Even without teaching experience it must not be hard for you to imagine that smartphone (and to a lesser extent, laptop) usage is an impediment to teaching in a college classroom today. It is an impediment to all classrooms, I'm sure, but unlike K-12 teachers, in college we can't simply harvest their phones at the beginning of class like a middle school teacher might be able to. Accordingly, when I notice that students are not paying attention / absorbed in the many wonders of the internet, I often use the phrase "notebooks out" to try to snap their attention back to class. By that I mean, this is kind of an important thing you're about to miss, and I'm doing you a favor by letting you know that you should pay attention to it. I don't recall where I first picked this up – no doubt some teacher I had years ago – but I do it to myself as well when I want to make sure I'm paying attention to something. Getting distracted, after all, is incredibly easy these days.

On Friday and Saturday, especially the latter, I was Notebooks Out all day. It was hard to miss the sense that we are watching some pretty important history being made right now, good or bad, and here are a couple of things I think the coordinated marches on Saturday have demonstrated for us.

1. Zero Arrests by the D.C. police on Saturday despite hundreds of thousands of people showing up. This is interesting, as it represents the fact that police seem biased to resort to force more quickly and often with men than women, but also (and more importantly) that large numbers of women seem to be better at having a large gathering without resorting to juvenile property destruction that gives the police an excuse to intervene. I have news for all the Anarchy Bros out there: Starbucks has insurance and doesn't really give a shit that you broke their window. The only thing property destruction accomplishes is to delegitimize protests in the right-wing media, to give the police an excuse to start swinging batons, and to allow the perpetrators to engage in some kind of exhibitionism – play-acting revolutionary or something. If women (although men participated on Saturday too, in smaller numbers) can have such a large event without resorting to that kind of idiocy, then that suggests that men are largely (but not exclusively, so don't bother posting a link to a picture of a woman kicking a garbage can over) responsible for the "Hey, let's go get into a fight with the cops" aspect of protest. I'm not blind to the fact that the police are the ones responsible for instigating physical confrontations in many cases. All I'm thinking right now is, somehow a couple million women pulled this off without any batons meeting skulls and I think we all need to think very carefully about what should be learned from this.

2. That was awesome to see on Saturday. The crowd sizes were something to behold. Now. Can we sustain something? One weekend isn't going to get it done. They – the They we're all protesting – rely on the fact that we will lose interest quickly. "Let them have their rally, and in a few weeks everything will be back to normal." Here is, as I watched on Saturday, a list of things that all of us, regardless of resources, can commit ourselves to doing moving forward. It is not a complete list. Smarter people than me have come up with better lists, no doubt.

  • Attend school board meetings. The woman who thinks the Earth is 6000 years old will be there. The Dad whose idea of sex ed is to call your daughters sluts and lead the class in prayer will be there. Can you be there as well?
  • Attend city council or county board meetings. Again, the nutcases and seniors complaining about taxes and teenagers and loud music (code words!) will be there. When question time comes around, your voice could help balance that.
  • Write one or two letters to the editor of your newspaper per month. This seems apocryphal, but with older voters, elected officials, and heavy news consumers, print journalism still carries a lot of weight. True, the 40 and under crowd hardly pays attention to them anymore, but the people most likely to vote – older voters – treat newspapers like the Bible. Opinion editors seeking that all-important "balance" will be looking for cogent letters to run alongside the right-wing conspiracy screeds they receive in volume from their elderly audience. This is free and doesn't demand a ton of your time.
  • Can you donate your time to a local elected official's re-election? Municipal elections are already coming up soon here in Illinois, even though the previous election seems like it's barely finished. Republicans executed to perfection a strategy of focusing on local races where it is easier to win because voter turnout is so exceptionally low. Congress and Senate candidates already have tons of resources, although there's no harm in pitching in there either. The state legislators, judges, board members, and so on can benefit even more from your help.
  • Can you run for a minor local elected office? Just throwing your name on the ballot for something like a small town elected office position could affect races. This obviously is not a commitment everyone can make. But if you are a person who can…
  • Speak up. This is not for everybody, as many of us no doubt justifiably feel unsafe in many public settings. But if you feel comfortable doing it, add your two cents to things you observe in public. On many occasions, for example, when I'm at the gym or walking around campus I overhear people use gay slurs or derogatory language and a combination of solid eye contact and "Is that really necessary?" or "What are you, 12?" is not a big commitment for me. Does it change their attitudes? Probably not, but hopefully if they hear it enough it will make them think a bit harder about their words and beliefs. Again, being confrontational is not for everyone. But if you feel comfortable, speak up. People need to hear "That is not cool" a lot more than they do currently. They certainly aren't hearing it inside of their right wing bubbles.

