Gay Fresno - Opinion

Opinion

Industrial-strength Donald J. Trump chutzpah

  • Category: Opinion
  • Published: Friday, 23 June 2017 09:05
  • Written by Sheila Kennedy

Despite all his fulminating about “fake news,” it appears that our President-whose definition of‘fake” is any coverage (covfefe??) he doesn’t like—isn’t above generating some fakery of his own.

Remember Trump’s preening over his massive, multi-billion dollar "deal" with Saudi Arabia? Bruce Reidel of The Brookings Institution reports that no such deal exists.
Last month, President Trump visited Saudi Arabia and his administration announced that he had concluded a $ 110 billion arms deal with the kingdom. Only problem is that there is no deal. It’s fake news.
I’ve spoken to contacts in the defense business and on the Hill, and all of them say the same thing:There is no $ 110 billion deal. Instead, there are a bunch of letters of interest or intent, but not contracts. Many are offers that the defense industry thinks the Saudis will be interested in someday. So far nothing has been notified to the Senate for review. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the arms sales wing of the Pentagon, calls them “intended sales.” None of the deals identified so far are new, all began in the Obama administration.
In my ethnic group, this is what we call chutzpah. (Chutzpah is sort of like nerve or gall, but on steroids.The standard example is the guy who kills his mother and father and then throws himself on the mercy of the court because he’s an orphan.)

Chutzpah: (n) I. unmitigated effrontery or impudence; gall. 2. audacity; nerve.

It appears that the “Art of the Deal" braggart, the guy who"makes the best deals," lied through his teeth again, this time about a huge transaction that doesn’t exist-and to the extent it may exist in the future, it was initiated by his "Kenyan" predecessor. As Reidel also notes:
“Moreover, it’s unlikely that the Saudis could pay for a $ 110 billion deal any longer, due to low oil prices and the two-plus years old war in Yemen. President Obama sold the kingdom $ 112 billion in weapons over eight years, most of which was a single, huge deal in 2012 negotiated by then-Secretary of Defense Bob Gates.To get that deal through Congressional approval,Gates also negotiated a deal with Israel to compensate the Israelis and preserve their qualitative edge over their Arab neighbors.With the fall in oil prices, the Saudis have struggled to meet their payments since.”

Reidel isn’t above snarke says we’ll know the Trump deal is real when Israel begins to ask for money to keep the Israeli Defense Forces’ qualitative edge preserved.

A deal that evidently is coming is a munitions sale to the Royal Saudi Air Force, which will enable the Saudis to continue air bombardment of Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country.

Finally, just as the arms deal is not what it was advertised, so is the much-hyped united Muslim campaign against terrorism. Instead, the Gulf states have turned on one of their own.SaudiArabia has orchestrated a campaign to isolate Qatar.SaudiArabia,the UAE,Bahrain, and Egypt broke relations with Qatar. Saudi allies like the Maldives and Yemen jumped on the bandwagon. Saudi Arabia has closed its land border with Qatar.

This is not the first such spat but it may be the most dangerous.The Saudis and their allies are eager to punish Qatar for supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, for hosting Al- Jazeera, and keeping ties with Iran. Rather than a united front to contain Iran, the Riyadh summit’s outcome is exacerbating sectarian and political tensions in the region.

The Middle East has long been the world’s most dangerously unstable area. Now we have put management of the tensions generated there in the hands of the most dangerously unstable person ever to occupy America’s Oval Office-a man who has no ability to distinguish between reality and ego gratifying bullshit.

What could possibly go wrong?

‘One couple’s journey of identity and discovery’

  • Category: Opinion
  • Published: Tuesday, 13 June 2017 12:04
  • Written by Terri Schlichenmeyer

Your hair is grayer than it was back then. You’ve both packed on pounds here and there,too. A few wrinkles surround your smiles,but that’s okay–you’re not fresh faced kids anymore. You’ve aged, you’ve softened and,in the new book “Transitioning Together” by Wenn & Beatrice Lawson,you’ve changed quite a bit.
Long before they met, Wendy and Beatrice had a lot in common: both came from families of similar sizes. Both had fathers that “didn’t have a head for figures” and mothers who ran the family businesses. Wendy and Beatrice are both on the autism spectrum.

