Tuesday, December 27, 2016

None Dare Call it Treason

From Bill Moyers:  http://billmoyers.com/story/none-dare-call-treason/

Trump's similarities to Putin are evident, but will we call him out for what he really is?

By Marty Kaplan December 13, 2016

This post originally appeared at Jewish Journal.

In 1964, when Barry Goldwater ran against Lyndon Johnson, a man named John A. Stormer self-published a book called None Dare Call It Treason. It accused America’s left-leaning elites of paving the way for a Soviet victory in the Cold War. The book sold 7 million copies, but Johnson crushed Goldwater in the election.

Now that the CIA has determined that the Russians intervened in the presidential election to help Trump win, the Cold War politics of left and right have been flipped. If Stormer rewrote his book for 2016, its thesis might go like this:

Beware of Donald Trump. Witlessly or willfully, he’s doing the Kremlin’s bidding. Anyone who enables him — on his payroll or in the press, by sucking up or by silence, out of good will or cowardice — is Vladimir Putin’s useful idiot. This is a national emergency, and treating it like normal is criminally negligent of our duty to American democracy.

Trump as traitor: I can just imagine the reaction from the Tower penthouse. Lying media. Paranoid hyperbole. Partisan libel. Sour grapes. A pathetic bid for clicks. A desperate assault on the will of the people. Sad! (Note to the tweeter-in-chief: You’re welcome.)

As a kid in a New Jersey household where Adlai Stevenson was worshipped, I thought Stormer was a nut job, so I won’t pretend that accepting the modern inverse of his case is a no-brainer. I’m also not trying to recast my political differences with the president-elect as a national security crisis. Trump won. Elections have consequences. I get that.

I may not like it, but I’m not surprised that Trump tapped Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a crusading climate change denier and an advocate of dismantling the Environmental Protection Agency, to run the EPA, presumably into the ground. Anyone who interpreted Al Gore’s meeting with Trump as a sign of his open-mindedness on climate change got played, just like Gore got played.

Similarly, I’m cynical but not shocked that Trump’s picks for treasury secretary, National Economic Council and chief adviser – Steven Mnuchin, Gary Cohn and Steve Bannon – are alumni of Goldman Sachs. A billionaire managed to hijack Bernie Sanders’ indictment of Wall Street and brand Hillary Clinton as the stooge of Goldman Sachs. The success of that impersonation isn’t on Trump, it’s on us.

I’m infuriated, but not startled that Trump refuses to disclose his tax returns, divest his assets, create a credible blind trust, obey the constitutional prohibition of foreign emoluments or eliminate the conflict between fattening his family fortune and advancing American interests. That’s not draining the swamp, it’s drinking it.

Continue reading at:  http://billmoyers.com/story/none-dare-call-treason/

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Confessions of a Progressive Gun Nut

Every day brings a foreboding sense of having studied what is happening in the pages of the books of William Shirer and Richard Evans. Alt-Right might as well come out as the Hitler loving Nazis  that they are.

How long will it be before they try to pass the equivalent of the Nuremberg Laws regarding LGBT People?

From Medium:  https://medium.com/@jonst0kes/confessions-of-a-progressive-gun-nut-ae0e6a8f6146#.az3375n9o
 
Jon Stokes
November 23, 2016

I wrote this piece back in July of 2016, and circulated it to a few folks for feedback before declining to publish it. It just seemed a bit too crazypants and tinfoil-hatty, with all its talk of totalitarianism and dystopia. In light of recent events, it suddenly seems a lot less out-there.
Over the course of my years-long engagement with smart people on all sides of America’s gun debate — from coffee shops in San Francisco to private suites off the floor of the gun industry’s annual Las Vegas trade show — I’ve come to believe that there are really only two broader ideological camps that people fall into when it comes to the right to keep and bear arms.

No, the two camps aren’t “blame the shooter” vs. “blame the gun” — that whole discourse is a sad sideshow, and I think both sides are probably tired of swatting each other with the same limp bromides (“the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” vs. “here’s what every entry in this catalog of otherwise unrelated horrors has in common: guns!”).

Rather, the real divide between the pro- and anti-gun camps is much deeper, and is rooted in their sharply divergent readings of the history of human relations. To use a ten-dollar word from my years as a humanities grad student, what we have here is a clash of hermeneutics.
Not only do both camps reason about the present and future on the basis of different interpretations of a shared past, but the gun control argument is so exhausting for everyone involved because it ultimately forces each side into the uncomfortable position of arguing for the truth of grand propositions that it actually hopes are false.

Despite all of this, I do believe there’s a faint glimmer of hope for finding common ground. But before we can discover what we have in common, we have to understand where and how we truly differ.

The Moral Arc vs. the Vicious Cycle

Any given gun control discussion may work its way through topics like hunting and other hobbies, or delve into theoretical questions of individual liberty and its limits, or cover the practical nuts-and-bolts of who really needs what type of firearm for which hypothetical use-of-force scenario, but all arguments over Americans and their firearms ultimately end up in one place: a dispute about the usefulness and legitimacy of the constitutional right of private citizens to keep in their homes the tools of violence as a last bulwark against tyranny.

How you view the Second Amendment — as an embarrassing relic of a barbarous past, or as a last-ditch deterrent against the rise of domestic tyranny — depends on the shape you see when you look at history: an arc or a circle.

Folks in the anti-gun camp tend to believe, with Martin Luther King Jr., that, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” These are people who have faith in Progress and Perfectibility, and who will warn you in all earnestness that there is a “right side of history” and you had better get on it. These folks aren’t having any talk of a hypothetical fascist dystopia in the US; to them, that’s paranoid fantasy from a bygone era, and meanwhile there are real lives being lost to gun violence right now.