    This is a difficult issue because, by design, over the past three decades we have all had to work more for less in return and that makes it difficult to devote time to civic activity. I know how you probably feel, and I feel the same way: tired, busy, and ready to accept any excuse to avoid going to something like a school board meeting after a long day of work. Don't beat yourself up if you can't do it. Like the marches on Saturday, you're not a bad person if you didn't or couldn't go. Everyone contributes in different ways and in different amounts. At the same time, we all have to recognize that nobody promised us a rose garden. Nobody said this would be easy. Conservatives have sucked it up and packed local government meetings for decades and it has gotten them what they want. If you're like me and you're sitting at home on a weeknight thinking, man I do NOT want to go sit through a school board meeting right now…well, this would be a good time for us to suck it up. I'm as guilty as anyone of succumbing to Too Tired, Too Busy. Can we do better? I have plenty of room for improvement. I bet you do too. So what are we going to do about it?

  • 59 thoughts on “NOTEBOOKS OUT”

    • Emerson Dameron says:

      People will keep protesting Trump as long as he keeps taking it as poorly as he has. His Nixon-level paranoia and inferiority complex are America's biggest "KICK ME" sign.

    • Michael Slavitch says:

      Nixon was paranoid but was not a narcissist. He was merely criminal. Trump is another thing entirely.

    • Irritating Trump on twitter and protesting his tenure will be a great source of catharsis. Let's just hope Trump doesn't escalate his twitter wars into real shooting wars.

    • Trump is doing a good job of demonstrating his consistent lack of character.

      I predict a tactical nuking of North Korean launch sites and DMZ artillery sites, combined with an assist from South Korea. Probably labeled first as a civil defense mock evacuation of Seoul. Timeline four months.

    • Robert Walker-Smith says:

      This is one of the reasons I'm glad to be living in Oakland California. The supply of YEC supporters, Sovereign Citizens, Christian Dominionists and just plain common clay of the New West is much lower than in the Real America.

      We've even got public libraries!

    • Re: #1, I'm thinking it's almost like a woman would make a better President than a man. I dunno– bridge too far?

    • Swkerlhugger, obviously your idea is insane. A *woman* as president?!? That's UNPOSSIBLE! /s, in case that wasn't clear without facial expressions

      Or, to quote my mother, "A woman could never be president! Women have HORMONES!" (and men don't, apparently, in my mom's world)

    • If someone could clarify for me what testosterone is . . . . it has something to do with being able to be logical and capable of rational thought, right?

    • Also, Ed, look at you sounding all fired up and ready to go! What's going on? Therapy? Whatever it is it's great to see.

    • I am totally on board with speaking up. Well managed confrontation is fun, but I live in a progressive bubble so I don't get many good opportunities.

      I did make this map a few years back

      It shows how easy it could be to do data driven GOTV efforts. If we start early for 2018, the same (but current) data can help us determine where we need to recruit candidates NOW in districts where the Ds usually don't make enough of an effort.

    • The need is overwhelming so it's also important for people to fine one thing they they can do and are good at doing and focus on it, if it all seems like too much.

      If you're a yeller, we need you to yell. If you're a writer, we need you to write. If you're a planner, god knows we need you to plan.

      Find what you can do, and more importantly, find what you will *keep* doing, and do that for as long as it takes. Because things will suck and you can't get burned out.

    • Here's the Tea Party guide remade for liberals to start moving the chain in the other direction.

