Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Blogger Candidate Forum: Why Not A Mayor?




Hello Everyone:

It is a lovely Wednesday afternoon and time for Blogger Candidate Forum.  News of the day: condolences to the Presidents George H. W. and George W. Bush; the entire Bush family on the passing of former-First Lady Barbara Bush.  Mrs. Bush was truly one of the great First Ladies of the 20th-century.  Mrs. Bush was more than FLOTUS and the mother of a president.  Her greatness came for her forthrightness and just being who she was.  There was never any of that blow dried artifice about her, so common with candidates and their spouses.  What you saw was what you got.  That what made her one of the great First Ladies.  Mrs. Bush believed that being FLOTUS was a great honor and anyone who did not want it had a problem.  She was a vigorous advocate for literacy, especially for children.  Whether you voted for both or either one of Presidents Bush, you had to respect "America's grandma."  Blogger and #BloggerCandidateForum sends their love and hopes for happier times to the Bush family.  Now on to today's subject.

Is it too early to start talking about the presidential elections?  No, not really.  The presidential primaries are two years away but potential candidates, on both sides of the aisle, are beginning to position themselves.  One interesting develop is the emergence of mayors as potential nomination candidates.  One potential, albeit long shot, candidate is Los Angeles Mayor Eric J. Garcetti.  Mayor Garcetti, a Democrat, traveled to Iowa this past weekend to introduce himself to the voters.  The Iowa visit is significant because this is the state that launched two other long shot candidates into the White House: Presidents Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama.  Although, Mayor Garcetti has said that he would finish his second term, he told Los Angeles Times reporter Mark Z, Barabak I'm listening this year, "promising a final decision in 2019,...(latimes.com; Apr. 15, 2018; date accessed Apr. 18, 2018).  Mayor Garcetti's visit begs the question can a mayor make the leap from City Hall to the White House?

Traditionally, a mayor with ambitions of higher office has taken the path from City Hall to the Statehouse, maybe Congress before making the jump to the Oval Office.  Only one person in the history of the American presidency has made the leap: Grover Cleveland was the mayor of Buffalo and the governor of New York for a brief time.  Calvin Coolidge briefly served as mayor of Northampton, Massachusetts.  The first mayor mayor to run for the presidential nomination was DeWitt Clinton in 1812.  He lost to incumbent James Maidson.  In 1972, the late New York City Mayor John Lindsay took a run at the primaries before dropping out.  In 2008, his fellow Mayor Rudy Giulani took a run at the Republican nomination before bowing out. (citylab.com; Feb. 18, 2018; date accessed Apr. 18, 2018).

It is a strange phenomenon.  The late great Speaker of the House of Representives Thomas Tip O'Neil once said all politics is local.  If this is true, you would think more mayors would toss their hats into the presidential ring, especially in Democratic-held cities, given that the party has a firm hold on urban voters (Ibid).  However, mayors tend to shy away from higher office (sites.bu.edu; date accessed Apr. 18, 2018).  Anthony Williams writes, "For all of the talk of 'city power' (amazon.com; date accessed Apr. 18, 2018) and 'new localism' (Ibid) among leading urbanist thinkers, the truth is this under representation hurts cities."

However,, electoral trends are shifting, paving a clearer path from City Hall to the White House, possibly for the first time in history.  Mr. Williams reports, "The political boundary between urban and suburban that has long divided the parties is falling away, creating more unified metro-area voter blocs.  Cities--which had so often been liabilities for mayors seeking higher offices--have become an attractive brand of smart, solution based, can-do governance that mayors can showcase in a campaign.  In short, the response to the anti-urban Trumpism is a "pro-metro mayor who energizes the suburban/urban--or metro--vote."  America is primed for a mayor to make the successful leap from City Hall to the White House.

If this is true, then what has prevented mayors from going for it?  The answer can be found in authors of the United States Constitution.  Thomas Jefferson despised cities.  The third president; co-author of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution said,

I view great cities as pestilential to the morals, the health of men and the liberties of man... (citymayors.com; Sept. 21, 2008; date accessed Apr. 8, 2018)

President Jefferson celebrated the gentleman farmer as the American ideal, writing,

The mobs of great cities add just so much to support of pure government as sores do to the strength of human body (latimes.com; Oct. 12, 2017; date accessed Apr. 18, 2018).

He and his contemporaries laid out the ideological lines that still delineate American lives and politics.  The Republican Party has become the anti-urban party, slashing funding for cities and supporting policies detrimental to urban dwellers such as immigration, gun control, and tax cuts.  By contrast, the Democratic Party are considered the champions of the poor. (Ibid)

Tony Favro writes, "Cities, in other words are central to the American worldview.  They are not mere geographic locations, but potent symbols of the division in American society and partisanship in American politics (citymayors.com; Sept. 21, 2008) "  Cities symbols a positive cultural, progressive, communal dynamic and a value system that frequently contrasts with deeply held values of individualism and civic virtue.

Although Americans respect urban mayors as managers, they do not necessarily see them as guardians of cherished values.

Thomas Jefferson would have been absolutely horrified by the Industrial Revolution and the rapid growth of cities in the 19th-century.  

Getting back to the original question of why no one has gone from City Hall to the White House.  Some mayors have been more plausible candidates than others.  Others, like President Calvin Cooldige, served as Vice President before occupying the Oval Office.  In 2008, former Mayor of Wasilia, Alaska Sarah Palin burst onto the national scene as Republican nominee Arizona Senator John McCain's running mate.  Former Mayor Guiliani sang her praises at the Republican National Convention, telling the crowd  that as mayor of a town of 7,000 people, she had executive experience to be Vice President of a country of 300 million (Ibid).  That got everyone excited until it painfully became clear that she had no real grasp of the issues facing the country.

Mayors  Eric Garcetti and New Orlean's Mitch Landrieu have been tipped as potential candidates for Democratic nomination.  In an interview on Wisconsin television , he optimistically stated, "that more than 250 years of unbroken mayoral futility are no deterrent (latimes.com; Oct. 12, 2017). During a visit a year ago June following his second inauguration, Mayor Garcetti said,

 I think all the rules are off,.... No African American could be president until one was.  No reality star could be president until one is. (Ibid)

Both statements are true.  Mark Z. Barabak makes this disclaimer: "While Garcetti is making the moves of a White House hopeful--chatting up Democratic donors and national political reporters; showing up at high-brow policy forums; visiting New Hampshire, the first primary state--he remains publicly coy about a run a run in 2020." (Ibid)

Mayor Garcetti could be a late entry into the 2018 California governor's contest.  One thing is certain, Mayor Garcetti does want to play an active role in the national political debate.

