Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Creativity and Protest

The news has been so whacky lately that people say you can't tell the parodies from the real thing. However, an artist, filmmaker, and guerrilla politico made a remarkably entertaining and effective work of art/protest last night -- as many many people know. Though the irreverent light show projected on the Trump Hotel lasted only around 10 minutes before security guards stopped it, it's been widely shared on social media.

From the L.A.Times: viral image of the light projection onto the Trump Hotel: "PAY TRUMP BRIBES HERE." 

From the article "Meet Robin Bell, the artist who projected protest messages onto Trump's D.C. hotel last night" --
"For a short period on Monday night, a large projection appeared on the facade of the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., that read “Emoluments Welcome,” along with an animation of the flags of nations where President Trump has business projects. 
"This was followed by a message that read “Pay Trump Bribes Here,” with an arrow that pointed to the front door of the hotel. Yet another featured an excerpt of the emoluments clause from the U.S. Constitution, which restricts members of the U.S. government from receiving gifts from foreign powers. (Trump is being sued by one watchdog group for potentially violating this clause.)" (L.A.Times, May 16, 2017)
Also from the L.A. Times article.
“I was reading this thing about when you deal with authoritarian governments, you have to create your own story,” Robin Bell says, as quoted in the L.A.Times article. “If we’re reacting to these people all the time, they can just play us. So, part of the thing is making things that you can laugh at, that you can share, that aren’t just reacting to them.”

Another protest from earlier this year, which appears on Bell's
website,  http://bellvisuals.com/

Friday, April 28, 2017

A Protest Leader in our Community: Our State Rep

Yousef Rabhi, our State Representative, speaking
at a rally on the UofM Diag. I heard him last week
at the March for Science.

Yousef Rabhi
2 hrs
9 protests I've been to since the November election. 1 I have not.
1. March for Science
2. Women's March
3. Tax Rally
4. People's Climate March
5. Rally at DTW against travel ban
6. Ann Arbor Immigrant March
7. Citizens Climate Rally
8. #NODAPL Day of Action Rally
9. Kids Peace and Unity March
10. Ypsilanti Water is Life Rally

In response to the "thing" going around on Facebook, where people post 9 concerts they attended and one that's a "lie," he posted this great list.

NOTE: the one he hasn't been to is the People's Climate March. It's tomorrow. He's going.

Resisting for 100 Days

In the Guardian today: "100 days of Trump Resistance: the wins so far and battles to come." Subhead: "As President Trump approaches 100 days in office, Adam Gabbatt surveys the resistance movement’s biggest moments so far, key groups, and challenges ahead."

Most of the time in the last 100 days, I've felt that little of any use can be done to mitigate the negative effects of the current administration. While there have been some spectacular flops on their part, the damage, especially potential damage to the environment, education, and social welfare, has been horrendous, in my opinion. The article may be more hopeful than I am about these policies.

The article includes an important list of coming issues as well: healthcare, taxes, and climate will all be subjects of new legislation and royal decrees, and implies that actions might be effective in discouraging support from congress.

Optimistically, the article suggests that several actions have had an effect. Specifically:

  • The women's march following the inauguration. 
  • Spontaneous demos at airports against the immigration ban in January.
  • Voter participation in town hall meetings and demand for such meetings in districts where reps avoided them.
  • The "Grab Your Wallet" boycott of corporations closely associated with the administration.
Several specific action groups are cited as having real potential to stop at least something. The Guardian's list of links to these organizations:



Monday, April 24, 2017

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Israeli president Reuven Rivlin
-- From Ha'aretz
The Israeli commemorations of Holocaust Remembrance Day began yesterday evening, with nationally broadcast speeches from Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum and memorial in Jerusalem. In my experience the most moving part of the traditional day, observed since 1951, is the two minutes of silence throughout the entire country, accompanied by the sound of air-raid sirens. Every car on the street or highway stops and the occupants stand silently. Any activities, indoors or out, stop, and all people stand silently.

