EDITOR’S PICK--Since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia earlier this year, the U.S. has obsessed over how and when to fill his sizable void on the Supreme Court. Much is at stake. Whether it is one of President Obama’s last significant acts or a major early decision by our next president, the new appointment will break the deadlock on a Supreme Court currently divided four-to-four between liberal and conservative justices.
GUEST WORDS--I have a lot of respect for journalist Farhad Manjoo, who currently writes a tech column for the New York Times. But a few things struck me from his recent piece on Alvin Toffler (photo above), the writer of the six-million copy bestseller “Future Shock” (1970) who died recently at the age of 87. Manjoo captured Toffler well, but drew the case for a world overwhelmed by technological advancements much too starkly:
“…in rereading [the] book, as I did last week, it seems clear that his diagnosis (of ‘future shock’) has largely panned out, with local and global crises arising daily from our collective inability to deal with ever-faster change.”
Really? We are now to lay all societal and political ills, both foreign and domestic, at the feet of tech advancements? Manjoo, who is just 38 years old, sounds co-opted by digital elder-think, the affliction of many people over 50 who project onto everyone else their clumsiness and resistance to the firehose stream of messages and notices brought to us daily through our mobile devices.
I have two millennial kids in their early and mid-twenties who seem to be adapting quite capably. They’re not much different than their peers. Their brains and social mythos may not resemble my older brain and views, but I have confidence that their grit and inventive powers remain undiminished. I put stock in those powers, as I believe we all should for the better part of the reasonably smart, reasonably stable kids stepping up to fill our shoes.
“Millennials are going to save our asses!” roared a thoughtful boomer friend a few evenings ago when a group of us got together. Between us we have collectively parented at least a score of kids, all now aged between 20 and 32 years old. His was a frustrated rebut to our lamenting over the polarized state of American politics, and I believe his pronouncement approaches a ground truth. Let’s give the rising generation of young people all due credit for absorptive capacities either absent or anemic in we aging but still quite sentient products of a slower time.
Manjoo’s column also reminded me of something I heard said by David Matthews, President and CEO of Kettering Foundation, at a conference in the early 2000s. When asked how what was then a new world of digital technology would influence politics, civics and society in general, Matthews gave a classic Matthews response in his slow Alabama drawl: “Willy. Nilly.” Which he pronounced “Willah. Nillah.” to our appreciative laughter. By that, he meant that technology’s effects would fall unevenly across people of the globe -- more like the way rainfall varies across vast and differing landscapes than like a tsunami pouring a devastating wall of water over us all.
Finally, I think it’s inaccurate to suggest that because of the demise of knowledge centers like the Carter Administration’s Office of Technology Assessment the public sector is now at a complete loss for predictive perspectives on the future. We’ve still got the U.S. Defense Department’s DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) program and dozens of private and public institutes and universities that contract with government on research ventures of all kinds.
We’re a country that builds hybrid institutional collaborations – public, private, nonprofit and combinations thereof – that don’t have distinction or the classic jurisdictional mandates of permanent governmental institutions. But they still manage to effectively elevate ideas and productive thinking into public discourse through other means and mechanisms. We do that because we have a history of not trusting public institutions too, too much for innovation, even as much as we rely and count on them to step in and help us with large-scale services and resources when things go haywire in giant ways.
I picture Alvin Toffler going to his grave not at all a pessimist but rather as what I like to think of as an “awesome-ist,” struck dumb at times by the sheer wonder of how resilient humanity can be. He had an appreciation few people can grasp for the astonishing disruption that new tools and discoveries can unleash.
Toffler clued us in with “Future Shock” to what he rightly foresaw as some dire consequences of rapid technological change. But he had a child, too, who, very sadly, died at about the same age Farhad Manjoo is today.
At least for the time Karen Toffler was alive, I bet her father regarded the planet and its people with a measure of abiding hope, even fervent optimism, that the flesh and the ideas he spawned would throw into the common enterprise and blaze the way ahead. Not always perfectly, by any means, but amazingly well.
(Paul Vandeventer is President and CEO of Community Partners. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
GOP CONVENTION--As it officially puts Donald Trump atop its ticket this week, the Grand Old Party is rushing headlong toward an unofficial label it is desperately trying to avoid: the White People’s Party.
With his harsh tone toward Mexicans, his proposed ban on Muslims from entering the United States and his seeming tolerance of white nationalist groups, the reality TV star is painting Republicans ever further into a demographic corner that could threaten their viability as a national political organization in the coming decades.
“If we don’t expand our ability to reach voters, particularly Hispanic voters, and the rising tide of Asian voters, we’re going to have a generational wipeout,” said Florida’s Rick Wilson, a Republican political consultant and longtime Trump critic.
Trump’s language and positions appear to be translating into dismal poll numbers already, particularly in those states where it could matter most. In Florida, a June poll found Trump receiving 20 percent support from Latino voters compared to 68 percent for presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
And in Ohio and Pennsylvania, a Marist College poll for NBC News and The Wall Street Journal released last week actually showed Trump with zero percent support among African-American voters.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way at all. Just three years ago, the Republican National Committee published a report detailing the relentless demographic changes the country was undergoing, and how the party’s very existence was at stake if it failed to expand beyond its traditional base.
“If we want ethnic minority voters to support Republicans, we have to engage them and show our sincerity,” wrote the authors of the “Growth and Opportunity Project,” giving the example of 2012 nominee Mitt Romney’s poor showing with Latinos. “If Hispanics think we do not want them here, they will close their ears to our policies.”
Many Latino Republicans are already doing so, thanks to Trump. One California delegate said he tried to give away guest passes to the Cleveland convention to Mexican-American friends – longtime GOP donors from the Los Angeles area – as a way to get more black and brown faces in the Quicken Loans Arena. He was unable to find a single taker, he said, on condition of anonymity to speak freely about his party’s nominee. “Not even one,” he said.
But Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort said the candidate’s appeal would transcend race and ethnicity. “We think that the message that Donald Trump is talking about ― jobs, security, trying to bring law and order to a community with no preference to any particular ethnic group ― we think those messages will resonate,” he said at a Sunday news conference, and then predicted: “We do think that our Hispanic support is growing. ... I expect to do much better that Romney did in 2012 in the Hispanic community.”
Other Republicans remain unpersuaded.
One of the authors of that 2013 report, Ari Fleischer, said Trump’s nomination will at least test the validity of their conclusions. “Certainly Donald Trump has gone in the opposite direction from what we recommended,” said the former top aide to President George W. Bush. “If he loses, he’ll give even more credence to our report.”
At Trump rallies across the country, even in racially diverse communities like San Pedro, California, and Fairfax County, Virginia, black or brown faces are few and far between.
At the Iowa State Fair last summer, two middle-aged white men who had just dropped kernels of corn into Trump’s jar at a makeshift straw poll there discussed how important it was to end both illegal and legal immigration because the newcomers’ children would be American citizens ― and by dint of their ethnicity further change this country. (Neither wanted to share his name with a reporter.)
At a June Trump campaign event in St. Clairsville, Ohio, 62-year-old Brenda Johnson also railed against immigrants, and explained how much it upset her to hear them speak in other languages. “They should speak English in public,” she said. “It’s fine if they want to speak in their own language at home.”
Such attitudes, of course, are not new among voters, and Trump is certainly not the first Republican presidential candidate to use racially tinged language and identity politics.
That began in earnest in 1968, when Richard Nixon took advantage of Southern Democrats’ anger over President Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 Civil Rights Act to make inroads into the Deep South. While openly segregationist George Wallace ran a third-party campaign that year and won five of those states, Nixon’s use of the “Southern Strategy” led to what aide Kevin Phillips called “the beginning of a new Republican era” in his 1969 book The Emerging Republican Majority.
It was a dramatic reversal for a party that was founded to abolish slavery a century earlier, and which through the first half of the 20th century consistently supported civil rights laws for African-Americans. But from 1968 forward, Republican presidential candidates, to varying degrees, used phrases that appealed to working-class white voters who believed that Democrats were, at the expense of poorer white people, favoring blacks and other minorities.
Nixon’s appeal for “law and order,” Ronald Reagan’s story of the Cadillac-driving welfare mom, and George W. Bush’s refusal to condemn South Carolina’s display of the Confederate battle flag from atop its state capitol all spoke to a constituency that delivered Republicans the White House in every election between 1968 and 1988, with the exception of the post-Watergate election in 1976, when former Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter won narrowly.
But in 1992, California flipped from Republican to Democratic, as Mexican-American voters responded to Republican efforts to crack down on undocumented immigrants. Republicans quickly learned that the “Solid South” no longer gave them a lock on the Electoral College.
In the subsequent years, Florida, then Colorado and Virginia, also came into play in presidential elections as their minority populations increased ― to the point where demographics now actually favor a Democrat over a Republican.
Ironically, Trump’s racially polarizing candidacy could actually accelerate that shift. North Carolina, which President Barack Obama narrowly won in 2008 but narrowly lost four years later, currently is leaning slightly toward Clinton. Georgia could also wind up closer than the 8-point win for Mitt Romney in 2012, while traditionally red Arizona, with its large Mexican-American population, could actually break for Clinton.
As it happens, this was exactly the sort of demographic change the party warned about in its 2013 report. Between 2000 and 2012, the Republican presidential candidate got between 87 and 88 percent of his total votes from white people. But as the electorate has gradually become less white, white votes are no longer enough to win. Only once in the past six elections has the GOP candidate won the popular vote: 2004, when George W. Bush took 43 percent of the Hispanic vote. In the 2012 election, Romney won only 27 percent of that vote.
“The nation’s demographic changes add to the urgency of recognizing how precarious our position has become,” the report stated. “According to the Pew Hispanic Center, in 2050, whites will be 47 percent of the country while Hispanics will grow to 29 percent and Asians to 9 percent.”
North Carolina RNC member Ada Fisher believes Donald Trump will do well with African-American and Latino voters.
At the RNC’s meeting in Boston the summer after the 2012 loss to Obama, party Chairman Reince Priebus fairly scolded Romney for suggesting during the primary season that immigrants living in the country illegally should “self-deport.”
“Using the word ‘self-deportation’ ― I mean, it’s a horrific comment to make,” Priebus said. “It’s not something that has anything to do with our party. But when a candidate makes those comments, obviously it hurts us.”
For party leaders, the need to adapt was not only for the next presidential election, but for the presidential elections in decades to come. Mainstream Republicans got behind a comprehensive immigration overhaul, as the “autopsy” recommended, and watched it pass the Senate only to founder in the House as the party’s disproportionately Southern, disproportionately working-class base revolted.
In perhaps the most ominous sign of where things were headed, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R), a co-sponsor of the bill in that chamber, reversed himself and opposed it as he positioned himself for his presidential run.
The rejection of the party’s received wisdom was complete when Trump in his announcement speech called undocumented immigrants from Mexico “rapists” (although he allowed that some might be good people) and promised to build a wall along the southern border. In the coming months, he vowed to ban Muslims from entering the United States as a response to terrorist attacks, declined at first to criticize former KKK leader David Duke, and most recently defended the use of an image that resembled the Star of David badge that Nazis forced Jews to wear in Hitler’s Germany before they systematically rounded them up and murdered them.
Even this week, when offered the opportunity to speak at the NAACP conference in Cincinnati ― a mere 30 minutes away on his 757 jet ― Trump declined, even though he was afforded the flexibility to speak at the time and day of his choosing. Every recent GOP nominee has spoken at the conference, going back to George W. Bush in 2000.
The promise to “take our country back” and “make America great again” appeals to lesser-educated whites who wish for a return to an era when a college degree was not necessary to earn a middle-class living and the population was overwhelmingly white, said Alan Abramowitz, a demographer at Emory University. “He’s trying to appeal to a sense of displacement, a sense of being left out, of being left behind,” he said. “Elect me and we’ll finally have a leader who will undo all these terribles.”
Priebus, in the wake of a new poll showing Trump’s overall standing with Latinos down to 14 percent, told Fox News on Sunday that Trump appreciates the need to do better.