Mr. Barabak observes, "There is a case to be made that the job of big-city mayor, with its daily, hands-on demands, offers better training for the Whites than, say being one of 100 members of the U.S. Senate most notable these days for accomplishing close to nothing." (Ibid)

Unlike being a senator or representative who seem to be insulated from constituents, a mayor is immediately insinuated into the lives of his or her city's residents, dealing with everything from potholes to mass shootings, or natural disasters.  UC Merced's Jessica Trounstine told Mr. Barabak, A mayor has to be both an executive and a micromanager. (Ibid)

Another part of the problem is the stigma associated with big cities: Crime, corruption, permissiveness, and a sizable minority population that not everyone welcomes as a signifier of vibrancy and diversity.  This makes tough for a mayor to campaign in rural and suburban areas who avoid urban life for precisely those reasons.  Ms. Trounstine continues,

Our geographic divisions are overlaid with our political views--the red-versus-blue map thing--in a very clear way.

Another obstacle in the path from City Hall to the Statehouse, Congress, or the White House is starting with a relatively small core constituency and the need to make political alliances that may not work beyond city limits.

Daniel Hopkins of the University of Pennsylvania said,

In many cities you need strong union backing.  In many instances you need strong backing from the black community, or Latino, or immigrant communities,....Running that gantlet often leaves politicians perceived in certain ways that make it tough for them to appeal on a national stage. (Ibid)

Not that any of this would disqualify Mayor Eric Garcetti should he take the plunge.  If there was anything positive to say to say about Mr. Donald Trump's improbable and impossible election, it is never under estimate a long shot barrier breaking candidate wherever they come from.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Not Having A Good Moment

http://www.citylab.com; March 27, 2018


Hello Everyone:

It is a very lovely Tuesday afternoon.  The gusty winds have died down, leaving very clean air.  News of the day:  James Comey is not Mr. Donald Trump's homey; especially after a televised interviewed on Sunday evening with ABC's George Stefanopoulous.  Actually, he is still not anyone's homey.  The interview was in advance of the publication of the former FBI director's book Higher Loyalty, in which he chronicles his side the Clinton email investigation and his relationship with the current occupant of the Oval Office.  Mr. Comey lamely believed that re-opening the investigation into Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's email in late October 2016 would not affect the outcome of the election.  Uh, no.  He even went so far as to admit that he genuinely thought she would win.  Then he called the president "morally unfit" for office and suggested that impeachment would not be the way to go because it excused the American voter from holding the president accountable to the values of this country.  Well, Mr. Comey does have one thing in common with former President Barack Obama, a nativte about American democracy.  The book comes out today and Yours Truly is pretty sure that Mr. Trump's favorite e-commerce site (sarcasm alert) Amazon has copies on sale at a discount.  Finally, a very big congratulations to Pulitzer Prize winner Compton, California resident Kendrick Lamar for making history by being the first rapper to earn this high literary honor for his Grammy winning album DAMN. Also earning Pulitzer honors are the reporting teams from The New York Times and the New Yorker for their exposé of disgraced studio head Harvey Weinstein's decades of repulsive behavior.  Blogger and #BloggerCandidateForum salute you all and your stellar achievements.  That said, shall we move on?

Facebook is not having a good moment--and it is getting worse.  First it was the whole Cambridge Analytics debacle which resulted in the social media giant's founder Mark Zuckerberg's two-day testimony before congressional committees. Now, Tanvi Misra reports in her CityLab article, "Facebook Is Being Sued for Housing Discrimination, Too," that Cook County, Chicago is suing the company for violating a local fraud statute (cookcountystatesattorney.org; Mar. 26, 2018; date accessed Apr. 17, 2018).  This is one a handful of lawsuits facing the social media company following the data breach of 87 million of its users allegedly obtained (nytimes.com; Mar. 18, 2018; date accessed Apr. 17, 2018) by  the analytics firm working as consultants for then Republican candidate Trump.  There is more.  Facebook is being sued on a related matter: "the use of its large troves of private user data (Ibid; Mar. 19, 2018) for housing discrimination."

The lawsuit (nationalfairhousing.org; Mar. 27, 2018; date accessed Apr. 17, 2017) was filed by the National Fair Housing Alliance, arguing "that the company lets landlords and real estate brokers prevent certain protected classes from seeing advertisements of housing for sale or rent--violating the Fair Housing Act."

Lisa Rice, the president and CEO of the NFHA, told CityLab in a statement,

Amid growing public concern in the past weeks that Facebook has mishandled users' data, our investigation shows that Facebook also allows and even encourages it's paid advertisers to discriminate using its vast trove of personal data,...

Ms. Misra reports, "The plaintiff, which include three of NFHA's member organizations, cite the results of their Investingation into Facebook's ad platform in the complaint."  The members of fair housing non-profits in New York, Washington D.C., Miami, and San Antonio sent the social media company multiple listings from a fictional realty firm--"specifically seeking to make these ads invisible to users of certain genders, ages, family types, disability status, and national origins."

Fred Freiberg, the executive director of the New York-based Fair Housing Justice Center, said in a statement related by the NFHA,

Facebook's platform is the virtual equivalent of posting a for-rent sign that says No Families with Young Kids or No Women, but it does so in an insidious and stealth manner so that people have no clue they have been excluded on the basis of family status or sex...

Along with damages, the lawsuit asks the court to prevent Facebook from allowing users to continue postin listings in this manner, and "compel the company to vastly limit audience selection capabilities for its ads."

The non-profit news organization ProPublica outed these violations by publishing the conclusion of a similar investigation (propublica.org; Oct. 28, 2016; date accessed Apr. 18, 2018).  Ms.Misra writes, "At that time, Facebook vowed to do better (newsroom.fb.com; Feb. 8 2017; date accessed Apr. 18, 2018); it updated its ad policy, and vowed to police discriminatory ads better.  In 2017, ProPublica found that the promises hadn't made much of a difference (propublica.org; Nov. 21, 2017; date accessed Apr. 17, 2018): Advertisers could still exclude users,..., identified themselves as African American or Hispanic (assets.propublica.org; date accessed Apr. 17, 2018, or listed their interests as wheelchair ramps (Ibid) or Judaisim (Ibid).

Facebook responded to the allegations in a statement,

There is absolutely no place for discrimination on Facebook.  We believe this lawsuit is without merit, and we will defend ourselves vigorously.

The Fair Housing Act is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this year.  The landmark civil rights legislation was intended to "undo decades of state-sponsored (theatlantic.com; June 2014; date accessed Apr. 17, 2018 segregation (citylab.com; Sept. 2, 2015; date accessed Apr. 17, 2018).  However, the main component of the law--"the Affimatively Futhering Fair Housing rule--" has still not been implemented (citylab.com; Jan. 4 2018; date accessed Apr. 17, 2018).  In the meantime, housing discrimination persists like a stain upon the land.  A recent investigation (revealnews.org; Feb. 15, 2018; date accessed Apr. 17, 2018) by the Center for Investigation Reveal project determined "that people of color were still much more likely to be denied home loans than their white counterparts."  The difference between now and pre-Fair Housing Act is that discriminatory practices are more deceptive (citylab.com; June 11, 2013; date accessed Apr. 17, 2018) or, in Facebook's case, completely under the radar.

