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Joe Simitian talk: Listening to Trump's America: Bridging the Divide

Uploaded: Oct 15, 2017
In the wake of the Trump election, Joe Simitian--a Palo Alto native and currently County Supervisor--visited three counties that had swung to voting for Trump after voting for Obama, and he was especially interested in talking to those voters who switched. Overviews in Abstract and PAOnline article. There is no recording of this talk (or an earlier one) because Simitian regards this as a work in progress and because he told the people he was talking to that he wasn't creating a report. Part of his motivation was recognizing that Palo Alto is a bubble inside a bubble (Santa Clara County) inside a bubble (California). There was no discussion of Trump nor Republicans, and that will also be off-topic here.

He visited three counties: Cambria in Pennsylvania (map),(foot#1) Macomb in Michigan (map), and Robeson in North Carolina (map). Cambria was very similar to where I grew up in the 1960s and was 150 miles to the SSE. Macomb was shifting away from the Democrats in the 1970s when I lived in Michigan, and I heard a lot from friends from there.

I will be adding my commentary on the topics raised, indicated by the prefix "ME". I include what Simitian said in response to questions without annotation that it was not part of the prepared talk. I have extensively re-ordered Simitian's observations.

I heard nothing surprising in the talk--it was additional confirming details, which is both interesting and useful. Similarly, there would have been no surprises if you had been paying attention to the news coverage in the summer of 2015 about various Democrats seeking alternative candidates to Hillary Clinton. However, in 2015, those concerns, speculations, predictions and gut feelings were from politicians, analysts and bloviators who had questionable connections to facts on the ground. Simitian was summarizing what he heard from voters and politicians close to their local voters.

Note: Long article: One reader quantified the length as 2.5 coffees. For those who want to read in increments, I have provided headings to serve as easily identifiable stop/restart points.


One of Simitian's major topics was the level of desperation he encountered, and that it is not of recent origins. He talked of it going back 40 years,(foot#2) but the decline of some major industries was beginning in the 1950s and 1960s. It was not hidden--it has been prominent in both news and entertainment. It was part of major movies, for example, the 1977 Paul Newman movie "Slap Shot". This movie was set against a backdrop of a city where a factory closing was putting 10,000 people out of work, and (spoiler) where the owner of the hockey team was similarly trying to move the franchise to the Sunbelt. Some of the people he talked to pointed this out and asked "Doesn't anyone get it?"
The theme of desperation peppered his talk.
- "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation" (Thoreau) but are no longer quiet.
- "Desperate people do desperate things."
- "So thirsty we would have drunk sand."
- "The most dangerous person is someone who has nothing to lose."
- "Trump's talk about jobs and trade was 'emotional heroin' ."
- "Inevitable that some snake oil salesman would come along."
- " False hope is better than no hope. "
ME: The repeated message that I got from Simitian's talk what that this was not "Trump's America", but areas that had understandably given up on the national Democratic Party.

People were telling Simitian that their pay had been cut in half or more, their benefits were "crap" and their pensions had disappeared. He found it notable how many remembered many details about when the jobs left, and remembered the specifics of their declining situation, such as the percentage decline in their wages.

Simitian reminded the audience that work was not just wages and benefits, but an important source of dignity.

Simitian's big takeaway is that Trump's election was but a manifestation of how bad this long-running crisis is. The system is failing them and they don't see anyone listening to them.

ME: I lived in Michigan during the 1970s. This was during the great migration of automotive factories to the Sunbelt, lured by government subsidies and promises of cheap labor. I heard from multiple friends that the auto companies were quietly trying to lure various of their abandoned workers to move to the new plants--the culture of the local workforce produced high turnover, high absentee-ism and other inappropriate attitudes and behaviors. Plus the companies had grossly underestimated the skills required of the workers and how long it took to train them. Simitian commented that being a steelworker required more skill than most people realized.(foot#3)
Historical aside: A similar problem arose for the British during World War I. They underestimated the time it took to skill-up a machinist to the level of being able to produce the tight tolerances needed for many items. For example, artillery shells: In the Battle of the Somme (1916), 30% of them were duds. Only then did Britain realize it had to pull skilled machinists out of the army.