The other camp, which I confess to being a lifetime member of, sees history as cyclical, with no real long-term trajectory. We take it as self-evident that there is nothing new under the sun; human nature doesn’t change; and humans keep re-learning the same painful lessons as species. To those of us who are members of the “human relations go ‘round in a vicious, bloody circle” tribe, the concept of any sort of long-term positive trend in the way we relate to one another is not only lunatic, but actively dangerous.

In this respect, despite the fact that I’m a Christian, I find myself sympathizing with the atheists who look on in frustrated wonderment as otherwise rational people bend the knee and send their petitions up to an invisible man in the sky, as if that would solve a single pressing problem faced by humanity.

Whenever my liberal friends bring up the magical Moral Arc to buttress their argument on some issue or other, I think to myself, “how could someone so smart be so stupid? Are they really willing to put their trust in this smug, secular eschatology? How can they believe, on the basis of a few paltry decades of mostly mixed evidence, that the great Moral Arc of the Universe will eventually, over the very long term, ensure that their ‘right side of history’ wins out in the end?”


Dame Helen Mirren’s VERY Alternative Christmas Message - The Graham Norton Show


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Justin Trudeau: 'Globalisation isn't working for ordinary people'

Maybe if Hillary Clinton had spent a bit more energy addressing how globalization is destroying the middle and working class in this country we might not be stuck with Trumphole.

Brexit should have been seen as an omen foreshadowing the rise of nationalism as a force to counteract the destructive forces of globalization.

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/15/justin-trudeau-interview-globalisation-climate-change-trump

Canada’s prime minister tells the Guardian why, in a world where populism, divisiveness and fear are on the rise, he’s taking the opposite approach

and in Ottawa Thursday 15 December 2016

Ordinary people around the world have been failed by globalisation, Justin Trudeau has told the Guardian, as he sought to explain a turbulent year marked by the election of Donald Trump, the Brexit vote and the rise of anti-establishment, nation-first parties around the world.

“What we’re facing right now – in terms of the rise of populism and divisive and fearful narratives around the world – it’s based around the fact that globalisation doesn’t seem to be working for the middle class, for ordinary people,” the Canadian prime minister said in an interview at his oak-panelled office in the country’s parliament. “And this is something that we identified years ago and built an entire platform and agenda for governing on.”

Last year, at a time when Trump was being described as a long shot for president and the threat of Brexit seemed a distant possibility, Trudeau, 44, swept to a majority government on an ambitious platform that included addressing growing inequality and creating real change for the country’s middle class.

One year on, what has emerged is a government that seems to go against the political tide around the world; open to trade, immigration and diversity and led by a social media star whose views on feminism, Syrian refugees and LGBT rights have provoked delight among progressives.

But as he enters his second year in power, Trudeau – a former high school teacher and snowboarding instructor – is under pressure to show the world that his government has found an alternative means of tackling the concerns of those who feel they’ve been left behind.

He cited the signing of Ceta – the free trade deal between the EU and Canada – and a hotly contested decision to approve two pipelines as examples of this approach.

“We were able to sign free trade agreement with Europe at a time when people tend to be closing off,” he said. “We’re actually able to approve pipelines at a time when everyone wants protection of the environment. We’re being able to show that we get people’s fears and there are constructive ways of allaying them – and not just ways to lash out and give a big kick to the system.”

Continue reading at:  https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/15/justin-trudeau-interview-globalisation-climate-change-trump

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

How Republics End

From The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/19/opinion/how-republics-end.html
Many people are reacting to the rise of Trumpism and nativist movements in Europe by reading history — specifically, the history of the 1930s. And they are right to do so. It takes willful blindness not to see the parallels between the rise of fascism and our current political nightmare.

But the ’30s isn’t the only era with lessons to teach us. Lately I’ve been reading a lot about the ancient world. Initially, I have to admit, I was doing it for entertainment and as a refuge from news that gets worse with each passing day. But I couldn’t help noticing the contemporary resonances of some Roman history — specifically, the tale of how the Roman Republic fell.

Here’s what I learned: Republican institutions don’t protect against tyranny when powerful people start defying political norms. And tyranny, when it comes, can flourish even while maintaining a republican facade.

On the first point: Roman politics involved fierce competition among ambitious men. But for centuries that competition was constrained by some seemingly unbreakable rules. Here’s what Adrian Goldsworthy’s “In the Name of Rome” says: “However important it was for an individual to win fame and add to his and his family’s reputation, this should always be subordinated to the good of the Republic … no disappointed Roman politician sought the aid of a foreign power.”

America used to be like that, with prominent senators declaring that we must stop “partisan politics at the water’s edge.” But now we have a president-elect who openly asked Russia to help smear his opponent, and all indications are that the bulk of his party was and is just fine with that. (A new poll shows that Republican approval of Vladimir Putin has surged even though — or, more likely, precisely because — it has become clear that Russian intervention played an important role in the U.S. election.) Winning domestic political struggles is all that matters, the good of the republic be damned.

And what happens to the republic as a result? Famously, on paper the transformation of Rome from republic to empire never happened. Officially, imperial Rome was still ruled by a Senate that just happened to defer to the emperor, whose title originally just meant “commander,” on everything that mattered. We may not go down exactly the same route — although are we even sure of that? — but the process of destroying democratic substance while preserving forms is already underway.

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/19/opinion/how-republics-end.html

Monday, December 19, 2016

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Welcome to the age of anger

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/dec/08/welcome-age-anger-brexit-trump

The seismic events of 2016 have revealed a world in chaos – and one that old ideas of liberal rationalism can no longer explain

by Thursday 8 December 2016

The election of Donald Trump as president of the United States is the biggest political earthquake of our times, and its reverberations are inescapably global. It has fully revealed an enormous pent-up anger – which had first become visible in the mass acclaim in Russia and Turkey for pitiless despots and the electoral triumph of bloody strongmen in India and the Philippines.