“I know Donald Trump’s going to be doing a Hispanic engagement tour coming up soon,” Priebus said. “He understands we need to grow the party ― it’s the party of the open door, tone, rhetoric, spirit ― all those things matter when communicating to the American people.”
That statement, though, is somewhat of a departure from the party’s typical response since Trump became the presumptive nominee, which is to ignore the Growth and Opportunity Project report and the long-term strategy behind it. Instead, they focus on the tactics for this coming election, and how, despite everything, Trump can still triumph by winning big among white working-class voters in places like Pennsylvania and Ohio and Wisconsin.
RNC members and officials, in fact, even insist that Trump will exceed expectations among Latino and African-American voters, his rhetoric to date and current polling notwithstanding.
Helen Aguirre Ferre, who took over as head of Hispanic communications after the previous director quit because of her distaste for Trump, said Latino voters are interested in more than just immigration, and that many will be receptive to his message on jobs and national security.
Even in her hometown of Miami, where two of the three Cuban-American members of Congress have disavowed Trump, Ferre said Trump has the potential to do well. She pointed to his 22 percent showing in Miami-Dade County, Rubio’s home, in the March 15 primary. “I think that speaks volumes,” she said, adding that Trump’s campaign will work hard to win over those Latino voters in November. “I think they’re waiting to be courted.”
And North Carolina’s Ada Fisher, one of only a handful of African-American RNC members, said Trump will exceed expectations with black voters, too. “I think Trump will do quite fine. I think he will do great things,” she said, showing off the “Make America Great Again” hat his campaign had given her. “I’ve been a supporter of Donald Trump since the beginning.”
To Florida consultant Wilson, the official party line on Trump ― from the idea that he will do well with minorities to the hope that he can drive up working-class white voter turnout enough to win ― is just plain silly, especially with Trump’s weakness with college-educated white voters and women voters generally.
“This is them trying to whistle past the graveyard, pretending like Donald Trump isn’t happening,” he said. “Math is math, it doesn’t negotiate.”
(S.V. Date is Senior Political Correspondent for Huffington Post … where this piece was first posted.)
ALPERN AT LARGE--Black mayors, police chiefs, political leaders, and even a black President...check. The call to reform law enforcement and promote community-based police...check. Black Lives Matter and the President striking the right balance between being pro-civil rights and pro-law enforcement...well, not so much.
As I stated in a previous CityWatch article, it is up to Black Lives Matter to be an organization that follows in the lead of the revered Martin Luther King, or to follow in the lead of the Black Panthers or Ku Klux Klan as to being a separatist, dividing (and resented) force in American culture.
There are a lot of horror stories in the world, what with ISIS, European acts of terrorism and the economic forces behind the Brexit vote. A senseless police shooting showing either bias or poor police training is something that Americans of all ethnic backgrounds cannot tolerate--but domestic or foreign acts of terrorism cannot be ignored while the issue of police/ethnic relations is being weighed.
We now have not one but two crazed men who clearly had the goal of killing police officers--both in Dallas and Baton Rouge, it was undeniable, unmistakable murder. Arguably, the Dallas shooting was a hate crime in that the shooter clearly wanted to kill white police officers, but in Baton Rouge both black and white officers were targeted.
Particularly scary is that both shooters were American military veterans who were honorably discharged, and who took an oath to defend our nation.
Also particularly scary is that a significant number of Black Lives Matter (BLM) and anti-police supporters are now taking the road of celebrating the deaths of these police officers.
Even more scary altogether are the threats and hopes of some BLM leaders (like activist Shaun King) to stage a coup (or some sort of revolution) similar to that which we saw in the nation of Turkey.
It should be emphasized that Turkey is a very different nation than the United States--but it's not hard to conclude that many Turks, even those who oppose Prime Minister Erdogan, were or are or ever will be OK with a military-supported coup in this modern era. Yet the U.S., like Turkey, will fear and oppose a coup or military action and treat its supporters (even if they claim to be pro-civil rights) with contempt and outrage.
Already there is a petition to label Black Lives Matter as a "terror" group, which the Obama presidency has turned down. It is understandable, even though Black Lives Matter was to a large degree founded on the false narrative of Ferguson, MO criminal Michael Brown being angelic and shot with a "hands up, don't shoot" that never happened, because BLM can, if it chooses, be a uniting force for good.
Black Lives Matter DOES have the ability to establish itself as a force for unity within this nation. When GOP senator Tim Scott of South Carolina described his unfair scrutiny at the hands of police, it's cause for compromise and concern.
But of equal importance is that law enforcement, who defend both black and non-black Americans every day, and are themselves comprised of increasing numbers of black officers, also get their fair share of compromise and concern. The decision of President Obama to not light up the White House blue at the request of police organizations was, in retrospect, a very bad one
It's clear that the Black Lives Matter has the support of the White House, but does law enforcement?
After the Dallas funeral, when the President didn't condemn the murderer enough and was too quick to throw the blame on that event on law enforcement, it clearly led to a reasonable complaint of Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick of President Obama's support of BOTH sides of the law enforcement debate.
With the Baton Rouge shootings, President Obama will (despite his clear condemnation of the shooter) have a harder time than ever convincing the American people he supports both the police and civil rights alike. Maybe he ought to throw up the blue lights at the White House NOW to show that he isn't taking the side of the more radical elements of BLM over law enforcement.
And the Black Lives Matter movement will (despite the overwhelming majority of America's support for civil rights) have a harder time than ever convincing the American people they support the police, and American society in general, and become a uniting, not dividing force, of the civil rights movement in American culture and American politics.
Because while Black Lives Matter asks the reasonable and timely question of who will protect young black men from untrained and potentially biased police officers, another reasonable and timely question is now that of:
Who will protect the American people, including and especially black Americans, from Black Lives Matter?
(Ken Alpern is a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at [email protected]. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.)
GELFAND’S WORLD--Bernie Sanders endorsed Hillary Clinton, and a bunch of people instantly lost their minds. We're seeing pleas to support a minor party such as the Greens, or simply not to vote. The argument is all dressed up in the language of rejecting having to choose between the "lesser of two evils," but it's ultimately a version of political narcissism. Rather than support Clinton, a candidate who is viewed as too imperfect to be worthy of anything but scorn, we are being asked to join a revolution of the small minority in the hope that it will explode into a majority, even if nothing like that has happened since 1789. Well, in the spirit of ultimate irony, this is coming to a head on Bastille Day, even if it's 2016.
Permit me to remind you that the last time something like this whole formulation succeeded, we got George W. Bush as president for eight years. We got a forever war and a devastated economy. We're still recovering from the Bush recession after nearly eight years, and we're still at war. Was getting revenge for not having Ralph Nader on the Democratic Party ticket really worth it?
Because this self-defined progressive group views Hillary Clinton as no better than any other politician, we are being asked to commit a giant act of political vandalism, taking a chance that we will get something (and someone) truly evil. The strategy relies on the off chance that the people who will suffer most -- the poor and the working class -- will react to their upcoming misery by rewarding the folks who put them into it. Yeah, sure, after eight years of Bush, the one thing I wanted most was to put Nader in control. Not.
The rejectionist argument seems to be that if enough people say No to politics as usual, then the political parties will eventually get the right idea. There are multiple problems with this logic, not the least of which is its profound distain for democracy. But that's just one little quirk. The main problem is substituting a utopian fantasy for making incremental progress. It's a perfect case of the perfect being the enemy of the good. And I'm not all that sure that the aspirations of the Bernie or Bust clan are all that perfect anyway.
The core of the argument comes down to one thing. It's whether or not we accept the fact that even modest improvements take time and struggle. The corollary is that the improvements we get are not going to feel entirely adequate. The reason is that there is a substantial bloc of voters who disagree with the liberal notion of public good. They will fight us all the way. They have always fought against progress.
Nevertheless, we won a partial victory in Obamacare. One commenter referred to Obamacare as the biggest Democratic innovation since the days of Lyndon Johnson. It's what has allowed some of the people I know to get health insurance and to have a doctor.
Just the other day, the National Labor Relations Board voted to improve the rights of people who work for large companies as chronic temporary employees. It's a huge deal, because they get less pay and worse benefits for doing the same jobs. The reform has been a long time coming, but it's here. And it would be in grave peril of being reversed should Clinton not be elected president.
As an aside, I would like to bring up one question for all the people who are so devoted to Bernie Sanders. If you are so trusting of him and his judgment, then why are you rejecting his judgment in this one thing, the endorsement of Hillary Clinton? The endorsement comes from the real, flesh-and-blood Bernie Sanders. What you seem to want is the plastic-idol version, an idealized Bernie Sanders who will stand atop the ramparts in an act of civil defiance.
No such luck. Sanders has been a politician most of his life. He understands how the Senate works, and by extension, he knows how political progress develops in the United States. In other words, the real Bernie is not the guy you're demanding.
There is also democracy itself to think about. More voters supported Hillary than Clinton. It's a fact. Bernie's supporters (and the Sanders campaign itself) have complained bitterly about the Democratic National Committee, claiming that they rigged the primary calendar to limit the number of debates and schedule them at awkward times. There may very well be truth to this, but let's remember that during the last couple of months of the primary season -- when Bernie Sanders was getting maximum exposure and news coverage -- that's when Hillary did the best in states like our own California. Losers can blame the process, often with some truth, but the last few months of the Democratic primary season did not merit such critiques. The voters had plenty of information available to them, and they made their choices.
There is a difference between believing in democracy as it is, and in hoping that some day, democracy will go your way.
(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at [email protected])
POLITICS--I’ll save you the guesswork. On July 21, Donald Trump will become the Republican nominee for president of the United States. On July 28, Hillary Clinton will become the Democratic nominee.
Trump’s pending coronation is unsettling many Republican leaders – prompting Republican national chairman, Reince Priebus, to warn them that “if we don’t stick together as a party and stop her, then the only alternative is to get comfortable with the phrase President Hillary Clinton.”
That’s about as enthusiastic an endorsement Trump is likely to get from the Republican establishment.
It’s also unsettling many other Americans, some of whom will be demonstrating in downtown Cleveland to protest the nomination of a man who has gone out of his way to denigrate Latinos, blacks, Muslims and immigrants.
But barring a miracle, Trump will be nominated anyway.
So will Clinton, whose nomination isn’t going down easily with many of Bernie Sanders’s supporters, even after his endorsement of her.
So why have the conventions at all?
First, because they’re perks awarded to people who worked hard for candidates during the primaries — just as top sales reps in companies are awarded trips to national sales conventions. Delegates will have fun and spend money, which hotels and restaurants in downtown Cleveland and Philadelphia will sop up like dry sponges.
They’ll enjoy circulating on the convention floors for five or six hours each night exchanging gossip and business cards, hugging old friends and meeting new ones, and taking selfies.
And they’ll feel important when they hear party leaders, heads of state delegations, members of Congress and occasional celebrities tell them how critical it is to defeat the opposing party in November, how strong their nominee will be, and what makes America great.
Second, the conventions generate prime-time TV infomercials featuring celebrities, heroes and former presidents (Bush 1 and 2 say they won’t appear at the Republican one) and, most importantly, the nominee on the last night.
All will speak about the same three themes, although Trump will talk mainly about himself. These segments will be produced and directed by Hollywood professionals and marketing specialists whose goal is to get the major networks (or at least CNN, Fox News and MSNBC) to project stirring images into the living rooms of swing voters.
The third reason for these conventions will be hidden far away from the delegates and the prime-time performers: It’s to ingratiate the big funders — corporate executives, Wall Street investment bankers, partners in major law firms, top Washington lawyers and lobbyists, and billionaires.
The big funders are undermining our democracy but they’ll have the best views in the house. They’ll fill the skyboxes of the convention centers – just above where the media position their cameras and anchors and high above the din of the delegates. And they’ll feast on shrimp, lobster tails, and caviar.
Each party will try to make these big funders feel like the VIPs they’ve paid to be,letting them shake hands with congressional leaders, Cabinet officers and the nominee’s closest advisers, who will be circulating through the skyboxes like visiting dignitaries. If they’re lucky, the big funders will have a chance to clench the hand of the nominee himself or herself.