----Disconnect within the Democratic Party----

The disconnect of the national Democratic Party from everyday people was also major topic, intertwined with desperation. In the counties Simitian visited, he heard repeatedly that the big issues of the national Democratic Party--the ones that they were "harping" on--were largely irrelevant to the voters. Example: "We don't care where an 8-year-old pees."

Simitian reminded the audience that both the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street arose from similar discontent and alienation (with the Bush policies that were carried over by Obama). He heard people condemn the current Center vs. Left conflicts within the national Democratic Party--what is important is delivering on what matters. They wanted more services, less government. What the Democratic elite characterized as Clinton's "impeccable credentials", they saw as evidence that she had failed them.

There was also a large disconnect between the national party and the local party organizations. I had listened to the audiobook for Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign, which I do not recommend.(foot#4) The book portrays the Clinton campaign organization as hearing, and ignoring, concerns and disquiet from some of the state and county organization, but what Simitian presented should have been blaring alarms. For example, in Cambria County (PA), for every lawn sign for Clinton, there were an estimated 200 for Trump. and the gap would have been larger except that the Trump campaign ran out of signs: There was a waiting list and people were standing in line to get signs when a new batch arrived, plus people were making their own.

Simitian mentioned a phonebank volunteer who was hearing visceral negative reactions against Clinton, but that information apparently went nowhere. The volunteer wondered "Why didn't we see this coming at us?"

Simitian heard of a large enthusiasm gap, with many Clinton supporters seeing her as only the lesser of two evils. One person compared Clinton to Bob Dole, the Republican Presidential candidate in 1996: We know s/he is going to lose, but it is her/his turn, and s/he is our candidate. Another similarity was that neither had a message.

Statements of alienation: Out-of-touch (repeatedly). A big city party that out of touch with small towns and rural areas, fostering the politics of resentment. Trump is at least talking about things that matter to them. A Democratic Party activist said that it needed to stop being the party that thinks it knows best.

So why did people who were alienated from the national party say they stayed registered as Democrats? So that they can vote for the local officials, such as sheriff, who are truly important to their lives.

ME: Trump's final campaign ad was "Donald Trump's Argument For America" (2 minutes long). On YouTube, it was dated as 2016-11-06, just two days before the election. My immediate reaction was "Wow. That was powerful. If he had released this earlier, Clinton would be toast." But in the news media aligned with the Democratic Party, this ad was dismissed and disparaged as "dark". The media similarly trashed Trump's nomination speech, contrary to my guess that he had been very effective in reaching his target audience.

----Disconnect on values----

Simitian mentioned several well-known books, such as Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance, 2016-06-28. He then pointed at the work of Joan C. Williams, which I would highly recommend. She has a book-- White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America (2017-05-16)--but there are videos from the book tour (all the related articles I could find were behind paywalls). I would recommend the YouTube video LSE III | Professor Joan C. Williams | Why Did Trump Win? Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America (LSE III = International Inequalities Institute at the London School of Economics). Simitian also recommended the video of a sermon The Continental Divide (58:52) by pastor Tommy Nelson of the Denton Bible Media Ministry (Texas) to see another perspective.(foot#5) However, I would remind you that Trump triumphed in the primaries over candidates supported by the Christian Right, and the Christian Right's weakness was one of the big surprises of those primaries. Note that this sermon contains various falsehoods that are common among that segment of the population.

ME (for remainder of section): Over the decades, there have been multiple studies of the psychological differences between liberals and conservatives, and they are surprisingly consistent in the results (Psychology has a large problem with the reproducibility of results). The researcher identifies 5-7 dimensions--typically the limit for what can fit in a traditional academic paper--and finds significant differences between liberals and conservatives in how they prioritize these values. It was claimed that conservatives could understand the full range of values, but that liberals could understand only the 1-2 that were their priorities. At first this seemed preposterous, but over the years I have come to believe it because I have seen numerous intelligent and thoughtful critiques by conservatives of liberals' priorities, but can't remember a similar critique by a liberal of conservative priorities.