The insurgencies of our time, including Brexit and the rise of the European far right, have many local causes – but it is not an accident that demagoguery appears to be rising around the world. Savage violence has erupted in recent years across a broad swath of territory: wars in Ukraine and the Middle East, insurgencies from Yemen to Thailand, terrorism and counter-terrorism, economic and cyberwar. The conflicts, not confined to fixed battlefields, feel endemic and uncontrollable. Hate-mongering against immigrants and minorities has gone mainstream; figures foaming at the mouth with loathing and malice are ubiquitous on old and new media alike.

There is much dispute about the causes of this global disorder. Many observers have characterised it as a backlash against an out-of-touch establishment, explaining Trump’s victory – in the words of Thomas Piketty – as “primarily due to the explosion in economic and geographic inequality in the United States”. Liberals tend to blame the racial resentments of poor white Americans, which were apparently aggravated during Barack Obama’s tenure. But many rich men and women – and even a small number of African-Americans and Latinos – also voted for a compulsive groper and white supremacist.

The Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman admitted on the night of Trump’s victory that “people like me – and probably like most readers of the New York Times – truly didn’t understand the country we live in”. Since the twin shocks of Brexit and the US election, we have argued ineffectually about their causes, while watching aghast as the new representatives of the downtrodden and the “left-behind” – Trump and Nigel Farage, posing in a gold-plated lift – strut across a bewilderingly expanded theatre of political absurdism.

But we cannot understand this crisis because our dominant intellectual concepts and categories seem unable to process an explosion of uncontrolled forces.

In the hopeful years that followed the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the universal triumph of liberal capitalism and democracy seemed assured; free markets and human rights would spread around the world and lift billions from poverty and oppression. In many ways, this dream has come true: we live in a vast, homogenous global market, which is more literate, interconnected and prosperous than at any other time in history.

And yet we find ourselves in an age of anger, with authoritarian leaders manipulating the cynicism and discontent of furious majorities. What used to be called “Muslim rage”, and identified with mobs of brown-skinned men with bushy beards, is suddenly manifest globally, among saffron-robed Buddhist ethnic-cleansers in Myanmar, as well as blond white nationalists in Germany. Violent hate crimes have blighted even the oldest of parliamentary democracies, with the murder of the MP Jo Cox by a British neo-Nazi during the venomous campaign for Brexit. Suddenly, as the liberal thinker Michael Ignatieff recently wrote: “Enlightenment humanism and rationalism” can no longer adequately “explain the world we’re living in.”

The largely Anglo-American intellectual assumptions forged by the cold war and its jubilant aftermath are an unreliable guide to today’s chaos – and so we must turn to the ideas of an earlier era of volatility. It is a moment for thinkers such as Sigmund Freud, who warned in 1915 that the “primitive, savage and evil impulses of mankind have not vanished in any individual”, but are simply waiting for the opportunity to show themselves again. Certainly, the current conflagration has brought to the surface what Friedrich Nietzsche called “ressentiment” – “a whole tremulous realm of subterranean revenge, inexhaustible and insatiable in outbursts.”

Continue reading at:  https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/dec/08/welcome-age-anger-brexit-trump

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

'Rebel' Saudi Arabia woman who posted photo without head scarf is arrested

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/12/saudi-arabia-headscarf-woman-twitter-arrest

Malak al-Shehri’s tweet defying Saudi dress code caused backlash, with many people calling for her to be executed, but supporters comparing her to Rosa Parks


Monday 12 December 2016

 
Saudi police have arrested a young woman who tweeted a picture of herself outdoors without the body-length robes and head scarf that women in the kingdom are required to wear.

A woman identified as Malak al-Shehri posted a picture of herself on Twitter in a jacket and multi-colored dress last month after announcing that she would leave her house without her abaya, a long loose-fitting robe, and headscarf.

The tweet caused a backlash with many calling for Shehri – whose first name means angel, which was also her moniker online – to be executed with the hashtag “We demand the arrest of the rebel Angel Shehri.”

The picture posted on the downtown Riyadh street of al-Tahliya, led to someone filing a complaint with the religious police, and eventually to the woman’s arrest, according to the local Arabic-language Al-Sharq newspaper.

A police spokesman told the newspaper that Shehri, who is in her 20s, was taken to prison and he also accused her of “speaking openly about prohibited relations with (non-related) men”.

“Police officers have detained a girl who had removed her abaya on al-Tahliya street, implementing a challenge she announced on social media several days ago,” the newspaper quoted Colonel Fawaz al-Maiman as saying.

Continue reading at:  https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/12/saudi-arabia-headscarf-woman-twitter-arrest

Monday, December 12, 2016

How the Democrats could win again, if they wanted

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/29/how-the-democrats-could-win-again-if-they-wanted

Labor and economic equality used to be at the heart of liberal politics. Rich professionals expunged these concerns – and have reaped the consequences

Tuesday 29 November 2016

What makes 2016 a disaster for Democrats is not merely the party’s epic wipeout in Washington and the state capitals, but that the contest was fought out on a terrain that should have been favorable to them. This was an election about social class –about class-based grievances – and yet the Party of the People blew it. How that happened is the question of the year, just as it has been the question of other disastrous election years before. And just like before, I suspect the Democrats will find all manner of convenient reasons to take no corrective action.

But first let us focus on the good news. Donald Trump has smashed the consensus factions of both parties. Along the way, he has destroyed the core doctrine of Clintonism: that all elections are decided by money and that therefore Democrats must match Republican fundraising dollar for dollar. This is the doctrine on which progressive hopes have been sacrificed for decades, and now it is dead. Clinton outspent Trump two-to-one and it still wasn’t enough.

