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April 01, 2015 1:46 PM Lunch Buffet

Gotta say, this morning has been as much fun as anything I’ve experienced in politics since watching Mitt Romney try to explain the “47% video.”

Here are some spicy midday news/views treats:

* Watching “religious liberty” crusade unravel, Erick Erickson reduced to shrieking at conservative evangelical millennials for accommodating sodomites, who are just like murderers of Christ.

* Things get farcical in Indiana, when owners of pizzeria announce they won’t be catering any gay weddings. No, I’m sure they won’t.

* Meanwhile, back in Georgia, seems industries protesting now-half-dead “religious liberty” bill (Delta Air Lines, hospitality industry) got punished by Republicans in transportation funding bill.

* ABC/WaPo polling shows new and higher (though not high) floor seems to have been built under Obama’s approval ratings.

* More speculation over possibility administration may stop vetoing UN resolutions outlining terms for Israel-Palestine peace.

And in non-political news:

* Applicant rejected by Duke sends back letter of rejection to the rejection letter.

As we break for lunch, here’s Elvin Bishop’s band with “Fooled Around and Fell In Love,” a song I once heard them play at the Atlanta Municipal Auditorium. Elvin was, oddly enough, the opening act for The Kinks.

April 01, 2015 1:12 PM Little Rock Shocker

If I was startled to discover GA’s Republican Gov. Nathan Deal is among the nation’s most committed criminal justice reformers, I’m only a bit less surprised that AR Republican Gov. Asa Hutchison is refusing to sign the “religious liberty” bill his party whipped through the legislature. Didn’t he get the memo that such laws represent nothing more than a tiny token of respect for the conservative Christians who have lost the culture wars?

Before we get too excited, it should be noted that Hutchison has not, despite the loose use of that term in some accounts, actually vetoed the bill, and if I’m not mistaken, under Arkansas law it can take effect without his signature. But still, in conjunction with Mike Pence’s request for a “correction” of the Indiana law, Hutchison’s similar gesture represents a real reconsideration of a strategy that seemed to be axiomatic for pols in the wake of the Hobby Lobby decision.

As I suggested in an earlier post on Georgia’s hesitation over passage of a “religious liberty” law (the opportunity will formally end tomorrow if nothing else happens), we may be seeing an unanticipated silver lining from the forelock-tugging attitude towards “job creators” that Republican Governors, especially in the South, seem to think of as central to “economic development.” Sometimes corporations ask for tax breaks and regulatory “relief” and state assistance in fighting off unions; sometimes they ask for a halt to attacks on the mainstream “culture” from which they make their profits. Mammon giveth and Mammon taketh away, but in most intra-Republican Party conflicts, Mammon holdeth the whip hand.

April 01, 2015 12:25 PM New Deal on Prison Reform

I’ve said some pretty negative things about former U.S. Rep, and now Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal over the years, calling him a party-switching hack and opportunist, a culture-war extremist, a peddler of dumb economic development “ideas,” and a pol with a sketchy ethics record. But if criminal justice reform crusaders like the ACLU’s Alison Holcomb and Dream Corps’ Jessica Jackson are very impressed with Deal’s record on criminal justice reform, than I should be, too. TNR’s Naomi Shavin has the story of Deal’s unlikely leadership on this issue. After citing some of the statistics (a small drop in the prison population complemented by a more significant reduction in the number of people in county jails awaiting a prison cell), Shavin reported a highly symbolic event:

[W]ith all of this quantifiable progress in Georgia, it’s no wonder that the day before we spoke, Deal gave the keynote lunch speech at the summit on criminal justice reform co-hosted last Thursday by figures from across the partisan spectrum: former House Speaker Newt Gingrich; political consultant Donna Brazile; Rebuild the Dream founder Van Jones, a former Obama environmental adviser; and Pat Nolan, the director of the American Conservative Union Foundation’s Center for Criminal Justice Reform. Deal spoke between David Simon, creator of the classic HBO series “The Wire,” and Piper Kerman, author of Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison—and somehow managed to deliver remarks that stood out the most. He broke down the major initiatives that the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform has been focused on since the spring of 2011, when he signed a bill to create the special council during his first few months in office. After sharing the dramatic results he was seeing in Georgia, Deal began crying as he discussed drug court graduations. His oldest son is a drug court judge in Georgia, and that system’s success in changing people’s lives is what first prompted Deal’s interest in statewide criminal justice reform.

