Friday, October 28, 2016

Bloomberg Reports On Trump Campaign's Plan For Hostile Takeover Of Republican Party

This Bloomberg article describes, without saying it in so many words, Trump's plans for a hostile takeover of the Republican Party with the enthusiastic cooperation of its most unruly shareholders - the Tea Party, the white supremacists, the armed militia folks -  and it apparently doesn't need FEC approval.

This is not the typical short term perspective we get daily.  No he-said-she-said. No invectives.  Rather it looks at Trump's long-term strategy and one of the key players making it work - their main IT guy Brad Parscale.  It's got some facts about who's doing what behind the scenes.  Nothing the Trump camp doesn't want you knowing, but things we usually don't get.

Here's the gist of the article:
  • The Trump eam knows the odds of winning are low, but with unexpected primary wins and Brexit as inspiration, they're working an unorthodox strategy.  They're pinning their hopes on a  mix of Trump appeal, belief that  many Trump voters won't tell the truth to pollsters, and a stealth Facebook campaign to suppress the Clinton vote among young liberals, young women, and blacks.
  • Winning the election would be nice, but it seems the focus is on post-election.
  • They're building the Trump-owned data base they'll have after the election with which he can lead his power base in different possible directions, possibly business related, but probably  a takeover of the Republican Party and maybe a second run in 2020.
  • The star of this article is Brad Parscale who is running Trump's data center out of San Antonio.
  • Two other key players in the article are Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, depicted here as Parscale's insider protector, and Steve Bannon, who's come over from Breitbart.  

The real meat of the article doesn't start until paragraph 8.

Here are some quotes I thought significant. 

1. The election and why the focus is on the post election.
 “It’s built a model, the “Battleground Optimizer Path to Victory,” to weight and rank the states that the data team believes are most critical to amassing the 270 electoral votes Trump needs to win the White House. On Oct. 18 they rank as follows: Florida (“If we don’t win, we’re cooked,” says an official), Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Georgia.”
The Trump bluster about winning is there, but their surveys show the same things that other surveys are showing.  (A side note:  since these key states are all on Eastern Time, we should know the results pretty early.  Unless it's really close and early votes are held to be counted later.)

2.  It's all about building a data base of Trump supporters with Facebook accounts, credit card numbers,  and email addresses.  

Paragraph 19 seems to offer the crux of the piece:
“Although his operation lags previous campaigns in many areas (its ground game, television ad buys, money raised from large donors), it’s excelled at one thing: building an audience. Powered by Project Alamo and data supplied by the RNC and Cambridge Analytica, his team is spending $70 million a month, much of it to cultivate a universe of millions of fervent Trump supporters, many of them reached through Facebook. By Election Day, the campaign expects to have captured 12 million to 14 million e-mail addresses and contact information (including credit card numbers) for 2.5 million small-dollar donors, who together will have ponied up almost $275 million. “I wouldn’t have come aboard, even for Trump, if I hadn’t known they were building this massive Facebook and data engine,” says Bannon. ‘Facebook is what propelled Breitbart to a massive audience. We know its power.’”
3.  Who is Brad Parscale, where'd he come from, and what is he doing for Trump?

From paragraphys 22-26:
"Parscale, 40, is an up-from-nothing striver who won a place in the Trump firmament by dint of his willingness to serve the family’s needs—and then, when those needs turned to presidential campaigning, wound up inhabiting a position of remarkable authority. He oversees the campaign’s media budget and supervises a large staff of employees and contractors, a greater number than report for duty each day at Trump Tower headquarters. “My loyalty is to the family,” he says. “Donald Trump says ‘Jump’; I say, ‘How high?’ Then I give him my opinion of where I should jump to, and he says, ‘Go do it.’ ”
He sounds like perfect Trump material:
"Parscale was born in a small town outside Topeka, Kan., a self-described “rural jock” whose size—6-foot-8, 240 pounds—won him a basketball scholarship to the University of Texas at San Antonio. When injuries derailed his playing career, his interest turned to business. “The day I graduated, I skipped the ceremony to go straight to California for the dot-com boom,” he says. It was 1999. He became a sales manager for a video streaming company, taught himself programming, and eventually bought some of the company’s intellectual property, in digital video and 3D animation, and struck out on his own. But after the dot-com crash, his company failed, he got divorced, and by 2002 he was back in San Antonio, broke and unemployed."

4.  After the election plans

From paragraph 21:
"Whatever Trump decides, this group will influence Republican politics going forward. These voters, whom Cambridge Analytica has categorized as “disenfranchised new Republicans,” are younger, more populist and rural—and also angry, active, and fiercely loyal to Trump. Capturing their loyalty was the campaign’s goal all along. It’s why, even if Trump loses, his team thinks it’s smarter than political professionals. “We knew how valuable this would be from the outset,” says Parscale. “We own the future of the Republican Party.”
That's reiterated in the final paragraph:
"If the election results cause the party to fracture, Trump will be better positioned than the RNC to reach this mass of voters because he’ll own the list himself—and Priebus, after all he’s endured, will become just the latest to invest with Trump and wind up poorer for the experience."
[Emphasis added in all the quotes above.]