The main difference: Wendy was a married woman.

They met one afternoon when Wendy, her husband, and their four children were living in the home of a “well-to-do” family that had just hired an au pair. The shy
young woman didn’t speak English and Wendy didn’t speak Swiss German, but when Wendy was asked to help the girl to settle in, Beatrice proved to be a quick study. She easily learned a new language and she and Wendy forged
a close friendship. Both seemed only a little surprised when that friendship turned into love.

Wendy, who’d had health issues most of her life, never considered falling in love with another woman, but it felt right. Beatrice had an inkling that she was a lesbian but she shunned the word, afraid that it would “be an embarrassment” to her family. Even so,she settled into a relationship which was tender, and fragile from the start.

Wendy and her family moved from England to Australia as her abusive marriage was crumbling. Beatrice was unable to make the move with her beloved, due to Australia’s
immigration laws.They ultimately figured out a way to be together physically; once Wendy’s divorce was final, they knew they’d be together legally as well.

But even after their wedding,Wendy wasn’t happy. Never comfortable in her body, she felt sure that something was missing,so she sought her “tribe” before understanding that she needed to transition to become the man he’d always known he was. And that was something Beatrice wasn’t sure she could handle...

From its very beginning, “Transitioning Together” is a tough read. There’s a lot of preliminary to wade through to get to the start of the actual story here,and then there’s a lot of confusing setup that identifies authors Wenn and Beatrice Lawson by their relative ages,rather than by name.While it’s helpful, later, to have a change in font to delineate who is weighing in,you might continue to be baffled by the semi-linear nature of what is mostly Mr. Lawson’s version.

Yes, tenacious readers who can bear with this dual memoir will get a double-edged peek at the emotional process of transitioning for both partners,through the added, unique perspectives of autism and age. That’s worth the patience - if you have it.Indeed,this book could be more for professionals than for anyone else; general audiences may enjoy “Transitioning Together,” but only by a hair.

We could all use some more civics in our diet

  • Category: Opinion
  • Published: Wednesday, 24 May 2017 09:43
  • Written by Sheila Kennedy

Periodically, I use my blog to indulge a rant about Americans’ lack of civic literacy. (Regular readers are probably getting tired of my preoccupation with civic education-or more accurately, the lack thereof.) Be warned- I’m going to beat that dead horse again today.
A column written by Colbert King from the Washington Post has highlighted still another research project confirming Americans’ low levels of civic knowledge.
King introduced the topic by noting what we might call “constitutional challenges” in Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign.
He proposed a religious test on immigration, promised to “open up” U.S. libel laws and revoked press credentials of critical reporters. He called for killing family members of terrorists, said he would do “a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding” terrorism suspects and suggested that a U.S.-born federal judge of Mexican heritage couldn’t be neutral because of his ethnicity. He whipped up animosity against Muslims and immigrants from Mexico, branding the latter as “rapists.” When protesters interrupted his rallies, he cheered violence against them. He told a political opponent that if he won,he would “get a special prosecutor to look into your situation,”
adding “you’d be in jail.” He threatened not to respect election results if he didn’t win and, in Idi Amin fashion, made the claims of a strongman: “I alone can fix it.” He publicly expressed admiration for authoritarian Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Cherished notions of religious freedom, a free press, an independent judiciary and the rights of minorities took a beating from him. The prospect of mob violence in his defense and imprisoning political opponents found favor.
An electorate with even a basic understanding of the U.S. Constitution Would have found these assaults on foundational American principles reprehensible. And in fairness, civically- educated Americans did recoil.
The problem is, we don’t have enough civically-educated Americans.
How did a pluralistic nation that propounds democratic values and practices come to this?

