, it drove people to run earlier than they would’ve otherwise.”

They're also getting the money to take the fight to the GOP from fellow Obama folks.

Fundraising disclosures for these candidates are littered with familiar Obama-era names: Antony Blinken, Obama’s deputy secretary of state; Tara McGuinness, a senior White House communications adviser; Cheryl Mills, former State Department counselor to Secretary Hillary Clinton; and Bernadette Meehan, spokeswoman for the National Security Council, all gave to various congressional candidates who worked in the Obama administration. Donors hail from all parts of the administration, from agencies to inside the White House.

They’re giving to candidates like Andy Kim, who served on Obama’s NSC and is challenging New Jersey Rep. Tom MacArthur. In Michigan, Elissa Slotkin, a former Defense Department official, is running against Rep. Mike Bishop, and Haley Stevens, who helped administer the bailout of the automotive industry, is taking on GOP Rep. Dave Trott.

Lindsey Davis Stover, who served in the Department of Veterans Affairs under Obama, is in a nine-way primary to take on Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock, which also features former State Department official Alison Kiehl Friedman. This week, another administration official — former Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe ambassador Dan Baer — started a campaign for an open seat outside Denver.

“Being on people’s radar — who either know me or are one degree away from me and who know this campaign world and know that money makes a difference and that you need resources to put up the fight — is a really wonderful resource,” said Kim, whose opponent MacArthur is one of the wealthiest members of Congress. “The reality is that money is important as a first-time candidate.”

And of course the next question is "What about state races?"  Yep. Gotcha covered.

It’s not limited to congressional candidates. Further down the ballot, Buffy Wicks, who helped craft Obama’s grass-roots-centric presidential campaigns and served in the White House, is running for a Berkeley-based state Assembly seat in California.

Her early donors include both of Obama’s presidential campaign managers, David Plouffe and Jim Messina, as well as a host of other colleagues from 2008 and 2012.

Informal listservs started by various Obama officials spread campaign announcements and donation requests. The Obama Alumni Association, which doesn’t endorse candidates, regularly sends emails to “update you on Obama alumni who are running for office," adding that it’s “thrilling to see so many alums willing to run, just as Barack Obama did more than 20 years ago.” In its July email, it flagged 23 new candidates.

“There’s no doubt we’ll see Obama alums run at a much higher rate in 2018 and 2020,” said Brent Colburn, a former Obama campaign and administration official who has hosted candidate meet-and-greets in the San Francisco Bay area.

Even those of us who aren’t running are looking for ways we can give back and support the legacy of the president, so you’re not only seeing more people likely to run, but there’s also more of us who are more likely to hold fundraisers, host events for candidates and connect people to contacts in our network,” Colburn said.

I can't stress how much of a great idea this is.  I also sense President Obama's hand informally behind this as well.  The Dems need to run folks outside Obama's network too, in places where Obama had trouble, yes.  But Dems also need to go after the places Barack Obama did well in too.

We need both, and I'm glad to see Obama alumni are holding up their end of the deal.   The win the House back, we have to field candidates, period.  No more freebies for the GOP.

The Dog Days Of Trump's Summer

Once again it's important to remember that Trump's constant garbage is just that: constant.  We keep moving on to his next daily outrage on a regular basis, but those outrages individually add up to a man who will easily go down as the worst in history.

Easily the worst. And it's been only seven months.

Sunday Long Read: A New World Record

Forty years ago this month, NASA sent Voyager I into the stars, with Voyager II following the month after, and probably the most famous passengers aboard each probe are a pair of golden record discs that contain sights and sounds of Earth.  Our Sunday Long Read is Timothy Ferris's New Yorker piece on the story of the creation of those records, and how they came to represent an entire planet.

I became friends with Carl Sagan, the astronomer who oversaw the creation of the Golden Record, in 1972. He’d sometimes stop by my place in New York, a high-ceilinged West Side apartment perched up amid Norway maples like a tree house, and we’d listen to records. Lots of great music was being released in those days, and there was something fascinating about LP technology itself. A diamond danced along the undulations of a groove, vibrating an attached crystal, which generated a flow of electricity that was amplified and sent to the speakers. At no point in this process was it possible to say with assurance just how much information the record contained or how accurately a given stereo had translated it. The open-endedness of the medium seemed akin to the process of scientific exploration: there was always more to learn.