The current prominent treatment of this can be found in the book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt. Its promotional tour and related events generated magazine articles and videos of talks, which I recommend.(foot#6)

One of those dimensions that is a high priority for conservatives--but not liberals--goes by labels such as "Group Loyalty" and involves aspects such as duty, honor and other community and interpersonal obligations. This leads them to be invested in the community in ways that create a social safety net that doesn't involve government, especially government outside that community.(foot#7) The dominant economic philosophy of the Democratic Party is Neoliberalism, and it assumes mobility of labor (people). It assigns no value to community and interpersonal relationships, expecting that people can easily move away from extended family and community.(foot#8)

Thomas Frank's 2004 book What's the Matter with Kansas: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America asks the question why people were voting against their interests, but suffers from interests being treated as largely restricted to economics.(foot#9) His recent book is Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?, and there are numerous articles and videos from the promotional tour.(foot#10)

In August 2016, WSJ columnist Peggy Noonan (conservative) wrote a widely circulated piece "How Global Elites Forsake Their Countrymen" which noted aspects such as the elites being oblivious or uncaring about the negative effects of their policies on the non-elites because they are both out-of-touch and insulated from those policies.(foot#11)

In the aftermath of the Democrats loss in the Georgia special election for US House of Representatives, Tim Ryan, who had challenged Nancy Pelosi for leadership of House Democrats, said that the Democrats' brand had become "toxic" in much of the country because voters saw Democrats as "not being able to connect with the issues they care about" and that "Our brand is worse than Trump" .(foot#12)

The book Shattered presents the Clinton campaign as rejecting entreaties from many--including Bill Clinton--to engage in persuasion. The first step in doing persuasion is understanding the target's values, priorities and perspectives. This is important not just for persuading people to vote for you, but to avoid unnecessarily antagonizing people into voting against you.


Simitian heard complaints about the arrogance and condescending attitudes of the Democratic elites. (foot#9) (ME: In the lead-up to the primaries, various Democratic insiders warned about "smugness", which might be a better search term for those interested in the warnings). One person asked "Why do you have to push this in our face?" He mentioned a gay couple who had their wedding in a private home instead of their church to avoid discomforting some of the congregation.

ME: Many of us grew up with the admonition "Just because you have the right to do something doesn't mean that it is the right (smart) thing to do" or a variant such as "...doesn't mean you should". Small communities don't have the luxury of having enough people to provide the critical masses to support various activities, and exclusion and self-segregation weakens the community. Being accommodating becomes a priority when you can't simply join a different group (as you can in a large city). People who unjustifiably give or take offense quickly acquire a reputation to their detriment.

Similar to "The coverup can be worse than the crime", the message behind the giving of an insult can be worse than the insult itself. The practices of the Democrat elite, Progressives and Social Justice Warriors is antithetical to this: finding insults where none was intended, hyperbolic responses to trivialities, ...

Then there are the insults designed to very publicly demonstrate power and utter contempt for the targets. Example 1: "We spit on your ancestors' graves": The Democratic Party regime in New Orleans began removing Confederate statues in the early morning hours of Confederate Memorial Day.(foot#13)
Example 2: "Our proclaimed concerns for women do not extend to your daughters." When the Obama administration issued its instructions on bathrooms and student gender identity, there were many protests about the potential for abuse.(foot#14) Rather than address those concerns, Democrats disparaged and demonized the concerned parents. Among my friends with some background in politics, the reaction was "Are the Democrats trying to lose?"

