February 16, 2019

How Milennials compare with earlier generations

A really useful study by Pew

Biden reported thinking about running with O'Rourke

NY Post -Former Democratic veep Joe Biden reportedly is considering Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) to be his running mate if Biden runs for the White House again.

Advisers have touted O’Rourke to Biden thanks to his relative youth — he’s 46. The Texas pol is fresh off a close loss in the Senate race with Republican Ted Cruz.

At 76, Biden has been wondering whether he’s too old to make a third try for the presidency, the Associated Press reported.

O’Rourke could help Biden attract young voters in a potential run against President Trump

False and misleading cliams used for Trump's "national emergency"

What American cities will feel like with climate change

The ACLU's anti-natinal emergency suit

ACLU -The ACLU will argue that President Trump’s use of emergency powers to evade Congressional funding restrictions is unprecedented and that 10 U.S.C. § 2808, the emergency power that Trump has invoked, cannot be used to build a border wall.  Congress restricted the use of that power to military construction projects, like overseas military airfields in wartime, that “are necessary to support” the emergency use of armed forces. 

“The Constitution assigns Congress the power of the purse, and no prior president has ever tried to use emergency powers to fund a chosen project — particularly a permanent, large-scale domestic project such as this — against congressional will.  This is obviously improper,” added Dror Ladin, staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project.

Polls: Trump, Biden in virtual tie in Texas

48% Trump
46% Biden

Democratic presidential race

As Prosecutor, Kamala Packed Prisons With Pot Peddlers
 
Newsom endorses Kamala Harris for president

Community

From our overstocked archives

Sam Smith - The native American was forced westward by the young escaping the limits of east coast villages that had been established only a generation or two earlier by parents escaping the limits of European villages. From then on, whether seeking a whale, rafting with Huck Finn, easy riding with Peter Fonda, or next week in Cancun, there has been a strong belief in America that happiness lies somewhere else. And yet as we find freedom we also rediscover loneliness. As geographer Yi-Fu Tuan says, we require both shelter and venture. We need freedom and support, silence and cacophony, the vast and distant but also the warm and near, a voyage and a harbor, the great adventure and the hobbit hole. Much of the iconography of our times gives little sense of this. Instead, the individual is treated as a self-sufficient, self-propelled vehicle moving across a background of other things, other places, and other people.

Our own experiences with community may in large part represent something from which we have fled — a fouled-up family, a stifling neighborhood, an oppressive religion — rather than that which we seek. We may have declared, either consciously or unconsciously, never to go through that again. And so we look for maximum freedom and decline to make the trade-offs — except, of course, when we are working, commuting, or buying those things that are supposed to make us free. In the end, ironically, we may find ourselves having mostly freed ourselves from voluntary associations. Those relationships, appointments, and activities required by our status, employment, or to pay for our totems of liberation, are not impeded at all by our declaration of independence; rather they sit there happily munching away at what we, with an increasing sense of nostalgia, call our “free” time.

Communities are easiest to build in times of stress or out of painful need. Impressive self-sufficient communities were constructed in New York’s Harlem and Washington’s Shaw in response to racial exclusion. Similarly, to many veterans, few communities can compete with the bonds created under fire. Yet wistful as such memories may be, few would really attempt to recover them by reviving segregation or going back to war.

Communities do things that individuals can’t and things that institutions won’t. From the friend who drives you home when you have had too much to drink, to farmers rebuilding a neighbor’s barn after a tornado, people draw strength from others that is unavailable in isolation. And in the process, they become themselves.

Throughout history, community order has largely grown out of the cooperation and effectiveness of individuals, schools, families, and the strength of local institutions.


February 15, 2019

Democratic presidential race

Harris says Green New Deal has sound principles

Kamilia Harris on her blackness

Warren: Amazon 'walked away from billions in taxpayer bribes' because officials 'aren't sucking up' enough


What the candidates are saying and doing

It's still possible to find agreement with other people

Sam Smith - For example, a group of Maine Greens and Maine Libertarians got together found these ten things they agreed upon:
1. End regime change wars.