“This” not being the authoritarian in the White House who dismisses basic constitutional principles as if they were annoying gnats, but “this” — an electorate that looks past the disrespect shown toward democratic ideals.
That haunting question has occupied the minds of Richard D. Kahlenberg and Clifford Janey,two education scholars and writers who began to take a hard look at this fundamental domestic challenge long before November’s results came in.
Kahlenberg and Janey addressed the scope ofthe problem in a joint Century Foundation report released in November, “Putting Democracy Back into Public Education.’The report was also discussed in an article in the Atlantic, “Is Trump’s Victory the Jump-Start Civics Education Needed?”
Janey and Kahlenberg argue that our “schools are failing at what the nation’s founders saw as education’s most basic purpose: preparing young people to be reflective citizens who would value liberty and democracy and resist the appeals of demagogues.”
They said today’s schools turn themselves inside out trying to prepare “college-and- career ready” students who can contend with economic globalization and economic competition and find a niche with private skills in the marketplace.
As for preparing them for American democracy? Raising civics literacy levels? Cultivating knowledge of democratic practices and beliefs with rigorous courses in history, literature and how democratic means have been used to improve the country? Not so much or maybe not at all, they suggest.
This has to change .And in Indiana, at least, a number of us are committed to changing it.
Women4Change is currently launching an effort to increase civic education; I am heading up a subcommittee that will encourage the formation of book clubs around the state focused upon the history and philosophy of America’s constitution. We will also be enlisting volunteers who will advocate in their local school systems for inclusion of the “We the People” curriculum, which is now entirely voluntary. Research has demonstrated that We the People has a salutary, lasting influence on students who have gone through it.
Citizens will not-cannot-protect what they don’t understand.

Why voting is a huge civic responsibility

  • Category: Opinion
  • Published: Friday, 09 June 2017 08:55
  • Written by Sheila Kennedy

I generally shy away from basing my blogs–or my own opinions, for that matter–on material from partisan sources. Trump and his enablers may accuse traditional
media of being “fake” or biased, but that’s a tactic, not an accurate description, so I try to limit my references to places like the New York Times, Washington Post, Guardian, etc.

But in the aftermath of Trump’s most recent–and arguably most breathtaking–departures from anything close to Presidential behavior/circumspection/sanity, I’m breaking my rule, and sharing a Daily Kos post that spoke to me–loudly and clearly.

The obstacles to Democratic control of Congress are not emotional, and emotions are not the answer. We don’t require more “enthusiasm.” We’re not lacking in progressive ideas and candidates, nor are we shy on appropriately moderate options.

We don’t need better explanations of our positions. We’re not even hurting for dough right now.
We need voters.
And our opponents have done a damn good job for decades of blocking our voters. Gerrymandering. Voter ID. Roll purges. Our problems are structural. And they will take a great deal of work to overcome.
As regular readers know, when it comes to the importance of social and political structures, I’ve been singing that song for a long time. The author of this post goes further than diagnosis, however.
He has a prescription for what ails us. Voter ID laws are unconstitutional poll taxes. That doesn’t get rid of them. The only way around them is to identify our voters and get them the IDs. We can’t just drive
them to the polls, we have to drive them to the DMV six months earlier. And, if they can’t afford the new poll tax, we have to find a way to pay for those cards for them.

We have to make sure they are registered, and stay registered through the coming postcard purges, calling long before Election Day, checking for them and helping them re-register if they get booted.
And, on Election Day, we have to have already built those relationships. The phone calls can’t be, “Hi, I’m blah blah blah from the blah blah blah campaign reminding you to blah blah blah.” They have to be, “Hi, Phyllis, it’s Ashley. What time do you want me to pick you up?”
Admittedly, this is a lot of work. It’s so much easier to post a scathing remark to Facebook, to share a particularly pointed comment or article, and then feel as if we’ve done our part.
We can continue to preach to our choirs, engage in handwringing with those who already agree with us, and who already vote–or we can do the hard work of identifyingn on-voters, registering them, making sure
they have what they need, and getting them to the polls.
Here’s the bottom line: there is only one way to save this country from the accelerating damage to our institutions and national defense (not to mention the
raping and pillaging that the Trumpers aren’t even bothering to hide). Democrats, scientists, moderate Republicans and all sane Americans must do two things
simultaneously: we must delay and obstruct as many of their legislative assaults as humanly possible; and we must ensure that 2018 will be a wave election that will oust the Trump enablers from the House and Senate.
If we fail–if we give in to “outrage fatigue,” rely on the Democratic party or Common Cause or the ACLU to act on our behalf, or simply tell ourselves we’re “too busy” to find and equip that non-voter, we will wake
up in January 2019 to a country we don’t recognize..,and definitely won’t like.