In the winter of 1976, Carl was visiting with me and my fiancée at the time, Ann Druyan, and asked whether we’d help him create a plaque or something of the sort for Voyager. We immediately agreed. Soon, he and one of his colleagues at Cornell, Frank Drake, had decided on a record. By the time nasa approved the idea, we had less than six months to put it together, so we had to move fast. Ann began gathering material for a sonic description of Earth’s history. Linda Salzman Sagan, Carl’s wife at the time, went to work recording samples of human voices speaking in many different languages. The space artist Jon Lomberg rounded up photographs, a method having been found to encode them into the record’s grooves. I produced the record, which meant overseeing the technical side of things. We all worked on selecting the music.

I sought to recruit John Lennon, of the Beatles, for the project, but tax considerations obliged him to leave the country. Lennon did help us, though, in two ways. First, he recommended that we use his engineer, Jimmy Iovine, who brought energy and expertise to the studio. (Jimmy later became famous as a rock and hip-hop producer and record-company executive.) Second, Lennon’s trick of etching little messages into the blank spaces between the takeout grooves at the ends of his records inspired me to do the same on Voyager. I wrote a dedication: “To the makers of music—all worlds, all times.”

To our surprise, those nine words created a problem at nasa. An agency compliance officer, charged with making sure each of the probes’ sixty-five thousand parts were up to spec, reported that while everything else checked out—the records’ size, weight, composition, and magnetic properties—there was nothing in the blueprints about an inscription. The records were rejected, and nasa prepared to substitute blank discs in their place. Only after Carl appealed to the nasaadministrator, arguing that the inscription would be the sole example of human handwriting aboard, did we get a waiver permitting the records to fly.

In those days, we had to obtain physical copies of every recording we hoped to listen to or include. This wasn’t such a challenge for, say, mainstream American music, but we aimed to cast a wide net, incorporating selections from places as disparate as Australia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, China, Congo, Japan, the Navajo Nation, Peru, and the Solomon Islands. Ann found an LP containing the Indian raga “Jaat Kahan Ho” in a carton under a card table in the back of an appliance store. At one point, the folklorist Alan Lomax pulled a Russian recording, said to be the sole copy of “Chakrulo” in North America, from a stack of lacquer demos and sailed it across the room to me like a Frisbee. We’d comb through all this music individually, then meet and go over our nominees in long discussions stretching into the night. It was exhausting, involving, utterly delightful work.

In selecting Western classical music, we sacrificed a measure of diversity to include three compositions by J. S. Bach and two by Ludwig van Beethoven. To understand why we did this, imagine that the record were being studied by extraterrestrials who lacked what we would call hearing, or whose hearing operated in a different frequency range than ours, or who hadn’t any musical tradition at all. Even they could learn from the music by applying mathematics, which really does seem to be the universal language that music is sometimes said to be. They’d look for symmetries—repetitions, inversions, mirror images, and other self-similarities—within or between compositions. We sought to facilitate the process by proffering Bach, whose works are full of symmetry, and Beethoven, who championed Bach’s music and borrowed from it.

I’m often asked whether we quarrelled over the selections. We didn’t, really; it was all quite civil. With a world full of music to choose from, there was little reason to protest if one wonderful track was replaced by another wonderful track. I recall championing Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark Was the Night,” which, if memory serves, everyone liked from the outset. Ann stumped for Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode,” a somewhat harder sell, in that Carl, at first listening, called it “awful.” But Carl soon came around on that one, going so far as to politely remind Lomax, who derided Berry’s music as “adolescent,” that Earth is home to many adolescents. Rumors to the contrary, we did not strive to include the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun,” only to be disappointed when we couldn’t clear the rights. It’s not the Beatles’ strongest work, and the witticism of the title, if charming in the short run, seemed unlikely to remain funny for a billion years.

The Golden Anniversary edition of the Voyage Golden Record is out, by the way, to celebrate these songs.   Good listening anywhere in the universe.
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