Thursday, August 17, 2017

Summer runnin' down

Bannon’s remarkable interview: “[Ethno-nationalists] are a collection of clowns”

Steve Bannon, Unrepentant, The American Prospect
Robert Kuttner, 8-16-17
Trump’s embattled strategist phones me, unbidden, to opine on China, Korea, and his enemies in the administration.
     You might think from recent press accounts that Steve Bannon is on the ropes and therefore behaving prudently. In the aftermath of events in Charlottesville, he is widely blamed for his boss’s continuing indulgence of white supremacists….
     But Bannon was in high spirits when he phoned me Tuesday afternoon to discuss the politics of taking a harder line with China, and minced no words describing his efforts to neutralize his rivals at the Departments of Defense, State, and Treasury. “They’re wetting themselves,” he said, proceeding to detail how he would oust some of his opponents at State and Defense.
     Needless to say, I was a little stunned to get an email from Bannon’s assistant midday Tuesday, just as all hell was breaking loose once again about Charlottesville, saying that Bannon wished to meet with me. I’d just published a column on how China was profiting from the U.S.-North Korea nuclear brinkmanship, and it included some choice words about Bannon’s boss.
. . .
     Far from dressing me down for comparing Trump to Kim, he began, “It’s a great honor to finally track you down. I’ve followed your writing for years and I think you and I are in the same boat when it comes to China. You absolutely nailed it.”
     “We’re at economic war with China,” he added. “It’s in all their literature. They’re not shy about saying what they’re doing. One of us is going to be a hegemon in 25 or 30 years and it’s gonna be them if we go down this path. On Korea, they’re just tapping us along. It’s just a sideshow.”
. . .
     Contrary to Trump’s threat of fire and fury, Bannon said: “There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear threats], forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.” Bannon went on to describe his battle inside the administration to take a harder line on China trade, and not to fall into a trap of wishful thinking in which complaints against China’s trade practices now had to take a backseat to the hope that China, as honest broker, would help restrain Kim….
     Bannon’s plan of attack includes: a complaint under Section 301 of the 1974 Trade Act against Chinese coercion of technology transfers from American corporations doing business there, and follow-up complaints against steel and aluminum dumping.…
. . .
Why would Bannon alienate his "clowns"?
      “I’m changing out people at East Asian Defense; I’m getting hawks in. I’m getting Susan Thornton [acting head of East Asian and Pacific Affairs] out at State.”
     But can Bannon really win that fight internally?
     “That’s a fight I fight every day here,” he said….
     Bannon explained that his strategy is to battle the trade doves inside the administration while building an outside coalition of trade hawks that includes left as well as right. Hence the phone call to me.
     There are a couple of things that are startling about this premise. First, to the extent that most of the opponents of Bannon’s China trade strategy are other Trump administration officials, it’s not clear how reaching out to the left helps him. If anything, it gives his adversaries ammunition to characterize Bannon as unreliable or disloyal.
     More puzzling is the fact that Bannon would phone a writer and editor of a progressive publication (the cover lines on whose first two issues after Trump’s election were “Resisting Trump” and “Containing Trump”) and assume that a possible convergence of views on China trade might somehow paper over the political and moral chasm on white nationalism.
     The question of whether the phone call was on or off the record never came up. This is also puzzling, since Steve Bannon is not exactly Bambi when it comes to dealing with the press. He’s probably the most media-savvy person in America.
     I asked Bannon about the connection between his program of economic nationalism and the ugly white nationalism epitomized by the racist violence in Charlottesville and Trump’s reluctance to condemn it. Bannon, after all, was the architect of the strategy of using Breitbart to heat up white nationalism and then rely on the radical right as Trump’s base.
     He dismissed the far right as irrelevant and sidestepped his own role in cultivating it: “Ethno-nationalism—it's losers. It's a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more.”
     “These guys are a collection of clowns,” he added.
     From his lips to Trump’s ear.
     “The Democrats,” he said, “the longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.”
     I had never before spoken with Bannon. I came away from the conversation with a sense both of his savvy and his recklessness….

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Cal State Long Beach President: "Our grandfathers and grandmothers fought Nazis in order to preserve democracy."

Dear Beach Community,

The hate and violence on display over the past few days at the University of Virginia and in Charlottesville, Virginia remind us that racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, neo-Nazism, and intolerance for “differences” loom over our democracy. While every American has a constitutional right to demonstrate peacefully, even on the most odious of platforms, I write today to affirm our campus values.

We have zero tolerance for violence. Threatening others with weapons or fists negates one’s right of assembly. Driving a vehicle into a peaceful crowd is a form of domestic terrorism.

Our grandfathers and grandmothers fought Nazis in order to preserve democracy. Nazism targeted Jews, the Roma people, disabled individuals, homosexuals, and many others they considered inferior members of the human race. There is no place in the U.S. for Neo-Nazis, Identity Evropa, white supremacy or white nationalists.