President Reuven Rivlin's speech during last night's ceremony included the following passage:
"Seventy-two years have passed since the flames of hell, of the Auschwitz crematoria, were extinguished. The more time that passes, the fewer the surviving witnesses to the horrors, the older the State of Israel, so our need to deal with how we relate to the Holocaust and to Holocaust remembrance becomes ever more crucial. Ladies and Gentlemen, over the past few decades there have developed two clear approaches to how Israeli society remembers the Shoah, and regards the lessons to be learned from it. The first, is one that deals only with the universal aspects and lessons of the Shoah. The second is one where the Shoah becomes the lens through which we view the world. The first, the universal approach, negates the uniqueness of the Holocaust as a historical event that has no parallel, that happened to us, the members of the Jewish People."
Rivlin provided detailed descriptions of these two approaches and how the Israelis have acted on them. He specified of the first approach:
"Obviously, there are universal lessons to be learned from the Shoah, but denial of the unique nature of the Holocaust of the Jewish People is a historical, national, and educational error." 
He said of the second approach, making the Holocaust a lens for the Israeli worldview:
"According to this approach, the justification for the existence of the State of Israel is the prevention of the next Holocaust. Every threat is a threat to survival, every Israel-hating leader is Hitler. According to this approach, the essence of our collective Jewish identity is escape from massacre by joint means. And the world is divided into two, the “Righteous among the Nations” on the one hand, and anti-Semitic Nazis on the other. And in any case, any criticism of the State of Israel is anti-Semitism. This approach also is fundamentally wrong, and is dangerous for us a nation and as a people."
He then continued by describing a third approach: not to remain silent "in face of the horrors being committed far away from us, and certainly those happening just across the border."

Articles about the commemorative ceremonies:

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Ann Arbor March for Science, Earthday, 2017

I can only hope that this march and rally will have an effect. I believe that most of the participants were non-scientists who are committed to the endeavor of science, and who are seriously appalled by the treatment of science by the current administration. I felt that the speakers chose appropriate material for this audience: giving many examples of how science benefits our society and our planet, and describing what is best about their own experiences with science. But I know that the people in power aren't listening. I have posted this also on my food blog:  maefood.blogspot.com.
A few minutes before the Ann Arbor March for Science, April 22, thousands of people gathered on the University of
Michigan Diag to hear an hour of speeches. I found the speeches quite good. Most of them were given by scientists and
researchers in bio-medical and neuroscience fields. Physics, chemistry, mathematics, and other areas of biology were
not represented, which I found strange. I enjoyed several speeches encouraging participation from minorities and
others who are often left out of academic science.

Signs were many and varied.

After the speeches, the participants marched from the campus to downtown. It took them almost half an hour to
march past this point.

Some of the participants were wearing pink hats from the women's march, but I was especially amused by
several "brainy" hats that people evidently made for this event.


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Four Freedoms

Franklin Delano Roosevelt's January, 1941, State of the Union Address is known for his vision of a better world. He wrote:

"In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms."

How well have we done on accomplishing this in the 76 years since Roosevelt read this text to Congress? Well, the biggest threat to freedom of any kind in 1941 was the Nazi regime in Germany, which was of course defeated with great sacrifice. After the war, Americans committed to a process of honest striving to create a world like Roosevelt envisioned. But these freedoms were never really delivered worldwide.

Norman Rockwell's famous depiction of the Four Freedoms motivated the War Bond campaign in World War II. (Wikipedia)

Today, in 2017, these freedoms are seriously threatened for at least some people who live in America. Specifically, Roosevelt said:

"The first is freedom of 
speech and expression -- everywhere in the world."

Currently, freedom of speech is threatened for nearly everyone by many new laws that criminalize protest, and by a variety attacks on the press.

"The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way -- everywhere in the world."

