Trump’s polling bump in perspective

I’ve collected polls of France’s Emmanuel Macron (but this site shows less improvement for him); Italy’s Giuseppe Conte; New York’s Andrew Cuomo; Poland’s Andrzej Duda; and the UK’s Boris Johnson (the Tories now have their best support in the history of British polling). For Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, and Mexico, I am using Morning Consult polls from here. I take Trump’s approval rating from FiveThirtyEight. Countries with strong parliaments and weak executive branch leaders typically do not poll their national leaders often.

The graph below shows how various national populations rate their own leaders’ handling of the pandemic. (It is from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, hence the three Canadian leaders.) Note that Macron is rated worse than Trump on handling the virus but still gets a bigger bounce in approval polls.

ConversationCafe Recording and Resources

Last week NCDD held our first virtual Conversation Cafe session, and we were blown away by the turnout – thank you to the 125+ of you who joined us to learn about how to host Cafes online and participated in one on the call!

The level of interest and enthusiasm was overwhelming, and so we wanted to make sure that anyone who is interested in this simple, open-source model for dialogue has the information and resources to do so! The following is a list of links to new and existing materials that everyone is welcome to utilize:

  • NCDD’s current director Courtney Breese, co-founder Sandy Heierbacher, and Conversation Cafe co-founder Susan Partnow, created a bunch of resources for hosting Conversation Cafes online during this pandemic: http://www.conversationcafe.org/for-hosts/resources-cafes-online/. Resources include a guide for hosts, the mini guide for use in the cafe, topics and questions for cafes, and an instructional on using Zoom for Cafes.
  • Beyond Conversation Cafe, NCDD’s Communications Coordinator Keiva Hummel has helped curate resources for responding to this pandemic. They are available (and can be added to!) over in Google Docs.

The recording of the virtual Conversation Cafe session is available at this link. Please note: the recording includes an overview of Conversation Cafe, the set-up for the cafe, and then the Q&A and wrap-up at the end. It does not include the breakout group conversations. Additionally, numerous resources and lots of information was shared in the chat.

NCDD is excited to see all the enthusiasm for what’s possible. We’ll continue to support these efforts as best we can, particularly by continuing to share resources and events. We’ve created a new Events Calendar to start sharing upcoming events, and a simple form for posting your event.

NCDD can also definitely use your help! If you want to help with social media, blog posts (share your stories of Cafes!), helping to create a stronger community of hosts, or something else you’d like to offer, send Courtney an email at courtney@ncdd.org. We will convene a team if there is enough interest to support Conversation Cafes in this unique moment. If you are not in a position to give your time right now, perhaps you might consider making a contribution to help support Conversation Cafe: www.ncdd.org/donate. NCDD is a small nonprofit and we steward Conversation Cafe without any dedicated funding support, so any and all contributions are greatly appreciated.

We are all juggling a lot right now, no doubt, but it is so heartening to see you, connect with you, and talk about what we can do for our communities during these difficult times. NCDD looks forward to continuing to work with you all!

Commoning as a Pandemic Survival Strategy

The pandemic now sweeping the planet is one of those historic events that will change many basic premises of modern life. Let us act swiftly to deal with the emergencies, but let us also seize the opportunity to think about long-term system change. If there is one thing that the pandemic confirms (in tandem with climate change), it is that our modern economic and political systems must change in some profound ways. And we are the ones who must push that change forward. We've already seen what state officialdom has in mind -- more bailouts for a dysfunctional system. Serious change is not a priority at all.

However, pandemics are hard to ignore. Many ideas once ignored or dismissed by Serious People – commoning, green transition policies, climate action, relocalization, food sovereignty, degrowth, post-capitalist finance, universal basic income, and much else – now don’t seem so crazy. In fact, they are positively common-sensical and compelling.

The pandemic has been horrific, but let's be candid: It has been one of the most effective political agents to disrupt politics-as-usual and validate new, imaginative possibilities.