I was only vaguely aware of Deal’s interest in this subject, but am now happy to join the chorus of liberal praise.

When I wrote about this subject earlier this week, I was a bit annoyed at suggestions that Democrats were as much to blame as Republicans for the pre-reform nightmare of prisons full of people serving long mandatory sentences with no realistic hope for reintegration into society. But in Georgia, that might actually be true. I will never forget my shock and shame when my then-boss, Gov. Zell Miller, one-upped the national stampede towards mandatory minimum sentences in 1994 by proposing a “two strikes and you’re out” law imposing life sentences on any repeat felony offenders. It was such a naked and mindless act of opportunism, though entirely in keeping with Miller’s re-election strategy that year of moving as far to the right as he possibly could on any topic other than the one he actually cared about, education (as it was, he nearly lost anyway). I had nothing to do with the proposal, and was soon out the door to Washington, where I spent a fair amount of time attacking the kind of crap Miller had proposed. But I don’t recall many Georgia Democrats objecting.

So yes, Deal deserves some real credit here. It doesn’t mean we have to approve, retroactively or prospectively, his other deeds and positions. But like love, getting this particular subject right covers a multitude of sins.

April 01, 2015 11:36 AM Obama Announces the First Commutations of His Clemency Initiative

Over the weekend when I predicted that President Obama’s videotaped conversation with David Simon was an attempt to lay the groundwork for something, it wasn’t because I was indulging in fantasized optimism. I’ve been watching this President closely enough over the last few years to know that most everything he does on the job has a strategic purpose. And so this announcement Tuesday came as no surprise.

Building on his commitment to address instances of unfairness in sentencing, President Obama granted 22 commutations today to individuals serving time in federal prison. Had they been sentenced under current laws and policies, many of these individuals would have already served their time and paid their debt to society. Because many were convicted under an outdated sentencing regime, they served years — in some cases more than a decade — longer than individuals convicted today of the same crime.

About a year ago, the Obama administration introduced a Clemency Initiative that was designed to reform the dysfunctional Office of the Pardon Attorney and focus on inviting applications from non-violent drug offenders who had been the victims of outdated sentencing guidelines. Recently I wrote about how that effort had been overwhelmed with the response from over 25,000 inmates. Yesterday’s announcement is the direct result of that work.

This looks to be the first in what will likely be more commutations based on that initiative. The President recently told Ryan Reilly that he plans to use his clemency power “more aggressively.” And Tuesday’s announcement said that this work will continue as the administration reviews all applications for clemency thoroughly.

It is clear that moves like this are not only designed to provide justice to people who were unjustly sentenced. It is also a way to keep up the conversation on the prospects for bipartisan criminal justice reform.

The President is encouraged by the bipartisan support for improving our criminal justice system, including promising legislation that would implement front-end changes in sentencing. In addition, he supports bipartisan efforts to provide back-end support through better education and job training for those currently incarcerated and to reform of our juvenile justice system to build on the significant reductions in the number of youth being held in secure facilities.

Given that the injustices addressed by President Obama’s Clemency Initiative fell disproportionately on black and brown people in this country, this work will go right along side the efforts of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice to create a strong legacy for this President in tackling some of the most pernicious systemic issues affecting people of color.

April 01, 2015 10:37 AM Dreamscapes For a Lefty Challenge to HRC

Today’s soft porn for political junkies is a Maggie Haberman item for the New York Times wherein she’s talked three anonymous “Democratic strategists” into setting out a path to victory—or at least a prayer of victory—for a “liberal” primary challenge to Hillary Clinton.