      The take home message is to be a visible/vocal pain in the ass where your elected legislators are concerned. Starting tomorrow, I'm going to begin calling my Congressman's office to demand that he hold Donald Trump accountable to the American people by proving that he does not have conflicts of interest that violate the emoluments clause. Let the Congressman know that if he doesn't hold Trump accountable that we will hold HIM accountable.

    • Would need to write an essay to address the many excellent issues posited here, and this isn't the forum.

      My wife, now ex, was local school board prez for 5 years, also of the Water Board, and Property Owner's Association. Just paint a bulls-eye on your chest and carry on.

      I covered County Commissioner's meetings for 7 years and sardonically reported my observations in a monthly column.

      Was approached by demo committee (not democommie) to run for County Commissioner. Declined.

      Trying to say as a lifelong political animal I've dipped my oar in the water. (Demonstrations in the States and Europe left off the resume.)

      And so, shit man, for those who have fire in their bellies, please make an effort to participate in local politics with a large view.

      At this stage I'm an observer and cheerleader.

      Thanks for the great post, Ed.

    • c u n d gulag says:

      After Goldwster lost, "Christian" conservativs started a running for the smallest, most local offices.
      50+ years later, they control all of the national branches of our government, and many, many states governments.

      Follow their model(s)!

    • Hey friends, any need for a foreign national with programming skills in your ranks (us sneaky Russians always trying to influence your elections)? Canada is terrible at asymmetrical warfare, so not sure anyone can sit this one out.

    • Pretty much everything but the confrontation aspect is correct. On that, it's pretty well established that cops don't need any kind of provocation that the rest of us would recognize to beat and arrest someone, just feel subjectively threatened on the level of a 9 y/o. The kind of threat that (right or wrong) women don't present. Almost no amount of kowtow, shuck and jive will save you if you have a penis.

      From my observations many men go in figuring they'll get beat and arrested anyway, so better to go down swinging.

    • Some years ago, an ACLU chapter was started up here. I started going to meetings and after a while the leader decided to move to another state. I got roped into taking over since no one else wanted it. We initially held a public forum featuring a debate on the Patriot Act between the ACLU Exec Director and the local US Attorney who is now a Federal Judge. We had 110 or so show up to hear a good discussion. But soon, apathy set in. We had a law professor who once clerked for John (Roger B. Taney) Roberts. We barely had a dozen attend. I was embarrassed since I helped set it up and the guy drove 3 hours to come talk. Several other events turned out the same way. The Chapter slowly dissolved for lack of showing the fuck up.
      This town where I live seems to be like that. The women's march had about 3000, including my wife, who's last foray into politics was protesting the Marcos regime when she was in college.
      I really don't think liberals can maintain the effort to match the wingnuts. We don't get whipped up into enough of a frenzy to do what they do. We spend too much time analyzing gray areas, and caveats. Something that very seldom is a consideration for the average wingnut.
      I think we are witnessing a societal fever that has to be allowed to run its course since we don't have any effective treatment for this particular viral strain. The best we can do is to keep the patient alive and as comfortable as possible.
      I don't think we can stop most of what Trump will do. We are not sufficiently ruthless, very few of us would sell our mother for short-term political gain, our elected leaders are not sociopaths. Republicans, American conservatives, care about two things, money and property.
      How are liberals supposed to fight that?
      Another thing, the flyer that the local organizers of the Women's March handed out said their goal was to support moderate candidates and moderate policies. Moderate? As in Rockefeller Republican? As in how we got to this point in history in the first place? By having the democratic party continuously move to the right for the past 30 years. Really? If that's our battle plan, we've already lost.

    • "Was approached by demo committee (not democommie) to run for County Commissioner. Declined."

      I absolutely fucking love THAT disguise, it fools everybody!

    • You seem to have cause and effect mixed up regarding "anarchobros" & protests. The police decided they weren't going to bust heads at the womens' march (bad PR dontcha know), therefore there were no police "anarchobros" to hreak windows.

    • Antarctica. There was a march in Antarctica. Which surprised me only slightly less than what looked like really well attended marches in Oklahoma City and Lincoln, Nebraska.

      This can happen.