Neither were any of the other patented maneuvers of Clintonism. With Hillary carrying their banner, the Democrats triangulated themselves in every way imaginable. They partied with the Wall Street guys during the convention in Philadelphia, they got cozy with the national security set, they reached out to disaffected Republicans, they reminisced about the days of the balanced federal budget, they even encouraged Democratic delegates to take Ubers back and forth from the convention to show how strongly Democrats approved of what Silicon Valley was doing to America. And still they lost.
This is important because winning is supposed to be the raison d’etre of centrism. Over the years, the centrists have betrayed the Democratic party’s liberal base in all sorts of ways – deregulating banks, securing free trade deals, signing off on Wall Street bailouts and the Iraq war. Those who bridled at all this were instructed to sit down and shut up because the Clintons and their triangulating ilk were the practical ones who would bring us victory.

Except that they don’t. This year the Republicans chose an honest-to-god scary candidate, a man who really ought to have been kept out of the White House, and the party’s centrists choked. Instead of winning, the pragmatists delivered Democrats to the worst situation they’ve been in for many decades, with control of no branch of the federal government and only a handful of state legislatures. Over the years, and at the behest of this faction, Democrats gave up what they stood for piece by piece and what they have to show for it now is nothing.

Another shibboleth that went down with the Hillary Titanic is the myth of the moderate swing voter, the sensible suburbanite who stands somewhere between the two parties and whose views determine all elections. These swing voters are usually supposed to be liberal on social issues and conservative on economic ones, and their existence gives a kind of pseudoscientific imprimatur to Democratic centrism.

For years people have pointed out that this tidy geometry doesn’t really make sense, and today it is undeniable: the real swing voters are the working people who over the years have switched their loyalty from the Democrats to Trump’s Republicans. Their views are pretty much the reverse of the standard model. On certain matters they are open to conservative blandishments; on economic issues, however, they are pretty far to the left. They don’t admire free trade or balanced budgets or entitlement reform – the signature issues of centrism – they hate those things. And if Democrats want to reach them, they will have to turn away from the so-called center and back to the economic left.
There are some indications that Democrats have finally understood this. Elizabeth Warren’s star is on the rise. Bernie Sanders is touring the country and reminding people that class politics are back whether we like it or not. Keith Ellison is running for chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

But the media and political establishments, I suspect, will have none of it. They may hate Donald Trump, but they hate economic populism much more. If history is a guide, they will embrace any sophistry to ensure that the Democrats do not take the steps required to broaden their appeal to working-class voters. They will remind everyone that Clinton didn’t really lose. Alternately, they will blame Sanders for her loss. They will decide that working-class people cannot be reasoned with and so it is pointless to try. They will declare – are already declaring – that any Democratic effort to win over working-class voters is a capitulation to racism. Better to lose future elections than to compete for the votes of those who spurned their beloved Clinton.

Continue reading at:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/29/how-the-democrats-could-win-again-if-they-wanted

Thursday, December 1, 2016

I am a Democrat in rural, red-state America. My party abandoned us

You can't win elections if you don't run candidates. You alienate voters by describing them as inhabitants of fly-over country.

When people hear themselves described that way they get the feeling you don't give a shit about their hardships and vote for the party that actually bothered to put up a candidate.

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/15/rural-america-working-class-voters-democrats-donald-trump

Donald Trump came and said he cared. It’s not rocket science: that’s why he won

Tuesday 15 November 2016

I come from rural Texas. I am one of the handful of people here who votes blue – and I put up with all kinds of ridicule and rejection because of that. Many of the people who voted for Trump are my friends and family. Yes, some of them are racist but not all of them are. The reason they support Trump is simple: their needs have been thrown aside for years.

Donald Trump is a horrible person. I am glad people are protesting him. But many people here do not see an alternative. The Democratic party does not care about our issues, our culture or our people. 
There are hundreds of towns in this country just like ours. Well, Donald Trump came and said he cared. That’s why he won: it is not rocket science. We need to look at the truth so we can bring about change.

People here are losing everything that generations of families have worked to build. They depend on their churches for help. They believe people should work hard. Most of us work six to seven days a week, every week. It is no good to judge us instead of understanding us.

We have two private prisons in this town that sustain us in this crunch. Do I agree with private prisons? No. At the same time, if our prisons close it will wipe us out. Not one blue politician has offered a plan to deal with what happens to us then.

It’s the same with climate change. My hometown flourished for years because of oil. Now that the price of oil is down, this town lives on one-third of the budget they had. Nobody in Washington DC cares about that either. No wonder so many people in coal country voted for Trump: they were worried about their jobs and income, and they felt that he was the only one listening.

The people who are writing us all off as racists and deplorables have not seen the community and kindness that exists here. When our elementary school burned down the year before last the whole community everyone dug deep to find the money to buy and build a new school.

In my community, I see a mother whose kid has been in the hospital for a month come home and start her coat drive the next day. I see another mother who spends the month of October collecting junk and selling it for money to send care packages to the military overseas.

I see another woman build one of the state’s best animal rescue centers. She makes sure that everyone can afford to get their pet neutered. I see her spend every Saturday driving 40 miles for dogs to find a home. I see the local community board provide me with space to make a community garden that is free so everyone in town will have access to organic food.

Rural culture is as important as any other culture and is often thought of as backwards, dumb and redneck. At university, people assumed I was stupid because of my accent. A colleague said right in front of me that my southern accent and enthusiasm should be overlooked because, actually, I was smart. Now that Trump has won, I see countless people say that my community – and communities like mine – voted him because we are ignorant and bad-hearted. How is that going to help things?