In recent years, freedom of worship in our country has been limited more and more to Christians. Our executive branch has announced its policy to persecute Muslims, including Muslim Americans. Our President employs in high positions supporters/inciters of terrorists and vandals who burn mosques, paint swastikas on Jewish institutions, destroy Jewish cemeteries, and bully minorities. Official concern for a vision of worldwide freedom of worship has often been reduced to concern for Christian minorities in non-Christian countries.

Further, in the US, this freedom has been corrupted by changing the term from "worship" to "religion" and then extending this "freedom" to the freedom to deny other people rights because they supposedly conflict with someone's religion. Court decisions have upheld the "right" of corporations to violate anti-discrimination laws because of the corporate owners' claimed religious objections.

"The third is freedom from want, which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants -- everywhere in the world."

Freedom from want was never fully accomplished, but many government programs in the last 75 years have been enacted to feed the hungry, provide medical care for the needy, and provide shelter for the homeless. All these programs are now on the chopping block.

"The fourth is freedom from fear, which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor -- anywhere in the world."

Freedom from fear is being cancelled in America today for gay people, black people, brown people, immigrants in many minority groups, transsexuals (especially school children), Muslims, Jews, and political dissidents. Our highest leaders encourage mobs to chant threats, look the other way when police are brutal, and make excuses for vandals and terrorists who burn mosques etc. The first federal agencies to be enlisted are the Department of Homeland Security and the INS, with imprisonment of people in airports, raids on homes of immigrants, and direct targeting even of citizens with many generations of ancestors who are American citizens (like Mohammed Ali's son).

Rising militarism and isolationism, along with growing bigotry, is another potential source of fear in American society, as is the looming disaster of rising oceans, terrible storms, and other effects of climate change -- all denied by our leaders.

Roosevelt summed up his hope, which I wish was still our collective hope:

"That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called 'new order' of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb."

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Hate Crime Act as a Crutch for Bigots

The Hate Crime Act is very specific about the evidence needed to accuse and convict an arsonist, a shooter, a stabber, or a vandal under its definitions and terms. This is a perfectly reasonable way for American law to function. However, the result is that the “false flag” argument about crimes against Jewish, Black, or Moslem individuals and institutions are being supported.*

Here are some examples:
  • A teenager has been accused of setting a fire to a Mosque in Pittsfield Township, Michigan, but the authorities say they don’t have enough evidence to charge him with a hate crime. The fact that a climate of Islamophobia and hatred for Muslims probably influenced this individual to choose the mosque as his target is important in understanding what’s happening, but the haters on the right claim that the lack of evidence for the specific legal charge means this was a “false flag” – and that it proves something about liberals who discuss the climate of hatred.
  • Over 100 bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers – which mainly serve as schools and daycare centers – are interpreted as part of an antisemitic climate and probably as a campaign to create a climate of fear among Jewish people whose children are regularly threatened. Only one person, who made 8 of the calls, has been caught, and his motive was to frame his girlfriend – so it’s not legally a hate crime. Though his choice of actions clearly reflected the antisemitic climate, and was undoubtedly a way for him to magnify the attention he received, the haters interpret this as another example of exaggeration by Jews and others who classify it with antisemitic attacks. Just a “false flag,” another example of Jews exaggerating, they say.
  • When police investigating vandalism at Jewish cemeteries said they didn’t know if it was a hate crime, right-wing haters thus dismissed all discussion of the antisemitic atmosphere that clearly inspired the vandals. This dismissal goes to the highest levels of our government.
  • For years, police who shoot black teenagers or other black people have been defended by people who say they are justified, and blame the victims. A lot has been written about this, I won’t try to elaborate.

A quote:
"Anti-Semitism doesn’t require individuals who participate in it to hate Jews, or even to care about Jews. Anti-Semitism is a way to structure hate and violence. Once the structure is in place, anyone can participate, whether they are personally invested or not. Prejudice doesn’t require intent. You don’t have to hate Jews to commit anti-Semitic acts." (source: "GamerGate Can Teach Us About Anti-Semitic Attacks" by Noah Berlatsky, March 9, 2017.)