Lisa Rice told CityLab,

It is already a challenge for women, families with children, people with disabilities and other underserved groups to find housing.  Facebook's platform that excludes these consumers from ever seeing certain ads to rent or buy housing must be changed immediately.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Fix Those Broken Windows

http://www.citylab.com; March 22, 2018


Hello Everyone:

Welcome to a sunny, cool, and breezy week on the Blog.  We have news. First, there was the joint United States, France, and United Kingdom missle strikes on Syrian targets this past Friday.  The strikes targeted air and military bases used by forces loyal to President Bashr al-Assad to conduct lethal gas attacks on his population.  The strikes did their job--sort of--enough for Mr. Donald Trump to tweet Mission Accomplished.  Well, no.  Mr. al-Assad is still in power and free to conduct heinous attacks on his own people.  Second, food and beverage retail giant Starbucks is in major damage control mode following an incident that took place in one of their Philadelphia stores.  Two African American gentlemen entered the store on Thursday, to meet a business colleague.  One of the gentlemen asked to use the toilet, without ordering anything.  The men were waiting for their colleague before placing their order.  The (now former) employee got anxious about the presence of two African American men and phoned the police, who arrested the men for trespassing.  The whole incident was recorded by another patron and went viral.  Blogger is having trouble formulating the right words because it is personal. Needless to say, Blogger's non-Starbucks app on her phone will be getting a good work out.  On to today's subject.

Broken Windows is a very popular approach to safer neighborhoods.  The theory, originally put forth by James Q. Wilson in 1982 and gained a lot of traction in nineties and early 2000s; as well as a lot of infamy for its uneven application, often directed at African American and Latino men.  However, Marc A. Zimmerman writes about a different approach to safer neighborhoods in his CityLab article, "Forget Broken Windows: Think 'Busy Streets.'"

The concept is actually simple, "Neighborhoods struggling with physical decline and high crime often become safer simply when local resident work together to fix up their neighborhood."

Mr. Zimmerman and his colleagues at the University of Michigan of Public Health Youth Violence Prevention Center (yvpc.sph.umich.edu; date accessed Apr. 16, 2018) spent nearly a decade studying the reasons why (scholar.google.com; date accessed Apr. 16, 2018).  The team conducted research on cities across the U.S. demonstrating "how small changes to urban environments--like planting flowers or adding benches--reduce violence."

The result is a nascent crime prevention theory the Zimmerman Team call "busy streets."  This is how it works.

""From broken windows to busy streets"

Busy streets upends the rationale of broken windows (npr.org; Nov. 1, 2016 date accessed Apr. 16, 2018)--"a controversial criminological approach to public safety (theatlantic.com; Mar. 1982; date accessed Apr. 16, 2018)--on its head."  Supporters of broken windows "see urban disorder in U.S. cities--graffiti, litter, actual broken windows, and the like--as a catalyst of antisocial behavior."  They direct police to crack down on quality of life offenses (pbs.org; June 28, 2016; date accessed Apr. 16, 2018) such as: vandalism, turnstile jumping, and public intoxication.

In contrast, supporters of busy streets, believes it is more advantageous for neighborhoods to clean up and keep their city streets clean.

The Zimmerman Team conducted research in Flint, Michigan--a onetime prosporous manufacturing center near Detroit that has become synonymous with industrial decline, unemployment, and crime (news.vice.com; Jan. 26, 2016; date Apr. 16, 2018)--tracks this process in action.

The current median income for Flint "is less than $26,000, and more than half of families, with children live in poverty.  It lost 27 percent of its residents since 1990, U.S. census data shows (census.gov; date accessed Apr. 16, 2018)." Right now, almost 1 out of 5 homes stand vacant.  Crime follows on the heels of abandonment and decay, in a similar manner it does in postindustrial cities througout the Rust Belt (huduser.gov; Apr. 16, 2018).  Flint currently has the second highest homicide rate in American cities with populations under 100,000 (ucr.fbi.gov; date accessed Apr. 16, 2018) right behind Gary, Indiana.

In 2012, a group of residents, businesses, and two local colleges came together to form the University Avenue Corridor Coalition (facebook.com/theuniversityavenuecorridor; date accessed Apr. 16, 2018) in an effort to prevent crime by fixing up a 3-mile portion of University Avenue through the Carriagetown neighborhood of central Flint (tigerprints.clemson.edu; May 2016; date accessed Apr. 16, 2018).  Marc Zimmerman and his team began measuring the results in 2014."

The Coaltion started holding frequent neighborhood clean days to repair vacant lots and abandoned structures (flintside.com; Mar. 13, 2017; date accessed Apr. 16, 2018), "symbolically 'owning' them by adding lighting, sidewalk repair, benches, and plantings."  The owners were usually amendable to their neighbors to repair their property for free and even helped out.

Marc Zimmerman writes, "Those changes, we observed, inspired other homeowners and business on this flat, three-lane road to spruce up their properties (sciencedirect.com; Apr. 2015;  date accessed Apr. 16, 2018)--what one local resident called the 'spreading effect of pride."  One Coaltion member said,

I think that people really just needed to see that, hey, somebody does care about this other than just,....

The Coaltion was also successfully in getting the local liquor store ignominiously dubbed the Stab 'n'Grab because of the frequency of fights, transforming it into Jimmy John's sandwich shop.  This may sound like another chain restaurant setting up shop in a neighborhood in need of business revenue and a place to eat.  The new sandwich shop was a major development.

The vacant across the street from Jimmy John's, a favorite drinking spot, has become into a park named University Square.  It has become an event space complete with food trucks and lawn games.

Marc Zimmerman reports, "When people drive by this once derelict intersection and see a block party underway, a community organizer told me, their jaws drop."

"Busy streets have less crime"

The street-level envirnomental changes (cpted.net; date accessed Apr. 16, 2018) have yielded "profound economic and societal effects on this part of central Flint."

The Zimmerman Team surveyed the residents in 2014--prior to intervention--returning in 2016 and 2017.  They are currently preparing updates on the Flint study for publication in an academic journal, but offer a preview of their conclusions.

He writes, "Over time, community members reports fewer mental health problems, said they'd been victims of crime less of often, and felt less afraid."  This due to the fact that crime did go down along the University Avenue Corridor: "According to the coalition's lates report (drive.google.com; date accessed Apr. 16, 2018), assaults decreased 54 percent, robberies 83 percent and burglaries 76 percent between 2013 and 2018."

To test the link between The Coalition's initiatives, the Zimmerman Team compared this area to a control group of Flint neighborhoods that incurred similar levels of disinvestment and urban decay.  They learned that "places where empty lots were being maintained by the community had nearly 40 percent fewer assaults and violent crimes than untouched vacant lots."

This result is similar to information from other cities.  "From 1999 to 2008, for example, the city of Philadelphia cleaned up 4,436 vacant lots  signaling 'ownership' (academic.oup.com; Nov. 11, 2011; date accessed Apr. 16, 2018) with fencing, benches, plantings, and the like."  Gun assaults in communities where interventions occurred fell by 29 percent over three years (pnas.org; Jan. 26, 2018; date accessed Apr. 16, 2018).  Quality of life crimes like loitering and public intoxication decline by 30 percent.