Further, we have struggled for hundreds of years in our nation to guarantee full constitutional rights to Indigenous Nations, all people of color, women, people of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and ages, to name just a few. This struggle continues with daily reminders of our responsibilities to be vigilant, outspoken, and committed to the defense of liberty and justice for all.

As more groups gain full participation in our civic and economic systems, our nation becomes stronger. Our country is not a finite “pie” of opportunity. Rather it is the global beacon of ever expanding possibilities for people from all walks of life who work hard and honor the Constitution. Those who believe others’ success diminishes them are simply wrong.

At The Beach, all groups who obey our time, place and manner regulations can rent venues or march across our property. But no group is permitted to threaten the physical safety of anyone. Free speech is protected by more speech, not by violence. Campus leaders and our University Police Department stand ready to protect all members of our campus community.

We welcome vigorous debate. We value diversity. We will not, however, tolerate any insider or outsider who plans to do harm to people or property. Our job as Americans is to create a more perfect union during each generation. The founders, imperfect as some were in behavior and beliefs, gave each of us the challenge to continue this great experiment in democracy. At its core, democracy is built on protecting the rights of everyone. A majority can rule justly only when minorities are helped to flourish.

Let’s talk. Let’s listen. Let’s pledge our lives to liberty and justice for all.

Jane Close Conoley, Ph.D.


Friday, August 11, 2017

What Rebel Girl Did on her Summer Vacation

The peaks overlooking the Squaw Valley writers’ workshop. Pen on paper. Stephanie Taylor 

from the Sacramento Bee:

Over the decades, these writers have become a community at Squaw Valley

Special to The Bee
AUGUST 09, 2017 12:30 PM (to appear in the Sunday August 13 print edition)

There’s something infectious about 150 or so creative people, all chattering at once. This is a weeklong annual conference of writers, established and aspiring, who come from all over to this valley near the north shore of Lake Tahoe, some every summer, year after year. If ideas and genius are tangible molecules floating in the air, I can only hope they’ll land on me.

The operative word is “community,” chosen on purpose by the founders in 1969, when the novelists Oakley Hall and Blair Fuller gathered to build an institution that’s thrived ever since. Some of the writers have passed — sort of. I say “sort of” because their spirits linger. Some are declining gently into old age. Their children carry on, and their children’s children. It’s an honor to be here, to be included in what has evolved as a family.

It’s also difficult not to be intimidated by those who have been here before, studying and discussing the craft of poetry, fiction, nonfiction and screenwriting: Peter Matthiessen, Richard Ford, Michael Chabon, Robert Hass and Anne Rice, to name a few. In 1985, Amy Tan arrived with stories that became “The Joy Luck Club.” This year, Janet Fitch’s novel “Paint It Black” is her second movie. Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird” is every writer’s classic.

Everyone says the realities of writing are the same for all, a maddening struggle that requires thick skin, resilience, endurance, persistence and multitudes of revisions. It only starts as a solitary undertaking. Once a manuscript is ready and is accepted by an agent and then an editor, a team effort begins, one that can take years and is not enhanced by impatience.

In 2013, I came as a student in nonfiction, based on my essays for The Bee. Every morning, the same 12 students met with a different writing professional to present constructive and respectful criticism on two manuscripts that we each had read the night before. It was an intense, exhausting experience. In the afternoons and evenings, everyone met for panels, discussions and readings. As a guest for the past three years, I’m more relaxed and just as grateful for the enlightenment.

Dinner is served on a patio dwarfed by granite mountains still sporting patches of snow. Setting sun illuminates the tops of mountains and then disappears. A place of inclusion, it’s a chance to talk with diverse writers from all over, from ethnicity to career to ambition and inspiration. Night brings music or readings by the multitalented participants.

California writers carry stories. Alex Espinoza is one such writer, as well as a professor and director of the writing program at Cal State L.A. Alex grew up in a neighborhood that offered little opportunity to a kid with three strikes: nonwhite, gay, with a disability that kept him from sports. He pursued what was left — an education.

Alex says that this conference, with its West Coast mentality, embraces differences. He arrived at Squaw as a student in 2002, as he recalls, a little skeptical at first, and found a sincere interest in what he was writing. He says good writing happens everywhere, “writing about places no one else is looking at.” Squaw nurtures an “understanding that writing takes failure, to find the right path.”

This is the last night, a party at a private residence. Lisa Alvarez, who co-directs the fiction program, sits at the feet of a very old woman, Oakley Hall’s widow, Barbara Edinger Hall. Alvarez looks up with a love that is palpable. Love is what binds these people, love of the process and craft of writing, love of each other and relationships that have grown with each passing of 48 creative years.