2. Close down most U.S. bases in foreign countries

3. Terminate corporate welfare

4. Void, via repeal, the PATRIOT Act and the 2012 NDAA provision
allowing “indefinite detention” without jury trial, judge, or
witnesses for the defense as flagrant violations of the U.S.
Constitution

5. Teach and enforce our Bill of Rights and give extensive training in
such to law enforcement personnel.

6. Support municipal food sovereignty ordinances for farmer to
consumer transactions

7. Expand time to gather petitions for office to April 30, to minimize
difficulty during the most difficult weather of the year and to allow
more time.

8. Do not require caucuses to maintain ballot access in Maine

9. Allow nomination of candidates by convention as an option

10. In some cases vaccines have prevented deaths or serious diseases.
In other cases documentation exists of fatal or lifetime debilitating
injuries to people, especially infants. Accordingly, we oppose any law
mandating vaccines, which fail to take into account either sovereignty
over our own bodies or important medical variations including allergic
reactions.
In 1995, as an active member of the Green Politics Network, I joined a number of other Greens in hosting a conference of third party activists. Over a hundred showed up, ranging from one of the founders of the ancient American Labor Party to Greens, Libertarians, Perot backers, and Democratic Socialists of America. It was a recklessly dangerous idea for a Washington weekend, but Green activists John Rensenbrink, Linda Martin and Tony Affigne seemed to know what they were doing and I was happy to go along.

We established two basic rules:

- We would only discuss issues on which we might find some agreement.

- We would reach that agreement by consensus.

We broke the body into tables of ten or so, each dealing with a different topic. All policies that were proposed were written on newsprint posters. Then participants were given three color stick-on dots with their names on them. Everyone then went up to the board and placed their dots on their favorite issues (cumulative voting style, so that all three dots could, if desired, be placed on one issue). After the vote, those with only their dots on a particular issue were allowed to move them to their second choice (a la ranked choice voting) and so forth until a clear consensus of three issues emerged. This scheme not only produced a consensus, but one that was physical and visual as well as intellectual and was fun to watch.

When the various groups produced their recommendations, they were turned over to what was known as a "fishbowl negotiation." Each small group selected a representative to negotiate for it with representatives of all the other tables. The representatives sat in a circle with those they represented behind them. Anyone could stop their representative and request a small group conference but only the representative could speak in the larger assembly. It worked remarkably well.

The small group that had the most difficulty with such techniques was comprised mainly of Marxists who had selected economics as their area of concern. We were, one suggested, guilty of what the Master had called "parliamentary cretinism," and the socialists resisted it firmly. One result, ironically, was that the weakest section of the final statement was that dealing with economics. On the other hand, the libertarians came to the organizers at one point and offered to leave the meeting so a full consensus could be maintained. We encouraged them to stick around, changing our own rules to accept several levels of consensus.

Despite the wide range of views present, despite the near total absence of Robert's Rules of Order, the final document, with full consensus, called for nothing less than a major transformation. The group unanimously agreed to support proportional representation, campaign finance reform "to provide a level playing field in elections;" initiative, referendum and recall; better ballot access; the end of corporate welfare; strong environmental policies; sexual and reproductive freedom; an end to the war on drugs and treatment of addiction as a health matter rather than as a crime; a dramatic cut in military expenditures; workplace democracy and the maximum empowerment of people in their communities "consistent with fairness, social responsibilities and human rights."

Not bad for a group ranging from one of the founders of the ancient American Labor Party to Greens, Libertarians, Perot backers and Democratic Socialists of America. It shouldn't have worked at all, but because the rules we had used felt fair to those present, it did. By ignoring topics of obvious disagreement, we even surprised ourselves with the level of consensus.

We had also discovered the possibility of a political transformation, of moving beyond left and right. We understood that these were different times -- not the thirties, not the sixties -- times that required different imaginations and different risks. We had reached out and had found that we were not alone.

Word: The real problem with Trump's national emergency plan

Peter H> Schuck, HY Times - By failing to define crucial terms, legal standards and accountability rules, Congress has handed presidents an all-too-handy tool of tyranny commonly used by autocrats to amass more power, crush dissent and eviscerate democratic institutions. In Mr. Trump’s case, it has handed an unguided missile to an ignorant, impetuous man-child.