My Take:  The Bully Is Investing Long Term In Disrupting American Democracy

They haven't characterized it that way, but that seems to be Trump's way of doing business.  Attack, Counterattack, and Never Apologize.  This is not about people working together to build, but about destroying others for personal gain.

The plan is a hostile takeover of the Republican Party with the enthusiastic cooperation of its most hostile shareholders - the Tea Party, the white supremacists, the armed militia folks -  and it apparently doesn't need FEC approval.

Will It Succeed?

These guys seem to have a better understanding of Trump voters than they do of Clinton voters.   They're riding on the success of winning the Republican nomination and using what they claim is a new way of thinking about and using the data.  Trump learned early on with his birther campaign, that you could just make up shit and lots of people would believe it.    They certainly have put the Republican Party in a bind and they may well be able to take over what is left of it.  Will that make two right wing parties?  A small group of rational and polite Republicans and a larger group of less educated and more angry Republicans?

And Democrats probably should NOT get too happy about all this.  I suspect Trump won't stop tweeting about 'Crooked Hillary' any time soon, it's the red meat he feeds his followers.  Constant attacks with birther like lies mean nothing gets done and everyone loses confidence in anything except themselves.  This is Lord of the Flies as a political philosophy.

One  hope I see for the reasonable Republicans join the Democrats (who on most issues today are more conservative than Republican Nixon was anyway) and form a party too strong for Trump's minions.  But you know that isn't going to happen.

Sorry, I didn't mean to get so negative. I didn't know this was where I was going to end.

But knowledge is power.


We can all hope these guys are in over their heads and their initial successes will fall flat.  We can drop out of politics and focus on enjoying life while we can.  We can also recognize that there are a lot of very angry white folks and they aren't all old and ready to solve the problem by dying off.

These are not mutually exclusive options.  Even if the Trumpers fall flat, there will still be a lot of angry folks. We need to stop treating them the way whites have treated people of color and women.  We need to stop acting like they're dumb and stop marginalizing them.  Everyone wants to be loved.  That seems to be Trump's driving force.  He needs people telling him how good he is.   He needs it so bad he tells us how good he is.

Let's give them love rather than condescension and animosity.  That's a Christian thing to do, right?  It's also a Jewish thing and a Buddhist thing.  And for those who aren't religious, it's a Beattle's thing.  

We all know Trump supporters.  Most Americans have relatives who support Trump.  Don't argue with them.  It won't work.  Instead, treat them with loving, patient interest.  This has to be sincere, not patronizing in any way.  You have to see them as human beings with pain.  Ask them with curiosity, and without malice or condescension,  why they think Trumpism will relieve their pain.
  • "How do you know that?"
  • "Can you explain to me how that is going to work?"
  • "Can you show me the numbers, I can't seem to make that add up?"
  • "How is that better than __________?"
  • "How will this improve your life?"  "Mine?" 
  • "Why do you think you and I went off on such different paths?"
  • "Look, I'm not saying you're wrong, but it just doesn't add up for me and you're a Trump supporter so I thought you could explain it."
  • "I understand you're angry, but not why, or how Trump will make your life better. I'm just asking you to explain it?"
  • "Why do you think that program will succeed when others haven't?"
  • "is there a way that you can think of that would help us agree on what is true and what isn't? For example, how do you verify the facts?"

You get the picture.  Don't give them your facts.  Make them produce their own.  Make them spell out the details of the policies.  Don't challenge their emotions, in fact, be sympathetic.  Just ask them to explain their logic and to give support for the facts.  Remember that they are human beings who are hurting, just like you and me.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Trump Attacked For Publicly Saying What He's Thinking; Clinton Attacked For Not Saying Things Publicly

Cue the orchestra for the chorus of "Damned if you do and damned if you don't."


Trump's been making Republicans uneasy because he says things that they think he should NOT say publicly.  And polls say this open talk is hurting him.

The message I get from this is:  It's ok to be a racist and misogynist as long as you don't get caught. As long as you don't say these things publicly.  How many other politicians say and do the same things, but off mic?   As long as we don't know about it, no problem.

On the other hand, many of his supporters applaud his free-wheeling tongue, saying it's a sign of transparency and it's a refreshing change from the careful spin of most politicians.    It doesn't matter that what he says is hateful and disgusting.

Now, for some (many?) of his base, probably he's saying out loud the hateful things they're thinking and saying in their closed circles.   They're delighted he's saying them in public.  It validates their thinking.