Philadelphia also experienced economic gains from maintaining vacant land and repairing abandoned properties.  "According to an economic analysis published in the American Journal of Public Health (ajph.aphapublications.org; date accessed Apr. 16, 2018) in 2016, for every dollar spent reoccupying an abandoned building, taxpayers saved $5 in potential criminal justice costs.  Cleaned-up vacant lots saved the city even more: $26 per dollar spent.

There is even a health and well-being benefit to cleaning up and maintaining neighborhoods.  Philadelphians with newly greened lots exercised more and experienced less stress, possibly from feeling more comfortable being outside.

"Resilient cities"

One possibly reason that crime declines following joint neighborhood interventions is community engagement.  "Residents in the University Corridor intervention area (umich.maps.arcgis.com; date accessed Apr. 16, 2018) reported participating more in neighborhood watches, block associations an community events than in the area where residents didn't undertake improvement projects."

In short, when neighbors work together to clean up their communities, they not only eliminate the dark empathy places that create havens for criminal activities (nytimes.com; Oct. 27, 2011;date accessed Apr. 16, 2018) but also create collateral effects.

Obviously, nicer public spaces encourage people to spend time there, where helps everyone get to know members of their communities.  When people know each other, they look out for each other, and monitor activity in their neighborhood more closely.  In essence "Streets get busy."

The Zimmerman team also found that public space improvement projects along University Corridor generated a modest economic recovery.

Prior to the 2013 intervention, few businesses were open in the area. Between 2015 and 2017, seven new enterprises opened.  The greater the commerce, the busier the streets.

"Role of the police"

Marc Zimmerman reports, "Based on our survey, University Corridor residents were also more willing to report crimes to the police after the 2013 intervention began."

This was particularly critical in the predominantly African American community, where many residents expressed mistrust in local law enforcement.  They told the Zimmerman Team that officers were never around when you need them.

This is a true statement because the Flint Police Department is overworked and underfunded--declared broken in a February 25, 2018 article in the New Yorker (newyorker.com; Feb. 25, 2018;date accessed Apr. 16, 2018).

Therefore, when Kettering University, one of the partner colleges in the University Corridor Coaltion, received a grant that paid for more police presence in the community (mlive.com; Jan. 22, 2018; date accessed Apr. 16, 2018),many of the community members were grateful.

Police can build the foundation for community revitalization to succeed.  The goal is not to inundate high crime areas with law enforcement--as New York Cit (nytimes.com; Jan. 13, 2004; date accessed Apr. 18, 2018) and Newark (pbs.org; June 28, 2016; date accessed Apr. 16, 2018) did during the heyday of broken windows--rather increase foot patrols.

However, law enforcement is not the sole reason why "busy streets" works to prevent crime.  Marc Zimmerman concludes that "Rather, after years of studying community resilience, I believe that locally driven revitalization projects make troubled neighborhoods safer because they recognized residents not as victims but as agents of change."

On the surface of things, it almost sounds like Marc Zimmerman is making a case for gentrification.  Indeed, safer neighborhoods do attract more affluent people, seeking less expensive places to live.  However, that does not always have to be the case.  The University Corridor Coaltion proves that you do not need galleries, artisanal food establishments, and yoga studios--the hallmarks of gentrification--to thrive.  Simple things like neighbors getting together and cleaning up a vacant lot or fixing up decaying property can do more good than converting an old building into high end lofts. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Blogger Candidate Forum: This Is Yuge



Hello Everyone:

It is a sunny Wednesday which means that it is time for Blogger Candidate Forum.  First, news of the day: Day two of Mr. Zuckerberg goes to Washington.  If the Mark Zuckerberg's testimony before a senate committee revealed anything, it is we have 20th-century politicians who cannot keep up in a 21st-century world.  The mostly elderly men on House Energy and Commerce Committee laid bare the fact that they have no clue about the social media and how it works.  In all fairness, neither do an overwhelming majority of people around the globe.  Be that as it may, the obviously coached Mr. Zuckerberg did his best to answer the members sometimes ridiculous questions.  He seemed to favor some oversight on the social media but bristled at regulation.  He did reveal that his Facebook profile was compromised by Cambridge Analytics.  What happens next is anyone's guess.  One thing is for sure, lawmakers need to do a lot more hands-on social media homework.  Blogger suggests that the senators sit down with their social media director and have him or her give them a tutorial on how it works.  Perhaps the senators should also follow Senator Kamala Harris' (D-CA) example and read the privacy agreement before going forward.  At the very least, they should ask their grandchildren about the social media.  Alright, onto the big news of the day.

The big news of the day is the announcement that Speaker of the House of Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will not seek re-election at the end of his current term.  This is not just big news, it is very big news because it further imperils the Republican majority in the house and increases the likelihood of impeachment.  

Speaker Ryan cited a desire to spend more time with his family and satisfication with the job he did as speaker.  Of course the Internet was lightening quick to excoriate Speaker Ryan with comments like, Paul take the money and run Ryan and Paul Runnin.  Other comments made note of the fact that Mr. Ryan gets to keep his healthcare for life after trying to take it away from millions of Americans.  In 2012, then-Representative Ryan was tapped to be Republican nominee Governor Mitt Romney's (R-MA) running mate. In 2015, Rep Ryan grudgingly accepted the position of Speaker of the House after former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) stepped down.  In 2016, he did not readily embrace then-candidate Donald Trump; calling his comments on Mexicans and Muslims textbook racism--eventually he supported Mr. Trump and was heavily criticized as an enabling or normalizing Mr. Trump.  Many hoped that he would grown a spine and stand up to a president who prefers to do whatever he wants but that never happened.  Praise for Paul Ryan's legacy of tax cuts and increased military spending stands in stark contrast to the string of policy failures.  What does that mean for the midterm elections only seven months away?

In terms of the House Republicans, the competition for Speaker Ryan's job as leader of the party heats up.  Reps. Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca) and Steve Scalise (R-La) have emerged as the top two contenders for Speaker of the House, should the Republican retain the majority.  The operative word being should.  Speaker Ryan's retirement, along with 39 other House Republicans, means that House Democrats now need to win 23 seats to flip the House and return House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca) to the Speaker's podium.  Further, Speaker Ryan was facing an unusually strong challenge from Democrat Randy Bryce.  

Mr. Bryce is an iron worker and union organizer nicknamed "IronStache" who now has a clearer path to winning Wisconsin's first district.  Mr. Bryce was recently added to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee "red to blue" list of candidates likely to flip Republican districts (vox.com; Apr. 11, 2018). The Bryce campaign has already raised close to $5 million, with 75 percent of the donations in Clements of $200 or less (Ibid).  Bryce campaign communication director Lauren HItt said in a statement,

Paul Ryan decided to quit today rather than face Randy Bryce and the voters,.... With nearly $5 million raided to date, a strong field program aided by organized labor, a broad coalition of support locally and nationally, Randy Bryce is incredibly well positioned to be the next Representative for the First Districts. Electorates far more conservative than Wisconsin's First have already elected Democrats in special elections in Wisconsin and across the country.  (Ibid)

Cook Political Report rated the district R+5, and Democrats are averaging an 8-point advantage in generic ballots. (Ibid).  In other words, this is a toss-up district but Paul Ryan's retirement announcement gives the edge to Mr. Bryce.  This race should be a wild one.  Now it is time to address the impeachment elephant in the room.

