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.'"