But some Republicans are cringing as if their fancy shoes can't avoid the dog doo.

And while his supporters admire his openness, they can't seem to mimic it themselves.  Take this example of twisted spin from World Net Daily:
"Mr. Donald Trump is raising the bar of America’s conscience. Apology is often the first step in correcting a wrong. Having moved for [sic]  a position of saying “I don’t need forgiveness,” Mr. Trump is now taking a second look at past behaviors; things that he’s said and done that he regrets. While he is not asking for forgiveness for being human, he is admitting that he’s made mistakes and humbly making apologies."
What's wrong with this?  Trump's raising the bar of America's conscience?  Yeah, sure.  Things he regrets?  Only if they make him look bad, not because they are bad.  What he said was a sincere apology?  How many of his advisors had to pin him down and punch him until he agreed?   There is nothing Donald Trump has publicly done in the last year or so that can be remotely described as "humbly.'  NOTHING.

And Trump's supporters are not being as open and honest as Trump is.

What she's really saying there, and it gets clearer in the rest of it (you can see it here if you must) is, "I don't really care what he says or does about anything, as long as he appoints anti-abortion judges."  That's one of the problems with extremism.  You don't have to be an extremist to dance with the devil now and then.  The US became an ally of the Soviet Union during WW II, so sometimes we have to take those kinds of positions.  But the Soviets played a huge role in the defeat of Hitler.  They delivered.  Why would anyone believe anything Trump promises?  He's only going to follow through if he gets a cut.


Clinton's taken a lot of heat for things she and her staffers said that they had every reason to believe were said in private conversations.  Until Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee's (DNC) server  and Wikileaks shared them with the world.

We say a lot of things in private, at work and with friends.  In fact policy debate among staffers is one of the in Freedom of Information Act exemptions (#5), so that agency staffers can speak candidly, play the devil's advocate, and test out policies that they don't really expect to pursue.  They're the kind of things a number of Republican presidents have claimed Executive Privilege to prevent being disclosed. And the DNC isn't even a government agency that would come under the Freedom of Information Act.

But Clinton's been attacked for things that she or the DNC staff never actually said in public.  Now, one could argue that Trump sex assault tape was similar, and once it's public it's fair game.  And there are some things that are inconvenient for Clinton supporters.  But I dare say if we got the same conversations that were held with the RNC, I'm confident there'd be a lot juicier quotes than what we have from the DNC.

As I've said before, I'm not 100% in agreement with Clinton.  I'm troubled by the Clinton Foundation, particularly its actions with relation to Haiti and the appearance, if not the actual fact, of it being used to sell influence.  I'm not happy with her early position on Iraq and her cosiness with Wall Street.  But there are many positions I support fully and she has the experience and the connections to make things happen.  She's had eight years to watch how Republicans obstructed Obama.  I'm betting if she gets a majority in the Senate, we're going to see a lot of legislation passed in the first two years before the 2018 election.  And she's running against Trump.

I think the saying "Damned if you do and damned if you don't" is appropriate here.  Trump gets hit for saying what he's thinking and Clinton gets hit for not saying what's been said by her party in private.  But in balance, what Trump's been saying has been so over the top, that many in the political party he hijacked are abandoning him.  Clinton's email sins are run-of-the-mill back room political strategizing.  But nothing really damning, unless you're a Republican strategist trying to find anything that might stick and to get the negative attention off Trump and onto Clinton.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

A New Life Borrowed From The Dead

There's so much I haven't written about the movies and tv shows we've seen on Netflix.  And about the phenomenon of Netflix itself.  I think because there is so much to think about after watching many of these films that I give up.  Particularly because by the time the movie is over, it's late.  We've been to so many different worlds, sat in with so many people whose lives we didn't know existed, or if we did, had no idea of what it was like.

The film Dheepan is one of those films.  It won the Palme D'Or at Cannes last year.  It's a French film which colors in the details of one sort of family of immigrants in Europe.  From a country we don't normally see in the news on refugees.

Good film has such a powerful way of plunging us into other people's lives and connecting us to the pains and, in this film, small joys. Not like the superficial descriptions of refugees we see in the news, the nameless faces in a crowd.

It's on Netflix - at least in the US - for now.  It's powerful.  Dheepan.

Screenshot when they get their new identities

Here are parts of three different reviews.

From Joe Morgenstern's  Wall Street Journal review:
"Whether by chance or the filmmaker’s design, the touchingly modest wardrobe of a young schoolgirl in “Dheepan” includes a T-shirt that says “New World Order.” Her life bespeaks a new world disorder. She’s a refugee from Sri Lanka who has managed to reach France as part of a pretend family—a mother, father and daughter who barely know one another, though that’s not what it says on their false documents, and who don’t know how to begin making a new life for themselves in an alien culture. Every day we see new accounts of refugee tides coursing across continents, and every account challenges our comprehension. Jacques Audiard’s superb drama, which won the top prize at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, rises to the challenge with the power of art and not a scintilla of sentimentality."