If you have been following the news over the last few days, you have seen the stories of Mr. Donald Trump threatening to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in order to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller.  Allow Blogger to quickly recap things, Attorney General (for now) Jeff Sessions was forced to recuse himself from the Russia investigation when his name surfaced as someone who might have been involved with possible collusion.  In his stead, Deputy AG Rosenstein took over the investigation and appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as Special Counsel.  Contrary to what the president may think, he does not have the power to directly fire Mr. Mueller.  Instead, he would have to dismiss Deputy AG Rosenstein in order to fire Mr. Mueller.  However, that would not end the investigation.  Mr. Mueller would still have to submit a final report to the House of Representatives who could still decide whether or not to proceed with impeachment.  Where does Speaker Ryan's announcement fit into the scheme of things?

Right now, 9 in 10 Democrats disapprove of the president's performance as the special counsel's investigation closes in on the White House (cnbc.com; Apr. 11, 2018).  The FBI search of Mr. Trump's personal attorney Michael D. Cohen's office and hotel room on Monday further tightened the vice around the president.  Whether or not that search yields anything related to Russian interference in the 2016 election remains to be seem. What is known is that House Democratic leader could not prevent an impeachment drive next year even if they considered it counterproductive (Ibid).

Speaker Paul Ryan was tasked with the unbearable job of lead apologist for the president.  That meant ignoring his tantrums and ever changing policy positions.  If the Repbulicans did retain some measure of control in the House and Speaker Ryan remained on the job, he would be saddled with the burden of defended the president from possible impeachment (chicagotribune.com; Apr. 11, 2018).  Now that the president instituted trade tariffs on Chinese made goods, something the Speaker deeply opposes, his retirement is an admission that he has had enough.  Just think how much more stressful it will be if and when the special counsel delivers a report that makes the case for impeachment (Ibid).

Interestingly, Republican candidates have seized on impeachment as campaign issue.  This strategy is being used to energize conservatives and drive a wedge between moderate and liberal Democrats: "warning that Democrats will try to mpeachthe president if they win back the House (politico.com; Apr. 9, 2018; date accessed Apr. 11, 2018).  What began as conservative political hyperbole--bold type fund raising pitches screaming about a looming 'American' coup-- has now made its way into the main stream (Ibid).  This is a really bad idea.  The midterms are typically a referendum on the party in power. The American voters already have a dim view of Congress.  A smart candidate, from either party, would focus on local issues, not on national issues.  Telling your constituents that you would vote for impeachment or Department of Justice and the Democratic National Committee are planning to over throw a duly elected president is not going to work.

Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan's announcement of his plans to retire at the end of his term has further dispirited an already gloomy Republican Party and further increased the likelihood that impeachment will be on the 2019 Congressional agenda.  The next several months should be a wild ride so hang on to your hats and other apparel.  

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Can Climate Change Lead To Urban Disorder?

http://www.citylab.com: March 21, 2018


Hello Everyone:

Well now, the news just keeps getting more interesting by the day.  Facebook founder and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg is answering questions about how his company allowed Cambridge Analytics to co-opt personal information of about 87 million users.  Mr. Zuckerberg is showing proper contrition but will that lead to meaningful changes in the social media giant's privacy policy?  In the meantime, Mr. Donald Trump reacted to the search of his personal attorney, Michael D. Cohen's office, with an epic melt down.  Mr. Cohen is the subject of an investigation for fraud and campaign finance violations.  FBI agents seized files, computers, and telephones related to their investigation.  What this will yield and whether any of it is related to the Special Consul's investigation is anyone's guess.  What is known is that the president ranted and raved for quite some time, in front of note-taking reporters.  Check out The Washington Post' annotated version (washingtonpost.com).  It was seriously epic; apparently enough to cause his lawyers to metaphorically (if not literally) bang their heads on their desks. Okay, enough news of the day, on to the business at hand--climate change.

Whether you believe that climate change is real or not, you cannot help but notice that weather events, like hurricanes, have gotten more intense.  The coastal communities are accutely affected by it; food and water sources are threatened; political and religious zealots are sowing the seeds of their extremist views from the instability, resulting in bloodshed.

Thor Benson reports in his recent CityLab article, "The Cities at Risk of Climate-Driven Conflict," that a 2013 University of California study (emiguel.econ.berkeley.edu; 2013; date accessed Apr. 10, 2013), Quantifying the Influence of Climate on Human Conflict, looked at 60 previous studies and "concluded that the connection between climate and human conflict is strong."  Natural phenomena such as: droughts and famines, floods, wildfires, and so on are partly caused by climate change results in instability that allow extremist groups to stir the metaphoric pot and create conflict.


A 2015 study by the research non-profit firm with national security expertise CNA (online library.wiley.com; 2015; date accessed Apr. 10, 2018), centered on the link between water stress and conflict.  The authors write,

Water stress can empower violent extremist organizations and place stable governments at risk

Mr. Benson adds, "Some experts believe we are heading towards a point where water will be more difficult to come by and brutal wars will be fought (nationalinterest.org; Sept. 15, 2015; date accessed Apr. 10, 2018) over control of fresh-water resources."

Sherri Goodman, a senior fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center and the former deputy undersecretary of defense for environmental security, uses the phrase "threat multipliers" (atlanticcouncil.org; date access Apr. 10, 2018) to describe how climate change fuels security risks. Ms. Goodman said, "water stress is a source of instability around the globe."  Specifically,

When there is a shortage or scarcity of water, it can be used to make people vulnerable and can be used by combatants, terrorists, other to put innocents in precarious positions for exploitation, to force migration, and to target vulnerable populations,....You can see that's happening now in Yemen.  You can see the patterns of prolonged drought in Syria, which forced migration.

Mr. Benson asks, "Where else could climate change prove especially destabilizing?"  Experts in the field of environmental security point to Cape Town, South Africa; Karachi, Pakistan; Dhaka, Bangladesh; and Manila, the Philippines as cities with the highest risk of climate-related conflict.  However, there is a silver lining: Two of these cities are taking steps to prevent it.

Cape Town, South Africa: if you have been following world news, you are aware that the taps in may be totally turned off (citylab.com; Feb. 1, 2018; date accessed Apr. 10, 2018) in the coming months because of dwindling water supplies.  Mr. Benson writes in an aside, "...officials recently announced that 'Day Zero' may be averted (Ibid; Mar. 7, 2018) thanks to conservation measure in place now."  If the taps are completely turned off, residents will have to travel to collection points (enca.com; Jan. 31, 2018 date accessed Apr. 10, 2018) to receive their allotment of water, and the military and police would be deployed to maintain order.  Cape Town residents are preparing for chaos (cbsnews.com; Jan. 19, 2018; date accessed Apr. 10, 2018).  Sherri Goodman said, "Violence could flare."