*Note: A “false flag” is a seeming hate crime or act of prejudice whose perpetrator in reality is not motivated by bigotry, and in some cases is said to belong to the attacked group. This hypothetical perpetrator or provacateur acts to obtain sympathy or other advantage for the group. Attacks on minority individuals or institutions (like mosques, Black churches, or Jewish cemeteries) are thus classified as random, “ordinary” crimes, and thus of no importance. The “alt right,” which is now in charge of parts of the US government, has been using the “false flag” accusation for quite a while to dismiss efforts to identify and oppose organized bigotry.

             

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Interesting insights into current antisemitism and other bigotry

"The person, or people, responsible for the bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers plan to frighten Jewish people. They also want to make terrorizing Jewish people into a normal, everyday occurrence. Harassment campaigns work in part to lower the barrier for entry to hate. 
"That’s part of why President Trump’s suggestion that the threats were hoaxes intended to damage him proved so dangerous. If the threats are just a hoax, why not prove they’re a hoax by calling in a hoax threat yourself? If hate isn’t serious, people who aren’t serious about hate can participate too."
Vandalized Jewish cemetery in University City, Mo.
where my mother, grandparents, and many other relatives
are buried. But it's not just personal!
This insight into antisemitism seems very useful to me. I am deeply troubled by the recent and rapid spread of antisemitism and bigotry -- as of course are many other Americans. The clear encouragement of such attitudes by the current administration is even more troubling. The article  "GamerGate Can Teach Us About Anti-Semitic Attacks" byNoah Berlatsky, from which this quote is taken, offers a number of insights into what's most problematic:
"Anti-Semitism doesn’t require individuals who participate in it to hate Jews, or even to care about Jews. Anti-Semitism is a way to structure hate and violence. Once the structure is in place, anyone can participate, whether they are personally invested or not. Prejudice doesn’t require intent. You don’t have to hate Jews to commit anti-Semitic acts."
Police investigating a bomb threat at the Jewish Community Center in
Ann Arbor where I live. But it's not just personal!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Racism, Revisited

Among many racist acts taking place at all levels of society this week, the gratuitous insult to a group of Black college presidents was notable, because it happened right in the White House (or should I say the Presidential Palace)?

At Howard University, students chose several ways to protest the participation of Wayne A. I. Frederick, the president of their college, in this meeting. One example of their protest: the graffiti shown at right (photo from New York Times):
"It was a scalding message, painted on a university campus sidewalk this week: 'Welcome to the Trump plantation. Overseer: Wayne A. I. Frederick.'"
Howard is one of the most prominent of the historic Black universities, founded in the post-Civil-War era when Black Americans were struggling to find their rightful place in society. In the twentieth century, numerous important leaders graduated from Howard: Thurgood Marshall, first black justice on the U.S. Supreme Court; Andrew Young, Congressman from Georgia, US Ambassador to the United Nations, and Mayor of Atlanta; Toni Morrison, winner of the Nobel Prize in literature; Zora Neale Hurston, author; Kamala Harris, recently elected US Senator from California, and many more. I believe the students there now, as they are expressing themselves, includes more individuals of this caliber.

About the protest, the New York Times wrote:
"The student backlash came after Dr. Frederick and more than 60 other leaders of historically black colleges and universities gathered for a meeting on Monday with top officials of the Trump administration, including the new education secretary, Betsy DeVos. As the meeting was getting underway, participants said, it was interrupted to invite them to an impromptu visit with President Trump in the Oval Office. 
"A photograph of the black leaders smiling and chatting with Mr. Trump around his desk was widely circulated and instantly became a flash point for students who believe the administration has been insensitive to the needs of black Americans." (source)
Students from other universities whose leaders participated in the White House event also protested, and the leaders offered a variety of excuses to explain their presence. The article continued: "The students saw the meetings as political cover for Mr. Trump, and some awkward details of his administration’s encounter with the black academic leaders only reinforced their skepticism."