Many things are now less contestable: Of course our drug-development system should be revamped so that parasitic corporate monopolies cannot prey upon us with high prices, marketable drugs rather than innovation, and disdain for public health needs. Of course our healthcare system should be accessible to everyone because, as the pandemic is showing, individual well-being is deeply entwined with collective health. Of course we must limit our destruction of ecosystems lest we unleash even greater planetary destabilization through viruses, biodiversity loss, ecosystem decline, and more.

In this sense, covid-19 is reacquainting us moderns with some basic human realities that we have denied for too long: 

  • We human beings actually depend on living, biological systems despite our pretentions to have triumphed over nature and its material limits.
  • We human beings are profoundly interdependent on each other despite our presumptions – at the core of modern economics and liberal democracy -- that we are self-sovereign individuals without collective needs. (Margaret Thatcher: "There IS no society, only individuals.")

Notwithstanding these general assumptions of modern life, we humans are discovering that we are in fact programmed to help each other when confronted with disasters. As Rebecca Solnit chronicled in her memorable book A Paradise Built in Hell, earthquakes, hurricanes, and gas explosions spur human beings to self-organize themselves to help each other, often in utterly sublime, beautiful ways. It’s a deeply human instinct.

The early journalism about covid-19 confirms this human impulse. Just as the Occupy movement mobilized to provide essential relief in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, mutual aid networks are now popping up in neighborhoods around the world, as the New York Times has noted.

The Times cited the great work of Invisible Hands, a network of 1,300 NYC young people who spontaneously peer-organized in three days to deliver groceries to at-risk people who can’t venture out of their homes. The piece also cited this radio segment on mutual aid on Amy Goodman’s show, Democracy Now! 

Check out a number of useful links in the article to other mutual-aid efforts, including a massive Google Doc listing scores of efforts in cities around the US, and a pod mapping toolkit. And check out the Washington Post’s piece on how a website for neighborhood cooperation, Nextdoor, has become a powerful tool for people to help each other through the pandemic.

The mainstream world likes to refer to such peer-assistance as “volunteering” and “altruism.” It is more accurately called commoning because it is more deeply committed and collective in character than individual “do-gooding,” itself a patronizing term. And surprise: it sometimes comes with disagreements that must be resolved – but which can end up strengthening the commons.

A thoughtful piece on the role of anarchism in surviving the pandemic notes that mutual aid “is the decentralized practice of reciprocal care via which participants in a network make sure that everyone gets what they need, so that everyone has reason to be invested in everyone else’s well-being. This is not a matter of tit-for-tat exchange, but rather an interchange of care and resources that creates the sort of redundancy and resilience that can sustain a community through difficult times.”

The vexing question for the moment is whether state power will support mutual aid over the long term (it may be seen as a threat to state authority and markets) -- or whether Trump-style politicians will use this moment of fear to consolidate state control, increase surveillance, and override distributed peer governance.

Another important question for the near-term is:  Can we develop sufficient institutional support for commoning so that it won’t fade away as the red-alert consciousness of the moment dissipates. To that end, I recommend Silke Helfrich’s and my book Free, Fair and Alive You may also want to browse the governance toolkit on CommunityRule.info or look into Sociocracy for All.

*                *               *

Throughout history commoning has always been an essential survival strategy, and so it is in this crisis. When the state, market, or monarchy fail to provide for basic needs, commoners themselves usually step up to devise their own mutual-aid systems.

In so doing, they are illuminating the structural deficiencies of conventional markets and state power. As we have seen, political agendas and profiteering have often been higher priorities than public health or equal treatment, as the $2.2 trillion bailout bill passed by the US Congress suggests. President Trump has been more obsessed with reviving the market and winning re-election than in saving people’s lives. Consider how many corporations are more intent on reaping private economic efficiencies (offshoring medical facemask manufacturing; closing down access to cheap generic drugs) than in allowing collective needs to be met effectively through government or commoning.