Resource mismanagement and unsustainable development have been cited as the cause for the water shortage (theatlantic.com; Feb. 15, 2018 date accessed Apr. 10, 2018).  This is despite the fact that climate experts have been literally forecasting a shortage for decades (iol.co.za; Feb. 1, 2018; date accessed Apr. 10, 2018), civic officials continued to approve developments that drained away resources and permitted more affluent residents to consume more than their fair share of water (voanews. Feb. 3, 2018; com; date accessed Apr. 10 2018).

Unsustainable development and mismanagement combined with Cape Town's worst drought in over a century created the circumstances that led to the unavoidable diminishing water supply.  Thor Benson reports, "But it's clear that is disaster could have, at minimum, been delayed with better resource management."

Karachi, Pakistan: In parts of Pakistan's largest city, the taps have run dry for prolonged periods of time (interactive.aljazeera.com; date accessed Apr. 10, 2018), and the well water is too salty to drink.  Mr. Benson reports, "According to Karachi's water utility, a full 42 percent of the municipal water supply is either lost to leakage or stolen.  Water thieves siphon it off to sell to thirsty residents."

Neil Bhatiya, a research associate at the think tank Center for a New American Security (cnas.org; date access Apr. 10, 2018), cites Karachi as "an example of the nexus between climate change and conflict."  India and Pakistan share water resources (cnn.com; Apr. 3, 2017 date accessed Apr. 10, 2018) and historically have had a very contentious relationship on a variety of issues, including water management.

Mr. Bhatiya told CityLab,

Pakistan has a pretty well documented link between rhetoric around resource scarcity--in particular, water--and a lot of the anti-Indian terrorists that operate out of either Kashmir or Pakistan itself,.... It's something extremist groups have used as a recruiting tool.

Protests, often violent, are a common occurrence on the streets of Karachi.  With a fast growing population, the demand for water--and for water-intensive food--will grow.  In the meantime, the Indus River, a primary source for Pakistan's water is providing less than it did 50 years ago (nature.com; June 29, 2016 date accessed Apr. 10, 2018).  Some of the newcomers growing Karachi's population of 15 million are climate migrants, "who have left rural areas due to extreme heat,drought, or flooding."  If their numbers continue to grow, the competition for resource will increase.

Compounding this situation, Karachi, which is located on the Arabian Sea, is at a high risk from rising sea levels (foreignpolicy.com; Mar. 4, 2016date accessed Apr. 10, 2018) which could displace residents for years to come.

Dhaka, Bangladesh: Bangladesh's biggest city is faces multiple threats, rising sea levels, water and food shortages, overpopulation, and other challenges.  In the face of all these threats, the nation has become a renewable energy model.  Thanks to the national-government-sponsored company Idcol millions of homes, across the country, have small solar panels and a solar plant supplies electricity to the national grid (nytimes.com; Oct. 4, 2016; date accessed Apr. 10, 2018).  Other climate resilience intiatives include improved rubbish collection to keep the drains clear, green roofs to offset the urban heat-island effect and absorb storm water.  

Laurie Goering authored the Thomson Reuters Foundation report, "Rising tide of climate migrants Spurs Dhaka to seek solutions," (reuters.com; Apr. 26, 2016; date accessed Apr. 10, 2018), which she states,

In [Dhaka's] poor neighborhoods, communities are training emergency response volunteers, installing solar panels, starting community savings schemes and providing job training,.... 

Neil Bhatyia adds, 

Of all of the governments of the developing world, I think Bangladesh is the one that has been fairly good about articulating the nature of the crisis and placing it within a larger political and diplomatic context,...

Political instability is a looming threat to Bangladesh's ability to responds to disasters (irinnews.com; Apr. 22, 2013; date accessed Apr. 10, 2018). However, Ms. Goodman said "many national officials see the connections between climate issues and conflict and want to make sure citizens aren't taken advantage of by extremist groups.  Specifically,

Extremists thrive on conditions of vulnerability, where people can't provide for themselves and their families.

Manila, The Philippines: In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan tragically demonstrated that the archipelago is among the countries most vulnerable to natural hazards.  The Philippines are also at his risk from climate change--for a map of a break down by region, go to washingtonpost.com; Nov. 12, 2013.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated that Manila, other tropical and sub-tropical coastal cities are at risk from,

Heat stress, extreme precipitation, inland and coastal flooding, as well as drought and water scarcity pose risks... (theguardian.com; Mar. 31, 2014; date accessed Apr. 10, 2018)

The coastal regions of the Philippine capital (global nation.inquirer.net; Jan. 11, 2017; date accessed Apr. 10, 2018) are faced with the possibility of having...huge portions of their communities are submerged.

Compounding the misery, this past September, torrential rains caused a landslide (alijazeera.com; Sept. 12, 2017; date accessed Apr. 10, 2018), killing two people outside the city.

As a signatory of the Paris Agreement, the Philippines promised "a 70 percent reduction of climate emissions by 2030 (climateactiontracker.org; Nov. 6, 2017; date accessed Apr. 10, 2018). In 2009, the nation created a national climate change commission, which administers adaptation and mitigation intiatives.  President Rodrigo Duterte's position on climate change has shifted (climatechangenews.com; July 18, 2016; date accessed Apr. 10, 2018), however a $500 million flood-control system for Manila is part of the president's "golden age of infrastructure" is due to begin construction soon.

Complicating matters are terrorist groups including Abu Sayyag and IS are active in the Philippines (cnn.com; May 29, 2017; date accessed Apr. 10, 2018) and "radicalization could thrive in the uncertainty and hardship following a major disaster.  Sherri Goodman said, "arguably, the country's proactive measures on climate change could help it avoid a major increase in conflict."

As we have seen from these examples, climate change and conflict are enmeshed but effort to create more sustainable cities in developing nations lead to more stability and security.  Preparation can create the conditions that avoid a breakdown of civic order.  Failure to act can lead to chaos. 

Monday, April 9, 2018

When Is It Cultural Appropriation?

http://www.latimes.com; April 7, 2018


Hello Everyone:

Welcome to a fresh week on the blog.  It is a hot spring day in sunny Los Angeles and Blogger is feeling energetic.  

Did you hear the news?  The Federal Bureau of Investigation raided the office of Mr. Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen.  The agents seized a number of documents including those related to the ongoing soap opera of "The Porn Star and the President."  Get your popcorn, this is getting good. Juicy news item aside, on to cultural appropriation.

Cultural appropriation is a very thorny issue.  What does cultural appropriation mean?  Yours Truly thinks it might be helpful to pin down a definition before applying it to the newly renovated Yamashiro Restaurant in Hollywood, California.