The three conventions — for delegates, for prime-time audiences at home and for big funders — will occur simultaneously, but they will occupy different dimensions of reality.
Our two major political parties no longer nominate people to be president. Candidates choose themselves, they run in primaries, and the winners of the primaries become the parties’ nominees.
The parties have instead become giant machines for producing infomercials, raising big money and rewarding top sales reps with big bashes every four years.
That Donald Trump, the most unqualified and divisive person ever to become a major party’s nominee, and Hillary Clinton, among the most qualified yet also among the least trusted ever to become a major party’s nominee, will emerge from the conventions to take each other on in the general election of 2016 is almost beside the point.
(Robert Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy, University of California at Berkeley and the author of Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future, now in bookstores. This post originally appeared at RobertReich.org.)
EDUCATION POLITICS--Many parents and educators are outraged by the over-testing and misuse of testing that has been embedded in federal policy since the enactment of No Child Left Behind in 2002. No high-performing nation in the world tests every child every year in grades 3-8, as we have since the passage of NCLB.
Young children sit for exams that last up to 15 hours over two weeks. The fate of their teachers rests on their performance. Parents remember taking tests in school that lasted no more than one class period for each subject. Their tests were made by their teachers, not by a multinational corporation. Parents can’t understand how testing became an endurance trial and the goal of education.
Politicians claim that the tests are necessary to inform parents and teachers and the public how children in one state are doing as compared to their peers in other states. But this information is already reported by the federal test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Parents have figured out that the tests don’t serve any purpose other than to rank their child. No one is allowed to see the test questions after the test. No child receives a diagnosis of what they know and don’t know. They receive only a score. In every state, the majority of children have been ranked as “failures” because the testmakers adopted a passing mark that was guaranteed to fail close to 70% of children. Parents have learned that the passing mark is not objective; it is arbitrary. It can be set to pass everyone, pass no one, or pass some percentage of children.
In the past 14 years, parents have seen the destruction of neighborhood schools, based on their test scores. They have seen beloved teachers fired unjustly, because of their students’ test scores. They have seen the loss of time for the arts, physical education, and anything else that is not tested. They have seen a change in their local public schools that they don’t like, as well as a loss of control to federal mandates and state authorities.
In the past, testing companies warned that tests should be used only for the purpose for which they were designed. Now, these corporations willingly sell their tests without warning about misuse. A test of fourth grade reading tests fourth grade reading. It should not be used to rank students, to humiliate students, to fire teachers and principals, or to close schools. But it is.
Communities have been devastated by the closing of their neighborhood schools.
Communities have seen their schools labeled “failing,” based on test scores, and taken over by the state or national corporate charter chains.
Based on test scores, punishments abound: for students, teachers, principals, schools, and communities.
This is madness!
What can we as citizens do to stop the destruction of our children, their schools, and our dedicated educators?
Opt out of the tests.
Use the power of the powerless: Say NO. Do not participate. Withdraw your consent from actions that harm your child. Withdrawal of consent in an unjust system. That’s the force that brought down Communist regimes in Eastern Europe. Vaclav Havel and Lech Walensa said no. They were not alone. Hundreds of thousands stood with them, and the regimes with their weapons and tanks and heavy armor folded. Because the people said no.
Opting out of the tests is the only tool available to parents, other than defeating the elected officials of your state (which is also a good idea, but will take a very long time to bear fruit). One person can’t defeat the governor and the local representatives. But one person can refuse to allow their child to take the toxic tests.
The only tool and the most powerful tool that parents have to stop this madness is to refuse to allow their children to take the tests.
Consider New York. A year ago, Governor Andrew Cuomo was in full attack mode against teachers and public schools, while showering praise on privately managed charters. He vowed to “break the monopoly” known as public education. The New York State Board of Regents was controlled by members who were in complete sympathy with Cuomo’s agenda of Common Core, high-stakes testing, and evaluating teachers by test scores.
But in 2015, about a quarter million children refused the state tests. Albany went into panic mode. Governor Cuomo convened a commission to re-evaluate the Common Core, standards, and testing. Almost overnight, his negative declarations about education changed in tone, and he went silent. The legislature appointed new members, who did not share the test-and-punish mentality. The chair of the New York State Board of Regents decided not to seek re-appointment after a 20-year career on that board. The Regents elected Dr. Betty Rosa, a veteran educator who was actively supported by the leaders of the opt out movement.
Again in 2016, the opt out movement showed its power. While official figures have not yet been released, the numbers evidently match those of 2015. More than half the students in Long Island opted out. Federal and state officials have issued warnings about sanctions, but it is impossible to sanction huge numbers of schools in middle-class and affluent communities. The same officials have no problem closing schools in poor urban districts, treating citizens there as chess pawns, but they dare not offend an organized bloc in politically powerful communities.
The opt out movement has been ridiculed by critics, treated by the media as a front for the teachers’ union, belittled by the former Secretary of Education as “white suburban moms” who were disappointed that their child was not so bright after all, stereotyped as privileged white parents with low-performing children, etc. There are indeed black and Hispanic parents who are part of the opt out movement. Their children and their schools suffer the greatest penalties in the current testing madness. In New York City, where opt out numbers were tiny, parents were warned that their children would not be able to enter the middle school or the high school of their choice if they opted out.
Thus far, the opt out movement has not been discouraged or slowed by these tactics of ridicule and intimidation. The conditions have not changed, so the opt out movement will continue.
The reality is that the opt out movement is indeed a powerful weapon. It is the one weapon that makes governors, legislators, and even members of Congress afraid of public opinion and public action. They are afraid because they don’t know how to stop parents from opting out. They can’t control opt out parents, and they know it. They offer compromises, promises for the future, but all of this is sham. They have not let go of the testing hammer. And they will not until opt out becomes the norm, not the exception.
In some communities in New York, opting out is already the norm. If politicians and bureaucrats continue on their reckless course of valuing test scores more than children, the opt out movement will not be deterred.
Save your child. Save your schools. Stop the corporate takeover of public education. You have the power. Say no. Opt out.
(Diane Ravitch is a historian of education and Research Professor of Education at New York University. Posted earlier at Diane’s blog and at Common Dreams.)
GUEST WORDS—(Editor’s Note: The traffic deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and five Dallas police officers over the past 10 days has produced torrent of public chatter. Most of it meaningless. Finger pointing … “Barack Obama is responsible for the deaths of those Dallas police officers”. Tired clichés … “We have to do better.” Advice from non-experts on who has to be more ‘respectful’ to whom. Not an honest to god solution in sight. CityWatch is posting this think piece by Zoe Weil because it offers real and meaningful solutions. I hope you will give them serious thought. Then, I hope you will commit yourself to taking serious action on one of the most important issues facing our country. We need more meaningful solutions, less meaningless talk. -kd)
I am a humane educator, a person dedicated to creating a more just, peaceful, and sustainable world through education. This past week’s killings of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and five Dallas police officers underscore the necessity of educating a generation of solutionaries who have the capacity and the will to prevent such violence from continuing into the future.
This morning I did what I want students in classrooms to do. I explored the interconnected systems that perpetuate violent deaths to determine major points of leverage to address them.
On a white board I visually created a mind map linking the many interconnected systems that contributed to the deaths of two black men at the hands of police officers and the subsequent death of five other police officers. Here’s what it looked like:
In the center are the seven deaths. The surrounding boxes represent systems. The bullet points represent some of the problems within those systems, and the lines show where there are connections between the systems and the deaths.
I then considered what were the major leverage points for preventing violence in the future, (specifically toward black men by some police officers and toward police by some mentally disturbed and enraged black men), and I put a star in those boxes.
While I wanted to put a star in the gun control box (because I believe that meaningful gun control will ultimately prevent the preponderance of violent deaths), I know that this won’t happen without first addressing other systems. (And possibly, if these other systems are addressed effectively, gun control measures might not even be necessary.)
Not surprisingly, given my life’s work, I put a star in the educational system box. I also put stars in the political system box; the justice, legal and prison systems box; and the police training system box.
Why these systems?
First and foremost, the educational system is fundamental to all the others. Without excellent and equitable education that ensures that every child graduates not only literate and numerate, but also with proficient critical-, creative-, strategic-, and systems-thinking skills, and with deeply fostered values of empathy, integrity, responsibility, and kindness, we cannot hope to create wise, compassionate, systemic changes.
Education is the most significant key to ending racism; to transforming our political system into one that is functional, collaborative, and solutions-focused; to developing research skills and teamwork for problem-solving; and ultimately for ensuring that all the other systems on the mind map are equitable, healthy, and sustainable.
The political system offers another leverage point because if we can shift from polarization toward problem-solving; from gerrymandering toward collaboration; from ceding political office to the highest bidder toward real democracy, then we stand a chance of creating better and more effective laws that balance the protection of individual rights with the protection of our citizenry as a whole.
The justice, legal and prison systems rose to the top because the U.S. currently incarcerates 25% of the world’s prison population, even though we have only 5% of the world’s population, and our lower levels of social services and mental healthcare for those living in poverty mean that prisons become the places we often institutionalize the mentally ill.
Further, race-related inequity in prison sentences; prison time for such infractions as failure to pay fines; sentences for minor drug offenses; and a host of other factors that lead to prison time, perpetuate inequity, injustice, rage, fear, and poverty. And with our penal system’s punitive focus rather than a rehabilitation and educational focus, already-disenfranchised inmates face high recidivism rates. And because these ex-inmates are easily able to obtain guns upon release, the fear that leads to police shootings in confrontations is exacerbated.
Changes in police training – an area with which I’m admittedly least knowledgeable – seem to me to also offer significant opportunities for positive shifts, especially under the leadership of primarily black police officers, such as former police chief Donald Grady II.
You may or may not find that my leverage points reflect your own thinking. That doesn’t matter.
What matters is that individually and collectively we engage in this systems-thinking, strategy-oriented, and solutions-focused process, and that we teach young people to do this in schools.
What matters is that we resist simplistic either/or responses and avoid pursuing information that only reinforces our already-established beliefs, confirming our existing biases and preventing new and better ideas from taking root.
I offer the following humane education-inspired steps that each of us can take today, tomorrow, and in the weeks, months, and years ahead so that events like those that occurred this past week become rare instead of routine. None represent brand new ideas; none are panaceas, and none offer quick solutions. Yet collectively I believe that they offer us a meaningful path toward building a less violent future.
Commit to listening and learning
- As a privileged white woman, I offer this heartfelt plea to other white Americans: commit to listening to the voices of black Americans who live with the legacy of centuries of racism, oppression, and injustice. Resist the tendency to assume that because racism isn’t as acute as it was during slavery or Jim Crow, or that because we twice elected Barack Obama to the presidency, that it no longer exists and isn’t a significant factor in the deaths of black men by police. In addition to the interview with Donald Grady II linked above, and the powerful memoir by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, read posts like this one to get you started.
- Seek out, listen to, and converse with people who have different perspectives than yours, and don’t assume that they are racist because they are focused on the shootings of the Dallas police rather than on the black victims of police shootings, or that they are un-American if they are focused on gun control and holding police accountable. No name-calling. No vitriol. Listen, learn, and share your perspectives with respect so you can learn from and challenge each other.
- Seek out media that does not confirm your existing bias. Commit to reading, watching, and listening to differing perspectives.
Commit to finding solutions and taking action
- Create your own mind maps with groups of people with varying perspectives and ideas. Determine your own points of leverage. Choose one area and create an action plan to take concrete steps to influence change. Follow through with your plan.
- Engage in democracy. This may sound trite and simplistic given the problems with our democracy, but we have no democracy at all if we don’t engage with it. Contact your elected officials. Express your specific suggestions and ideas for change. Support collaborative- and solutionary-focused candidates with viable policy platforms and realistic plans for reaching out to others for feasible positive changes.
- Participate in the educational system. You do not have to be a teacher, school administrator, student, or parent to have a voice. Every citizen has a role to play in transforming education so that it is solutionary-focused and helps students harness their own capacities to address racism and violence in the U.S. (and beyond). Until and unless we prepare students for their critical roles in solving these pervasive and entrenched problems we will be limiting our most powerful capacity to create a more just and healthy future.