Numerous commentators are pointing out how the pandemic is but a preview of coming crises. It's not been mentioned much that covid-19 is partly the result of humans encroaching excessively on natural ecosystems. The UN environment chief Inger Anderson has said that biodiversity and habitat loss are making it easier for pathogens to jump from “the wild” to humans.

And ecologist Stephan Harding has a wonderful piece on how Gaia seems to be trying to teach us to see the dangers of unlimited global commerce: “We are seeing right now how in an over-connected web a localised disturbance such as the appearance of a fatal virus can spread and amplify very quickly throughout the system, reducing its resilience and making it more likely to collapse.” 

At this juncture, many massive, pivotal choices await us. We must decide to rebuild our provisioning systems on green, eco-resilient terms, not on neoliberal fantasies of unlimited growth and tightly integrated global markets. New/old types of place-based agriculture, commerce, and community must be developed.

This will entail a frank reckoning with how we re-imagine and enact state power, writes Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens, in the Financial Times: “The first [choice] is between totalitarian surveillance and citizen empowerment. The second is between nationalist isolation and global solidarity.” Harari warns:

Humanity needs to make a choice. Will we travel down the route of disunity, or will we adopt the path of global solidarity? If we choose disunity, this will not only prolong the crisis, but will probably result in even worse catastrophes in the future. If we choose global solidarity, it will be a victory not only against the coronavirus, but against all future epidemics and crises that might assail humankind in the 21st century.

Obviously, I think the commons has a lot to contribute to citizen empowerment and global solidarity. Hope lies in building new systems of bottom-up, place-based provisioning and care that are peer-governed, fair-minded, inclusive, and participatory. Hope lies in federating diverse commons so that they can coordinate and reach more people – accountably, flexibly, effectively, with resilience.

State institutions may be able to play positive roles, mostly in providing general rules, coordination, certain types of expertise, and infrastructure. Beyond that, they should focus on empowering people and smaller-scale governance and thereby engender trust in collective action.

It is still too early to know how the pandemic will unfold and resolve. There are too many complex variables play to predict the many ramifications. However, it is clear enough that this pandemic calls into question MANY elements of today’s neoliberal market/state order, whose institutions and political leadership are either dysfunctional or uncommitted to meeting public needs. It's not just individual politicians; it's a systemic problem. Yet the rudiments of a coherent new system with richer affordances have not yet crystallized. 

So that may be our ambitious task going forward. Commoners and allied movements, disillusioned liberals and social democrats, and people of goodwill must thwart the many retrograde dangers that threaten to surge forward under the cover of fear. But we must also, simultaneously, demonstrate the feasibility of new forms of commoning, infrastructure, finance, and commons/public partnerships. Rarely have needs and opportunities been so aligned!

Resources for Preparing Kids for the Abbreviated APUSH Exam!

John Burkowski, Jr., a board member of the Florida Council for the Social Studies and an excellent Advanced Placement Teacher down in the Dade County area, shares these resources for helping your kids prep for the APUSH Exam through distance education! Check out the excellent resources below.

Suggested Plan of Action for Abbreviated 2020 APUSH Exam:

Plan accordingly with whatever remaining unit topics. Supplement with Jocz Productions / Adam Norris / etc. video reviews available on YouTube.

Use AP Classroom for review and practice questions.

CONTENT COVERAGE:

Focus your efforts on the Course Exam and Description key concepts.

JOCZ PRODUCTIONS:

JOCZ

APUSH, AP Government, and U.S. History videos for students, history lovers, and weird people on the internet.

CHECK THE WEBSITE
ADAM NORRIS:
Norris
Welcome to your one stop guide to all things APUSH, including textbook chapter reviews.
EXAM PREP:

Use AP Classroom through the Personal Progress Checks and teacher-built practice modules.