Congress should have known better. After all, it enacted the National Emergencies Act of 1976, which purported to regulate such declarations, only two years after President Richard Nixon’s abuses of power forced his resignation. The act actually made matters worse in a key respect: It defined a national emergency as “a general declaration of emergency made by the president.” This circular definition, of course, is no constraint at all. Or as Humpty Dumpty says to Alice, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

In the nature of national emergencies, some definitional leeways are unavoidable. But Congress could readily specify certain conditions that must exist before the president can make such a declaration and thus arrogate to himself extraordinary powers — curtailing liberties, seizing property, spending funds appropriated for other purposes and suspending protective laws — that Congress would not otherwise be likely to grant him in advance, or perhaps ever. (Indeed, Congress has the power to override Mr. Trump's declaration and it should in this case — though it probably won’t.)

Follow the bouncing Trump

 CNN -President Donald Trump once said taking executive action on immigration was an unconstitutional action that could lead to impeachment. Trump's past comments are at odds with his current plans to declare a national emergency and other executive actions to secure funding for a border wall. Trump made the comments on Fox News' "Fox and Friends" in November 2014 when asked about executive actions by then-President Barack Obama that would halt deportations for the undocumented parents of children born in the United States. "Now he has to use executive action and this is a very, very dangerous thing that should be overwritten easily by the Supreme Court," Trump said.

"So we're looking now at a situation, it should absolutely not pass muster in terms of constitutionality, but it depends on what these justices do," he added.

Stupid Trump tricks

Donald Trump vowed during his presidential campaign that he would eliminate the nation’s $19.9 trillion debt in eight years. But the country’s annual deficit just jumped 41.8 percent in the first quarter of this fiscal year over the same period the previous year. And total debt is now the highest it has ever been in U.S. history, according to Treasury Department figures.

2014 video of Mike Pence warning against president taking too much power

Never before seen pictures of 1969 moon landing

Best name for the GOP

Banana Republicans, which was the title of a prescient 2004 book by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber

China tries trackless trains

Metro UK -The world’s first electric-powered ‘trackless train’ has been launched in China.

Using virtual rail lines on the streets of Zhuzhou, Hunan Province, the new Autonomous Rail Rapid Transit system can travel up to speeds of 43 mph. thumbnail for post ID 8640366Police kick woman off packed train for refusing to take her designer bag off empty seat

The trains carry up to 300 passengers and the new system is a cheaper and greener alternative than building new train or tram tracks.

People’s Daily Online reported 10 minutes of charging can propel the train for 15.5 miles and each train will have a life-span of around 25 years.

Word

No photo description available.

February 14, 2019

Word: AIPAC

A problem with so many Democratic candidates

Sam Smith - A problem with the wealth of Dems running is that absent ranked choice voting we could easily end up with one with a strong base but weak on majority support. The Dems should think about using RCV for their convention

Sanders offers Social Security expansion bill

Truthdig -In an effort to strengthen one of the nation’s most popular programs as the GOP pushes for cuts, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and several congressional Democrats on Wednesday introduced the Social Security Expansion Act to ensure that seniors can retire in dignity and “everyone with a disability can live with the security they need.”

Confronting an economic landscape in which half of older Americans have no retirement savings and 20 percent of seniors are forced to live on income that barely exceeds the federal poverty line, Sanders’ legislation would significantly expand Social Security benefits and ensure the program remains solvent for at least the next five decades by subjecting all income over $250,000 to the Social Security payroll tax.

Box score

Record number of Americans 90 days behind car payments

Retail sales sank 1.2% in December, the U.S. Census Bureau said Thursday. It’s the largest drop since September 2009, a few months after the end of the Great Recession.

Stupid Trump tricks

A Fox News poll of 1,004 registered voters found that 25 percent said “yes,” they believe God wanted Trump to be president, while a majority of 62 percent said “no.” Fourteen percent said they were unsure.

According to a report in The Washington Post, the president installed a golf simulator inside his personal quarters in the White House in the last few weeks. The room-size simulator costs roughly $50,000, according to a White House source cited by the Post, and replaced an older system installed during the Obama administration.

Democratic presidential race

Cory Booker 'Looking To Women First' For Potential VP Pick 

Klobuchar May Be a Bad Boss. That Shouldn’t Disqualify Her From the Presidency.


Elizabeth Warren receives standing ovation at surprise visit to Native American conference: report

Pay raise ends Denver teacher strike

USA Today -Denver Public School teachers will return to work this week after the teachers union and Colorado's largest public school district reached a labor agreement.