Example 3: The Obama administration's 2011 instructions to colleges on handling complaints of rape and other sexual offenses was characterized by multiple insiders as a system intended to produce convictions, not justice. In cases appealed to real courts, at least one judge explicitly characterized the proceeding as a kangaroo court (the accused were not allowed to know the charges, were not allowed to confront witnesses, were limited in bringing their own witnesses, and witness testimony was treated as evidence of the opposite having happened). As evidence of wrongful convictions piled up, the Obama administration took no corrective action.(foot#15) It took Trump's Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to rescind the Obama instructions, with the claim that she intended to produce a replacement that provides justice for both the accuser and the accused. Or as a hypothetical Republican political ad might put it: "We stand for justice for all. For Democrats, Political Correctness/Identity Politics is more important than justice." Recognize that Political Correctness and Identity Politics were cited as major factors for many Trump voters.

Although none of the above examples may have had any impact with a specific voter, there were just so many similar situations that voters may well have encountered one or more that resonated with them.

One of the biggest insults is to treat people as being so insignificant that their existence can easily be ignored. For example, one of the popular claims among Progressives and Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) is that Whites have privilege resulting from generations of inherited wealth stretching back into the times of slavery. Tell this to a family whose only asset is a house that is worth little or nothing--no potential buyers--but feels honor-bound to pay off the mortgage even though it would be financially better for them to just walk away. Tell that to those who are renters. Tell that to people whose ancestors arrived as penniless immigrants long after the Civil War. Tell that to the descendants of families that lost their most precious assets in the war to end slavery: over 365,000 Union dead, over 282,000 wounded. To the Democratic elite, many of these people are not part of their "coalition of the ascendant" and are thus irrelevant, if not invisible.

Another similar characterization is that Whites are highly educated and have high incomes. For example, on an NPR show, I heard a college professor claim that "Whites never have to compete for a job" but instead just call up a friend from "the Lacrosse team". The interviewer didn't say "Whoa!" or otherwise express any skepticism of this and other claims the professor was making. In his talk, Simitian reminded the audience of actual education levels: In Palo Alto, 85% of those over 25 years old have Bachelor's degrees; in Macomb County (MI) it is 23%; in Cambria County (PA) it is 19%; in Robeson County (NC) it is 13%. Ask yourself how are the people like those in these counties going to respond to a Democratic Party that proposes to fix the economy with massive spending to make college free?(foot#16) Remember, the sub-subtitle of his talk was "A bubble within a bubble within a bubble".

During the campaign, I tried to find well-written analyses to send to friends who were considering having to vote for Trump. It was an exercise in futility. All the potential choices were peppered with extraneous disparaging remarks about Whites and/or males--some that were signifiers of bias and others seemed to only serve as in-group signifiers to the expected audience (their bubble). Plus there were the usual partisan talking-points that were false. I was not about to damage my credibility with these friends by recommending that they read such articles. Attaching a disclaimer would have been worse because it would have implicitly pointed out how out-of-touch and hostile national Democrats and the Left are. I had become desensitized to this behavior during college and grad school, both from campus Leftists and from reading history that included Marxist-Leninist-Maoist-NewLeft documents. I was shaken out of this when I encountered a business/technology news article on a new energy efficiency standard that identified the benefit as reducing the need to impose "more power stations on minority communities".


Simitian asked the audience if they knew why the Monday after Thanksgiving was an informal holiday in the Pennsylvania county he visited. About 5-10% of the portion of the audience I could see raised their hands. Answer: It was the first day of regular deer hunting season (Note: the schedule varies by state and there are additional periods for archery, muzzle-loaders ...).(foot#17)

ME: Most of this is not sport or trophy hunting. Getting deer is an expected part of the food budget for many families, and thus it is important for both adults and older children to be involved, especially during the beginning of opening day: The odds of success plummet during the opening hours. In my high school, about a third of the students were absent on opening day.

Aside: Hunters have been important parts of the conservation movement. For example, in the 1950s and 1960s, duck hunters' organizations were widely credited as the political bulwark against developers who wanted to fill in wetlands and other waterfowl habitat. And they supported--financially and politically--the improvement and expansion of habitat. Today, a few conservationists are worried about the declining number of duck hunters, but most are unaware that they were such a big part of why there are still wetlands left to preserve.