How do we know these are real “strategists” (after all, Fox News brands pretty young faces as “strategists” by the dozen as an excuse to get them on the air) and not random schmoes used to validate the CW or the opinions of the “reporter”? I’d say it’s because they say at least one thing the CW almost invariably misses: any left-bent challenge absolutely has to begin with denting HRC’s support among African-Americans. This has indeed been the Waterloo for many a lefty presidential campaign, and conversely, the saving grace for many a “centrist.” And it is interesting to note there is presently a set of issues out there—involving police behavior and the criminal justice system—that could give an insurgent some traction among black voters if the front-runner fails to preempt it.

The other bit of very good if more obvious advice the “strategists” give to a hypothetical challenger is to go big in Iowa. He or she will get an initially rapturous welcome there thanks to the joy and relief Iowans will feel about a contested Caucus that keeps the life-giving money and attention flowing into the state. The Caucus process rewards labor-intensive organization and “enthusiasm” more than a pure primary—in other words, it’s less “democratic” and thus more fertile ground for an upset. And if HRC could not bring herself to skip Iowa in 2008, when it was an obvious trap for her, on grounds that she’d lose her front-running status, she sure as hell cannot skip it or tamp down expectations this time around.

Perhaps the most interesting issue discussed with Haberman by the “strategists” is whether conditions are ripe for a Howard-Dean-in-2004 style revolt against HRC’s alleged hawkiness. I honestly don’t recall her sounding all that hawky in 2008, aside from the interminable debate over her rationalizations for voting for the Iraq War Resolution, and then the famous “3:00 AM ad,” which was more about her qualifications as compared to Obama than about her views. But it is probable that a serious primary challenge would at a minimum restrain her from flirting with those who want a harder line than Obama’s over Iran or Palestine or defense spending. That would please the “keep Hillary honest” lobby, but might not provide much oxygen for an actual challenge.

April 01, 2015 9:38 AM Supreme Provocation on Marriage Equality?

While we are mulling the conservative reaction to their eroding position on marriage equality, and the strain that is going to put on the GOP’s presidential field, Greg Sargent has an interesting and very realistic hypothetical:

[W]hat happens if the Supreme Court declares a Constitutional right to gay marriage this summer? Do Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, and Mike Huckabee demand a federal marriage amendment to the Constitution and challenge Bush and Scott Walker to join them?

The answer to Greg’s specific question is “Yes.” But the real conservative position—since a constitutional amendment clearly ain’t happening—may depend on the configuration of the Court. If it’s a 5-4 decision with Kennedy as the swing vote, then the ruling will simply join the big abortion rights precedents as first on the docket for reversal by a newly solidified conservative Court majority once President Walker or Bush or whoever has been in office a while. Because Dred Scott.

April 01, 2015 9:11 AM Want Some Cheese With That Whine, Conservatives?

If you want a good example of what cultural conservatives are telling themselves about the backlash over Indiana’s (and probably Arkansas’ before the week is out) “religious liberty” law, there’s none better than the pity party Timothy Carney held at the Washington Examiner yesterday afternoon:

[O]ur culture is speeding down the icy Left slope of the cultural mountain, and a few conservatives are now dragging their hands on the ice to slow the acceleration — and the Left is crying that this will send us catapulting back uphill.
Religious liberty is the terms of surrender the Right is requesting in the culture war. It is conservative America saying to the cultural and political elites, you have your gay marriage, your no-fault divorce, your obscene music and television, your indoctrinating public schools and your abortion-on-demand. May we please be allowed to not participate in these?

I don’t know if actual tears were falling on the keyboard as Carney typed this column, but he certainly wants to give the impression that he speaks for a poor, persecuted minority that has no interest in controlling anybody’s behavior but its own.

Which is, of course, complete hooey.