“This agreement is a win, plain and simple: for our students; for our educators; and for our communities,” said teachers union president Henry Roman, an elementary school teacher. “No longer will our students see their education disrupted because their teachers cannot afford to stay in their classrooms."

Trump's margin vs. potential opponents

45% Cruz
59% Kasich 

(Monmouth)

Trump regime guts task forces aimed at protectiing elections from foreign interference

Daily Beast -Two teams of federal officials assembled to fight foreign election interference are being dramatically downsized, according to three current and former Department of Homeland Security officials. And now, those sources say they fear the department won’t prepare adequately for election threats in 2020.

“The clear assessment from the intelligence community is that 2020 is going to be the perfect storm,” said a DHS official familiar with the teams. “We know Russia is going to be engaged. Other state actors have seen the success of Russia and realize the value of disinformation operations. So it’s very curious why the task forces were demoted in the bureaucracy and the leadership has not committed resources to prepare for the 2020 election.”

February 13, 2019

Building little republics in a collapsing empire

From our overstocked archives

Sam Smith, 2011- Several years after the passage of the Federal Boating Act of 1958, the Second Coast Guard District in St. Louis sent a team of unarmed men, and a van with outboard patrol boat in tow, to Oklahoma to begin safety inspections of vessels on a federal waterway. A few days later, the men returned sheepishly to St. Louis, explaining that they had been met by officers of the Oklahoma State Police who had told them they weren't welcomed and that the next time they came to the state they had better "bring your authority on your hip."

The commander of the Second District, Admiral O.C, Rohnke (whose aide I was) was infuriated and flew to meet with the governor and straighten him out on the matter. It was settled peacefully and there was no more trouble.

The Federal Boating Act of 1958 was an early and benign example of what I came to think of as federal greenmail as Washington increasingly began using the budget as a means of getting states to give up their 10th Amendment authority over matters "not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States."

The boating act was quite mild by today's standards. A Coast Guard history said of it: "Among other benefits, this act made states essential partners in this cooperative effort. Most of the states quickly enacted boating safety laws involving boat numbering, equipment, and operation. These laws were typically uniform, making it easier for boaters to be in compliance when traveling from one state to the next. Further, many states initiated boating safety programs to implement their new laws, increasing the number of officers on the water for enforcement and rescue."

Under today's rules the options given the states would have been early eliminated in favor of hundreds of pages of federal regulations. Over the following decades the use of greenmail would explode - reaching a recent pinnacle not in the healthcare bill mandate - which wrongly asserts its rights based on the commerce clause - but in the massive interference with local schools found in the No Child Left Behind program, an intrusion assisted by highly conditional funding from private foundations who aren't even mentioned in the Constitution.

While backing for this pecuniary assault on the Constitution has often been bipartisan, it is the support of supposedly anti-authoritarian liberals that is most discouraging, since if anyone was presumed willing to stand up for what Jefferson called our "small republics," it was this wing of the Democratic Party.

But as time has passed - especially with the fading of the highly devolutionary 1960s - liberals joined the right in pressing for an ever greater centralization of government with predictable costs in freedom, imagination, and simple efficiency. The motivations may differ from those of the right - for example, liberals value a centralized educated elite's choices over formerly decentralized decisions - the result has been the steady decline of democratic government.

Consider public education as an example. According to Jay Matthews of the Washington Post, the number of elected school boards in America has declined from more than 80,000 in 1950 to less than 14,000 today - all the more stunning because it has happened unnoticed. It's just so much easier to let Arne Duncan call the shots, especially when he's willing to pay you for it.

This in a country that was founded on articles of confederacy that stated, "Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled."

And after passage of the Constitution with its 10th Amendment, Thomas Jefferson wrote, "to take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specifically drawn around the powers of Congress, is to take possession of a boundless field of power, no longer susceptible of any definition.”

How right he was.