I'm currently reading W.E.B DuBois's 1903 book The Souls of Black Folks. It's an interesting discussion, especially in the light of Betsy De Vos's clueless characterization of traditionally Black universities as an example of "choice."

From DuBois, himself a graduate of Harvard University, I read the following idealistic discussion of education in the South.
"Sadly did the Old South err in human education, despising the education of the masses, and niggardly in the support of colleges. Her ancient university foundations dwindled and withered under the foul breath of slavery; and even since the war they have fought a failing fight for life in the tainted air of social unrest and commercial selfishness, stunted by the death of criticism, and starving for lack of broadly cultured men. And if this is the white South's need and danger, how much heavier the danger and need of the freedmen's sons! how pressing here the need of broad ideals and true culture, the conservation of soul from sordid aims and petty passions!... Let us build, too, the Negro universities:— Fisk, whose foundation was ever broad; Howard, at the heart of the Nation; Atlanta at Atlanta, whose ideal of scholarship has been held above the temptation of numbers. Why not here, and perhaps elsewhere, plant deeply and for all time centres of learning and living, colleges that yearly would send into the life of the South a few white men and a few black men of broad culture, catholic tolerance, and trained ability, joining their hands to other hands, and giving to this squabble of the Races a decent and dignified peace?"(Kindle Locations 1034-1043).
 On the whole, I think our society has progressed in the last century, but I fear the current situation will set us back. I've learned much more from reading The Souls of Black Folks, but hesitate to go on at too much length.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Looking for Heroes

Under threat: the Bill of Rights (Image: original
Joint Resolution passed by Congress
on September 25, 1789, from National Archives.) 
I've been traveling, and then adjusting to getting home. I had one week on a boat in Peru without any internet or news, which was relaxing. Since regaining media access, I've read about lots of outrages, but I've seen very little evidence of new ideas for effective push-back.

I'm aghast at several ongoing trends, such as the horrific outbreak of antisemitism, the lack of appropriate response from politicians at the top, and attacks on virtually every provision of the Bill of Rights except the one about guns. But I don't see much new leadership in how to resist.

At least I found a couple of surprises on the part of usually right-leaning (or extremist) politicians:
  • In the matter of persecution of transgender children by denying them bathroom access, the surprise came last week from the Secretary of Education: "Ms. DeVos initially resisted signing off and told Mr. Trump that she was uncomfortable because of the potential harm that rescinding the protections could cause transgender students, according to three Republicans with direct knowledge of the internal discussions." Of course she quickly caved in to President's decision, but "Ms. DeVos’s unease was evident in a strongly worded statement she released on Wednesday night, in which she said she considered it a 'moral obligation' for every school in America to protect all students from discrimination, bullying and harassment." (source)
  • And former President George W. Bush spoke out in favor of the media, which has been under constant attack by the President: "We need an independent media to hold people like me to account," Bush said in an interview with the Today Show's Matt Lauer. "Power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive, and it’s important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power." (source)
Paul Krugman's latest column advocated the cultivation of outrage. I hope we -- as a society that voted only in a minority for the current administration -- can live up to this goal. Krugman's clear and important conclusion:
"I’m sure many readers would rather live in a nation in which more of life could be separated from politics. So would I! But civil society is under assault from political forces, so that defending it is, necessarily, political. And justified outrage must fuel that defense. When neither the president nor his allies in Congress show any sign of respecting basic American values, an aroused public that’s willing to take names is all we have."

Friday, February 3, 2017

J.K. Rowling

As a very big fan of all the Harry Potter novels and movies, including "Fantastic Beasts," I have been delighted to hear about J.K. Rowling's recent put-downs of fans that attack her for her stand on recent atrocities coming out of the White House, as well as earlier statements during the Presidential campaign.