Yes, conservatives have little choice but to accept legal and political setbacks over marriage equality, but they’re making it as clear as ever that given the opportunity they’d reverse those trends, ban gay marriage all over again and probably bring back the sodomy laws to boot. Look at the huge field of Republican proto-candidates for president. Do any of them actually support marriage equality? Sure, they’ll not talk about it or mumble about it being a state matter or engage in various other evasions, but they’re a long way from “surrendering.” And that’s even more obvious on the abortion issue where (a) the only meaningful difference among 99% of Republican politicians is about whether 99% or 100% of abortions should be banned; (b) Republican controlled state governors are beavering away at new restrictions that strike mainly at the availability of any abortion services; and (c) the right to choose hangs by a thread in a Supreme Court that any Republican President would be lynched for failing to tilt with his or her next appointment into a reversal of Roe v. Wade.

All this weepy talk of being attacked while trying to surrender also misses the even more obvious point that conservatives are hardly impotent politically; they do sorta control Congress and a majority of states.

So no, there’s no real “surrender” going on here, and Lord knows conservatives aren’t withdrawing from political combat; otherwise Carney would have punctuated his long whine by quitting his job. What they are doing is better understood as a strategic retreat: unable to outlaw or (increasingly) even to stigmatize gay behavior as a matter of law, they’re working to protect private discrimination. It’s what a big part of their constituency expects of them, and it’s the obvious next front—not some sort of Appomattox—in the culture wars.

And yes, we’ve seen and heard this all before, in the battle over racial discrimination. My weekly column at TPMCafe is all about that. It was most evident in the battle against the extension of civil rights laws to reach beyond public de jure segregation into private de facto segregation—the line in the sand that the Republican presidential nominee tried to draw in 1964. But let’s also don’t forget the fight to thwart school integration via the “segregation academies” that churches—yes, some of the same churches now whining about being persecuted for refusing to bend the knee to the Great Gay Power—largely organized. The Church of the Day Before Yesterday—the identification of Christianity with the secular culture of the 1950s or earlier—remains a powerful force even if the demonic change being resisted morphs from race-mixing to legalized sodomy to baby-killing by uppity women.

So why all the phony claims that cultural conservatism is folding its tent as a political force? There are a lot of reasons, but the most basic is probably this: if and when the Cultural Right fully gains power via a Republican Party that still is entirely in its thrall, the idea that it has come back from the brink of extinction gives its leaders greater flexibility about how and where to execute the counter-revolution, and its followers the satisfaction of a divinely ordained vindication—and then sweet vengeance.

April 01, 2015 8:00 AM Daylight Video

It’s April Fool’s Day, so we’ll have some foolish songs today. Here’s Etta James with “Seven Day Fool,” which is a whole lotta fool. It was recorded in 1961.

March 31, 2015 5:17 PM Day’s End and Night Watch

Getting pretty massive Twitter love for a simple tweet predicting that “Bible-based” homophobia will seem as embarrassing as “Bible-based” segregation before too long. I’ve long argued that conservative evangelicals have a bad habit of using random Bible verses to divinize secular conservative culture, worshiping in a Church of the Day Before Yesterday. The silver lining is that they’ll eventually adjust and find some other liberal outrage to stand up against in the name of Jesus, who might well laugh or cry.

Here are some remains of the day:

* So even as Pence seems to back down on language of Indiana’s “religious liberty” bill, Arkansas passes one that sounds a lot like it.

* Dave Weigel argues that furor over Trevor Noah reflects elevated position of The Daily Show as a sort of Fox for Liberals.

* Obama climate change plan submitted to UN today will rely, unsurprisingly, on more executive actions.

* At Ten Miles Square, Bill White gazes in awe at the size of budget deficits Republicans are suddenly willing not only to accept but to demand.

* At College Guide, Chris Lehmann questions the ethics of colleges that encourage students to attend knowing they will graduate with unsustainable loan burdens.

And in non-political news:

* CBS gets Daytime Emmy nomination for every show in its daytime lineup.