Guns are a big wedge issue between conservatives and liberals. The gun control advocacy groups and news media associated with the Democratic Party largely ignore this large segment of the population who are gun owners. Imagine how they feel when gun ownership is characterized as only criminality, mental illness, vanity or merely making a political statement. Many of these advocacy groups haven't even bothered to learn basic terminology and its correct use, signaling that they have absolutely no intention of engaging in discussion, much less having any interest in trying to reach a reasonable solution.(foot#18) Also those advocacy group often descend to irrationality, hyperbole and even hysteria that can exceed that of the NRA (National Rifle Association, the most prominent gun lobbying group).(foot#19)(foot#20)(foot#21)
NOTE: The above was written and being proof-read before the mass shooting in Las Vegas. As you read the news coverage, opinion pieces and statements from advocacy groups, ask yourself "Does this help move us toward a solution, or does it function to score political points, be divisive and inflame the situation?" An example of the latter is this LA Times news article that has large doses of partisanship.

----Clinton campaign----

Reminder: Simitian's talk was about Democrats, as is my commentary here. This is not a compare-and-contrast (to Republicans or whatever).

Simitian was surprised that the issues mentioned in the counties he visited were far fewer than expected: immigration, terrorism, Obamacare (and a few more that I missed). He was surprised by the "animosity" toward Clinton. People didn't trust her and didn't like her. A Democratic official who was a graduate of an elite university said that he would vote for Stalin before Clinton (Did being dead weighed in Stalin's favor?). He heard assessments that Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders would have won.

On trust problems, they cited the emails, the Clinton Foundation and Benghazi. Aside by ME: On Benghazi, it was the White House that created the trust problem and only later did Clinton bring her trademarked mismanagement of PR to the issue (and which was aggressively exploited by rightwing media).

Clinton was criticized for not focusing on the important issues. In Macomb County (MI) there was a strong reaction to Vice Presidential candidate Tim Kaine speaking Spanish in part of his speech: "Those are the people that want to take our jobs!"

ME: My biggest surprise from the book Shattered was that there seemed to be no recognition within the Clinton campaign of the trust problem, much less an effort to address it.

The Democratic establishment portrayed Hillary Clinton to be the "most qualified" person to ever run for President. Wrong. The managerial-professional class--of which I and most of you readers belong--often conflates "credentials" with "qualifications" (web search will provide details). For me and many like me, Clinton was unqualified at a very basic level, and tolerable only in comparison to someone like Trump. This sort of disconnect on how many people evaluate a candidate may have played a significant role in Democratic defeats (not just Clinton's).
Note: This is only to present other perspectives that mattered during the campaign--those perspectives are now facts of ancient history and arguing about their correctness is off-topic.
1. In summer 2015, at least one prominent Democrat memorably warned that with the Clintons you should always expect a scandal to pop up, and that with Hillary, you should expect her to bungle it by stretching it out and otherwise making it worse. Others expressed similar concerns. I want a President who is a good crisis manager, not one who is a crisis maker and magnifier.
2. Clinton seriously mismanaged her campaigns in both 2008 and 2016, although the book Shattered portrays the mismanagement as much worse than what appeared in the media before the election. If you can't properly manage a campaign, how are you going to properly manage the Executive Branch of the federal government?
3. As Secretary of State, she showed little awareness of the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan in her handling of Libya and Syria. Having knowledge becomes irrelevant if one demonstrates that they can't be expected to make good use of it.
4. She was far too insular and self-insulated to be an effective leader. Little had changed from when she voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq, with the later explanation that she had consulted her foreign policy experts. No mention of the many doubts about the Cheney-Bush claims that were raised in many newspapers (the now-defunct Knight-Ridder being notable in publishing evidence that various of those claims were false).
5. Clinton has severe problem understanding how her actions are perceived by others, even when it is being pointed out to her. For example, a reviewer of her current book (What Happened) cited a passage about her high-paid talks to the financial companies: She saw herself as doing nothing wrong and couldn't understand why others were suspicious of those actions. Another example: She couldn't see that her campaign slogan "I'm with her" emphasized and exacerbated one of her big negatives. It was so bad that a slogan of "Clinton: The lesser evil" might have been more effective (self-deprecating, self-aware).