Her recent responses to fans that claim they are burning her books and DVDs are especially amusing, for instance: "Actually, we're thinking of selling them in pairs in future; a 'read one, burn one' deal for those who like the magic, but not the morals." Or this (if you aren't accustomed to Twitter, note that the response is at the top and the inspiring tweet is quoted below) --



Here's what I found at the top of her Twitter feed this morning:

The Washington Post this morning published an article about Rowling and her tweets: "J.K. Rowling’s Twitter feud with Trump supporters is so bad she’s now fighting some of her fans" by Travis M. Andrews -- this inspired me to go and  look at her Twitter feed.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

"Those who kept silent yesterday will remain silent tomorrow."

A five-hour reading of the entire work "Night" by Elie Wiesel took place last Sunday at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. The reading commemorated Holocaust Remembrance Day as well as the anniversary of the murder of Wiesel’s father, Shlomo, at Buchenwald, according to an article in Tablet: "Wiesel’s Message Reverberates in New York for a ‘Night’ of Remembrance" by Rachel Delia Benaim,

A number of well-known writers, public figures, and Counsels or Ambassadors from several countries took turns reading from the book, including Abe Foxman; Itzhak Perlman; Aaron Lansky, founder of the Yiddish Book Center, and many others.
"As the event proceeded, thousands of people gathered nearby in Battery Park to protest President Donald Trump’s controversial immigration ban—a confluence of events that Foxman said was fitting because Wiesel 'stood up to prejudice, racism, and bigotry directed at anybody.'"
Michael S. Glickman, president and CEO of the Museum of Jewish Heritage, made this statement to the "Observer" --
"I think Abe Foxman, one of our earlier speakers, put it best as he said we are doing this program as the Statue of Liberty is blindfolded and Emma Lazarus is gagged. I really do think that this is the moment where we need to speak up, and we need to be present and we need to participate in a dialogue that needs to make sure that this never happens again. In this community and elsewhere." (from "Elie Wiesel Reading Illuminates Importance of Modern Refugee Crisis" by Talia Smith)
Wiesel, who died last summer, first published "Night" in 1952 in Yiddish, in Argentina, later in French, and in 1960 in English. In it he wrote "Those who kept silent yesterday will remain silent tomorrow."

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Federal Workers Resist

From the Washington Post: "Resistance from within: Federal workers push back against Trump" describes a growing willingness of Federal workers to resist the new regime:
"At a church in Columbia Heights last weekend, dozens of federal workers attended a support group for civil servants seeking a forum to discuss their opposition to the Trump administration. And 180 federal employees have signed up for a workshop next weekend, where experts will offer advice on workers’ rights and how they can express civil disobedience.... 
"Asked whether federal workers are dissenting in ways that go beyond previous party changes in the White House, Tom Malinow­ski, who was President Barack Obama’s assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, said, sarcastically: 'Is it unusual? . . . There’s nothing unusual about the entire national security bureaucracy of the United States feeling like their commander in chief is a threat to U.S. national security. That happens all the time. It’s totally usual. Nothing to worry about.'"
Heroes here? (Image of Smithsonian from Wikipedia).
This rather long article describes various actions throughout many government departments, concluding: 
"'We don’t intend to change the way we do things,' said Smithsonian Secretary David J. Skorton. 'That’s not out of a sense of defiance, it’s not out of a sense of not wanting to be accountable, it’s out of a sense of believing in the mission of the Smithsonian, which is to do research and share information with the public.' 
"Academics have debated for years whether bureaucracies inevitably grow to a point where they, as political scientist Michael Nelson of Rhodes College put it, 'ineluctably overpower' their political masters. 'Time and time again,' he wrote, 'major efforts to make administration more responsive to political control have had the opposite effect. It is enough to chasten even the boldest reformer if, like the sorcerer’s apprentice, his every assault on his tormentors doubles their strength.'"