- Put your particular skills and knowledge to use. If you are in law, law enforcement, or corrections, direct your knowledge and expertise toward meaningful solutions rather than side-taking. This may be difficult and feel risky, but now is your time to be a hero. Speak out with your best ideas.
If you are a teacher, create lesson plans to bring these thorny, complex problems to your students so they can work together to find answers through good research, deep thinking, and committed problem-solving.
If you are a social worker or psychologist, bring your expertise to help the public understand and resist our tendencies to polarize, think simplistically, and confirm our own biases. Bring people of different races and backgrounds together to listen and learn from one another and build bridges of understanding, empathy, and solidarity.
Whatever your work, profession, or field of expertise, commit to using your knowledge in a positive way to help our country come together with real answers, not soundbites.
Last night I drove past a church with a sign out front that read: "Pray for the families of the victims in Dallas." I wanted to simultaneously shout with frustration and cry with sorrow.
That a church of all places would ask us to pray only for the families of the Dallas police and not also for the families of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, broke my heart and, momentarily, dashed my hopes for change.
Especially now, we must enlarge our capacity for empathy.
Yet even if this particular church were to have written on its sign, “Pray for all the families of the victims of this week’s terrible violence,” I would have still felt frustrated.
We must do more than pray. We must act.
(Zoe Weil is the president of the Institute for Humane Education (IHE), which offers online graduate degrees in comprehensive Humane Education; solutionary-focused programs and workshops; and an award-winning free resource center. Zoe has given six TEDx talks including her acclaimed “The World Becomes What You Teach.” She is the author of numerous books, including: The World Becomes What We Teach: Educating a Generation of Solutionaries (2016) This perspective was posted most recently at the excellent Common Dreams.) Photo credit: Stephen Melkisethian/cc/flickr
ALPERN AT LARGE--Like so many other upset and heartbroken Americans, I've no more capacity for "moments of silence" to address issues where silence is anything BUT the right response. Of course, silence was never my strong suit. My religious, educational and moral training all point to the virtues of being hard on one's self, and on one's society--and our society is drowning in its own stupidity.
If anyone reading this still honestly believes that former 2008 Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin is responsible for the shooting of former representative Gabby Giffords, then clearly it's a sign that the reader has forgotten what "free will" is, and the ability of a human being to make a decision on his/her own. No diagram, photo or statement of former Governor Palin (whether you like or hate her) was ever any more a statement of "kill her!" than any political statement of President Barack Obama was any credible advocacy of violence against police officers.
Sarah Palin didn't shoot Rep. Gabby Giffords, and would certainly have opposed (and probably opened fire on, were she present) the crazed lunatic who shot Giffords. Similarly, President Obama didn't shoot those five heroic police officers in Dallas, and has condemned (and would certainly have order troops to open fire on, were he present) the crazed lunatic who shot them. Lunatics and racist monsters have no tolerance in our society.
But while Sarah Palin had no governmental power when Gabby Giffords was shot, President Obama does have power--so that while only a fool would suggest he wanted the Dallas shootings, it can be accurately stated that it occurred on his watch...and his being too tough on police officers while too kind and supportive to the more radical elements of Black Lives Matter is also on his watch.
I advocated for the Brady Bill in years past, and support reasonable gun control measures presently and in the future. Yet at the least, however, those advocating gun control at this time are quite ignorant both of the different types of guns and the statistics that completely ignore gun killings are going up, and have no correlation to how and where aggressive gun control measures are being implemented (think Chicago and Washington, D.C.).
At the very most, those advocating gun control at this time are using "gun control" as a mindless, irrational mantra that entirely diverts from the REAL causes of violence in our society, and which deflects from and hurts the credibility of proper gun control measures. Like a decay in our society's moral values, economic and social frustration and alienation of too many in our society, and a failure of leadership at the top.
As in "the buck stops here" paradigm of Democratic President Truman's years versus the "I first heard about it in the newspapers" paradigm of Democratic President Barack Obama.
Contrary to the political agitation and fomenting of divisions from the current presidential administration, our nation is almost entirely united:
1) We believe that Black Lives Matter, and Blue Lives Matter. The recent police shootings in Minnesota and Louisiana shake us to the core, and scream for better police training and the implementation of community-based policing that has transformed Los Angeles from a riot-prone city to one where violence is quite low compared to other cities.
Yet the shootings of police officers in Dallas (and let's not forget New York and other assassinations of police officers throughout the nation) also shake us to the core, and it's upsetting that both President Obama and Attorney General Lynch aren't harder--MUCH harder--on the more radical elements of Black Lives Matter. Because and Obama and Lynch (and Holder before her) are hurting the credibility that Black Lives Matter needs to implement true and positive change.
2) Black Lives Matter should not, and need not, be a hate group, but it will be considered one if it doesn't clean up its act. There are now no shortage of Americans who view Black Lives Matter as no better than the Ku Klux Klan, and are part of the problem. Too many leaders in Black Lives Matter seem to have a problem with America in general.
Furthermore, Black Lives Matter is alienating too many black police officers (they do exist, and in increasing numbers) and community leaders. The black police chiefs of Dallas and El Paso are certainly part of the answer, and creating civil UNREST while marching for civil RIGHTS can only make a well-intentioned effort into part of the problem, and not part of the answer.
Black Lives Matter has too many extremist radicals among its ranks and if it's own leaders aren't purged and brought to bear, then the expression "Black Lives Matter" will bring visceral contempt when admiration should be the right response.
And if Black Lives Matter is to remain part of the answer, then it must ask itself whether it wishes to follow the example (and the lousy and failed fate) of the 1960's black separatist movements, or if it wants to to adhere to an "improve and be pro-America" that follows the example of the late Martin Luther King.
3) Black youth have not one but TWO deadly threats to confront: police bias and shootings, and black-on-black violence. To argue about which one is worse is about as stupid as arguing whether food or water is less essential than the other. In particular, black men have their health (and even lives) threatened when the cops drive up and slow down next to them...but also when cars filled with black men suddenly show up, with criminals all-too-ready to enforce their "turf".
The accusation of a broken tail light can escalate into something violent or deadly, but so can a "Where you from?" question/demand of a black youth from another neighborhood. BOTH are horrible. BOTH are deadly. And BOTH have as much of a role in our modern society as a Confederate flag in a black church--they don't belong...period.
Snoop Dogg and other black icons are embracing BOTH the police and civil rights leaders. Love and kindness, and a dropping of the violent epithets and anti-police threats, is the strategy that will allow black and other American leaders the ability to emulate the success and admiration of Martin Luther King, and avoid the failure and derision of Louis Farrakhan, when it comes to improving the lives and status of African-Americans.
4) We need our police, and we need credible and courageous leaders. There are those who will demean and ignore the success of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani in turning New York around, and in uniting that previously-divided city...and they will do it for political gains no matter how the nation suffers as a result.
There is no reason for Dallas or other police officers to boycott and disrespect President Obama in his last few months in office, but there is every reason to get our President to acknowledge that his own rhetoric, or at the least his one-sided rhetoric, from both himself and past/former Attorney Generals is in dire need of improvement.
President Obama, and the rest of us, have the choice to both decry and condemn (harder, MUCH harder) the monster in Dallas who proved he was no better than the monster in South Carolina who shot up so many innocents in a black church.
We can't let either of these monsters separate us. Demand reform and accountability from the police AND from Black Lives Matter.
It should be emphasized that there is a bias, although not as deadly as many have contended, of police officers against blacks than against whites, and that community-based policing can fix that.
It should also be emphasized that the statistics for black-on-black violence are ALSO frightening--and these CANNOT be dismissed by ANY leader wanting to improve the future of black Americans.
And stupidity, whether it's for political gain or not, cannot be dismissed. It's the right for any American to be "stuck on stupid", but it's also the right--nay, the responsibility--for Americans to keep their eyes on the ball and decry stupidity or political correctness wherever it exists.
Because politically-correct or politically-obsessed stupidity is killing and destroying the lives of too many innocent Americans.
(Ken Alpern is a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at [email protected]. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.)
GUEST WORDS--During his throat clearing at the 2011 White House Correspondents dinner in Washington, D.C., comedian Seth Meyers delivered a prophetic critique of the political ambitions of Donald J. Trump.
The mogul, touting a run in the 2012 race, sat scowling at his table as the comic quipped:
“Donald Trump has been saying he’ll run for president as a Republican, which is surprising as I just assumed he was running as a joke.”
MAKING A DIFFERENCE--Yes, there is something that each of us can do ... to change LA and America. In fact, nothing will improve unless each of us does actually start doing some things.
(1) We Need to End the National Ethos That Killing People Is a Good Solution to Problems.
As long as the majority of Americans support the death penalty, they support the idea that killing of people is an acceptable solution to some problems. If each of us rejects the death penalty, we can start to reorient our national consciousness. Even most mentally ill people are constrained by their country’s cultural norms.
(2) We Need to Drop the Idea Some People Are Above The Law.
The Obama Doctrine of “Too Important to Prosecute” will soon become the Trump Doctrine or the Hillary Doctrine. The pernicious idea that important people are above the law creates deep resentment within society. The avoidable crash in 2008 made millions of people homeless which has devastated families, traumatized many of the dispossessed children for life, and resulted in divorces, bankruptcies and suicides. Meanwhile the Federal government gave trillions of dollars to the crooks who had crashed the economy. (By making some people above the law, I do not mean the absurd idea that Hillary did some terrible crime with her emails. This leads to my next point.)
(3) We Must Stop Supporting Our Own Party When it Spews Nonsense.
Obama made some serious mistakes, but the nation never could have a rational discussion about Obama’s economic policies because the GOP has continued with it relentless racist attacks. The people who had the power to stop this extremely harmful activity were the GOP electorate.
On the Dem side, the entire party was silent as Obama followed the regressive and asinine economic nonsense of Geithner. By remaining silent, these economic policies paved the way for the Tea Baggers in November 2010 and set the stage of the current politics of revenge. Obama did nothing to revive the economy. What we see now is the normal upswing of the business cycle. We need to develop the ability to admit our own mistakes and shortcomings rather than to habitually blame “the other.” Both the GOP and Dems persist in the blame game, while accepting zero responsibility for anything.
We also have to be smart enough to realize that both parties raise millions of dollars from highlighting the zanies on the other side. So we give credence to the more extreme because it raises money for our party. That is a vice which both parties must forgo.
(4) We Must Cease to Hold Predators in High Esteem.
As a nation, we laud predators. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of Trump knows that he is a predator who intentionally abused the bankruptcy laws to ruin other people while making himself vastly wealthy. Despite this widespread knowledge, millions of Americans herald him as a savior. No one can support Trump without endorsing a predatory culture where the strong feed upon the weak. (Why do the disenfranchised support the person who is the number one example of the culture that has cheated them for the past 30 years? The answer is probably found in Anna Freud’s Identification with the Aggressor. I guess it is akin to the Stockholm Syndrome.)
Trump is not America’s first predator. For decades we tolerated Antonin Scalia as if he were some sage, when in reality he was a predatory egomaniac suffering from the delusion that he alone could divine the Original Intent of the framers of the US Constitution. That gave us the absurd idea that the right to own a gun was an individual right. Under this theory, individual Americans need to arm themselves so that they can kill government employees who would threaten their life, liberty or property. We saw how that philosophy works out in Dallas on July 7. (Oh, that’s right, Scalia didn’t mean that the right to own a gun applied to Blacks.)
(5) We Need to Stop with the Jingoistic Charade that America is the Greatest Nation.
Not only is this claim poppycock, but it also dangerously blinds us to our faults. No nation is the greatest. Each nation has its strengths and its weaknesses. America is far more racist than many other nations. We have an unacceptably high infant mortality rate and an inexcusably low educational achievement level. Too many children live in poverty and lack adequate food. It is extremely obnoxious to scream that we’re the greatest when we tear down the homes of the poor and shove them out onto the streets so that we can have photo-ops to justify giving billions of dollars to developers. See my recent article in CityWatch about “The Great LA Housing Scam.”