I completely understand why people voted for Trump. I do not agree with it but I understand it. If people want things to change they need to understand us too: we are hurting. We need help to turn our communities around – otherwise, people like Trump will continue to get votes here.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Alice's Restaurant


As my friends and I grow older, we’re setting our sights on communal living

Things I liked and thought about when I was a hippie back in the 1960s look better and better now that I am old.

Most of the ways of living peddled to us by the establishment as a way of exploiting us and taking what little we have seem far worse by comparison.


From The Globe and Mail:  http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/facts-and-arguments/as-my-friends-and-i-grow-older-were-setting-our-sights-on-communal-living/article32240746/

Douglas Tindal
Special to The Globe and Mail
Tuesday, Oct. 04, 2016


A few years ago, four friends began a conversation: Here we are in our 50s and 60s, still active and (relatively) youthful, but all moving toward the day when we can no longer cling to our cherished independence. Retirement homes seem unappealing, nursing homes a last resort. Why not live together and support each other?

It was casual at first, a bit of a joke. But we kept coming back to it. Finally, a few months ago, we went off for a weekend together to come up with a plan.

We began with our reasons for wanting to consider this seemingly offbeat idea. What attracts us to living together?

First, community. André Picard, among others, has written about the extensive research showing that community is vital to health. Being connected – to family, friends, neighbours, a community group, a running club, a mosque – can add years to your life, studies have found.

Second, a smaller carbon footprint. A smaller home envelope to heat and cool and a shared kitchen with fewer appliances than separate houses mean fewer greenhouse gases.

While affordability is not the key driver of our plan, we do expect living together to be more economical than our current, independent living arrangements.

Gradually, a rough plan came into focus. The house should have a front porch, one of us said (zeroing in on essentials!). It has to be downtown, we all agreed – downtown, walkable and close to transit.
Over the course of our weekend retreat, the conversation took some radical turns. Initially, we had imagined a series of neighbouring condos or other self-contained units, but as we talked further, we found ourselves more drawn to a truly shared space.

We realized, for example, that we want to eat dinner together more often than not. Most of us like to cook, and we all love to eat. So a big common kitchen is essential. We like to discuss stuff – just about any stuff – so we need places for conversation.

We have children and grandchildren, and love to entertain, so a guest suite is an obvious need. A media room. A wine cellar! As the common areas became more central to our discussion, the private areas became smaller. We now imagine each unit (person or couple) having private space of about 600 square feet, designed to suit individual preferences. Naturally, everything will be designed to accommodate “aging in place.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/facts-and-arguments/as-my-friends-and-i-grow-older-were-setting-our-sights-on-communal-living/article32240746/

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The End of Identity Liberalism

From The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/20/opinion/sunday/the-end-of-identity-liberalism.html
 
It is a truism that America has become a more diverse country. It is also a beautiful thing to watch. Visitors from other countries, particularly those having trouble incorporating different ethnic groups and faiths, are amazed that we manage to pull it off. Not perfectly, of course, but certainly better than any European or Asian nation today. It’s an extraordinary success story.

But how should this diversity shape our politics? The standard liberal answer for nearly a generation now has been that we should become aware of and “celebrate” our differences. Which is a splendid principle of moral pedagogy — but disastrous as a foundation for democratic politics in our ideological age. In recent years American liberalism has slipped into a kind of moral panic about racial, gender and sexual identity that has distorted liberalism’s message and prevented it from becoming a unifying force capable of governing.

One of the many lessons of the recent presidential election campaign and its repugnant outcome is that the age of identity liberalism must be brought to an end. Hillary Clinton was at her best and most uplifting when she spoke about American interests in world affairs and how they relate to our understanding of democracy. But when it came to life at home, she tended on the campaign trail to lose that large vision and slip into the rhetoric of diversity, calling out explicitly to African-American, Latino, L.G.B.T. and women voters at every stop. This was a strategic mistake. If you are going to mention groups in America, you had better mention all of them. If you don’t, those left out will notice and feel excluded. Which, as the data show, was exactly what happened with the white working class and those with strong religious convictions. Fully two-thirds of white voters without college degrees voted for Donald Trump, as did over 80 percent of white evangelicals.

The moral energy surrounding identity has, of course, had many good effects. Affirmative action has reshaped and improved corporate life. Black Lives Matter has delivered a wake-up call to every American with a conscience. Hollywood’s efforts to normalize homosexuality in our popular culture helped to normalize it in American families and public life.

But the fixation on diversity in our schools and in the press has produced a generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups, and indifferent to the task of reaching out to Americans in every walk of life. At a very young age our children are being encouraged to talk about their individual identities, even before they have them. By the time they reach college many assume that diversity discourse exhausts political discourse, and have shockingly little to say about such perennial questions as class, war, the economy and the common good. In large part this is because of high school history curriculums, which anachronistically project the identity politics of today back onto the past, creating a distorted picture of the major forces and individuals that shaped our country. (The achievements of women’s rights movements, for instance, were real and important, but you cannot understand them if you do not first understand the founding fathers’ achievement in establishing a system of government based on the guarantee of rights.)

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/20/opinion/sunday/the-end-of-identity-liberalism.html

Thursday, November 17, 2016

More older adults learn it’s never too late to pick up a musical instrument

A couple of years ago when we were in the process of losing our home and starting a small business I sold off my guitars to help us get through our tough patch.

Lately I've found myself really missing having an instrument and started shopping and saving to get another one.


I was checking out a Yamaha FG830 and one of the Martin DXs at a local Guitar Center.  My finger tips are soft and my hands feel clumsy, Yet from the few things I picked the guy showing me the instruments said, "you used to play.  It will come back and there are ways to play around the stiff fingers of old hands.