From A. O. Scott's New York Times review:
"They have, in effect, borrowed a new life from the dead, and the transaction is mostly successful. They are able to leave the refugee camp where they meet and fly to France (though Yalini would prefer to go to England, where she has relatives). After a spell in a crowded dormitory in Paris, during which Dheepan earns money selling trinkets and batteries on the street, the three are granted asylum, thanks to the intervention of a sympathetic interpreter and the benign haplessness of the French state." 
(I'd note I saw lots of Dheepans selling trinkets on the street last August in Paris.)

And from Peter Bradshaw's review in The Guardian:
"There is such exhilarating movie mastery in this powerful new film about Tamil refugees in France from director Jacques Audiard, who gave us A Prophet, Rust and Bone and The Beat That My Heart Skipped. It’s bulging with giant confidence and packed with outbursts of that mysterious epiphanic grandeur, like moments of sunlight breaking through cloud-cover, with which Audiard endows apparently normal sequences and everyday details. There is also something not always found in movies or books or TV drama – that is to say, intelligent and sympathetic interest in other human beings. Every scene, every line, every frame has something of interest. All of it is impeccably crafted and the work of someone for whom making films is as natural as breathing."

Monday, October 24, 2016

Diddly Squat?

From the Alaska Dispatch:
“'There are people out there who don’t know diddly squat about our country,' said Peter Goldberg, the former Alaska Republican Party chair who’s now a member of the Republican National Committee. 'And I’m not comfortable with people that are total  ignorant about our system voting. [sic]'"
What first got my attention was the fact that he used the term 'diddly squat.'

But then I got annoyed by what he said. "I'm not comfortable with people that are total[ly?] ignorant about our [of] system voting."

I understand that sentiment.  It's problematic to have people walk into the voting booth and just vote based on what name sounded better, or which name was first, or longest, or shortest.  Nothing to do with what the person would do when elected.

But worse than knowing nothing, is knowing stuff that is wrong.  And being loud and obnoxious about it.  Like people whose only source of news is, say Fox News.

Some would say I should  be fair and balanced and also give NPR as an example.  But as politically bland as they have become, they do try to get their facts right and to counter their middle of the road perspective with a conservative voice as well.  And rather than get our attention by exhortation, they wrap the news into  formulaic story lines that usually have an uplifting ending.

But I still was thinking about 'diddly squat.'  Who says that any more?

Turns out not many people do.  Or ever did.  I used Google's Ngaam Viewer that looks at word frequencies in books.  The number was so low (.0000003586%) that I added some other words to compare with it.     I tried to think of an obscure term so I added 'leviathan'.  You can see that it's a little more frequently found than 'diddly squat.'  Then I added more common words to give more context.  The more common words make the graph meaningless - turning the rare words to flat lines at the bottom - but at least you can get a pop-up window with the frequency of each term.   I kept adding more common words.  In the chart below, the only word that shows more than a flat line is 'you' which was the most common word on the list by far.

But I wanted word more obscure than diddly squat,  so I googled "uncommon English words."  That gave me a long list.  From the list I picked 'blatherskite,' a word I don't recall ever hearing before and certainly not using.

Screen shot from Google Ngaam Viewer

'Blatherskite' also came out higher than 'diddly squat', though not by much.  Here are the two compared.  If you put the pointer on either line, you'll get a pop-up window with the frequencies for that year.

'Diddly squat' doesn't even show up until 1973!  But remember, this is a search of books - probably just the ones that google has the rights too.  If it showed up before that in newspapers or journals or speech, it wouldn't show up in the Ngaam Viewer.  I don't remember when I first encountered 'diddly squat,' but I would have guessed earlier than 1973.

It's a great term.  And it's one of those words that can be used with or without a negative and still mean the same thing.

Google's definition was "anything" but it listed 'nothing' as a synonym.  Think about that.

Merriam-Webster defines it as:
"the least amount : anything at all"
The Urban Dictionary defines it as:

So you could say, "He doesn't know diddly squat" or "He knows diddly squat" and it would mean the same thing.  I like linguistic quirks like that.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Diagram of Connections in Newstown Development Scandal

[Regular Blog readers, see note to you below]

[Coursera readers - below is the chart that graphically shows the key shell corporations that my article explains.  I couldn't put it into the story, so I've posted it here for you.  You can either look at it here or you can download the pdf image to look at while you read the article.]