    • Long time lurker, first time poster. I've been reading your blog for years and have enjoyed your posts and the comments in equal measure. I attended the Women's March with my grand-daughter yesterday and after some uncomfortable introspection, realized I'm a lazy shit. As a college-educated, upper middle-class, 40-something white woman in a solidly red state, I've hardly felt an inconvenience from the governmental policies over the last 20 years. I thought the fact I labeled myself a liberal, taught my children tolerance and progressive views, and expressed my indignation and provided monetary support for "those-who-are-not-me" was enough. I was grateful for what I have, and, hey, isn't that enough?
      I realized (and kind of always knew) it wasn't. The events of the last couple of months, particularly the last two days, proved in no uncertain terms it isn't.
      Your earlier post about realizing that those uncomfortable family reunion conversations are going to have to happen really stuck with me. I never wanted to have those conversations, but I know they have to happen now so I've resolved to be more informed so I can make a coherent argument for my beliefs. I can't just write my friends and family off as stupid, ignorant and uneducated anymore. Because, in the end, if I don't say something to provide an alternative perspective they will never have nor ever seek one. God knows they're not going to consult other media outlets, or, gasp, actual literature, to try to understand a different view point.
      Tonight this resolution led to me wanting to do more than just inform myself. As is custom, I checked your blog to see if you'd posted recently and found this entry. Thank you, Ed. This is exactly what I was looking for. And couldn't be more timely. I believe your blog is a community service (I think I speak for so many who read but don't post), and while I've always shared it with those who are aligned with my political leanings, I intend to share with all now. I hope you always feel the passion to continue.

    • Assignment for Monday 1/23: call your senators and tell them you expect them to vote NO on confirming Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. 202-225-3121.

    • Where I'm at, every office from school board to Senate is already occupied by reasonably left wing democrats. So what's an urban liberal to do?

    • @Major Kong

      "I'd run for office but I have too many skeletons in my closet…"

      I think you've just made a very good case for your presidential run in 2020.

    • @Rustonite, here in Eastern Washington every single office except County Auditor is held by batshit reactionaries. Our state rep filed a bill in the legislature to have our half of the state secede from the other. I've joined the Dems, and they are real good about holding meetings where they spend hours taking roll and doing Robert's Rules. Aside from that there's still far too much bickering about Bernie, Jill, and Hillary. I can't hardly stand to associate with most of them, and have unfollowed most of the Social Media side of party activity.

    • Protesting will not change the power structure in this country. By all means continue to do so if it makes you feel better. As long as there are 2 corporate parties in control we are going to continue getting screwed. Only one of them will make it seem like they really care about all those poor people all the while screwing them just the same. I don't think we are going to have much success fixing this system. We're going to ride it all the way down.

    • I have a very hard time believing that the fact that the police (very obviously) did not view this protest as a threat to either "the way things should be" or any of their personal perquisites had less of an effect on the lack of violent response than women being nicer and tidier than men did.

      When it's hippies talking back to their betters (OWS) or black thugs unhappy about police getting to crack heads like they ought to be able to (BLM) you get a violent response from the police. When it's white, respectable people – you know, the good people that police are there to protect from the other ones – you get peaceful protests. Everything you're saying about how the protesters behaved better is exactly what we heard from Fox News about all those Tea Party marches that somehow never ended up with police kettling, pepper spraying, and beating protesters.

    • I'm totally with you on the window smashing thing, but can we not be so naive as to think that getting all upset about smashed windows will somehow preserve our protests' legitimacy in the eyes of the right-wing and ultra-centrist liberal media? The protests are already illegitimate in the right's eyes at least. If not a single poor window was smashed, they'd find a "vulgar sign" and focus on that. Or they'd show a video of a protester being confused as they answer pop questions and they'd say all the protesters are ignorant idiots.

      Bottom line, stop thinking about respectability with the right. There are perfectly good reasons why a movement should instruct people not to intentionally damage property. Maintaining respectability just isn't one of them.

      On the sustainability issue, it would be a good time to look at Euromaidan and think about real organization. They had tents, they had local businesses who pitched in (this is the real reason not to smash windows), and people organized soup kitchens, medical services, etc. Maybe if more American leftists had learned something from that movement rather than ignorantly dismissing it as a right-wing CIA-sponsored coup, you'd have a sustainable protest movement that could drive orangey from the White House as Yanukovych was driven from Ukraine.