Arthur J. Versluis wrote in Modern Age:
In his autobiography, Jefferson also outlined this vision: "Every state again is divided into counties, each to take care of what lies within its local bounds; each county again into townships or wards, to manage minuter details; and every ward into farms, to be governed each by its individual proprietor. . . It is by this partition of cares descending in gradation from general to particular that the mass of human affairs may be best managed for the good and prosperity of all.". . .
Later in life, Jefferson emphasized the importance of what he called the "little republics" as essential to the sustenance of an enduring larger republic. He wrote to John Cartwright that each ward or township should be like "a small republic within itself, and every man in the State would thus become an acting member of the common government, transacting in person a great portion of its rights and duties, subordinate indeed, yet important, and entirely within his competence. The wit of man cannot devise a more solid basis for a free, durable and well-administered republic.". . . In his view, the strength of the republic as a whole-and for that matter, the vitality of the original American Revolution- lay nowhere but in the strength of the little republics.
He was not alone. Alexis de Tocqueville also spoke of "the political effects of decentralization that I most admire in America."

As late as 1992, the one hundred largest localities in America pursued an estimated 1,700 environmental crime prosecutions, more than twice the number of such cases brought by the federal government in the previous decade. As Washington was vainly struggling to get a handle on the tobacco industry, 750 communities passed indoor no-smoking laws. And, more recently, we have had the local drives towards relaxing anti-marijuana laws, permitting gay marriage and the major local and state outcry against the Real ID act.

Because this issue is not raised often enough, we find huge unnoticed disparities in the effectiveness of federal programs. For example, both Social Security and Medicare work well with surprisingly little overhead. In such programs, the government serves primarily as a moral redistribution center for tax revenues.

On the other hand, an environmentalist who ran a weatherization program once told me that she figured it cost $30,000 in federal and local overhead for each $1600 in weather-proofing provided a low income home.

A study of Milwaukee County in 1988 found government agencies spending more than $1 billion annually on fighting poverty there. If this money had been given in cash to the poor, it would have meant more than $33,000 for each low income family -- well above the poverty level.

As I put it some time back, "What works so well in the manufacture of a Ford Taurus -- efficiency of scale and mass production -- fails to work in social policy because, unlike a Taurus, humans think, cry, love, get distracted, criticize, worry or don't give a shit. Yet we keep acting as though such traits don't exist or don't matter. We have come to accept the notion that the enormous institutions of government, media, industry and academia are natural to the human condition and then wonder why they don't work better than they do. In fact, as ecological planner Ernest Callenbach pointed out, 'we are medium-sized animals who naturally live in small groups -- perhaps 20 or so -- as opposed to bees or antelopes who live in very large groups. When managers or generals or architects force us into large groups, we speedily try to break them down into sub-units of comfortable size.'"

By ignoring such wisdom, our systems end up like athletes on steroids. And, as with many athletes, nature eventually pulls the plug.

There are several factors speeding the shift away from democratic devolution, not all of them political:

- For example, there has been a huge increase in the number of lawyers in Congress and elsewhere in the federal government. Lawyers tend to be technocratic control freaks more than ideological ones. But the effect is much the same and has helped to produce more federal laws since the late seventies than we had had in our first 200 years.

- The explosion of MBAs have also helped, up from around 5,000 a year in the 1950s to around 150,000 in the past decade.

- The takeover of the liberal movement by a grad school elite that sees itself as far brighter than much of the country, of superior virtue, and which believes that as long as you can manage something you can make it work. In many ways. Barack Obama - bringing us into our third decade of uninterrupted presidency by a Harvard or Yale graduate - epitomizes this approach not just in his manner but in his obsession with data, assessment, tests and legislative complexity. The foregoing not only fail empirically; they annoy the hell out of much of the rest of the country. Further, the liberal elite with increasing frequency can be heard speaking of less powerful and educated Americans in a manner reminiscent of white southerners of a pst time talking about blacks.

- This shift blends perfectly with corporate and conservative values producing, regardless of which party wins, a result that varies only between the plutocratic and the oligarchic. Thus we have bipartisan test tyranny in our schools, with Arne Duncan leading for the Democrats and former Bush Ed Secretary Margart Spellings saying things like, "States were not bold enough in seeking meaningful and disruptive change to confront school failure." You may recall that "inadequate boldness" provision of the Constitution, right?

Given the cultural character of the modern liberal there is little hope that any positive change will come from that source any more than from the now bizarrely childish leadership of the Republican Party.

Further, both are fully under the sway of a completely corrupt campaign financing system. Essential to keeping things under control in this system is concentrating the bribes in as few places possible, preferably mostly in Washington. The less power elsewhere the better.