The greatest nation would not have the worse Gini wealth index. The lower the number, the more equitable the distribution of income. The higher the number, the more wealth is concentrated in the elite.
“It found that the U.S. had the most wealth inequality, with a score of 80.56, showing the most concentration of overall wealth in the hands of the proportionately fewest people.” (Fortune Magazine, 9-30-2015, “America is The Richest, and Most Unequal, Country,” by Erik Sherman) Notice that the sources is not some far leftist propagandist, but Fortune Magazine.
Since the Crash of 2008, most of the gain in new wealth due to increased productivity has not gone to the workers who created the wealth but to the top 1% who are responsible for causing the Crash. Those statistics alone explain the “politics of revenge” which Trump exemplifies.
We are never going to put our country on the right track by brainlessly screaming “We’re #1" or “We’re the greatest.” Rather we need a new culture which admits that we are far from perfect, but that each day we will strive to improve.
If not now, when?
These are things which all of us can do right now today in our own lives. We can ferret out these self-defeating traits in ourselves and in our national discourse. We can recognize that it is not only the GOP who made people poor and it is not only the Dems who love Wall Street predators. We all participate in the culture of death and self-centered jingoism. Some of us actively support these ideas, while many of us are silent. We let the Los Angeles City Council be run as a criminal enterprise and we pretend we do not know that our state’s legal system is corrupt to the core. Even the federal courts said that the California system has an epidemic of misconduct because the judges condone such behavior.
The habitual murders reflect who we are as a people. These things do not regularly happen in other nations whose cultures do not enshrine killing as a civic good and do not promote predators to be their national leaders.
The only way to change our national consciousness and hence our destiny is for each of us to change our individual consciousness.
(Richard Lee Abrams is a Los Angeles attorney. He can be reached at: [email protected]. Abrams views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
DOWNWARD SPIRAL-Precariousness is not just a working-class thing. In recent interviews, dozens of academics and schoolteachers, administrators, librarians, journalists and even coders have told me they too are falling prey to an unstable new America. I’ve started to think of this just-scraping-by group as the Middle Precariat.
The word Precariat was popularized five or so year ago to describe a rapidly expanding working class with unstable, low-paid jobs. What I call the Middle Precariat, in contrast, are supposed to be properly, comfortably middle class, but it’s not quite working out this way.
There are people like the Floridian couple who both have law degrees – and should be in the prime of their working lives – but can’t afford a car or an apartment and have moved back in with the woman’s elderly mother. There are schoolteachers around the country that work second jobs after their teaching duties are done: one woman in North Dakota I spoke to was heading off to clean houses after the final bell in order to pay her rent.
Many of the Middle Precariat work jobs that used to be solidly middle class. Yet some earn roughly what they did a decade ago. At the same time, middle-class life is now 30 percent more expensive than it was 20 years ago. The Middle Precariat’s jobs are also increasingly contingent – meaning they are composed of short-term contract or shift work, as well as unpaid overtime. Buffeted by Silicon Valley-like calls to maximize disruption, the Middle Precariat may have positions “reimagined.” That cruel euphemism means they are to be replaced by younger, cheaper workers, or even machines.
This was brought home to me at a legal fair with thousands of attendees this winter. Between the small plastic gavel swag and the former corporate lawyer building a large-scale Lego block version of Van Gogh’s Starry Night, there were booths advertising software that reviews legal documents. That software helps firms get rid of employees, including attorneys, and might soon make some of the lawyers on that trade-show floor extinct.
Other professionals describe how they must endure harsh non-traditional work schedules, much like their retail worker brethren. They work on weekends and late into the day and barely see their children. At the end of the year, they just break even, all the while retaining debt from college and even graduate school that they will never be able to repay.
While households that make anywhere from $48,000 to $250,000 can call themselves middle class, to group such a wide range of incomes under one label, as politicians love to do, is to confuse the term entirely.
A worker at a tech company in California I interviewed has two jobs and commutes at least an hour each way to one of them, much like the working class Precariat does. He can’t afford to live anywhere near his offices – San Francisco is the most expensive housing market in the country, with an average rent at $4,780 for a two-bedroom apartment as of April.
They and other members of the Middle Precariat I have spoken with over the last three years are ostensibly bourgeois, but with few of the advantages we used to associate with that standing. They may not be able to afford their mortgage payments or daycare, health and retirement savings or college educations for their kids. They also usually can’t afford a car for each adult, summer vacations or gym memberships, those status markers of the past. Indeed, some have resorted to SNAP and other federal benefits from time to time.
The Middle Precariat also may be threatened by the rise of the robots, like their working-class peers. Like the lawyers at that trade show. The numbers confirm this: in 2014, only 64 percent of law school graduates had jobs that required bar passage. In 2013, unemployment was at 11.2 percent with underemployment numbers even higher. (By contrast, in 1985, more than 81 percent had full-time legal jobs and only seven percent were not working at all.)
Journalists also have the machines nipping at their heels. Last month, tronc, formerly known as the illustrious Tribune newspaper company, demonstrated the rise of the Middle Precariat: tronc’s inadvertently hilarious branding videos celebrated artificial intelligence over photo editors, reporters and the like, replacing them with optimization and something called content funnels.
Even nurses may soon join the Middle Precariat. The National Science Foundation is spending nearly a million dollars to research a future of robotic nurses who will lift patients and bring them medicine while keeping living nurses “in the decision loop”, even though nursing is one of the few growth industries that allows for upward mobility.
The Middle Precariat, as the 2013 McKinsey Global Institute report on disruptive technologies explained, will only grow, as highly skilled workers are put on the chopping block and the “automation of knowledge work” expands. Soon to come are robot surgeons, robot financial workers, robot teachers and perhaps, robots that can take their mimicry of recent college graduates to the next level and argue that Beyonce’s Lemonade is feminism while drinking a micro brew.
It’s reached a point where this threatened class has begotten a layer of consultants to fix the problem. In San Francisco, Casey Berman counsels economically and professionally desperate people who happen to be lawyers. “There is an easier, less painful, less stressful and lucrative way to make money,” Berman’s site Leave Law Behind reads. When I spoke to him a few months ago, he told me that he sees his mission as “motivating” former lawyers that are now broke and frustrated to do something else with their lives.
But retraining and specialized psychotherapy aren’t the only answers. We need broad-based fixes. Universal subsidized daycare. Changing the tax code so it actually helps the middle class. Real collective bargaining rights for Middle Precariat workers. Paid leave to keep mothers from exiting the workforce against their will. Fair hours, not just for McDonald’s workers, but also for adjunct professors.
We also need to question the pundits and companies that incant “artificial intelligence” as a mantra, even as they are celebrating a future where so many middle-class humans’ jobs may be jettisoned. And we can start to rebuke terms like “machine learning” or “disruption,” unmasking them – along with “the billionaires” – as some of the culprits.
EDITOR’S PICK--I have struggled to find words to express what I thought and felt as I watched the videos of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile being killed by the police. Thursday night, I wanted to say something that hasn’t been said a hundred times before. It finally dawned on me that there is nothing to say that hasn’t been said before.
As I was preparing to write about the oldness of all of this, and share some wisdom passed down from struggles of earlier eras, I heard on the news that 11 officers had been shot in Dallas, several killed from sniper fire. My fingers froze on the keys. I could not bring myself to recycle old truths. Something more is required. But what?
I think we all know, deep down, that something more is required of us now. This truth is difficult to face because it’s inconvenient and deeply unsettling. And yet silence isn’t an option. On any given day, there’s always something I’d rather be doing than facing the ugly, racist underbelly of America.
I know that I am not alone. But I also know that the families of the slain officers, and the families of all those who have been killed by the police, would rather not be attending funerals. And I’m sure that many who refused to ride segregated buses in Montgomery after Rosa Parks stood her ground wished they could’ve taken the bus, rather than walk miles in protest, day after day, for a whole year. But they knew they had to walk. If change was ever going to come, they were going to have to walk. And so do we.
What it means to walk today will be different for different people and different groups and in different places. I am asking myself what I need to do in the months and years to come to walk my walk with greater courage. It’s a question that requires some time and reflection. I hope it’s a question we are all asking ourselves.
"If we're serious about having peace officers—rather than a domestic military at war with its own people—we're going to have to get honest with ourselves about who our democracy actually serves and protects."
In recent years, I have come to believe that truly transformative change depends more on thoughtful creation of new ways of being than reflexive reactions to the old. What is happening now is very, very old. We have some habits of responding to this familiar pain and trauma that are not serving us well. In many respects it’s amazing that we endure at all. I am inspired again and again by so much of the beautiful, brilliant and daring activism that is unfolding all over the country. Yet I also know that more is required than purely reactive protest and politics. A profound shift in our collective consciousness must occur, a shift that makes possible a new America.
I know many people believe that our criminal justice system can be “fixed” by smart people and smart policies. President Obama seems to think this way. He suggested yesterday that police-community relations can be improved meaningfully by a task force he created last year. Yes, a task force.
I used to think like that. I don’t anymore. I no longer believe that we can “fix” the police, as though the police are anything other than a mirror reflecting back to us the true nature of our democracy. We cannot “fix” the police without a revolution of values and radical change to the basic structure of our society. Of course important policy changes can and should be made to improve police practices. But if we’re serious about having peace officers—rather than a domestic military at war with its own people—we’re going to have to get honest with ourselves about who our democracy actually serves and protects.
Consider this: Philando Castile had been stopped 31 times and charged with more than 60 minor violations—resulting in thousands of dollars in fines—before his last, fatal encounter with the police.
Alton Sterling was arrested because he was hustling, selling CDs to get by. He was unable to work in the legal economy due to his felony record. His act of survival was treated by the police as a major crime, apparently punishable by death.
"None of the horrifying images from the Jim Crow era would've changed anything if a highly strategic, courageous movement had not existed that was determined to challenge a deeply entrenched system of racial and social control."
How many people on Wall Street have been arrested for their crimes large and small—crimes of greed and fraud that nearly bankrupted the global economy and destroyed the futures of millions of families?
How many politicians have been prosecuted for taking millions of dollars from private prisons, prison guard unions, pharmaceutical companies, oil companies, tobacco companies, the NRA and Wall Street banks and doing their bidding for them—killing us softly? Oh, that’s right, taking millions from those folks isn’t even a crime. Democrats and Republicans do it every day.
Our entire political system is financed by wealthy private interests buying politicians and making sure the rules are written in their favor. But selling CDs or loose cigarettes? In America, that’s treated as a serious crime, especially if you’re black. For that act of survival, you can be wrestled to the ground and choked to death or shot at point blank range. Our entire system of government is designed to protect and serve the interests of the most powerful, while punishing, controlling and exploiting the least advantaged.
This is not hyperbole. And this is not new. What is new is that we’re now watching all of this on YouTube and Facebook, streaming live, as imagined super-predators are brought to heel. Fifty years ago, our country was forced to look at itself in the mirror when television stations broadcast Bloody Sunday, the day state troopers and a sheriff’s posse brutally attacked civil rights activists marching for voting rights in Selma.
Those horrifying images, among others, helped to turn public opinion in support of the Civil Rights Movement. Perhaps the images we’ve seen in recent days will make some difference. It’s worth remembering, though, that none of the horrifying images from the Jim Crow era would’ve changed anything if a highly strategic, courageous movement had not existed that was determined to challenge a deeply entrenched system of racial and social control.
This nation was founded on the idea that some lives don’t matter. Freedom and justice for some, not all. That’s the foundation. Yes, progress has been made in some respects, but it hasn’t come easy. There’s an unfinished revolution waiting to be won.
(Michelle Alexander is the author of the bestselling book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (The New Press, 2010). The former director of the Racial Justice Project of the ACLU in Northern California, she also served as a law clerk to Justice Harry Blackmun on the U.S. Supreme Court. Currently, she holds a joint appointment with the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University. This piece posted first on Michelle’s Facebook page and most recently at Common Dreams.)