That’s it for Tuesday. We’ll close with Clapton performing with Delaney and Bonnie—and with George Harrison and Bobby Whitlock!—on that wonderful tune, “Coming Home,” in 1969.

Selah.

March 31, 2015 4:34 PM More Attention for Laura Ingraham!

Clearly, this is just what America needs, and it’s another sign of the wisdom and fairness of market forces in contemporary media (via Politico’s Dylan Byers):

Laura Ingraham, the conservative radio host and Fox News contributor, is planning to launch a new conservative news and opinion website, sources with knowledge of her plans told the On Media blog on Tuesday.
One source said that Neil Munro, the political reporter who resigned from the Daily Caller this week, will serve as the site’s editor, though that could not immediately be confirmed. Neither Ingraham nor Munro responded to a request for comment on Tuesday.
Ingraham’s new site will likely reflect the pundit’s conservative ideology and champion her pet causes, the sources said. Ingraham has been an outspoken opponent of immigration reform and has dedicated herself to getting anti-“amnesty” candidates into office. In 2014, she helped turn Dave Brat into a conservative sensation, enabling his stunning upset over House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
She will have a friend in Munro on this front. In 2012, Munro gained notoriety when he shouted a question at Obama in the middle of a Rose Garden announcement about changes to immigration policy. “Why’d you favor foreigners over Americans?” Munro yelled. Earlier this year, while questioning Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid about immigration policy, he even spelled the word “amnesty” out for him: “Amnesty. A-M-N-E-S-T-Y.”

Gee, I didn’t know the ideological territory betwixt and between Breitbart and the Free Bacon and Glenn Beck’s enterprises and the shrill snarky know-it-alls at The Federalist was such fertile ground for more gabby-gabby. If you are part of Jeb Bush’s operation, it wasn’t real good news, since the odds are reasonably high Ingraham and Munro will try to build their operation over the dead political body of the former Governor of Florida, whom she refers to as “the crony capitalist disaster” and keeps nominating for a spot on the same ticket as HRC. Perhaps since she’s been given credit for taking down Cantor last year, destroying a presidential co-front-runner is just the next obvious trophy for the case.

March 31, 2015 3:50 PM A Helluva 1% Inaccuracy

[WARNING: Spoilers for House of Cards Season 3 ahead!]

At Lunch Buffet I noted the story wherein House of Cards star Kevin Spacey let us know (via The Hill’s Judy Kurtz) that Bill Clinton had told him the show was a “99% accurate” depiction of Washington.

As the star of Netflix’s political thriller, Spacey plays the corrupt and conniving President Frank Underwood. Spacey, who counts former President Clinton among his pals, tells Gotham magazine, while doing his best Clinton impression, “Kevin, 99 percent of what you do on that show is real.”
Continuing with his impersonation of the 42nd president, Spacey says, as Clinton, that there’s one aspect of the show that’s pure fiction. “The 1 percent you get wrong is you could never get an education bill passed that fast.”

I’m a big fan of Kevin Spacey, but I really doubt the Big Dog told him that, and if he did he was joshing.

I’ve now seen enough of the third season of the show to know about Democratic President Underwood’s big initiative called America Works wherein he proposes to cut Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare by $500 billion, apparently in immediate benefits, in order to pour that money into an emergency jobs program aimed at hiring 10 million people via infrastructure positions, defense spending increases, and some sort of big fat job tax credit for employers. To his staff and then to the American people in a big speech, Underwood mocks entitlement programs as a scam and intergenerational looting, just like he’s Robert Samuelson or something. The initiative is of course opposed by hidebound members of his party and by all Republicans, but you get the sense The People are eventually going to love it.

That, of course, is completely insane on all sorts of levels, most of all the politics. Whoever is getting paid to keep the show politically realistic might have screwed up the courage to tell the writers and director and actors that this would poll at around 2% outside the Beltway. Yes, some Very Serious People would love it, but that’s hardly enough for good ratings.