The liberal media repeatedly suggests that any decentralization of power is a step back towards a Civil War definition of states rights and that opposing federal concentration is the sole purview of the reactionary right.

This is, of course, nonsense and one needs to look no further back than the left of the 1960s to find examples of a progressive approach to devolving power.

Still, realistically, it is left to populist progressives, Greens, libertarians, independents, and localists ranging from lettuce growers to school board members, to declare the practice of democracy not the privilege of an elite but the right of every citizen.

This is not a matter of either/or. The goal is to found in the concept of subsidiarity, which argues that government is best carried out at the lowest practical level.

It was first defined by German theologian Oswald von Nell-Breuning who said, who thought that "functions of government, business, and other secular activities should be as local as possible. If a complex function is carried out at a local level just as effectively as on the national level, the local level should be the one to carry out the specified function. The principle is based upon the autonomy and dignity of the human individual, and holds that all other forms of society, from the family to the state and the international order, should be in the service of the human person."

Despite the way America's media monopolies discuss it, it is hardly a radical idea. For example, Article 5.2 of the European Union treaty states:

"In areas which do not fall within its exclusive competence, the Community shall take action, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, only if and in so far as the objectives of the proposed action cannot be sufficiently achieved by the Member States and can therefore, by reason of the scale or effects of the proposed action, be better achieved by the Community."

Further, moving towards the concept requires far more of a revolution in attitude than it does of a revolution in law. We already have, for example, a number of models hidden in the federal government already:

The National Park Service, the Peace Corps, the national endowments for the arts and the humanities (with volunteer state councils that give away millions in federal funds), the Coast Guard, and US Attorneys all have dispersed units with a relatively high degree of autonomy and a strong sense of turf responsibility by their employees. A further example can be found within the postal service. While many complain about mail service, you rarely hear them gripe about their own mail carrier, who is given a finite task in a finite geographical area.

I stumbled across this phenomenon while serving in the Coast Guard. At the time, the Guard had about 1800 units worldwide but only 3000 officers, with many of the officers concentrated on larger ships and in headquarters units. Thus there were scores of units run by enlisted personnel who rarely saw an officer. The system worked extremely well. It worked because, once training and adequate equipment had been provided, there was relatively little a bureaucratic superstructure could do to improve the operations of a lifeboat, rescue cutter or loran station. As with the education system, a bureaucracy in such circumstances does itself far more good than it can do anyone in the field.

Further, though a federal institution, such devolved agencies become a part of the local landscape. I was, for example, only a few days in Bristol, RI, on my assignment as operations officer of a Coast Guard cutter before I was invited to come to the Elks Club anytime I wished. We were, in effect, the navy of the little republic of Bristol.

A former Peace Corps regional director told me that in his agency's far-flung and decentralized system, there was no way he could control activities in the two dozen countries under his purview, yet the Peace Corps became one of the most popular federal programs in recent times. Can the success of these decentralized agencies be replicated, say, in housing or urban development? Why not give it a try? If federal housing monies were distributed by 50 state directors (vetted by the states' senators as are US Attorneys) who were given considerable leeway in the mix of policies they could fund and approve, we would, for starters, begin to have a better idea of which programs work and which don't. The federal government would also have better relations with the states.

There are other approaches such as broad revenue sharing or just not making too many decisions at the federal level.

Would there be corruption? Absolutely. But first it would not compare in size to that now afflicting such federal agencies as HUD and the Pentagon and, second, through evaluation, investigation and local media coverage, we would better know what the corrupt - as well as the admirable - were up to than we do today.

It is argued by the American elite - those who rule because of wealth, media power, corporate or other undemocratic forms of control - that the devolution of government is at best romantic silliness and at worst stupid.

Give these people the chance and they will seize whatever remains of American democracy, of which I was reminded when the closet reactionary Brookings Institution came up with a proposal for my state of Maine that emphasized the consolidation of everything from towns to schools. Did they know so little about the place that they didn't understand that Maine's historic localism has been one of its major virtues and survival techniques?

There is strong evidence that running government - or any institution - on the principals of subsidiarity makes far more sense than consolidating in the false name of efficiency.