EDITOR’S PICK--Renowned lawyer and professor Alan Dershowitz penned an op-ed piece for The Hill in which he says James Comey reached the correct conclusion in Hillary Clinton's email scandal, but that the FBI Director might have exceeded his authority getting there.
"[Comey] was certainly correct in his ultimate recommendation. The evidence in this case, as he described it, would not have justified a criminal prosecution," Dershowitz wrote. "There is simply no precedent for indicting a former secretary of state for carelessness, even extreme carelessness."
However, Dershowitz identified four curious statements the FBI director made that suggest Comey overstepped his bounds:
- The FBI is an investigative agency; it does not make prosecutorial decisions like Comey outlined Tuesday.
- It's rare and highly unusual for an FBI director to articulate opinions — Comey called Clinton "extremely careless" — about the behavior of a subject.
- Comey was obtuse in his "verbal formulation" of whether emails where classified or not.
- Comey implied that some Clinton aides might lose their security clearance over this; again, out of the FBI's purview.
So though Dershowitz lauds Comey as honorable and is comfortable with the outcome, he is uncomfortable with the power wielded by someone with the job title of FBI director. (Read the rest.)
NEW GEOGRAPHY-An unconventional, sometimes incoherent, resistance arises to the elites who keep explaining why changes that hurt the middle class are actually for its own good.
The Great Rebellion is on and where it leads nobody knows.
Its expressions range from Brexit to the Trump phenomena and includes neo-nationalist and unconventional insurgent movements around the world. It shares no single leader, party or ideology. Its very incoherence, combined with the blindness of its elite opposition, has made it hard for the established parties across what’s left of the democratic world to contain it.
What holds the rebels together is a single idea: the rejection of the neo-liberal crony capitalist order that has arisen since the fall of the Soviet Union. For two decades, this new ruling class could boast of great successes: rising living standards, limited warfare, rapid technological change and an optimism about the future spread of liberal democracy. Now, that’s all fading or failing.
Living standards are stagnating, vicious wars are raging, poverty-stricken migrants are pouring across borders and class chasms are growing. Amidst this, the crony capitalists and their bureaucratic allies have only grown more arrogant and demanding. But the failures of those who occupy what Lenin called “the commanding heights” are obvious to most of the citizens on whose behalf they claim to speak and act.
The Great Rebellion draws on five disparate and sometimes contradictory causes that find common ground in frustration with the steady bureaucratic erosion of democratic self-governance: class resentment, racial concerns, geographic disparities, nationalism, and cultural identity. Each of these strains appeals to different constituencies, but together they are creating a political Molotov cocktail.
Class Conflict--The Brexit vote reflected the class aspect of the Rebellion. The London Times post-election analysis, notes socialist author James Heartfield, found the upper classes 57 percent for “Remain,” the upper middle class fairly divided, while everyone below them went roughly two-thirds for “Leave.” It doesn’t get much plainer than that.
This dissent reflects the consequences of the globalization celebrated by elites in both parties. Britain’s industrial workforce, once the wonder of the world, is half as large was as just two decades ago. The social status of the British worker, even among the Labour grandees who pay them lip service, has been greatly diminished, notes scholar Dick Hobbs, himself a product of blue collar east London. “There are parts of London,” he writes, “where the pubs are the only economy.”
As labor has struggled, writes Heartfield, “the Labour Party became more distant, metropolitan and elitist. It sought to re-write the party’s policy to mirror its own concerns, and also to diminish working people’s aspirations for social democratic reform in their favour.”
A similar scenario has emerged here in America, where corporations -- especially those making consumer goods -- have grown fat on access to Chinese, Mexican and other foreign labor. Like their British counterparts, the U.S. working class is falling into social chaos, with declining marriage and church attendance rates, growing drug addiction, poor school performance and even declining life expectancy. Even during the primary campaign, as both Sanders and Trump railed against globalization, United Technologies saw fit to announce the movement of a large plant form Indianapolis, where about 1,500 jobs were lost, to Monterrey, Mexico.
And much as the “Leave” wave crested in just those parts of the U.K. where trade with Europe is highest, so is Trump support highest in the Southern states that now dominate what remains of American manufacturing.
Race and Ethnicity--Ethnic minorities and immigrants have now become core constituents of progressive parties in many countries -- the Socialists in France, the British Labour Party and the Democratic Party here in America. In Britain, it never occurred to party leaders that most new jobs created during the Blair and Brown regimes went to newcomers. One can admire the pluck of Polish plumbers, Latvian barmaids, Greek waiters and French technicians and still note that many of these jobs could have gone to native born British. This includes the children of the mostly non-white commonwealth immigrants who are now part of the country’s national culture.
The parallels in America -- a much larger, richer and more diverse country -- are striking. Silicon Valley and corporate America love to bring in glorified indentured servants from abroad, earning the assent of Hillary Clinton and the corporate shill wing of the GOP. Only Trump and Sanders have attacked this program, which has cost even trained American workers their jobs.
As tends to occur when race and ethnicity intrude, ugliness here seeps into the Great Rebellion. Trump has consciously and irresponsibly stoked ethnic resentments tied to immigration. Anti-EU continental Europeans -- notably in Eastern Europe but also France’s Marine Le Pen -- often outdo our TV billionaire’s provocations.
Geographic Disparities--The Brexit vote also revealed a chasm between the metropolitan core and the rest of the country. The urban centers of London, Manchester and Liverpool all voted Remain. Central London has benefited from being where the world’s super rich park their money. The devastation of the industrial economy in the periphery has hardly touched the posh precincts of the premier global city.
In contrast, the more distant, often working class, suburbs of London and other cities voted to Leave. Small towns followed suit. The Brexit vote, suggests analyst Aaron Renn, demonstrated that arrogant urbanites, seeing themselves as the exclusive centers of civilization, ignore those who live outside the “glamour zone” at their own peril.
Similar voting patterns can be seen in the US. The countryside, except for retirement havens of the rich, has gone way to the right. The suburbs are tilting that way, and could become more rebellious as aggressive “disparate impact” policies force communities to reshape themselves to meet HUD’s social engineering standards -- for example if they are too middle class or too white -- even if there is no proof of actual discrimination.
Needless to say, such policies could enhance the geographic base of the Great Rebellion, including among middle-class minorities who are now responsible for much of our current suburban growth. Already the small towns and outer suburbs have signed up with Trump; if he can make clear the threat to suburbia from the planners, he could, despite his boorish ugliness, win these areas and the election.
Nationalism and Cultural Identity--Nationalism gets a bad rap in Europe, for historically sound reasons. Yet these national cultures also have produced much of the world’s great literature and music, and the world’s most beautiful cities. Yet in contemporary Europe, these national cultures are diminishing. Instead the crony capitalist regime gives us Rem Koolhaas’ repetitious generic city, often as stultifying as the most mindless suburban mall.
Not just buildings, but historic values are also being undermined, as universities and even grade schools seek to replace cherished values with post-modernist, politically correct formulations. English students at Yale protest having to read Chaucer, Shakespeare or Milton, the foundation writers of the world’s common language whose greatest sin, it appears, was to be both English and male.
Of course, cultural and political nationalism often shows an ugly side. But everyone who shouts for the British national soccer team or chants USA at the Olympics is not a fascist; they are just people who love their country. Yet academia, the shaper of the young and impressionable, now sometimes regard any positive assessment of America as the land of opportunity or even the American flag as “micro-aggressions.” Brits and Americans have much to be ashamed about in their history, but their glorious achievements remain inspirational to many who find attempts to replace them with some tortured global syncretism foolish and counterproductive.
Governance and Localism--When Brits told pollsters why they had voted to leave the EU, notes James Heartfield, immigration and national identity ranked high but democracy and self-governance was at the top of the list. In contrast, classes who supported remain—the mainstream media, academia, the legal and financial establishments—increasingly see themselves as rightful rulers, the benighted masses be damned.
This anti-EU rebellion is hardly limited to Britain. Since 2005, French, Danish and Dutch voters have voted against closer EU ties. Hostility to the EU, as recorded by Pew, is actually stronger in many key European countries, including France, than it is in Britain. And after the Brexit vote, there are already moves for similar exit referenda in several European countries.
But like Washington bureaucrats who can’t be bothered to pay much attention to the views of the underlings of the Heartland, the Eurocrats want to double down. The Germans, the effective rulers of Europe, have reacted to Brexit with talk about ways to “deepen” the EU, creating the basis for what some have argued would be essentially “a super-state.” This policy approach seems about as brilliant as that of Lord North, whose response to American agitation was to further tighten London’s screws.
This arrogance, in part, stems from what one writer at the Atlantic has called the war on the stupid. In this formulation, those with elite degrees, including the hegemons on Wall Street and Silicon Valley, dismiss local control as rule by the Yahoos. The progressive ideal of government by experts -- sometimes seen as “the technocracy” -- may sound good in Palo Alto or London, but often promises a dim future for the middle class. Expert regulation, often with green goals in mind, take hard-earned gains like car and home ownership and cheap air travel all but out of reach for the middle class, while keeping them around for the globe-trotting elites.
Where does this go?--The Great Rebellion is, if nothing else, politically incoherent.
Some conservatives hail it as a harbinger of the decline of progressivism. Traditional leftists hope for the return of state socialism, directed from national capitals. Racists see a vindication for their world view. Libertarians hail de-regulation while others, on the nationalist right, embrace the authoritarian nationalism of Vladimir Putin.
Yet for all its divergent views, the Great Rebellion has accomplished this: the first serious blow to the relentless ascendency of neo-liberal crony capitalism. The revels have put the issue of the super-state and the cause of returning power closer to the people back on the agenda. The Great Rebellion allows localities relief from overweening regulations, cities to be as urban as they want, and the periphery choose how they wish to develop.
The Rebellion also allows us to move beyond enforced standards of racial “balance” and reparations, replacing the chaos of unenforced borders and enforced “diversity” with something more gradual and organic in nature. Our hope on race and ethnicity lies not in rule-making from above, but in allowing the multiculturalism of the streets to occur, as is rapidly does, in suburban schoolyards, soccer pitches and Main Streets across the Western world.
National cultures do not need to be annihilated but allowed to evolve. In Texas, California, and across the southwestern, Spanish phraseology, Mexican food and music are already very mainstream. Without lectures from the White House or preening professors, African-American strains will continue to define our national culture, particularly in the south. In Europe, few object to couscous on bistro menus, falafel on the streets and, in Britain, the obligatory curry at the pub.
The Great Rebellion is much more than the triumph of nativism, stupidity and crudeness widely denounced in the mainstream media. Ethnic integration and even globalization will continue, but shaped by the wishes of democratic peoples, not corporate hegemons or bureaucratic know-it-alls. We can now once again aspire to a better world -- better because it will be one that people, not autocrats, have decided to make.
(Joel Kotkin is a R.C. Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and executive director of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism in Houston. His newest book is “The Human City: Urbanism for the Rest of Us.”) This piece first appeared in NewGeography.com. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
EDITOR’S PICK--On Monday America celebrated the 240th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, which condemned King George III for “(obstructing) the Administration of Justice.”
On Tuesday the American left celebrated as the federal government obstructed the administration of justice on behalf of one of its ruling families, the Clintons.
Last week the attorney general of the United States met with former President Bill Clinton, whose wife and foundation were under FBI investigation. They both insisted nothing untoward happened. Days later The New York Times reported that Hillary Clinton might offer Lynch a position in her administration.
Over the holiday weekend the Obama administration announced that President Obama would fly to North Carolina with Clinton aboard Air Force One in order to campaign with her. Americans would, in part, foot the bill for the travel.
On Tuesday FBI Director James Comey called a supposedly impromptu press conference to announce his findings in the investigation of Clinton’s private email server. He began by announcing that nobody knew what he was about to say, which seems implausible given that Obama was preparing to go onstage with Clinton at the time. Is it even within the realm of imagination that Obama would stand next to Clinton hours after Comey announced the intent to prosecute her? Of course not.
Then, Comey proceeded to lay out all the reasons why Clinton should have been indicted: She set up multiple private email servers, all of which were vulnerable to hack; she did not set them up in order to use one mobile device, as she has so often stated; she transmitted and received highly classified material; her team deleted emails that could have contained relevant and classified information; she knew that classified information was crossing her server. He concluded that Clinton’s team was “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”
This was all criminal activity.