March 31, 2015 3:13 PM Selling Out for 30 Krona

It’s not 100% clear this represents the backstory for the possible demise of “religious liberty” legislation in Georgia. But let’s just say I’ve finally found something good about the subsidy-driven smokestack chasing that passes for an economic development strategy in the South these days (per Greg Bluestein and Jim Galloway of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution):

The battle over SB 129 [the “religious liberty” bill] comes just as Georgia recruiters are trying to land what could be one of the biggest economic development deals in more than a decade.
The AJC reported Monday that Georgia is in the running for a new Volvo plant. The hunt is serious enough that, in a just-approved $21.8 billion state budget, $25 million was filched from the $100 million intended for first-of-its-kind transit spending.
Why? To build a training center near Savannah that could be used to attract an auto plant.
Deal’s aides are urging others not to draw a line between Volvo’s apparent interest and the fate of religious liberty legislation. But that’s the problem with nationalized issues: They don’t always bend to local concerns.
So the gay-friendly Swedish firm’s flirtation with Georgia may add an extra element of intrigue in the final hours of this year’s session.

Hmm. Wonder if this is why Erick Erickson was raving about Republican legislators selling out conservative Christian evangelicals “for thirty pieces of silver.” If he’d said “thirty Krona” it might have been clearer.

March 31, 2015 2:03 PM Lunch Buffet

You may be wondering why we had a post this morning from Weekend Blogger Nancy LeTourneau. She is actually going to be doing a few of these each week, as a sort of change of pace. And she’ll also be helping Martin fill in for me next time I get sick or have to travel during the working day on one of those planes with no Internet, which I seem to always fly. Those of you who have missed her weekend work are in for a treat.

Here are some regular old midday news/views treats:

* Former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari has defeated incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. This is the first time the opposition has ever won a Nigerian presidential election.

* Bill Clinton tells Kevin Spacey 99% of House of Cards is accurate. More about that dubious estimate later.

* Mike Pence backs down, says legislature will “clarify” religious liberty bill. It will be interesting to see how that works out.

* At the Prospect, Paul Waldman points out defenders of the law as written are contradicting themselves blatantly by denying it does much of anything. So why pass it with all the fanfare?

* At the Atlantic, Russell Berman examines the rush by state legislatures—including those run by Republicans—to increase gas taxes.

And in non-political news:

* Football player dismissed by Georgia after arrest for domestic violence and then picked up by Alabama charged with domestic violence again. You really don’t have to do this stuff to get players, Nick Saban.

As we break for lunch, here’s the Cream song every single garage band in my youth tried to perform, but obviously not like Clapton, Bruce and Baker: “Sunshine of Your Love.”

March 31, 2015 1:07 PM Common Core and Race

The CW for some time has been that Common Core educational standards are facing growing opposition rooted in the political left and right, with the “center”—represented by politicians ranging from Barack Obama to Jeb Bush—still supportive. But as Emmanuel Felton points out at College Guide, the divisions revealed by public opinion research are more about race and ethnicity than ideology:

The NBC News State of Parenting Poll, which was sponsored by Pearson, a publisher of Common Core textbooks and tests, found that 50 percent of parents surveyed approved of the Common Core and 38 percent opposed the standards, which are grade level expectations in math and English in place in more than 40 states. But the plurality of white parents - 49 percent - opposed the standards, while 73 percent of Hispanic parents and 56 percent of black parents favored the Common Core.
Rick Hess, resident scholar and director of education policy studies at the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute, thinks some of this can be explained by partisan politics….

The poll did indeed find big differences among Republicans and Democrats. While 61 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of independents supported the standards, only 26 percent of Republicans did.

Hess says this interpretation, however, doesn’t fully explain the big racial differences.