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Illegal Orders

The news this week contains so many outrages, and so many ways that people are attempting to resist, that I'm overwhelmed. I'm also making phone calls and posting emails to elected authorities, and hope we still have a democracy where this is a useful tactic. In many ways, the refusal of the Executive Branch to listen to Federal court orders feels like democracy is really endangered.

Sally Quillian Yates from the New York Times. (link)
One scary happening: Sally Quillian Yates, the US acting attorney general, was fired for her refusal to allow her department to defend what she evaluated to be an unlawful executive order. She questioned the order to prevent entry to the US of holders of valid visas and green cards. "As long as I am the Acting Attorney General, the Department of Justice will not present arguments in defense of the Executive Order, unless and until I become convinced that it is appropriate to do so," she wrote.

She was fired almost immediately, and replaced with a more compliant attorney. As described in the Washington Post:
"On Monday afternoon, only days away from stepping down from her 27-year career in the Justice Department, Yates defied President Trump, ordering federal attorneys not to defend the controversial immigration order issued Friday.
"Yates, 56, struggled with her decision over the weekend, said an official who spoke on the condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the situation. By Monday, though, she had concluded that she could not ask her federal attorneys to defend the order." -- from "Who is Sally Yates? Meet the acting attorney general Trump fired for ‘betraying’ the Justice Department" by Sari Horwitz, January 30 at 11:33 PM
From the New York Times: "The firing of Ms. Yates came at the end of a turbulent three days that began on Friday with Mr. Trump’s signing of his executive order. The action stranded travelers around the world, led to protests around the country and created alarm inside the bureaucracy. ... Ms. Yates said her determination in deciding not to defend the order was broader, however, and included questions not only about the order’s lawfulness, but also whether it was a 'wise or just' policy. She also alluded to unspecified statements the White House had made before signing the order, which she factored into her review."  (link)

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Reading "1984" like many people today.


First, from the book everyone is buying this week:
"Oceanic society rests ultimately on the belief that Big Brother is omnipotent and that the Party is infallible. But since in reality Big Brother is not infallible, there is need for an unwearying, moment-to-moment flexibility in the treatment of facts. The key word here is blackwhite. Like so many Newspeak words, this word has two mutually contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts. Applied to a Party member, it means a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary. This demands a continuous alteration of the past, made possible by the system of thought which really embraces all the rest, and which is known as doublethink." -- George Orwell, 1984, Signet Classic, p. 175.
Second, from National Public Radio last week:
"The president said he believed there was anywhere between 1 million and 1.5 million people on the National Mall as he delivered his inaugural address, and he also falsely claimed it stopped raining and the sun came out just as he started speaking when, in fact, the rain continued and the day remained overcast and cloudy." from "Trump Administration Goes To War With The Media Over Inauguration Crowd Size" January 21, 2017.
Orwell's book is essentially a long polemic about how totalitarian societies exert control over their citizens or subjects. I had not read it in a long time, and I found it painful. I could select a lot more quotes and pair them with today's news. I'm sure lots of people will be writing more ambitious book reviews of it. Orwell gets a lot of things so right that it's agonizing.

But just one more here: "The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake." (1984, p. 217)

Saturday, January 28, 2017

A Few Headlines

JUDGE SUSPENDS TRUMP ORDER; BARS DEPORTATION OF REFUGEES

-- New York Times


Trump’s order barring refugees and some migrants causes shock, outrage
-- Washington Post

Immigration attorneys at LAX helping immigrants, many from Iran, detained by federal officials

-- LA Times
-- Boston Globe

Congresswoman, lawyers working to free 12 detainees at O’Hare

-- Chicago Sun Times

First Republican Senators Speak Out Against Trump's Ban on Travelers From Muslim Countries

Ben Sasse (R-NE), Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Susan Collins (R-ME) criticize new executive order, while party's senior ranks keep mum.