Regular Blog Readers:  This chart is part of my assignment for the online course I'm taking from the University of Melbourne (Australia) called Journalism Skills for Involved Citizens,  We have been getting more information each week on a land development deal in a fictional town called Newstown.  This week we got to see a set of documents about political donations and corporations.  I decided that the best way to illustrate the links between these corporations was to make a diagram.  But it turns out I can't put an illustration into the template for my assignment.  So I'm linking the graders here.

The Foundation for Good Government (FGG) contributed to the campaign of the mayor of Newstown to the tune of $80,000.  The various documents show us the connections between the Foundation for Good Government and the CEO of Futupia, Robert Blatchford.  As you can see in the chart, Shield PTY company has a share of FGG as does Newstown 38.

Newstown 38, in turn is owned by Robrey PTY, which is owned by Roblatch, which is wholly owned by Robert Blatchford, the CEO.  And Shield PTY is also owned by Roblatch.  So, in fact FGG is wholly owned by the developer.  And all the companies have the same address at Rocket Suite 1101.

There's a lot more, but I decided in this case a picture was worth more than 1000 words.

I'm not sure that the other students who end having to grade this will agree, since I'm not exactly sticking with the assignment.

Whether It's US Election Divisions Or Israelis And Palestinians - We're All Humans And We Need To Work It Out

Here's an LA Times headline on that got this post going. 
"This election is much more than Trump vs. Clinton. It's old America vs. new America"
OK, in some ways I don't disagree with the authors.  But we've been hearing variations of this for quite a while now.  Here's some of the script:
"There’s the old one — a distinction not of age alone, but cultural perspective and outlook — that Trump appeals to as he courts white, rural voters and social conservatives.  .  . 
And there’s the new America, the one Hillary Clinton has homed in on with her appeals to women, gay and lesbian Americans, the young, and minorities."
This has been the story of the US since we were colonies.  Each group already here is threatened by the newcomers.  The newcomers are less human, less civilized, don't speak proper English, will take us over and destroy what we have.  

And then the newcomers become the old guys who say the same thing about on new newcomers.

Here are some quotes from the past:

‘’Help wanted but No Irish need Apply’’

From a long letter by Benjamin Franklin on the problem of German immigrants:
Those who come hither are generally of the most ignorant Stupid Sort of their own Nation, and as Ignorance is often attended with Credulity when Knavery would mislead it, and with Suspicion when Honesty would set it right; and as few of the English understand the German Language, and so cannot address them either from the Press or Pulpit, ’tis almost impossible to remove any prejudices they once entertain.
How about Italians?  Here's from Wikipedia:
"After the American Civil War, during the labor shortage as the South converted to free labor, planters in southern states recruited Italians to come to the United States to work mainly in agriculture and as laborers. Many soon found themselves the victims of prejudice, economic exploitation, and sometimes violence. Italian stereotypes abounded during this period as a means of justifying this maltreatment of the immigrants. The plight of the Italian immigrant agricultural workers in Mississippi was so serious that the Italian embassy became involved in investigating their mistreatment. Later waves of Italian immigrants inherited these same virulent forms of discrimination and stereotyping which, by then, had become ingrained in the American consciousness.[11]
One of the largest mass lynchings in American history was of eleven Italians in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1891."
 My point?  All the same rhetoric - fear of crime, loss of jobs, loss of culture and language, are nothing new.  This has been the reaction of the people already here to every wave of new immigrants.

 Immigrants with darker skin aren't any different from the immigrants that have been coming to North America since the Pilgrims.  They all eventually assimilate and become Americans.

BUT, it's harder for darker skinned immigrants because white Americans can't seem to get past their skin color and keep treating them badly.  It's not their culture or their language or their religion.  Protestants didn't like Catholics, or even different kinds of Protestants.  

For white immigrants all that evolves into a culturally 'acceptable' American ethnicity with Columbus Day and St. Patrick's Day parades after a generation or two.  Blacks and Mexicans and Filipinos can't as easily anglicize their names and 'fit in' like Germans and Poles and even Italians and Jews.

So let's stop making like this is a cultural shift that is significantly different from what's happened in the past.  Or that Americans from non-European backgrounds have cultures so different from mainstream America that this is different from European immigration.  It's not.

It's the same old rhetoric.  The only difference is the difficulty of some whites to accept people who can't pass as white even after they speak perfect 'American' English.  The new immigrants are not even necessarily less conservative on many social and economic issues, but since they've experienced discrimination themselves, the go to the party that is more tolerant and accepting.

Before the Tea Party and Trump gave them a place to go, the only liberal allowable targets of discrimination were' hillbillies' and 'white trash.'  Now let's see if liberals can start turning our our tolerance to these groups.  Can we start listening to their stories and understanding why they hate others, why they need to dominate women?  It's not as though some liberal men don't also treat women poorly.  It's not that we have to accept their views, but at least we should understand where they come from, listen to their narratives, like we do all the other groups?  