I was a hippie in the 1960s came out in the 1970s as a dyke.  Now I'm an old hippie dyke and have have embraced doing certain creative things simply for the pleasure of doing them.

From The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/social-issues/more-older-adults-learn-its-never-too-late-to-pick-up-a-musical-instrument/2016/11/10/628857ec-a570-11e6-8fc0-7be8f848c492_story.html
 

November 10, 2016

 
When Margo Thorning was a high school student in the late 1950s, she liked to play bongo drums while listening to jazz records, but it never occurred to her to take a drum lesson. She attended college, raised two sons, and worked as a senior economic policy adviser for a Washington think tank. All the while, the urge to beat out a rhythm persisted. So three years ago, at age 70, she started taking lessons.

“I’m pretty athletic, and I felt like I had a chance to be competent,” said Thorning, a Falls Church resident who plays tennis and rides horses. But drums were a challenge, physically and mentally. “Each hand and each foot is doing something, with a different hand and a different foot at one time.”
Mastering a new musical instrument has a reputation as a young person’s game. Like learning a foreign language, it is commonly seen as something that must be embedded during the formative years, otherwise the learner will be hopelessly behind, if not simply hopeless.

But increasingly, adults are embracing musicianship late in life. Some finally have time after their wage-earning and child-raising years have ended. Some are spurred on by studies showing the health benefits of playing music. Many describe it as scratching an itch they’ve had all their lives. And while some are happy to get to the point of playing “Happy Birthday” for their grandchildren, others achieve a level of competence that allows them to join ensembles and even earn money playing.

“It’s a growing trend,” said Alicia Andrews, assistant director and adult division manager at the Lucy Moses School at Kaufman Music Center in New York City. “In the last few years, more adults are really making music and arts a priority in their lives. ‘Bucket list’ is such a trendy term, but that’s what they say — ‘Playing an instrument has been on my bucket list.’ ”

Gary Marcus, a professor of psychology and neural science at New York University who wrote a book about learning guitar at age 40, said the idea that older people can’t learn new instruments is false. “There are very few really firm critical periods,” he said. “In general, most things adults can learn, but it takes more time, and they have to do it more incrementally. Maybe they won’t play like Jimi Hendrix, but they will be able to play well enough to satisfy themselves.”

Research shows that music stimulates the brain and enhances memory in older people. In one study, adults aged 60 to 85 without previous musical experience showed improved verbal fluency and processing speed after a few months of weekly piano lessons.

Continue reading at:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/social-issues/more-older-adults-learn-its-never-too-late-to-pick-up-a-musical-instrument/2016/11/10/628857ec-a570-11e6-8fc0-7be8f848c492_story.html

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

From The LA Times:  http://www.latimes.com/local/abcarian/la-me-abcarian-cannabis-twins-20161020-snap-story.html
 
Robin Abcarian October 19, 2016

You don’t end up in Round Valley, one of Mendocino County’s finest cannabis-growing micro climates, by accident. It is well northeast of Highway 101, along a winding mountain road that follows the curves of Outlet Creek and the Middle Fork of the Eel River.

After 45 minutes, the valley comes into view. From a lookout called Inspiration Point, even in a light drizzle, Round Valley is a picture of bucolic grace, with wheat-colored fields, black cows and green orchards spreading out below.

Many of those groves conceal marijuana plants — or trees as they call them around here — which flourish in the rich alluvial soil of the valley’s fertile bottomland.  

The highway through the valley is dead straight, punctuated by one town, Covelo, population about 1,200. Just past town, I pulled onto a farm owned by Robert and John Cunnan, identical 76-year-old twins who were born in Glendale and left Southern California more than 40 years ago seeking a better life.

“We came here with the back-to-the-land movement,” Robert told me as we stood in front of a shed where dozens of fragrant cannabis stalks were hanging to dry.  

For $6,500, the brothers bought 10 acres with a creek down the middle. They built craftsman-style homes for themselves and raised families on food they grew in their gardens and money earned as cabinet makers for what they call “mom-and-pop” businesses — restaurants, coffee shops and boutiques. They got by, but barely.

“A friend of mine came up here in 1985, grew marijuana and sold it for $2,000 a pound,” Robert said. “And that’s when I thought, ‘You know, you might be able to make a little money doing this.’ ”

This, pretty much, is the very thought that has crossed the minds of untold thousands of Mendocino County residents, beleaguered by the crashing logging and fishing industries, and willing to flout the law to support their families.

“At one time, I sold stuff for $5,000 a pound,” Robert said. “It was worth more than gold. Now, it’s down to $1,200 to $1,500. But cannabis allowed me to finish my house and get comfortable.” (Yields vary wildly, but in these parts, each tree can produce two to four pounds or more.)

“I consider myself a teacher and a woodworker,” said John, who commutes to Ukiah once a week to teach woodworking in two schools. “The cannabis is just to fill in where the teaching and woodworking don’t pay the bills.”

I assumed the Cunnans would be strong proponents of legalizing cannabis for recreational use. As it turns out, they oppose Proposition 64, which would regulate and tax cannabis for the adult market.
And they are not alone.

Many small marijuana farmers, as it happens, see Proposition 64 as a threat to their way of life.
They believe that a legal, regulated cannabis market could open the floodgates to corporatization of the industry, pushing taxes up and prices down, perhaps forcing them out of business altogether.
“The thing you need to realize is that this is a movement that is becoming an industry,” Robert said. “The movement was organic gardening, the back-to-the-land, alternative lifestyle. We were the original generation that came out here and set up our pot gardens.”

Like mom-and-pop businesses squeezed out by big-box retailers, he said, so are pot farmers in danger of being squeezed out of business once big corporations get a toehold in the cannabis business.