-- Ha'aretz

Banner: "Resist"


From the L.A. Times: "Bay Area Greenpeace activists charged with unfurling 'Resist' banner near White House."

According to the article: "The massive banner could be seen hovering over the White House a half-mile away."

Thursday, January 26, 2017

What this means?

The Washington Post reports that at the State Department: "The entire senior level of management officials resigned Wednesday, part of an ongoing mass exodus of senior foreign service officers who don’t want to stick around for the Trump era. ... All are career foreign service officers who have served under both Republican and Democratic administrations."

Resigning State Department official Patrick Kennedy.
"President George W. Bush selected Kennedy for the role
in 2007 and Kennedy stayed on throughout
President Barack Obama's term." (source)
The officials, named and described in the article, may be resigning under pressure, and they may be resigning out of a principled objection to the new era in American international relations under Rex Tillerson, the almost-confirmed Secretary of State who has no diplomatic background or government experience.

The New York Post reported that the highest of these officials did not resign, but was fired. An article titled "Top State Dept. officials exit after Tillerson visit" reports: "A source close to the White House" is quoted as telling the Post: "Pat Kennedy was fired. He may be saving face and pretending that he resigned but he was let go. The poorly performing senior leaders at State will also be pushed out. You should expect other ‘resignations’ there, too."

Whatever the reason for the mass departures from State, one can only hope that their loss will send a message to the administration (unlikely though that is) and that at least some of them will become active in helping the public and maybe the political classes to resist the dangerous behavior of the administration.

The Washington Post article concludes:
"By itself, the sudden departure of the State Department’s entire senior management team is disruptive enough. But in the context of a president who railed against the U.S. foreign policy establishment during his campaign and secretary of state with no government experience, the vacancies are much more concerning.
"Tillerson’s job No. 1 must be to find qualified and experienced career officials to manage the State Department’s vital offices. His second job should be to reach out to and reassure a State Department workforce that is panicked about what the Trump administration means for them."

The Art World

I'm not usually aware of much going on in the avant-garde art world. I often go to art museums, but they are way behind the curve. It appears that several artists are acting dramatically to resist the current administration.

According to an article in the New York Times,  the artist Christo, famous for "wrapping" or otherwise decorating prominent buildings and parks has been working for years on a project to "create a vast public artwork in Colorado that would draw thousands of tourists and rival the ambition of 'The Gates,' the saffron transformation of Central Park that made him and Jeanne-Claude, his collaborator and wife, two of the most talked-about artists of their generation."

Christo stated that he will not proceed with this project "because the terrain, federally owned, has a new landlord he refuses to have anything to do with: President Trump." Coverage of Christo's cancellation in "The Art Newspaper" explains that the planned "Over the River" project would have "covered 42 miles of the Arkansas River in silver fabric for 14 days" -- they showed the following image of Christo's design.

"Christo, Over The River, Project For The Arkansas River, State of Colorado, 2007, collage in two parts. Photo: Wolfgang Volz, © Christo 2007"
The Times article also summarizes several other artists' protests:
"In late November, more than 150 prominent artists, curators and gallery workers picketed in front of the Puck Building in Downtown Manhattan, owned by the family of Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump’s husband and now a senior adviser to President Trump. Under the banner of a continuing social-media and protest movement called Dear Ivanka, critics of the President have directed almost daily condemnations of his actions and policies to his daughter, a prominent art collector. And on Inauguration Day, dozens of galleries — and a few public art institutions — closed in cities across the country as a part of a movement, J20, that plans to broaden protest activities in the coming months to address issues like racism, immigration and gentrification."
Also, an article titled "Richard Prince, Protesting Trump, Returns Art Payment" described how artist Richard Prince has returned $36,000 to Ivanka Trump, a payment for a work that he did based on her Twitter feed: "Mr. Prince first announced his decision in a series of tweets, saying that he was disavowing the work. In language that echoed Mr. Trump’s rhetoric, he called his own work 'fake' and added, 'I denounce.'"