But Clinton is a member of the Royal Family. Thus, said Comey, she was innocent. Comey tried to say he wouldn’t recommend prosecution because she didn’t have the requisite intent, but the law doesn’t require intent; it requires merely “gross negligence” under 18 U.S.C. 793. In fact, even the level of intent required to charge under statutes like 18 U.S.C. 1924 and 18 U.S.C. 798 was clearly met: the intent to place classified information in a nonapproved, non-classified place.
Nonetheless, Clinton would be allowed to roam free — and become president. “To be clear,” Comey intoned, “this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences. To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions. But that is not what we are deciding now.”
One rule for the peons, one for the potentates.
This is the Wilsonian legacy, finally achieved after a century of waiting: the Big Man (or Woman), unanswerable to the law, approved by the population without regard to equality under the law. We now elect our dictators. And they are unanswerable to us — except, presumably, once every four years. The commonfolk, on the other hand, find themselves on the wrong side of the government gun every day.
Tyranny doesn’t start with jackboots. It begins with the notion that a different law applies to the powerful than to the powerless. Under Barack Obama tyranny has become a way of life. Ronald Reagan always said that freedom was one generation away from extinction. It looks like we’ve finally found that generation.
(Ben Shapiro, 31, is a graduate of UCLA and Harvard Law School, a radio host on KTTH 770 Seattle and KRLA 870 Los Angeles, Editor-in-Chief of TruthRevolt.org, [[hotlink]] and Senior Editor-at-Large of Breitbart News. He is the New York Times bestselling author of Bullies: How the Left's Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences Americans. This piece was posted most recently at Freedoms Back.)
GUEST COMMENTARY-The Pentagon's long-awaited decision to end its ban on transgender people serving openly in the U.S. military has been widely praised as a move toward equality, full benefits and their right to serve "without having to lie about who they are." In a speech Thursday at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Ash Carter referenced the up to 15,000 transgender people now estimated to be serving silently, calling them "talented and trained Americans who are serving their country with honor and distinction (and) who’ve proven themselves.”
Though many details of the shift remain to be worked out, advocates generally praised the change as "a matter of principle." Capt. Sage Fox, a U.S. Army Reserve officer who transitioned in 2012: "This is about equality, about civil rights, (about) recognizing the decency of human beings (and) that we are all equal."
So far, all good. Still, the Pentagon announcement was swathed in troubling language and murky on many details, including its plausibly bloody end goal. Chelsea Manning and other activists rightly questioned the laying down of sometimes random conditions for serving.
More alarmingly, it's hard not to raise a skeptical eye at the Pentagon's bellicose wording given the likely rise to power of Hillary Clinton, the "hawk's hawk" who never met a U.S.- funded, often-recklessly-rationalized war she didn't like.
In his speech, Carter cited the military's need "to avail ourselves of all talent possible in order to remain what we are now -- the finest fighting force the world has ever known.” He insisted, “We don’t want barriers unrelated to a person’s qualification to serve preventing us from recruiting or retaining the soldier (who) can best accomplish the mission" -- without (no surprise here) expressing any interest in questioning that mission, its underlying lies about American exceptionalism, or its last 15 years of disastrous results. Saving the scariest for last, he intoned, "We have to have access to 100% of America's population."
For what, [[[ https://www.thenation.com/article/left-ought-worry-about-hillary-clinton-hawk-and-militarist-2016/ ]]] the attentive among us really should ask. When we do, these "milestones" (a person with a vagina may finally oversee our drone assassination program) can kinda pale.
(Abby Zimet writes for Common Dreams … where this perspective was first posted.) Photo: Sergeant Shane Ortega, 28, one of the military's first openly trans members.
Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
NEW GEOGRAPHY-The issue of race has scarred the entirety of U.S. history. Although sometimes overshadowed by the arguably more deep-seated issue of class, the racial divide is a festering wound that decent Americans, including politicians, genuinely want to heal.
Decency and politics have a tenuous relationship, but this year, one candidate has exacerbated racial tensions in a way not seen since the days of segregationist George Wallace and Richard Nixon’s polarizing vice president, Spiro Agnew. Donald Trump, through his outbursts and incendiary rhetoric, opened the door to a new period of even greater racial antagonism.
Trump promises to “make America great again,” but his divisive approach leaves us both weaker and even more afflicted with racial identity politics. Just as neo-Nazis and old-style racists have rallied to his cause, Trump’s intemperance also has energized ethnic nationalists, particularly in Hispanic communities. Among America’s growing Muslim population, perhaps no one has served as a better recruiter for Islamists, who agree with him that their religion and culture is anathema to America. The triumph of Brexit -- in part driven by immigration -- may encourage this further.
Not all the blame for America’s racial discord falls to Trump, of course. Well before his rise to political prominence, Americans had grown pessimistic about race relations, which constitutes something of a failure by an administration that once promised greater racial unity. The president and Hillary Clinton, who have used racial politics to motivate minorities against the perceived racism of middle and working class whites, share responsibility for the deterioration. And liberal media, academics and elected officials can’t be particularly proud of their records of promoting tolerance and multiculturalism.
White America Betrayed?
In recent years, large swaths of working whites, like their British counterparts, have seen their jobs disappear and old social orders upended, fueling anger and a general sense of loss, reflected in rapidly rising morbidity and suicide rates. As Pittsburgh psychologist Kenneth Thompson puts it: “Their social habitat is strained, and the strain is showing up in a looming body count.”
Trump has exploited their anger by turning it on immigrants, characterizing Mexicans as rapists and calling for border walls, immigration bans and tougher trade deals. However cruel and misguided, Trump’s racial divisiveness resonates with these blue-collar whites, as well as among some more affluent middle-class whites.
In reality, Trump is not a classic racist, but rather an ugly opportunist willing to use ethnic divides for his own benefit. He’s been compared to Adolph Hitler, a monster whose philosophy revolved around race, but Trump has no real theory that extends beyond self-glorification, resentment, and attracting the fetching female; “The Art of the Deal” is not “Mein Kampf.”
Trump will play the race card as a way to satisfy his narcissistic need for enthusiastic admirers. This does not mean his approach does not echo the racism of the past. His claim of bias by a U.S.-born judge of Mexican descent, as well as his suggestions that Muslim jurists are incapable of ruling independently, recall the worst of the pre-Civil Rights South. His proposals to ban Muslim immigrants in general recall approaches in the late 19th and early 20th centuries which targeted Chinese, Japanese and, ultimately eastern and southern Europeans.
Other Negative Forces
Progressives – including the media claque and academic elites -- have shown little sympathy for the white working class and have been dismissive of its embrace of Trump’s candidacy, as characterized by Salon’s recent description: “White America’s sad last stand.”
Instead of trying to understand the deep frustrations of the white middle class, it’s not unusual for progressives to express solidarity with racial minorities and condemn white privilege.
Clinton takes it a step further, stoking minority fear-mongers to generate badly need enthusiasm. Accused of using “dog whistles” to attract racists against candidate Obama in 2008, Clinton now courts racial nationalists, including some in the Black Lives Matter movement, race-baiter supremo Al Sharpton, and La Raza.
Interestingly, the fury against white “racism” is most fully throated and often most violent in white, deep-blue bastions such as Portland, Seattle, San Francisco and Boston. It’s in these cities, ironically, where minorities increasingly are victims of gentrification, forced out of their neighborhoods to make way for affluent whites.
At the same time, liberal cities’ planning, energy and environmental policies do not improve life for the working- and middle-class populations, including many minorities. Yet while more highly paid blue-collar jobs disappear, working-class communities frequently are the ones absorbing large numbers of undocumented immigrants. The affluent, “enlightened” liberals in places like Chicago’s Gold Coast, west Los Angeles and the upper east side of Manhattan may get their servants from these populations, but rarely are they neighbors or competitors in the job market.
These are fruits of America’s failed immigration system, an issue that even Latinos in this country are eager to resolve. Had Trump not crossed so many lines of decency, he might have seized the day and turned immigration policy into a huge plus, earning the support of the solid majority of Americans who agree that the border needs to be tightened.
But by painting Latinos as drug dealers and criminals and suggesting that Muslims, per se, represent a security danger, Trump has made himself the issue and squandered the opportunity.
Trump’s willingness to “tell it like it is” may have won over some segments of the population, but it’s fanciful to believe, as some right-wingers carry him to the White House. His assaults on issues such as illegal immigration and the need to closely monitor potential terrorists may resonate, but his stridency, and lack of respect for basic decencies, have alienated much of the population.
Multiculturalism of the Streets
The good news is that while race seems to have paralyzed politics, society is becoming more integrated. Once lily-white suburbs are increasingly multi-racial, even as some core cities become less diverse. What the Mexican journalist Sergio Munoz once called “the multiculturalism of the streets” is thriving, even as politicians promote division.
A key indicator is the rising rate of racial intermarriage. Pew surveys show that mixed-race couples account for 15 percent of marriages, including nearly 10 percent of white marriages, 17 percent of black, 26 percent of Hispanic and 28 percent of Asian marriages. This is sure to blur racial distinctions in the decades ahead. If you live in a diverse region like Southern California, you see this mixed-race reality all the time -- at grade school graduations, Angels games, in restaurants and Fourth of July parades. This is the new America.
This 21st century nation-of-immigrants picture is unlikely to stir the soul of the celebrity billionaire with a taste for 24-karat gold plating on everything from his seat belts to his sinks. Trump is in it only to win, because winning is everything to him. The problem is Trump’s vanity campaign will probably cost Republicans the White House, leaving America bluer, more regulated and less responsive to the needs of white workers. In this sense, Trumpism represents something akin to Marx’s “opium of the masses,” an emotional balm that only provides temporary relief.
Clinton’s embrace of racial nationalists, on the other hand, forces her to lead from a position that is fundamentally partisan and mean-spirited. But it is Trump who threatens racial progress more directly, in a more irresponsible and inflammatory fashion. In this case, at least, the despicable is far preferable to the dangerous.
The best hope here is that, once this awful and dangerous lout is dismissed from the national sne, our racial wounds will be allowed again to heal. The spark for this will not come from the venal political and media class, but through day-to-day interactions in the communities we increasingly share.
(Joel Kotkin is a R.C. Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and executive director of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism in Houston. His newest book is “The Human City: Urbanism for the Rest of Us.”) Trump protest photo by i threw a guitar at him. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
GUEST WORDS--We hear a lot about patriotism, especially around the Fourth of July. But in 2016 we’re hearing about two very different types of patriotism. One is an inclusive patriotism that binds us together. The other is an exclusive patriotism that keeps others out.
Through most of our history we’ve understood patriotism the first way. We’ve celebrated the values and ideals we share in common: democracy, equal opportunity, freedom, tolerance and generosity.
We’ve recognized these as aspirations to which we recommit ourselves on the Fourth of July.
This inclusive patriotism prides itself on giving hope and refuge to those around the world who are most desperate -- as memorialized in Emma Lazarus’ famous lines engraved on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
By contrast, we’re now hearing a strident, exclusive patriotism. It asserts a unique and superior “Americanism” that’s determined to exclude others beyond our borders.
Donald Trump famously wants to ban all Muslims from coming to America, and to build a wall along the Mexican border to keep out Mexicans.
Exclusive patriotism tells us to fear foreign terrorists in our midst -- even though almost every terrorist attack since 9/11 has been perpetrated by American citizens or holders of green cards living here for a decade or more.
Exclusive patriotism is not welcoming or generous. Since the war in Syria began in 2011, we’ve allowed in only 3,127 out of the more than 4 million refugees who have fled that nation.
Republicans in Congress reacted to the Orlando massacre with a proposal to ban all refugees to the United States indefinitely. Rep. Brian Babin of Texas wants to place “an immediate moratorium on all refugee resettlement programs … to keep America safe and defend our national security.”
With El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua convulsed in drug-related violence, thousands of unaccompanied children and nearly as many mothers and children have fled northward. But rather than welcome them, we’ve detained them at the border and told others contemplating the journey to stay home.