Continue reading at:  http://www.latimes.com/local/abcarian/la-me-abcarian-cannabis-twins-20161020-snap-story.html

Thursday, November 10, 2016

REI Is Once Again Closing On Black Friday

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/rei-black-friday_us_580e3581e4b000d0b157b3ff

The outdoor gear store wants its employees and customers to go outside

Alexander C. Kaufman10/24/2016
 
For the second year in a row, REI is telling its customers to take a hike.

The sporting goods retailer said Monday it plans to close all 149 stores on Black Friday, the annual shopping bonanza that has in recent years sprawled over into Thanksgiving itself. The company’s website won’t process any sales on Black Friday, and all 12,287 employees will be paid to take the day off.

Instead, REI ― whose name stands for Recreational Equipment, Inc. ― is once again urging would-be shoppers to spend the holiday outside.

“Consumerism has had a push for a long period of time,” Jerry Stritzke, REI’s chief executive, told The Huffington Post on Monday. “The response we saw last year to our announcement is really a backlash to the consumerism invading our key holidays.”

A growing number of retail workers can no longer count on being able to take Thanksgiving off. This year, 49 percent of retailers plan to stay open on the holiday, according to a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers ― up 1 percent from the year before.

The Seattle-based REI is bucking that trend, enlisting nearly 275 organizations ― including the National Park Service and a handful of nonprofits that take kids from poor, inner-city homes out into nature ― to host events supporting its marketing campaign, known as #OptOutside.

Last year, REI saw a 100 percent increase in job applications in the 30 days after stores closed on Black Friday, Stritzke said.

“That’s a pretty tangible way of telling us that the idea was very well received,” he said.
REI plans to become more politically active, making conservation and environmental advocacy a bigger part of its ethos, Stritzke said. Beyond climate change, he’d like to see more discussion of the value of exposing children to the outdoors and “the power of nature to heal.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/rei-black-friday_us_580e3581e4b000d0b157b3ff

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Misogyny Was Enough To Tarnish Donald Trump — but Neo-Nazism Wasn’t?

From The Forward:  http://forward.com/opinion/353570/misogyny-was-enough-to-tarnish-donald-trump-but-neo-nazism-wasnt/
 


On November 9, 1938, the Nazi paramilitary force known as the SA led a pogrom against German Jews that is now known as Kristallnacht, or the Night of the Broken Glass. They torched synagogues, smashed Jewish businesses and ransacked Jewish homes, sending an estimated 30,000 of their occupants to concentration camps. The two-day orgy of anti-Semitic violence was a decisive turning point in the Nazi war against the Jews, which morphed into genocide.

This year, one night before we commemorate that event, millions of Americans will cast their ballot for Donald Trump, whose candidacy for President of the United States is supported by neo-Nazis. There is a cynical aphorism about history — that its most consistent lesson teaches that humans consistently fail to learn from history. Seven decades after thousands of American soldiers died fighting Hitler’s army in Europe, the current election campaign illustrates this frightening truth.

For Jews in America, this election has revealed an additional truth that has not really been sufficiently acknowledged — perhaps because it is too sickening and frightening to think about. And that is that for the American media, which caters to the American people, it was the “Access Hollywood” video showcasing Trump’s misogyny that caused the biggest wave of outrage — and not his flirtations with fascism. Americans’ reaction to the video proved that they find insults to beautiful white women unforgivable; neo-Nazi affiliations are, on the other hand, discomfiting, but ultimately tolerable.

And yet, just as a minority of Italian Jews once joined Mussolini’s fascist party, there are Trump-supporting Jews who choose to overlook, minimize or dismiss the GOP candidate’s neo-Nazi affiliations. Jewish voters are overwhelmingly aligned with the Democratic Party, but about 19% of them support Trump — including casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who has given millions to the Trump campaign.

For months, Trump played a delicate game of downplaying his neo-Nazi support by burnishing his Jew-loving credentials. He spoke at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference to a standing ovation. On other occasions he promised Jewish audiences he’d be the greatest supporter of Israel we’d ever seen. His daughter Ivanka, a convert to Judaism, has become the elegant face of her father’s campaign; and her husband Jared Kushner, a powerful New York businessman from an Orthodox family, is a senior adviser to his father-in-law’s campaign. Trump often trots out his Jewish daughter as evidence that he could not possibly be an anti-Semite; and while one Orthodox Jewish blogger slays that argument rather succinctly, so far the GOP candidate has managed to convince even many of his opponents that, while he is not a sympathetic figure, he is no Jew hater.
Despite the mountain of evidence that he is a real, old-fashioned, strutting and sieg-heiling type of Jew hater, Trump has for the most part managed to avoid being labeled an anti-Semite.

Even the Anti-Defamation League, which just issued a report documenting a sharp rise in anti-Semitic attacks on Jewish journalists during the presidential campaign, has pulled its punches. 
Responding to Trump’s last campaign ad, which mainstream American media labeled an overt rip-off of classic anti-Semitic tropes, Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the ADL, said, “Whether intentional or not, the images and rhetoric in this ad touch on subjects that anti-Semites have used for ages.”

It takes a special type of denial, swallowed with a heavy dose of Kool-Aid, to convince an intelligent person that Trump’s embrace of language and images overtly taken from the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” white supremacist sites, the Ku Klux Klan, the “alt-right” and European neo-Nazi parties could possibly be unintentional. Especially given that the “alt-right” regards Trump as a near-messianic voice.
 
Continue reading at:  http://forward.com/opinion/353570/misogyny-was-enough-to-tarnish-donald-trump-but-neo-nazism-wasnt/

End this misogynistic horror show. Put Hillary Clinton in the White House

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/06/hillary-clinton-white-house-donald-trump-bullying-barbara-kingsolver

While Clinton holds her head high, why are we not exploding with anger at Donald Trump’s bullying?