“If it was purely partisan, you would expect blacks to be more supportive than Latinos,” added Hess. ”And a lot of these white families are liberals that feel Common Core is too focused on reading and math and is pushing things like art and music out.”
The high level of support among Hispanics doesn’t surprise Leticia de la Vara, senior strategist for civic engagement at the National Council of La Raza, a national Hispanic civil rights organization that supports Common Core.
“Whether you are a recent immigrant or a sixth-generation American, education is important,” said de la Vara. “Very few things are monolithic about our community but education is one of them.”
Andre Perry, dean of urban education at Davenport University and a columnist for The Hechinger Report, isn’t surprised by the poll either.
“In poll after poll, we have seen that blacks and Latinos have always desired a higher education more than whites,” said Perry, who is black. “But they haven’t received the quality of education that would give them the access to higher education. So when things like the Common Core are proposed there is hope….”
Perry thinks that part of the difference in support between Hispanic and black parents can be explained by the fact that black parents may be more likely to be employed by the education system, and thus have more to lose.

Interesting. It’s not exactly news that minority parents are less likely than, say, teachers unions to defend “traditional public schools” to the last ditch and insist that more money for the existing system is the answer politicians keep eluding. But it is interesting that an initiative that was originally developed more or less by an alliance of business community types and Republican governors has wound up with its mass base being among Latinos first and African-Americans second.

March 31, 2015 12:34 PM The Revolt Against Stuff

This is the best news about millennials yet, via WaPo’s Jura Koncius:

A seismic shift of stuff is underway in homes all over America.
Members of the generation that once embraced sex, drugs and rock-and-roll are trying to offload their place settings for 12, family photo albums and leather sectionals.
Their offspring don’t want them.
As baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, start cleaning out attics and basements, many are discovering that millennials, born between 1980 and 2000, are not so interested in the lifestyle trappings or nostalgic memorabilia they were so lovingly raised with.
Thanks, Mom, but I really can’t use that eight-foot dining table or your king-size headboard.

Having recently gone through an estate sale for my late mother’s possessions, I can confirm this next point:

Whether becoming empty nesters, downsizing or just finally embracing the decluttering movement, boomers are taking a good close look at the things they have spent their life collecting. Auction houses, consignment stores and thrift shops are flooded with merchandise, much of it made of brown wood. Downsizing experts and professional organizers are comforting parents whose children appear to have lost any sentimental attachment to their adorable baby shoes and family heirloom quilts.

Yeah, it’s definitely a buyer’s market for stuff—and in my experience, most of the buyers are older folks who have not, for one reason or another, joined the “decluttering movement.”

“Millennials are living a more transient life in cities. They are trying to find stable jobs and paying off loans,” says Scott Roewer, 41, a Washington professional organizer whose business is the Organizing Agency. “They are living their life digitally through Instagram and Facebook and YouTube, and that’s how they are capturing their moments. Their whole life is on a computer; they don’t need a shoebox full of greeting cards.”
Many millennials raised in the ¬≠collect-’em-all culture (think McDonald’s Happy Meal toys and Beanie Babies) now prefer to live simpler lives with less stuff in smaller downtown spaces, far from the suburban homes with fussy window treatments and formal dining rooms that they grew up in.

I’m more than a little prejudiced here, since (probably because I lack the personal organizational skills to manage a lot of stuff) I am resolutely anti-stuff, having managed a while back to get over my attachment to a book collection I had thrown together over decades (now I observe a strict one book out for each book in rule). I never quite understood why my fellow boomers were so stuff-obsessed; it’s not like we, like many in our parents’ generation, grew up in the Great Depression and feared a stuff shortage. Maybe it had something to do with fears of nuclear war and the prospect of bomb shelters, or more likely the need to justify bigger and bigger houses in which, as George Carlin once observed, we kept our stuff while we went out to get more stuff [warning: a little bit of NSFW language ahead!]:

Since the desire to accumulate more stuff than other people is probably a matter not of generational habit but of original sin, I doubt it will ever go away. But it’s exciting to hear it’s in retreat at the moment.

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