Liberals have tolerated racist and misogynist rap lyrics.  Why not take the same view of Trump's misogynist supporters that Kanye West uses to at least explain, if not excuse, misogyny in rap?
“So let’s take that to the idea of a black male in America, not getting a job, or getting fucked with at his job, or getting fucked with by the cops or being looked down upon by this lady at Starbucks. And he goes home to his girl … and this guy is like … you just scream at the person that’s the closest to you.” West linked the use of misogynistic and violent language in rap to a “lack of opportunities” before switching tack and discussing hatred and racism.
I'm not suggesting any misogyny or racism is acceptable.  But we have to understand how men get to that place and figure out how to shape our society so it doesn't produce so many angry, dispossessed people.  We have to understand their narrative and help them see that there are other narratives.  Perhaps that their economic woes aren't really due to immigrants, but to weakened labor laws, weakened economic regulation of corporations, and tax laws that help the rich get much richer and the poor poorer.  The ruling class has used race to divide and conquer for ever.  For the wealthy right, 'class' is a politically incorrect topic.

Here is an example of that idea in a totally different context.  I just read an interview in the Sun Magazine with a Jewish Israeli and a Muslim Palestinian who both are committed to nonviolence and belong to Combatants for Peace.  The Israeli, Rami Elhanan, tells the interviewer at one point:
Elhanan: There are two possibilities: One, people open their eyes and realize we have to change. (This is the less likely possibility right now.) Or, two, we end up with an all-out war that results in oceans of blood and won’t lead to a resolution, because we won’t be able to push the Palestinians into the desert, and they won’t be able to throw us into the sea. The war will just go on and on. In the long run I fear for the existence of Israel. So many young, educated Israelis go abroad and don’t come back. Almost everyone has family members who live in other countries. And the ones who are leaving are the intellectuals and the artists and the scientists — people we need to ensure the survival of a democratic society. The ones left behind are the ultra-Orthodox and the less educated. Sometimes I see it as a coming apocalypse. It’s terrifying. But I don’t want to succumb to doomsday thinking. I want to believe that once people see that the price of war is greater than the price of peace, there will be a shift in attitude. You can’t live forever by the sword.
Hertog: Though it has often been tried in history.
Elhanan: That’s true. But it’s also true that historically all conflicts end. One year, two years, twenty years — in Ireland it took them eight hundred years to make peace. At some point we will have peace here as well.
Elhanan and his Palestinian counterpart and friend, Bassam Aramin go around talking to school kids.
Elhanan:  ". . . This morning, for example, a student sent me an e-mail saying I had shown him light in the darkness. That was from a boy in a military-preparatory course. These kids are idealistic and committed, but they know nothing. They are the product of indoctrination by the Israeli educational system. You should have seen these students: the tension, the emotions, the anger. They have rarely interacted with Palestinians and have learned to see them all as terrorists and criminals. It’s a shock for them to consider a different narrative. Bassam, who was with me, succeeded in breaking down their defenses and showed them an image of a Palestinian who is not a victim or an enemy, but who also does not surrender his pride. After a meeting like that, those kids did not walk out the same as they came in. They will continue thinking, and they will talk at home about what they have heard. That’s the work we do. There are no shortcuts. We change the narrative, person by person."
It's a powerful interview.  Both men have lost children to the conflict.  Both take huge risks doing the work they do.  It's inspiring for those who think there is no hope.
Elhanan: Nowadays everyone is hopeless. It’s fashionable to have no hope. People wave their despair as if it were some kind of flag. You can’t live like that, especially if, like me, you have already experienced the worst. You can’t just give up because the world is terrible. You have to find hope in small things.
I would say the political divide we have in the US is a minor disagreement compared to the Israeli - Palestinian conflict.  Except for the indigenous people of North America, everyone else has no particular claim to being here that's better than anyone else's.  If "I'm more entitled than you because I've been here three generations and you only two generations" has any validity, then all of us who've been here less than 500 years should be banned and let North America's indigenous people, who have been here for 10,000 years or more,  have their land back.

We need to start, not talking, but listening to everyone.  We need to acknowledge other people's grievances and hopes, and then get them to do the same with ours.  It's not as hard as it seems because, in the end, we're all human beings.  We're born to into a family, have childhoods that turn into adolescence and adulthood, face the task of making our own living in the world, finding a partner, and starting the process over again.  These are the universal themes that unite human beings and make stories from any culture understandable to every other culture.