Another difference: Inclusive patriotism instructs us to join together for the common good.
We’ve understood this to require mutual sacrifice -- from frontier settlers who helped build one another’s barns, to neighbors who volunteered for the local fire department, to towns and cities that sent off their boys to fight wars for the good of all.
Such patriotism requires taking on a fair share of the burdens of keeping America going -- including a willingness to pay taxes.
But the strident voices of exclusive patriotism tell us that no sacrifice should be required, especially by the well off.
Exclusive patriotism celebrates the acquisitive individual and lone entrepreneur. It tells us that taxes on the wealthy slow economic growth and deter innovation.
Trump wants to reduce the highest income tax rate to 25 percent from today’s 39.6 percent. No matter that this would result in higher deficits or cuts in Social Security, Medicare and programs for the poor. They’re supposedly good for growth.
A third difference: Inclusive patriotism has always sought to protect our democracy -- defending the right to vote and seeking to ensure that more Americans are heard.
But the new voices of exclusive patriotism seem not to care about democracy. They’re willing to inundate it with big money that buys off politicians, and they don’t seem to mind when politicians create gerrymandered districts that suppress the votes of minorities or erect roadblocks to voting such as stringent voter ID requirements.
Finally, inclusive patriotism doesn’t pander to divisiveness, as does the alternative patriotism that focuses on who “doesn’t belong” because of racial or religious or ethnic differences. Inclusive patriotism isn’t homophobic or sexist or racist.
To the contrary, inclusive patriotism confirms and strengthens the “we” in “we the people of the United States.”
So will it be inclusive or exclusive patriotism? A celebration of “us” or contempt for “them”?
Inclusive patriotism is our national creed. It is born of hope. Mean-spirited, exclusive patriotism is new to our shores. It is born of fear.
Let us hope that this Fourth of July and in the months and years ahead we choose inclusion over exclusion, hope over fear.
(Robert Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy, University of California at Berkeley and the author of Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future, now in bookstores. This post originally appeared at RobertReich.org.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
PERSPECTIVE--Some popular media outlets have hyped the BREXIT as either the end of western civilization or the dawn of the golden age for the UK (United Kingdom).
But that’s how the media operates. The more sensational the spin, the greater the following.
What counts is how it all plays out in the long-run.
No one is disputing the turbulence in the short-run: what happens to trade agreements, ease of travel among the 28 member states, immigration policies. It is no different from a divorce. Life goes on, only differently, with some friendships extinguished and new ones formed. Some will always remain unchanged. And like a divorce, there will be alimony – but flowing in two directions, in various forms. It will be difficult to project who will pay more.
Even with the UK as a member, the European Union (EU) has an Achilles Heel owing to the sovereignty and nationalistic bent of its member nations, combined with a common monetary unit used by the nineteen members who comprise the Eurozone. The propping up of weaker economies in the union by the healthier ones, without the power to effectively influence legislation in the former, is like supporting your ne’re-do-well cousin Eddy.
Unemployment is pervasive: 8.9% in the EU and 10.3% in the Eurozone.
Overall, the EU is not only an unhappy family, but a somewhat dysfunctional one.
So one cannot blame the UK for wanting to leave, especially since it has been on its own for over a thousand years.
The patriotic lyrics of “There Will Always be an England” come to mind.
Well, there might only be England. Scotland and Northern Ireland voted heavily against BREXIT and could consider secession. The Jacobites might finally get their wish! Mel Gibson may apply blue paint to his face once more.
But they should be careful what they wish for. Just as the UK is taking a risk by bailing, Scotland and Northern Ireland would be well-advised to consider the health of the EU. In the next few years, other major players may part company with the EU. The remaining members, aside from Germany, will not be powerhouses. The EU could become a German-centric body. Maybe the Fourth Reich? A German hegemony is what some Europeans have suggested is developing, with or without the UK, certainly more likely without the UK and France.
Despite the urge by BREXIT’s most ardent supporters to break as quickly as possible, it will not be that easy. 52% support for the measure is not exactly a mandate. There will be a donnybrook in Parliament that will make our Congressional battles look like spats.
In the end, we need to respect the UK’s process.
Regardless, there will always be a Europe.
(Paul Hatfield is a CPA and serves as President of the Valley Village Homeowners Association. He blogs at Village to Village and contributes to CityWatch. The views presented are those of Mr. Hatfield and his alone and do not represent the opinions of Valley Village Homeowners Association or CityWatch. He can be reached at: [email protected].) Graphic credit: Cagle.com
GUEST WORDS--(Note: Both Presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, hold former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in high esteem. Kissinger has also been linked to widespread war crimes, alluded to in Stanley Kubrick’s anti-war film, Dr. Strangelove. In that film, Peter Sellers portrayed Henry Kissinger.)
I offer this follow-up to comments I received in response to a recent CityWatch article on the prospects of fascism in the United States after the November 2016 Presidential election.
One critic noted that the article made some important points, especially that fascism involves both racism and militarism, but it ignored two other important features of fascism:
US Government Support for Fascism Abroad: This critic wrote that I failed to mention that the US government has trained and supported many fascistic regimes throughout the world, such as Saudi Arabia, Iran under the Shah, Philippines under Marcos, and Chile under Pinochet. In light of these precedents, this critic argued that what has been repeatedly pursued by government officials outside the United States could be readily let loose within the United States.
This comment is well taken, and there are many other examples past and present that confirm it. According to historian William Blum, the long, bi-partisan history of US foreign policy over the past 70 years contains dozens of executive actions and Congressionally funded programs to overthrow democratically-elected governments and support regimes that easily qualify as fascist, authoritarian, or totalitarian.
For example, through the School of the America’s, renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), the United States government has trained and equipped the police, army, and security agencies of many authoritarian regimes in Latin America. This record is readily available, including the identities of government officials who advocated this approach, such as Jean Kirkpatrick, the first US woman ambassador to the United Nations.
In fact, some of those actors are currently in high-level government positions, such as Victoria Nuland, the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs. Others, like Henry Kissinger, are waiting for the phone to ring in order to offer advice on how to continue and implement an openly militaristic US foreign policy, whether the next president is Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. According to the late writer, Christopher Hitchens, Kissinger’s long foreign policy record is filled with enough blood and mayhem to justify prosecution at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Nevertheless, both presidential candidates hold Kissinger in high esteem and seek his support.
Authoritarian Work Places in the United States: I was also told that most Americans are already comfortable with a basic feature of fascism at their work places. In Germany Fuhrer means leader, and the organizing principle of the Third Reich was the primacy of the "leader.” In the United States most work places are no different, although we call the leader “the boss.” The constitutional freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights do not apply at work because the boss rules by fiat. This is the same authoritarian leader principle that characterized the Third Reich, unquestioned and unopposed executive authority.
I agree with this comment, too. Nearly all work places in the United States have an authoritarian, hierarchical organizational model. Even in unionized work environments, now employing less than 10 percent of the US work force, unions operate under detailed constraints. Their negotiated labor contracts contain a Management Rights provision in which unionized employees and their bargaining agents acknowledge the authority of management to determine and implement a company or agency’s mission. By their own agreement, unions are restricted to grievances and negotiated contracts related to working conditions only. Their activities at work places are clearly limited and closely monitored so they do not encroach on “the leader principle.”
In practice this means that employees have no right or authority to question any practices of management, other than such mundane categories as overtime pay and sick days.
As for the 90 percent of the work force in the United States that does not have the protection of a union contract, they work at the discretion of management. Such rights, as freedom of the press, freedom of association, and freedom of speech, stop at the work place door. This leader principle (i.e. the boss might be an SOB, but he is always right) is heavily socialized into all of us from an early age.
False Equivalency of Trump and Clinton: A third criticism of my article was that I was mistaken to call out bi-partisan fascist tendencies and to therefore imply that a Clinton administration would also harbor dangerous fascist practices. Instead, I was told I should have focused my article on Donald Trump because he presents, by far, a much greater fascist danger. These critics then make, what strikes me, as a twisted argument. They argue that we first need to urgently support Hillary Clinton to stop a likely fascist, Donald Trump. But once Hillary Clinton is sworn into office, then we need to immediately build mass movements to oppose the assured military interventions she will unleash, as well as her status quo approach to domestic policy already presented by Clinton surrogates at the Democratic Party’s current Platform Committee.
I realize my bi-partisan analysis took many readers, like this critic, by surprise because they consider fascism to be an extreme right-wing phenomenon, and they therefore attribute it to Donald Trump, including his successful appeals to white supremacists. No doubt about it, Trump’s racism and xenophobia are important features of fascism, but they are hardly the only ones.
Fascism, as I previously explained, also includes the brute power of the state, especially the ability to use its police powers to spy on, surveil, and disrupt the political process, up to the point of incarceration, torture, and murder. This is hardly the monopoly of conservative Republicans. In fact, my inventory of fascistic precedents in modern US history included the Sabotage and Espionage Acts initiated by Democratic President Woodrow Wilson during WWI, the development of Cointelpro under FDR, another Democrat, the anti-Communist Cold War and domestic witch hunts that began in 1946 under Democratic President Truman, and authoritarian legislation partially authored by arch-liberal Democrat Hubert Humphrey (The Communist Control Act of 1954), portions of which were opposed by the Eisenhower Administration.
As for mass and detailed personal surveillance of the US population, it is already extremely advanced, including all-embracing electronic snooping of computers, emails, text messages, voice messages, telephone calls, and snail mail. It is also important to note that much or this spying is not legal, but continues anyway with wide Congressional and Presidential support, despite extensive public exposure of illegal domestic surveillance by Edward Snowden.
The other element of a fascist program, aggressive, preemptive warfare, is only possible through the Federal Government, although major new US invasions and occupations currently face serious political obstacles. Nevertheless, the neocons once associated with Vice President Cheney are hard at work again. They are making their case for more foreign US military interventions in their latest document: Extending American Power: Strategies to Expand U.S. Engagement in a Competitive World Order. Furthermore, some of the neo-cons linked to the second Bush Jr. Administration, such as Robert Kagan, are now supporting and fund-raising for Hillary Clinton.
While one of the primary military tactics of the Obama Administration is an executive kill list implemented through drone assassinations, it appears that like bombing campaigns, these aerial military tactics do not lead to political victories. While bombs, missiles, and drones have an extraordinary capacity to maim and kill, assassinated leaders are easily replaced. Furthermore, death and injury to non-combatants, such as relatives attending wedding parties, supports the recruitment of military irregulars to groups like Al Quaida and the Islamic State. Meanwhile, in the United States, to swing the pendulum back from drone warfare to ground invasions and occupations, the Pentagon will demand more cannon fodder. The occupations on Afghanistan and Iraq cost the US military dearly in weaponry (much of grabbed by ISIS in Iraq), morale, and soldiers. This barrier must be overcome in order to have new boots on the ground.
The logical solution to this impasse is military conscription, but it would now come at tremendous political costs. As recently amended, the Selective Service System no longer offers deferments to students and women. It is difficult to imagine a successful ideological campaign to renew conscription among older teenagers and 20-something’s after a 44-year lapse. At present these young adults do not have the slightest motivation to involuntarily join US ground forces in the two most likely military theaters: Russia’s western flank and in Syria, either fighting Isis, the Assad regime, or fighting these two archenemies at the same time. While the Obama Administration’s Pivot to Asia has not yet led to major troop deployments or military conflicts with China, this would be the third military theater that the next administration would gear up for, regardless of who is elected.
But, as we have seen in many previous US wars, major pretexts for military escalation, such as Pearl Harbor, the Gulf of Tonkin, and 9-11, steadily appear. Could such incidents appear again, either by luck or by design, to justify the draft and renewed major wars? Absolutely. Could they again be used to institute heightened domestic political repression? Absolutely.
Could such a regime prevail more than a few years? Not likely.
This is why the prospects for fascism in the United States should be taken seriously, but why the prospects for counter-movements must also be taken seriously.
(Victor Rothman lives in Los Angeles. He can be reached at [email protected].)