Many Squaw Valley writers are also musicians. Pen on paper. Stephanie Taylor 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Larry Stevens years, 1982-1986, Part 3: the board really f*cked up, but faculty are no angels

Colonel Stevens
     IT'S 1985-86: Essentially, what happens at Coast happens again at Saddleback, too. Faculty hate the Chancellor, but trustees double down on their man, and so faculty target key trustees for recall. The recall fails, but the anti-establishmentarian momentum is enough to win key victories in the subsequent election. In each case, post election, new board majorities, favorable to the faculty union, emerge. According to conservatives, we’re seeing teachers’ unions “taking over the board of trustees.” According to progressives, knuckle-draggers are being removed from positions of authority, at colleges, where surely they do not belong.
     But it isn’t that simple.
     And do these unions really seek to “control” their boards, their districts? At Coast, lots of payback occurs when the New Majority arrives. Is that what happens at Saddleback, too?
     And what sorts of tactics are these teachers' unions willing to use to win?
     In the case of the Faculty Association at Saddleback, ruthless, win-at-any-price, realpolitik tactics are used—very much like the ones later used, in 1996, when homophobic fliers pander to local Repubs. In 1985, it appears that FA president Sharon MacMillan and her hubby, a local anti-tax, back-to-basics Republican, are behind the nasty tactics.
     And just how bad was Larry Stevens anyway? It’s clear that he should never have been hired, given his worrisome record at Tacoma Community College. That's f*ck-up #1. But he was smart and he was able to convince the board of his ideas, innovations, changes—including the bonehead move of scheduling more classes on Fridays. When the faculty balked, the board doubled down on backing Stevens. That's f*ck-up #2.
     Whatever might be said of Stevens' policies, the essence of the "Stevens problem," as many suggested, was his autocratic manner, which made it impossible for faculty to respect him. A wiser board would have seen that and corrected it; they would have cut their losses, for the district’s sake, and sent the Colonel packing.
     But no.
     The result? Three and a half years of discord, disunity, acrimony.
     Here are the gory details:

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Larry Stevens years, 1982-1986, Part 2: a hatchet man "heavy on the decisive action and light on the open, free exchange”

     Before we get back to a chronological presentation of news articles about the district from 1982 to 1986—i.e., the “Larry Stevens years”—I wanted to present a bit of history from immediately before that period, namely, Stevens' tenure as president of Tacoma Community College from 1975 to 1982.
     Luckily, I have found a website dedicated to the 50th Anniversary of Tacoma Community College in 2015, and it focuses on TCC history. Essentially, the site presents the contents of a book:

“The Open Door: a History of Tacoma Community College"—by Dale Coleman

     The entire book is reprinted on the website. It appears to be excellent....

Friday, August 4, 2017

The Larry Stevens years: 1982-1986, Part 1: looking for candidates with "good working relationships with instructors"

...being a set of newspaper clips chronicling the tenure of disastrously unpopular Saddleback Community College District chancellor Larry Stevens—ultimately taken out by the faculty union, via reconfiguration of the board of trustees....
     Much like the election of 1996.
     Was this a case of Good Guys vs. Bad Guys?
     Bad Guys vs. Bad Guys?
     Good Guys vs. Good Guys?
     "

Friday, July 28, 2017

The origins of our college district, Part 8c: twisty, unpredictable, curious and dubious, Part C [end]

     IN THIS POST: with the March 8, 1977, election, charter trustee Pat Backus, who supported the grumbling Tustinites, suffers a major upset; he's OUT and newbies Watts, McKnight, and Price are IN. What emerges is a "new board majority" of Brandt-Taylor-McKnight-Price, two of whom were backed by the faculty union, which seeks to be the sole legal rep of faculty on contract issues, which are going badly.
     Amazingly, this crew immediately REOPENS the supposedly settled subject of site selection for the district's second campus. Tustinites have a cow. The board minority seethes. WTFs all around.
     But the Irvine Co. won't sell the Jeffrey property unless it is first "condemned," thereby relieving the company (and the district) of a big tax payout. Does the new board majority have the five votes necessary for the condemnation move? Seemingly not. (Uh-oh.) 
     Meanwhile, trustee Greinke thinks Child Care Centers are immoral and, over in Irvine, lots of residents are pulling a NIMBY, college-wise, and some begin to suspect dastardly Irvine Co. "tricks." Former trustee Bartholomew weighs in on the crazy site selection issue, bellowing that he expects the district soon to rename itself the "Irvine Company Community College District."
     In May, the Irvine Co. decides to allow Saddleback to purchase the Jeffrey property without condemnation procedures, and so the sale goes forward, ending the matter once and for all. Upshot: the Board Majority has bulldozed the minority and Tustinites are now permanently pissed people. 
     With that, the negotiations logjam concerning the faculty contract is suddenly cleared and faculty get a nice raise and impressive benefits. Greinke calls the contract "excessive." The conservatives seethe.
     What does it all mean? —RB

Summer runnin' down