There is no alternative’ to the truth

  • Category: Opinion
  • Published: Monday, 24 April 2017 17:19
  • Written by Sheila Kennedy

Fake news. “Alternative” facts. Welcome to the age of Trump.

There is no generally accepted definition of “fake news,” and no bright line separating it from the increasing proliferation of propaganda, but the essential characteristic is that it is not factual. (Fake news is not, as Trump asserts, any news that disparages him.)

Concern about fake news has risen, and Facebook and Google have recently announced steps to combat it. Journalist’s Resource (journalistsresource.org) has compiled the still-scanty academic research on the phenomenon.

While much has been written about fake news, scholars have published a limited amount of peer-reviewed research on the topic. Journalist’s Resource has compiled studies that examine fake news and the spread of misinformation more broadly to help journalists better understand the problem and its impacts.
Other resources that may be helpful are Poynter Institute’s tips on debunking fake news stories (www.poynter.org) and a well-circulated list of fake, unreliable and questionable news websites compiled by Melissa Zimdars, a communication professor at Merrimack College (http://bit.ly/2fyH6N8).

The First Draft Partner Network, a global collaboration of newsrooms, social media platforms and fact-checking organizations (firstdraftnews.com/partners- network/), was launched in September 2016 to battle fake news.
Starting in January 2017, Stony Brook University, home to the Center for News Literacy, offers a free online course in news literacy (www.centerfomewsliteracy. org). The research papers described at the link are worth reading; they confirm what most of us suspect - namely, that misinformation, propaganda and fake news have a pernicious effect. Especially when you consider that most of us engage in confirmation bias - looking for information that validates our preferred versions of reality - it can be difficult or impossible to disabuse people of “facts” they want to believe.
As I tell my students, if you truly believe that aliens landed at Roswell, I can find you several websites confirming that belief.

(Some even have pictures of the aliens’ bodies!)
As troubling as this aspect of our cur¬rent information environment is, what makes it far more troubling is the election of a President with a very tenuous connection to reality, and a staff willing to double down on his consistent lies and misstatements.

Never before, to my knowledge, have we had an administration for which facts are at best irrelevant and at worst enemies to be contradicted.

The latest evidence of this Administration’s allergy to facts was a surreal “press conference” on Jan. 21, in which White House press secretary Sean Spicer berated the media for reporting “falsehoods” about the size of the inauguration crowds. (Trump had asserted that it “looked like a million and a half people.”) The New York Times reported: “An expert hired by The Times found that Mr. Trump’s crowd on the National Mall was about a third of the size of Mr. Obama’s in 2009...” Speaking later on Saturday in the White House briefing room, Mr. Spicer amplified Mr. Trump’s false claims.
“This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration — period — both in person and around the globe,” he said.

There is no evidence to support this claim. Not only was Mr. Trump’s inauguration crowd far smaller than Mr. Obama’s in 2009, but he also drew fewer television viewers in the United States (30.6 million) than Mr. Obama did in 2009 (38 million) and Ronald Reagan did in 1981 (42 million), Nielsen reported.

For that matter, most estimates showed that the Women’s March the next day drew three times more people — about 500,000 — than Trump’s swearing-in ceremony, but the White House flat-out refused to accept those numbers.
Nor was Spicer the only Administration figure to make bizarre claims. On Sunday morning, Kellyanne Conway said the Trump team is offering “alternative facts” to media reports about President Trump’s inauguration. (This led to immense amusement on social media, with people posting things like: “I'm thin and rich” and “Best game the Green Bay Packers ever played ” #alternativefacts.)

In the wake of the election, many of us worried - and continue to worry - that our unstable new President would take America into a misconceived war. We didn’t realize that the first war he would declare would be a war on reality and those pesky and inconvenient facts.