The venerable Oxford Dictionary defines cultural appropriation as, "the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another" (en.oxforddictionaries.com; date accessed Apr. 9, 2018).  This differs from cultural appreciation, defined as "taking the time out to learn about different cultures and their traditions (theodysseyonline.com; Mar. 2, 2016, date accessed Apr. 9, 2018)."  The difference between the two is a very fine line.  In other words, wearing a Native American headdress, for the sake of fashion, at a festival, can be considered cultural appropriation.  However, taking the time to learn about Native American culture and the importance of that headdress can be considered cultural appreciation.  That said, Frank Shyong of the Los Angeles Times shared a recent experience in his article "Yamashiro, a century-old Japanese-style castle in Hollywood, tests limits of cultural appropriation debate,"

The Reclining Buddha Roll arrived on a spare white plate, a chilled log of rice and shrimp sliced and stacked to approximate the lumpy outline of a Buddha on his back, each piece dotted with what appeared to be Sriracha sauce.

I looked at the waiter, feeling as though there were some joke I didn't understand.  Was this sushi? Was I in a Japanese restaurant, as I had assumed when I booked a reservation here for my girlfriend's birthday?  Should I apologize to my girlfriend?"

First, a little history about the hodgepodge of cultural references that make up Yamashiro. The name Yamashiro comes from the Japanese words for "Mountain Palace."  In 1911, the Bernheimer Brothers (articles.latimes.com; Oct. 22, 2000; date accessed Apr. 9, 2018) began construction on a hilltop mansion, designed by an American architect, to house their collection of Asian artifacts.  Hundreds of Chinese laborers and imported Japanese materials were used to replicate the palace in the "Yamashiro" province near Kyoto, Japan.  The restaurant and bar, completed in 1914, sits 250 feet above Hollywood Boulevard, very close to the Hollywood and Highland complex (yamashirohollywood.com; date accessed Apr. 9, 2018).

The Bernheimer home later became the site of the 400 Club, an exclusive early social club for the film industry in Hollywood, that historians say helped raise the profile of the new industry.

The building was so closely identified with real Japanese culture that it was vandalized during World  War II, in a fit of anti-Japanese sentiment.  In response, the owner painted it black and converted it to student housing, until it changed owners.  The new owner, Thomas O. Glover, restored the original Asian architecture in 1948 and successfully marketed it as a sushi restaurant and tourist stop.

Mr. Shyong writes, "It is also an inauthentic fantasy of Japanese culture that has generated profits exclusively for non-Japanese people, protected by a listing on the National Register of Historic Places while longtime businesses in Little Tokyo face displacement."

Protests over cultural appropriation are a regular news features.  Currently, every industry has found itself in a quandary over "how we should portray and profit from other cultures--a natural outcome in a world where social media allows people to feedback in real time."  Most recent, Times critic Justin Chang pointed out how the new Wes Anderson movie, Isle of Dog, appears renders Japanese culture and people mute (latimes.com; Mar. 21, 2018; date accessed Apr. 9, 2018).  Amid this criticism, Frank Shyong ponders "How should I feel about Yamashiro?"

Not long after his birthday dinner, Mr. Shyong returned to the restaurant with Michael Okamura, a Little Tokyo historian, and Bill Watanabe, the former president of the Little Tokyo Service Center and community leader.  Mr. Shyong hoped that Messr. Okamura and Watanabe would help him determine if Yamashiro's claims of authenticity had some merit.

The trio quickly discovered that Yamashiro's claims of authenticity was a slippery concept.  Mr. Okamura noted, "The hostess stand seem to be an authentic Japanese tansu, or cabinet, with good construction."  Mr. Watanabe observed that the signs indicating the toilets featured the Japanese word for male and female.  However, next to it were the English words, in chop suey font, a style that in recent years has been dismissed as overly exoticized (wsj.com; June 20, 2012; date accessed Apr. 9, 2018).

The pink and reddish ambient lighting defied analysis.  So did the plaster and wood beam interiors, which suggested to Mr. Okamura, "borderline Swiss-Chalet-style architecture."  The Japanese garden, originally a Chinese garden and later converted, "a fish sculpture with a dragon's head hides among some rocks and paper lanterns."  Michael Okamura observed,

That should be on a roof,.... Actually, I'm not sure what that's supposed to be.

Yamashiro was well known enough that Messr. Okamura and Watanabe visited at least once before.  After the trio finished their meal, Mr. Shyong asked them "whether they were offended by the way the restaurant portrayed Japanese culture or food."

The short answer was "no."  Both gentlemen agreed that it was a tangle of cultural appropriation and authenticity.  However, after a lifetime in the United States, they were used to ingesting "imprecise renderings of Asian culture.  And cultural appropriation is a relatively small sin in a history that includes Japanese internment camps."

Bill Watanbe considered the effect Yamashiro has had on the travails of the Japanese people in the United States.  If anything, it has been a positive effect--"introducing non-Japanese people to Japanese culture and perhaps sparking their interest in it."

Blogger has a confession to make, it was James Clavell's book Shogun, that sparked her interest in Japanese culture.

Frank Shyong writes, "Even those that have argued to preserve Yamashiro as a historical property did not seem to hav the question of its cultural value resolved.  In the 2012 application to the National Park Service arguing for Yamashiro's inclusion, an account of its history veers between emphasizing authenticity and claiming modern interpretation."

The application describes the buildings features as original and traditional as well as Japanese-inspired in the same sentence.  The application highlights the authentic Kaerumata (frog leg) brackets and the origins of the 17th-century pagoda, referring to Yamashiro as "an example of revival architecture, which is supposed to bring new meanings to bygone eras of architecture."

This confused Mr. Shyong and left him wondering "What was the difference between revival architecture and cultural appropriation, if any?"  For the an answer, he turned to Alice Tseng, professor of Japanese architecture at Boston University.

Prof. Tseng was flummoxed,

I'm kind of speechless looking at it,... There are bits and pieces that look Japanese but they don't add up to anything.  To call it a revival would be generous.

The application also argues that Yamashiro is modeled after a famous temple, a claim that Prof. Tseng is skeptical of.  Rightly so because architects building in the Japanese manner in the early 20th-century often relied on picture books, sold to tourists, as their visual guide--"depictions that Tseng says were sometimes inaccurate."

Therefore, if Yamashiro was not authentically Japanese, then it could it be authtentic to Los Angeles?  For that answer, Mr. Shyong turned to eminent architect and critic Alan Hess, best known for his love of Googie architecture and other local cultural curiosities.

Mr. Hess admitted that Yamashiro was not an example of great architecture.  "But it illustrates something that has been a part of Los Angeles's story since the film industry took root,...."  Early L.A. was a city on the western edge of a continent where you could imagine anything, build it, set free from the boundaries of convention and good taste.  Mr. Hess said, "A huge demand for novelty, thanks to Hollywood's proximity, produced a wild variety of vernacular architecture that is today one of the city's most defining visual quality,...."

According to Alan Hess, "In a city famous for the mass production of make-believe, Yamashiro's fantasy of Japanese culture is worth preserving,...."  He said,

People came here because they were allowed to do things they could not do anywhere else in the world.  This expresses that part of our history.

Could not agree more, just check out the wildly expressive Clifton's Cafeteria, or the giant doughnut that sits atop Randy's Doughnuts.  Giant doughnuts and buildings shaped like tamales aside, what about a community like Little Tokyo?