Sunday 6 November 2016

When I was a girl of 11 I had an argument with my father that left my psyche maimed. It was about whether a woman could be the president of the US.

How did it even start? I was no feminist prodigy, just a shy kid who preferred reading to talking; politics weren’t my destiny. Probably, I was trying to work out what was possible for my category of person – legally, logistically – as one might ask which kinds of terrain are navigable for a newly purchased bicycle. Up until then, gender hadn’t darkened my mental doorway as I followed my older brother into our daily adventures wearing hand-me-down jeans.

But in adolescence it dawned on me I’d be spending my future as a woman, and when I looked around, alarm bells rang. My mother was a capable, intelligent, deeply unhappy woman who aspired to fulfilment as a housewife but clearly disliked the job. I saw most of my friends’ mothers packed into that same dreary boat. My father was a country physician, admired and rewarded for work he loved. In my primordial search for a life coach, he was the natural choice.

I probably started by asking him if girls could go to college, have jobs, be doctors, tentatively working my way up the ladder. His answers grew more equivocal until finally we faced off, Dad saying, “No” and me saying, “But why not?” A female president would be dangerous. His reasons vaguely referenced menstruation and emotional instability, innate female attraction to maternity and aversion to power, and a general implied ickyness that was beneath polite conversation.

I ended that evening curled in bed with my fingernails digging into my palms and a silent howl tearing through me that lasted hours and left me numb. The next day I saw life at a remove, as if my skull had been jarred. What changed for me was not a dashing of specific hopes, but an understanding of what my father – the person whose respect I craved – really saw when he looked at me. I was tainted. I would grow up to be a lesser person, confined to an obliquely shameful life.

But I didn’t stop asking what a woman gets to do, and so began a lifelong confrontation with that internal howl. The slap-downs were often unexpected. Play drums in the band? No. Sign up for the science team? Go camping with the guys? Go jogging in shorts and a tank top without fear of being assaulted? Experiment boldly, have a career, command a moral authority of my own? Walk home safely after dark? No, no, no.

Eventually, I wrestled my way to yes on most of these things, except of course the last one. And the same dread that stalks me in dark parking lots – the helpless fury of knowing I don’t get to be just a person here, going about my business – has haunted all the other pursuits, from science team to career. It’s a matter of getting up each day and pushing myself again into a place some people think I have no right to occupy.

My father is very old now. Lately, I brought up our ancient argument about who may occupy the White House, but he didn’t remember it. The world has changed and so has he, urged forward by working daughters and granddaughters. He’s ready and eager to vote for a woman president. But it’s knocked the breath out of me to learn that most of his peers are not.

Hillary Clinton has honoured the rules of civic duty and met the prerequisites for a candidate, bringing a lifetime of pertinent experience, an inquiring mind, a record of compassionate service and a sound grasp of our nation’s every challenge, from international relations to climate change; her stated desire is to work hard for our country and its future.

Complete article at:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/06/hillary-clinton-white-house-donald-trump-bullying-barbara-kingsolver

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

People are buying fewer clothes, for very good reasons

From Tree Hugger:  http://www.treehugger.com/sustainable-fashion/people-are-buying-fewer-clothes-very-good-reasons.html
 
Katherine Martinko
October 7, 2016 


There is a growing trend toward 'New Consumerism', which means that people are buying more conscientiously than ever before. 

Skinny jeans became popular ten years ago. I’ll never forget the horror I felt, arriving back in Canada after a year in Brazil, to find people walking the streets of Toronto in pants that looked like something my (seriously untrendy) mother would wear. I told a friend, “You’ll never catch me dead in those.” A decade later, she still teases me about that comment, as skinny jeans have obviously become a wardrobe staple.

Since then, nothing terribly big or exciting has happened in the fashion world, according to retailer Urban Outfitters:
“Real changes in fashion which spur the public into spending money on a whole new look are few and far between. In mainstream terms, the last really big trend was skinny jeans… And we’re still wearing them” (The Independent).
It appears that people are less interested in buying clothes than they once were. While they’re spending more money than ever, those dollars are being directed elsewhere, typically more toward food and away from fashion, where retailers are reporting decreases in profit. Seasonal trends are increasingly removed from reality, as people don’t want to spend their money on updates that appear insignificant. The Independent reports:
“There is a world of difference between the ‘seasons’ that fashion editors talk about, with different styles offered up to four times a year, and the real world, where people put on layers and just don’t see the need for a new coat every October.”
Today’s consumers are reassessing their priorities and questioning what they really value. This fits into the growing trend of ‘New Consumerism,’ a term coined by research firm Euromonitor International to describe a widespread movement that prioritizes conscientious shopping over conspicuous consumerism. There are eight key trends that comprise New Consumerism:

1) The circular economy (where everything is use and nothing is wasted)
2) Frugal innovation (eliminating costly, unnecessary features from inventions)
3) Trading up and trading down (willingness to compromise in some areas to be able to splurge in others)
4) The sharing economy (connecting supply and demand, disrupting the traditional way of conducting business)
5) Experiential purchases over material ones
6) Buying time for oneself (an increase in outsourced tasks)
7) Reassessing one’s use of space (i.e. Do I really need to live in a large home?)
8) The ‘gig’ economy (characterized by short-term work contracts and freelancing, as well as the ability to move around)


In the fashion world, writes Business of Fashion, New Consumerism has translated into demand for increased transparency, authentic brand values, sustainable production processes, an embrace of the sharing economy, and unique retail experiences, among other things.

Continue reading at:  http://www.treehugger.com/sustainable-fashion/people-are-buying-fewer-clothes-very-good-reasons.html