We will not know the format until April 3, so I recommend primarily focusing your FRQ section efforts on the SAQ 2. It is a primary source based SAQ that I believe would be the most efficient way to focus on all skills for any FRQ we get.

apush

College Board will be adding video reviews for CED unit topics starting this week. Bookmark the playlist for reference and potential implementation.

Also, definitely do thesis development by using released DBQ and LEQ prompts; using Periods 1-7 prompts of course.

I have compiled publicly released Period 1-7 SAQs to use for planning and practice.

sample

Shameless plug for my website for ppts and reviews. 

burkowski

Video Civics Lessons From Palm Beach County Schools!

Friends, in this difficult time, I know that we are all seeking resources, so I am so very happy to share with you some resources that Palm Beach schools put together for broadcast over their cable system. They used our Civics360 scripts and materials for these four videos. Each video runs about ten minutes long, give or take a couple of minutes. I really think you may find these useful. Check them out! I’ve included a link back to Civics360 under each video.  We are grateful to our friends in Palm Beach for letting us share this with a broader audience. Every effort helps. This is what civics is about, my friends!

Forms of Government

Civics360 Module

Systems of Government

Civics360 Module

International Organizations

Civics360 Module

International Conflicts

Civics360 Module

 

a Green recovery

“We have a responsibility to recover better” than after the financial crisis in 2008, UN secretary general António Guterres warned. “We have a framework for action – the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. We must keep our promises for people and planet,” he added.

On this topic, I would yield to people who understand economics and the environment better than I do. I also recognize obstacles to making sure the recovery benefits the environment. (Will we have a recovery at all within a reasonable amount of time? Will the political elites in any important country allocate resources well?) But it seems worth discussing principles, because a decent outcome will depend on public pressure. We should decide what to demand.

I would propose four principles:

  1. The fiscal stimulus should be large and carbon-negative. Governments can and should spend heavily, because borrowing costs are extraordinarily low and social needs are critical. Once the pandemic ends, to the maximum extent possible, unemployed people should be paid to build and install renewable energy sources, to improve the power grid, to enhance public transportation (which will face a crisis of confidence in response to the pandemic), to restore natural resources, and to change agriculture.
  2. Bailouts should be carbon-neutral. I am not callous about people whose livelihoods depend on mining or drilling for carbon. But nowhere is it written that oil, gas, and coal companies deserve public subsidies, especially given the massive negative externalities of their industries. There is an immense amount of carbon underground and enormous incentives to extract and burn it. Our best hope is to cut the supply in the short term so that alternatives can become more affordable. Turmoil in carbon markets will have human costs, but also benefits. Thus: no bailouts for carbon.
  3. Financing should be equitable and carbon-neutral. I think the wisest macroeconomic policy is to borrow in the short term and pay it back with new taxes only later on–that’s the most stimulative approach. But we could negotiate an agreement now to pay it back later in a good way. That could mean phasing in carbon taxes along with highly progressive wealth taxes while permanently holding down income and payroll taxes for households with lower incomes.
  4. Spending should be planned and allocated in a participatory and deliberative way. This is not just a matter of justice or a way of generating civic benefits from the pandemic crisis. It is also an urgent practical need. Let’s say you want to build a new transit line to reduce carbon use. If a community organizes against it, it won’t go through. Also, people won’t ride the line unless it meets their needs, and transit without many passengers does no good for the environment. Therefore, effective spending depends on genuine support, which can be earned by creating opportunities for people to discuss and decide. Ideally, such discussions will also influence individuals’ decisions as workers, consumers, and investors, giving many people a justified sense that we are rebuilding the economy, and saving nature, together.

Join us in #WeavingCommunity during crisis

NCDD is partnering once again with numerous organizations in our field to encourage a national conversation – this time around the importance of weaving community during times of crisis. We hope you can take part!

The National Conversation Project is a coalition of partner organizations inviting Americans into online conversations and mutual support to weave a stronger community even now–especially now. Together, we’re promoting conversations and community amidst fear and isolation. We seek to serve our neighbors and nation in a moment of acute social crisis.