    • The best way to influence things at the state and national level is to CALL YOUR ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES – WITH A PHONE. Do it once every few weeks, or whenever a big vote comes up. It works. Emailing them and commenting on their Facebook/Twitter goes generally does not work.

      Great info here:

      If you live in a blue district, you're not off the hook! Call your rep and tell him/her that you're counting on them to stand up to fight the GOP agenda – and that you have their back. Congress is nervous right now and scared to take bold positions, because they don't know what's going to happen and how their constituents will react. Let your rep know they have your support.

    • I have news for all the Anarchy Bros out there: Starbucks has insurance and doesn't really give a shit that you broke their window.

      They know. I've been forced to deal with black bloc contingents before, and they know exactly how futile what they're doing is, but the media outlets always obsess over property destruction, so they end up with an outsized presence on the nightly news to get their message across — which is that people are enraged enough to commit property destruction.

    • Showing up to demonstrations to cosplay as old-timey anarchists accomplishes absolutely nothing. Life isn't a mosh pit. Grow up and learn to contribute meaningfully.

    • I have never been an activist before, but the March was just one part of what I'm doing right now, in conjunction with other local groups of mostly women. We have good elected officials in my neck of the woods, so I signed up at a site called Swing Left, to find a sister district (in NY or NH) to help throw my support in for their efforts to get Democrats elected to Congress.

      We also have an ongoing event starting tomorrow, which is to have a presence at our Members of Congress' local offices. Like I said, we have good folks, I expect we'll be there to thank them a lot, and also to make sure they know about and have taken a public position on some of the shit coming down from the GOP in Congress.

      I'm currently organizing a meeting for next Sunday to get folks in my county together to come up with some regular action plans.

      I am subject to the Hatch Act at work, so I can't run for office (unless I quit my job, which I won't do because I love it), but I can do a lot aside from that. I will be working to make sure Democrats and progressives show up to vote in 2018.

    • To me the whole "smash shit up during a demonstration" is the easiest way for someone from the other side to delegitimize an entire movement. If 1,000,000 people march peacefully and two random douches break some shit, it's the latter that will be reported on and allow everyone on the fence to dismiss the protesters as destructive assholes.

    • I walked out of a restaurant on Friday and told them I will never patronize any establishment that has Donald Trump on the TV.

    • Submitting this for review:

      So the Right pretty well coasted to victory on the War on Christmas and similar memes about Christian prosecution. They won that, this is a real thing now to these people. My question; Since they have made it real, why don't we oblige them and make it so? We've already lost the votes. Why don't we have news stories about honor killings in Alabama? Hell, it's probably even true. Let's hammer home how backward it is in these places. Every.Single.Day. Just like they did to us.

    • What Heisenberg said, and also, it never hurts to call Speaker Ryan and the Turtle McConnell–you may not be their direct constituents, but in their positions they can be argued to be representing everyone.

      And, yeah, the folks smashing stuff up are going to succeed in getting protests outlawed. Don't believe it? Republican legislators in several states are already proposing bills to outlaw protests…including that dick in ND who introduced a law allowing motorists to run people down who get in their way in the streets. Protesters or not.

    • Not destroying stuff for the hell of it is always a good tactic. That was the word at the Ford strikes in the late 30s where the workers took over the assembly line. Don't even sit on an uninstalled car seat. Be present. Shut the place down. Just down give the authorities any excuses.

    • Character defamation from closet skeletons aside, a huge problem with running for local office is money.

      It takes about $30 grand to run for an Assembly seat in our little town, let alone statewide or national.

      Nor can most of us afford the security system to fend off the loons – and we all know they're out there. My mailbox was filled with dog shit after I spoke at one of our local meetings. Nor have I forgotten the rounds from an assault rifle that were fired at a small local altercation a few years ago. And, of course, Gabby Gifford.

    • I marched on Saturday in Denver and it was an incredible experience. To your point, I mentioned to my sister that I was surprised by the lack of police presence. DPD was there, but they weren't making a visible statement. I am also enthused and re-energized and want to do my part to sustain the energy. Thanks for your suggestions.