Here's an excerpt from the interview with the Palestinian, Bassam Aramin, on breaking past each others' narratives.
Aramin:  . . .  That first meeting lasted about three hours. I told a lot of lies, because I didn’t trust them, but it was amazing just to talk. They spoke about how they’d occupied us and harassed us — they admitted it!
They were real soldiers. I wasn’t much of a fighter. I had been arrested because I was part of a group of kids who’d thrown stones. My friends had also thrown two hand grenades at an Israeli patrol, but because they didn’t know how to use the grenades, nobody had been killed or injured. I felt I wasn’t at the same level as these Israelis. To impress them, I boasted that I had shot soldiers and that I had thrown the hand grenades at the Israeli patrol.
Hertog: If you didn’t trust the Israelis, what made you decide to meet with them?
Aramin: I already had one child at that time, and I was thinking of his future. I had decided that I needed to take responsibility, not just fight Israelis. And the Israelis needed to take part in ending the occupation. For them it was security; for me it was my life. We both wanted to find a solution. Palestinians need Israelis, so they can learn to understand us and explain our point of view to others in their society.
Hertog: How did Combatants for Peace come into being from that meeting?
Aramin: At the end of the meeting someone suggested that we meet again. I asked why, because I had assumed it was supposed to be just once. And one of the Israelis suggested that we could work together against the occupation. When he actually called it an “occupation,” I thought, Wow. And I agreed to meet again. In the period before our second meeting, we looked up all the information we could find about these Israelis, so we knew they were for real. Meanwhile they looked up what we had done. And when we met again after two weeks, we talked at a more personal level and discovered we actually had a lot in common.

We either work to make things better, or we let them get worse.  I don't see there being much of a choice here.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Mt. Rainier Portraits

We left Anchorage at 7am and made it to the Seattle Art Museum a little after noon where we met our daughter and granddaughter for some play time and then some Indian lunch.  The came with us on the train back to the airport before saying good bye.

These are some pictures of Mt. Rainer as we left Seattle.  They're each from somewhat different angles.  But overall it's like looking at one side of the moon as we flew by on the west, from the north.

This last one show the southern side.

We just walked into my mom's house.  We haven't been here in about six months.  When we last left we worked in a frenzy trying to get it clean and empty of things that had real importance to us.  There's enough furniture that people can stay here and we've had some friends use it during the time.  And the woman who cleaned the house so well for my mom still comes by regularly.

All that is a preface to the pleasant surprise we got when we got the alarm turned off and walked in.  It looks good.  I know that tomorrow when we look in the garage we'll find a lot of stuff still to do, but in the house things look better than I expected.  And when it's light out tomorrow I can see how the garden has fared.  And then I'll make a list of things to do while we're here.

Friday, October 21, 2016

First Snow And First Seminar Presentation By ISER's New Director

It's October 21, 2016.  Anchorage is getting its first snow.

The average first snowfall, according to is October 15, so this isn't particularly late.  But it's warm out (30˚F - -1˚C) and they're calling for sun later today.  So it probably won't last.  But it's beautiful while it's here.

I'm headed over to a talk at the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) at noon, so I need to boogie.  It should be interesting - it's the new director's first seminar presentation.  Here are the details.  I know most people can't get there on such short notice, but at the bottom it tells you how to listen online.

Here's the announcement.

Knowledge Accumulation in the Social Sciences 

Ralph Townsend, ISER Director and Professor of Economics

This is the first seminar presentation by ISER’s new director, Ralph Townsend. He will be discussing knowledge accumulation in the social sciences, and why thinking about that topic is important for ISER and other research organizations that study social problems. He describes his topic this way:

The epistemology of social sciences affects the ability of the social sciences to contribute to the resolution of “wicked” social problems. However useful epistemology based on falsification may be for the hard sciences, its limitations for the social sciences are clear. The enduring problem of replication of social science results is indicative of the problems.
Understanding the sociology of social science disciplines and the philosophy of knowledge accumulation in social sciences is relevant to the day-to-day work of organizations like ISER and also suggests unique research opportunities that extend into methodology.
When: Friday, October 21, 12 to 1
Where: ISER Conference Room,
Third Floor, 1901 Bragaw Street, Suite 301
1901 Bragaw Street is on Bragaw between Northern Lights and Debarr.
Parking is free.
Call 907-786-7710 if you need directions.
Note: Those who can’t attend in person can stream the talk live at:

Thursday, October 20, 2016

"I'm all of those things at once."

“I am an immigrant. I am also a human being, an American, a Vietnamese, an Asian and a refugee.” I’m all those things at once. I think that’s absolutely a crucial decision for me because we live in a society where people are pressured to choose their identities. Especially for Asian-Americans, we’ve grown up in a society that often makes us decide whether we’re all American or whether we’re Asian. That’s a false choice, so we have to rebel and proclaim that we can be many things at the same time.
The writer is Tranh Nguyen, USC Associate Professor of English and American studies and ethnicities.  He also has a recent Pulitzer Prize in fiction for his novel The Sympathizers, which my book club read and discussed while I was away and I have to get and read.