This pandemic can drive us apart or it can drive us together. Americans often rise to common challenges like this with kindness, love, mutual support, and shared responsibility to endure together. We need community now more than ever. Although our nation’s social fabric is badly frayed by distance and division, together we can weave a strong social fabric and emerge healthy and united.

Though we may avoid gathering in person, we can support each other in many ways online, via phone, and through acts of kindness for neighbors. By #WeavingCommunity now, we will be a stronger, more genuinely connected society on the other side of the pandemic.

We invite you to…

  1. Check out the Weaving2020 website now.
  2. Use the hashtag #WeavingCommunity whenever you invite people to your own online conversations or talk about your work.
  3. Host a video or phone conversation, spark a social media or text conversation, or do an act of kindness for a neighbor.
  4. Become a partner by contacting pearce@weaving2020.org.

Check back at www.weaving2020.com, where we’ll soon be adding lots of resources for online dialogue, dialogues you and others can participate in, and more.

unveiling CIRCLE’s data tool

Although it’s hard to concentrate on politics right now, a massively consequential election is coming up, and today CIRCLE unveils a data tool that can help nonpartisan groups, partisan outfits, campaigns, and the media make smart decisions regarding young voters.

If you head to youthdata.circle.tufts.edu, you can explore youth registration and turnout, youth demographics, and an array of relevant civic factors for states and congressional districts over time–setting your own queries and seeing the results.

For instance, here is youth turnout in my hometown’s congressional district:

I also explored various underlying factors that might affect youth engagement in that district.

(The team has come a long way since the days when we’d generate a few charts and put them in a document that we expected people to print.)

Watch the NCDD Network Call on COVID-19

Last week, NCDD hosted a call for our network to discuss how we are adjusting our plans and work in light of COVID-19. We had 70 people join us for this call, and we touched upon numerous topics! Thank you to everyone who made the time to join us and share your questions, ideas, and resources.

The call was recorded and can be accessed here. The chat, which contains a bunch of helpful links, can be found here. We started a Google doc with helpful resources and tools for navigating conversation and connection during this COVID-19 pandemic – find it here. Feel welcome to add to the doc, any resources/tools you think would be helpful.

What was abundantly clear from the call is there is a great desire to continue these conversations we started. NCDD is working on setting up additional calls for the network, to allow us to dig deeper into some of these topics. We need your feedback – please fill out this brief form to share with us what you would most like to discuss! We will announce a series of calls in the coming days, to allow more opportunities for us to share and work together.

In addition to these calls, we also want to invite you to help others by sharing your knowledge, skills, and talents with the broader community. No doubt there is a hunger for connection right now while we remain physically apart, and the members of this community are well equipped to help those who are new to dialogue and deliberation get started. 

So, what could you do?

  • Submit a post for the NCDD Blog – on anything you are thinking about or working on, really. But posts that help people think about ways they can engage right now will be particularly helpful. 
  • Share your resources – submit them to the NCDD Resource Center, or help gather resources with others. NCDD started a resource for this network here, which you are welcome to add to.
  • Do you have a quick video that could be helpful for faculty teaching about D&D? Share it! NCDD will happily post on our Youtube Channel – just send me a message with the original link (courtney@ncdd.org). 
  • Have students looking for projects? Looking for something to keep you busy right now? NCDD can always use help! We are always looking for help with posting on the NCDD Blog (original content and content shared from the network), creating new resources/updating old resources in the RC, facilitating network calls, and more. If you have an interest in the above or want to explore what’s possible, let me know!
  • Make a donation to NCDD or join/renew your membership. Your support as always goes directly to supporting staff in doing the work we’ve outlined above as well as our regular programming. 

Thank you for your participation and willingness to serve your communities in these challenging times. We will continue to be here for you all as we get through this thing together.