In a piece arguing for the peaceful succession of American states - a greatly excessive alternative in my view - Kirkpatrick Sales makes a number of cogent points:
Among the nations that are recognized models of statecraft, eight are below 500,000 - Luxembourg, Malta, Iceland, Barbados, Andorra, Liechtenstein, Monaco, and San Marino.

Of the 14 states generally reckoned freest in the world, 9 have populations below Switzerland's, at 7.7 million, and 11 below Sweden's, at 9.3 million; the only sizable states are Canada, the United Kingdom, and Germany (the largest, at 81 million).

There are other national rankings. Literacy: Of the 46 countries that claim a literacy rate of 99 or better, 25 are below 7.5 million. Health: Measured by the World Health Organization, 9 of the top 20 are under 7 million. In 2009 rankings of happiness and standard of living, the top countries were Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Netherlands, Australia, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Canada, Ireland, Denmark, Austria, and Finland; all but Canada and Australia have small populations.
In fact, there are 85 countries out of the 195 counted by the United Nations that are under 10,000 square miles-that is to say, the size of Vermont or smaller.
One of the reasons for all this is that the smaller the entity the more likely more people will be involved - if only to express their gripes to a town councilmember over coffee in a restaurant.
Of course it can become stressful, too, especially when one attempts to combine excessive top-down regulatory requirements with local supervision. Rob Snyder of Maine's Island Institute notes that "Swans Island has roughly 300 year-round residents. In the community they have around 25 active boards: fire, planning, harbor, select, school, library. . . At last count, these boards require the efforts of 127 individuals. . . On Matinicus at this time of year you have 35 people, maybe less. Six or so couples that stay on the island year-round must fill all of the mandatory town, school, energy and safety requirements. Vinalhaven, the largest population at around 1200, has 68 active boards and Peaks, a community of 600 has roughly 41."

But that is why the question of who decides what has to be worked out on a case by case basis. And as Snyder points out, "The number of leaders on islands are legion."

At the other end, is the cost of ignoring the small. For example, the Small Business Administration Advocacy Office found that companies with 500 or more workers pay nearly $3,000 less per employee than small firms to comply with federal regulations.

Not surprising when you have a president with 39 self-described czars running the show and a bipartisan inability to see the difference between a huge corporation and a small business.
For such reasons, a Rasmussen poll found that

- Forty-three percent of U.S. voters rate the performance of their local government as tops compared to its counterparts on the state and federal level.

- Nineteen percent say state government is better than the other two.

- Just 14% think the federal government does a better job.

- And 25% aren't sure.

- Fifty-six percent of all voters believe the federal government has too much influence over state government. Only 12% percent say the federal government doesn't have enough influence over states, and another 26% say the balance is about right.

Now, obviously, there is no sign that the federal government will give up its drive for more power, that Arne Duncan will stop telling individual schools what to do or that stimulus money will flow more directly to mayors and governors so the choices can be made by those most profoundly affected.

But what we can do is to make it a defined cause and while pressing the battle, strengthen the little republics in which we already live and ally ourselves more strongly with those elsewhere.
This is not a hopeless endeavor. Way back in the 1960s, when I was editor of a community newspaper in a neighborhood of mixed ethnicity, I noticed the marked difference between the city government's response to the problems of poorer black residents and those of the far better organized white community. What was fascinating was that the latter did not gain this power by some measurable form of influence such as money or votes. It was simply extremely well organized and the downtown officials decided it was easier just to leave it alone.
I recently saw something similar in Maine. FEMA decided to define the coastal flood zones - a decision that could have heavy effects on building and on insurance costs. In doing so, in the best mono-conceptual thinking of the federal government, it drew maps essentially premised on Maine's shoreline not being that much different from that of, say, Florida or New Jersey. The reaction in Maine was to rebel but to do it in a way that made FEMA look sort of dumb. One community hired their own engineers to plot the problem and came up with dramatically different results from FEMA's. In the end an embarrassed FEMA backed off.

The interests of the federal government and that of communities, cities and states should not be at odds. They don't have to be. But they certainly are and will remain so until we discover that what truly brings us together is not Washington or who occupies the White House but the infinite small republics across the land of common hopes, values and frustrations, and which can learn to share these with each other in such a way that even those at he top will have to listen. And then, maybe, we can even change the nature of the oligarchy, but at worst we will have helped keep our own small republics free even in the midst of a collapsing republic.