      And to those, including the president, that are hand-wringing and asking "where were all of you on election day?!" I say, we were there too. I don't know why we are drawing the conclusion that the people who marched on Saturday didn't vote in November. Secretary Clinton received 65 million votes. It's quite possible that the couple of million of Marchers also voted.

    • @SafetyMan; pointing out the deplorables' deplorable behavior (see what I did there?) just brings out toddler-level tantrumming about how the "libtard eeeeleeeetes" just won't TRY to understand them, and how they're the most persecuted bunch in the history of the universe, and that's the problem with the country; if only we wouldn't notice when they're acting like a bunch of brain-damaged apes, then they'd start behaving themselves.

    • I was very proud that both my kids (in separate cities!) participated in the Women's March, but I'll be happier when/ if we see even a decent fraction of that many people turn out to protest the next Supreme Court nominee. We'll see.

    • Land_Planarian says:

      For folks ready to pledge their time and efforts to Keeping an Eye On The Bastards, I reaaaalllllyyyyy recommend joining (or if you gotta, starting) a locally-focused activist organization, DSA chapter, local democratic party/club, whatever works for you.

      Get a little pool of folks willing to go to school board meetings, and get 3 to sign up for each one. Carpool, sit together and snark quietly, get beers afterwards. Keep a few short notes on what's going on, and be ready to send up the batsignal to the wider group if anything especially good or bad is on the agenda for next time. Have other folks in the group do the same for city council, congress and state rep's town halls, etc.

      This has totally transformed my home town's politics over the last 3 years. After a few rounds of meetings, you get a feel for what's actually going on, what positions each elected official holds, who you'd want to put pressure on to get something passed or blocked, who you'd like to see ousted next election time.

      No one can go every meeting, and going by yourself and speaking up is overwhleming. But if you divvy it up and do it with friends, it's pretty manageable. In small towns especially, just having non-wingnut folks watching for a change tends to put officials on better behavior.

    • A) Nice to see it noticed that women do a damn good job. (Actually at an amazing number of things, besides organizing and nonviolence.)

      B) This other stuff.

      "the nutcases and seniors"

      "older voters – treat newspapers like the Bible"

      "the right-wing conspiracy screeds they receive in volume from their elderly audience"

      and then:

      '"Is that really necessary?" or "What are you, 12?" … Does it change their attitudes? Probably not…. [But] [p]eople need to hear "That is not cool"'


    • Death Panel Truck says:

      I think we are witnessing a societal fever that has to be allowed to run its course since we don't have any effective treatment for this particular viral strain. The best we can do is to keep the patient alive and as comfortable as possible.

      A defeatist attitude like this makes me disinclined to work my ass off for the likes of you.

    • Find an old typewriter (one that uses paper) and write a letter to your target and put it in an envelope that needs a stamp. These people really hate getting these things. It will gret read rather than deleted. They're sure you are a voter. My letter about funding for our local bus service resulted in a very long and incoherent reply sent in an envelope.This was not a surprise. The drawback was that our ultra right wing newspaper printed the story too late for it to have a real effect.

      Still, it gets in their way and it takes some work to get my vote…,maybe.

    • The dick in ND who introduced a law allowing motorists to run people down who get in their way in the streets kind of makes me want to take a road trip to his hometown. No reason. None.

    • Ed, you're exactly wrong about the "smashed windows" thing.

      The cops knew that this was full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. White ladies having a nice day out. And good for them! No white lady punching while the white ladies promise not to do anything meaningful.

      But if the cops want windows smashed, they'll get it done themselves. Nothing we can do to change that.

    • The cops KNEW shit, Michael. They hoped that a huge crowd of women wouldn't go fucking crazy and start burning cars and the like. They decided to not make it look like they were ready to start shooting people (mostly women) as soon as the first brick was thrown.

      OWS found out that cops are more than happy to attack women, children, the elderly and the impaired–so long as there are enough men in the group to give them some cover for institutional assholeishness.

    • Michael, you know nothing. A black sorority at the state college filled an entire bus with African-American women, and they weren't the only non-white group out there marching.

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