Los Angeles without Little Tokyo is unimaginable but the rising rents are threatening to price the longtime Japanese American businesses that do not have the same protections that historic properties like Yamashiro do.  Mr. Shyong reports, "Some of the buildings in Little Tokyo are protected by a historic district, the businesses and the people are not."  Legacy business programs could bring some tax relief and other protection for longtime small businesses struggling to make escalating rents and property values but, strangely, no such program exists in L.A.

Little Tokyo community organizer Justin Saka told Mr. Shyong, We're worried that Little Tokyo is going to become Little Tokyp in name only.

"Cultural neighborhoods like Little Tokyo, Chinatown, Leimert Park and Boyle Heights often struggle to attract the same kind of architecture interest that places like Yamashiro commands," says Prof. Tseng

She continues, "Academics tend to focus on expensive buildings owned by rich, often white people, because those are properties for which documentation exists,.... Without that scholarship, it's to make historical arguments for ethnic neighborhoods to be preserved."  Specifically,

There are places that are not well studied because they started out as cheap property and they tend to get forgotten.

Therefore, "How should we feel about the fact that a beloved facsimile of Japanese cultures sits protected on a mountain top overlooking Hollywood while Japanese American people elsewhere in the city struggle to preserve their culture, identity and neighborhoods?"  It depends on who you are and the experiences that shaped your life.  That is Los Angeles, a city with checkered histories and cultural curiosities everywhere you go.  Go figure.

Minh-Ha Pham, media studies profess at the Pratt Institute wrote, "Calling something cultural appropriation, and the repetitive, polarizing debate that label always sparks, often obscures important history,...."

Prof. Pham told Frank Shyong, "When we argue about cultural appropriation, we don't learn anything about history,.... And the history of how we have reproduced, adapted and integrated other cultures in this country is far more complex and interesting than that debate allows for."  More like an complicated and interesting history.

Thus, being offended by whether or not long grain rice or Sriracha is appropriate for sushi misses the point.  The real argument is "which stories to tell about our cultures, and whose perspective should be included."  The question we need to ask ourselves is "whether we know the full story."  In Yamashiro's case it is absolutely important to spend the time learning the details.



Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Blogger Candidate Forum: California Voting



Hello Everyone:

It is a lovely early spring Wednesday afternoon which means time for the weekly edition of Blogger Candidate Forum.  Today The Forum wants to explore a developing situation in the 2018 Midterm Elections, could California flip the United States House of Representatives?  California, that predictably bluest of the blue states has found itself in the position of possibly swinging the majority in The House from Republican to Democrat.  As things stand at the moment, the Democrats need 24 seats to reclaim control (latimes.com; Dec. 31, 2017; date accessed Apr. 4, 2018).  What this means for the hopes of a #bluetsunami in November is that the path to that magic number runs through Blogger's home state and that Democratic candidates really need to win a handful of Republican districts if they hope to make the House blue again.  (latimes.com; Mar. 26, 2018; date accessed Apr. 4, 2018).  Who is running and what are their chances?  Shall we take a look?

As of right now, the Democratic push to retake control of the House rests on the results of a handful of races, 24 to be precise. The current make up of the House is 193 seats controlled by the Democrats to the Republicans 238, with four vacancies (pressgallery.house.gov Mar. 16, 2018; Apr. 4, 2018).  Winning those races would give the Democrats a hairline thin majority of one: 218-217.  How does California figure into this?

Taking a look at the California congressional races, Democrats would have to flip a number of districts in order to take over the House.  Cook's Political Report has broken down the House race into three general categories: "Solid Seats, Likely/Lean Seats," and "Toss-Up or Worse Seats" (cookspolitical.com Apr. 2, 2018; Apr. 4, 2018).  Likely means the seats are not considered competitive, at the moment, but have the potential to come into play.  Lean indicates the races are competitive but one party as the advantage.  Toss-Up signifies the race is anyone's guess (Ibid).  The categories are further broken down according to party.  Let us focus on the California races.

In the "Lean Democratic" subheading there are two seats open: CA-39 held by Representative Ed Royce (R-Fullerton) and CA-49 held by Representative Darrell Issa (R-Vista).  Both gentlemen announced their retirements from Congress which means their seats are open.  Cook's rates the Rep. Royce's seat as even, it could go red or blue.  In the race to fill Rep. Issa's seat, Cook's gives the Republicans a one point edge (Ibid).  Both of these ratings are a clear indication of the changing political landscapes of their districts.

Twenty-one Republicans fall into the "Toss-Up" categories; three of which are from California.  The first race in the this category is CA-10 held by Representative Jeff Denham (R-Turlock). His race is rated as even as is the contest in CA-25 held by Representative Steve Knight (R-Palmdale) (Ibid).  The race to pay attention to is the contest in CA-48 to unseat Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa).  although Cook's gives him a four point advantage (Ibid), Rep. Rohrbacher is a confirmed supporter of The President; leading Blogger believes that this race will be more competitive than Cook's predicts. 

Three California Republicans fall into the "Likely/Lean" categories: Representatives Mimi Walters (R-Laguna Nigel) CA-45, Tom McClintock (R-El Grove) CA-4, and David Valadao (R-Hanford) CA-21.  Cook's gives Rep. Walters a three point advantage but remains competitive.  Rep. McClintock's re-election campaign, so far, looks certain; Cook's gives him a ten point advantage.  However, things do not look so good from Rep. Valado.  Cook's gives the Democrats a five point advantage. (Ibid)

Rep. Valadao's race is particularly noteworthy because the 21st Congressional district went to former Secretary Hillary Clinton in the presidential election.  Rep. Valadao is being challenged by Emilio Huerta, the son of United Farmworkers legend Delores Huerta, in a rematch of their 2016 duel.  This should give Mr. Huerta an advantage in a district the trends Democrat (latimes.com; May 31, 2017; Apr. 4, 2018) and is over 70 percent Latino (Ibid).  Interestingly, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has been somewhat hesitant to engage in this race because the powers that be in Washington felt strong-armed (Ibid; Feb. 20, 2018) into supporting Mr. Huerta by his influential mother. Ms. Huerta has denied any talk of other candidates challenging her son (Ibid).

The California Democratic primary is the first Tuesday in June and if you have not registered to vote, do it now.  Be that as it may, Mr. Huerta has emerged as the sole unchallenged candidate (Ibid Jan. 30, 2018) in contrast to the half a dozen candidates looking to unseat Rep. Valadao.  Delores Huerta's endorsement is absolutely crucial for any Latino Democrat with hopes of winning in California's Central Valley.  The race in the 21st district has not attracted any sort of national media attention or out-of-state donor, yet but could be the one race that decides if the House stays red or turns blue.

If the Democrats fail to flip this seat and fall one vote short of a majority, many in the DCCC will surely cast blame on Ms. Huerta and "maternal instincts for meddling in a race might have been won with a different candidate on the ballot" (cnbc.com; Feb. 28, 2018; Apr. 4, 2018). However, the real blame will be shouldered by he DCCC for "failing to embrace Huerta, and giving him the resource he needed to win a very winnable seat."