His statement just seems so self-evident.  We aren't one of the many labels we bear.  Think of all the labels people can (and do) use to think and talk about you.  Everything from sister, mother, daughter, skier, reader, dancer, red-head, gardener, idiot, shopper, passenger, American, Alaskan, Republican, Italian, drummer, fisher, cook, teacher, neighbor, etc.  You aren't just any one of those, you are all of those sometimes and some of those all the time.

But I hear people declare that someone can't or shouldn't be a hyphenated American.  They have to choose, just as Professor Nguyen writes.

But this piece in the USC alumni magazine goes on to focus on refugees particularly.
"Refugees bring with them these histories that make potential host countries uncomfortable…. The reason they became refugees is what we ourselves might have had a hand in. Refugees are a living reminder that the things we take for granted—the safety of our homes, the safety of our country—are fragile. We see other countries being afflicted by war or natural disaster from a distance, and we assume that can’t happen to us, but if those refugees start coming to our shores, then they become these living reminders."
That second sentence jumped out at me.  Why did we get Vietnamese refugees?  Because after the French pulled out of Vietnam and gave the Vietnamese their independence, the US insisted in jumping in and assuming that we could do what the French couldn't.  And by 1975 we realized that we couldn't either.  But a lot of people died before that happened.  And a lot of money was diverted from building infrastructure and education to airplanes and guns and bombs and transporting soldiers half-way across the world.  And eventually Vietnamese refugees, mostly people who, because they aligned with the US, were suspect when the US lost and pulled out.

Central American refugees are a major reason why Trump became the Republican candidate for president.  We've used Central America as our private cache where we got bananas, sugar, coffee, and other commodities.  We overthrew governments we didn't like.  Reagan even made a deal to sell arms  to Iran (even though they'd taken over the US embassy and kept Americans hostage there until Reagan was inaugurated)  to get money to Nicaraguan rebels after Congress nixed any funding.

Some American politicians express shock about the possibility that Russia is trying to influence the US election,  yet anyone with a knowledge of US covert operations to overthrow governments that weren't friendly to our interest has to be smirking just a little bit.  See for example from Foreign Policy of seven nations the US overthrew.

The point is that we have often made life difficult in countries around the world to the extent that people needed to leave.  We've even hurt economies by dumping surplus US agricultural projects into countries which destroyed the local agricultural infrastructure.  While this CATO Institute analysis assumes all our aid has been catastrophic 'even if the intentions were good,'

I'd take some issue.  A lot of AID did good things - particularly in health infrastructure and education.

I would also question the good intentions of most US AID.  Another CATO commentary tells us most foreign aid is really aid to US business:
“'fully 80 percent of the foreign assistance budget is spent right here at home, on American goods and services.'” Moreover, claims the exporters’ lobby, aid also helps poor countries develop the institutions necessary to “foster trade, and to attract private investment - the very things that make possible American exports.”

Basically, US aid helped US companies by restricting the aid to US products, often surplus.  Usually such aid helped US businesses more than the receiving country.  And it often actually hurts the local businesses who couldn't compete with the sudden influx of cheap, subsidized US food or goods.

The idea that refugees are coming to the US because of things we did is not even imaginable for many, perhaps most, Americans because they have no idea what we've done around the world.  And our schools and media tend to keep it that way.

But back to Nguyen's discussion of labels.
"Perhaps the biggest misconception is that refugees are only victims. People see these horrible images: The Syrian boy face down on the beach in Turkey has now become iconic. That image made me physically ill in a way I have not felt in a long time. It reminded me of the fact that the Vietnamese were portrayed in the same way. It led to the perception that poor Vietnamese people are victims. Of course, they were. The Syrian people, including that boy, are victims. But that doesn’t define them. The idea that refugees are victims simply becomes a way of not sympathizing with them. We continue to treat them as less than humans. If you see people only as victims and therefore as less than human, they’re still not the same as you are."
Again, he's talking about people dismissing refugees as one dimensional - in this case 'victims'.

The only way I see that we can change people's attitudes about refugees is for them to meet them and other non-refugee immigrants.

And to remember that most immigrants to the US were well educated before they got to the US.  Here are a few prominent immigrants to the US:

Albert Einstein
Henry Kissinger  
Robert Murdock
Nikola Tesla 

Neil Young
Joseph Pulitzer  
Irving Berlin
Ayn Rand

Bruce Willis
Sergey Brin*  
Alex Trebek
Cary Grant
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Jose Conseco
Mikhail Baryshnikov
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross  
*I'm guessing this name is less familiar than the others.  He's one of the co-founders of Google.

And Anchorage has its own fair share of prominent immigrants who make a huge contribution to our city and state.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

"No one has more respect for women than I do"

This is going to be the quote of the debate.  Maybe the election.  One tweeter likened it to "I am not a crook"