When I asked Clinton supporters about their reasons, I first got "because she's a woman" and then checklists of very specific policies she purported to support. When I brought up her vote authorizing the Iraq War, it got waved off as ancient history and an isolated event, whereas I saw it as evidence of character and of her approach to decision-making.

Clinton failed to respond to the difference between "credentials" and "qualifications" despite warnings during the primaries. The most memorable was (Republican) Carly Fiorina's comeback to Clinton having cited the many miles she had flown and foreign leaders she had met as Secretary of State: "Flying is an activity, not an accomplishment." Similarly when Fiorina challenged Clinton supporters to produce a list of her accomplishment, the result came across as damning with faint praise.(foot#22)

----Ignoring Trump's faults----

The people talking to Simitian about voting for Trump said that they were well-aware of his legion of faults, but that it didn't matter enough to them. However, his talk didn't include why this was.

ME: Was it for the reasons mentioned in the Desperation section above that they chose to take a risk on Trump? Or was it a failure of the Clinton campaign to adequately highlight the implications of these faults? Or ...?

While the Clinton campaign cited some of Trump's many faults, it failed to humanize them. This is basic persuasion psychology. For example, instead of just saying that Trump had sleazy business practices, I would have expected campaign commercials that had a sequence of the people who Trump had shafted facing the camera and saying a sentence or two about what happened, and how it negatively affected them (example: His refusal to pay put my company out of business). I would have hammered at how Trump had demonstrated that trusting him was the road to ruin. The people I know in battleground states didn't see anything remotely resembling this.

On foreign affairs, the dominant commercial was little more than clips of Trump saying positive things about various dictators. It failed to make even a strong implication for why Trump would be dangerous, and said nothing about why Clinton would be good. In contrast, the corresponding Trump commercial very effectively slammed Clinton. If it had been me, I wouldn't have gone all the way to the 1964 Johnson "Daisy commercial", but I would have strongly considered one with North Korea in the background and saying something like "There is a country that has nuclear weapons and that is ruled by an erratic, hypersensitive, insecure, preening bully. When the US has to deal with that country, what sort of President would you want?"

Since people in places such as California don't see many of the political commercials, I had looked at best-of compilations for Clinton and Trump. The Clinton commercials seemed like preaching to the choir--for those outside that group, they seem to mumble "She still doesn't get it." Meanwhile the Trump commercials were very visceral. Simitian heard about the enthusiasm gap (above) and the comparison of the sets of commercials seemed to reflect that.

Consider Trump's infamous Access Hollywood comments. The portion of the comment I fastened on was "And when you're a star they let you do it. You can do anything." This was a statement of the arrogant abuse of power and privilege, and enjoying dominating and humiliating others. This was very relevant to how he would perform in office, and would have been yet another instance to hammer home the larger theme. The Democratic elite chose to fasten on "Grab them by the pussy" which involved personal behavior. Speculating, many voters might have dismissed this as not affecting them, family, friends ..., but only the very, very few who would ever be within an arm's reach of Trump. I hear you protest that this was indicative of how he would govern, but I didn't hear the Democrats even try to make that case, only that he was a despicable individual. You can't expect voters to know what you know and make the same judgments you make.

It is hard to tell how much of these failings were due to Clinton's inner circle, and how much represented the larger Democratic elite.

Or could it have been that the media loyal to Clinton had lost credibility by crying wolf too often and too long. They had probably reached this point during the Democratic primaries. During the main campaign, Clinton and the allied news media chose to ignore most of Trump's many real negatives and instead focus on claims that were easily refuted.
- Trump is a Nazi (defining characteristic: genocide/"ethnic cleansing" both internally and in conquered lands).
- Trump is a fascist (defining characteristics: single party, top-down control of many aspects of society, national mobilization). More than basic authoritarianism but potentially less than totalitarian. The fascist version of "greatness" is international military dominance, empire, aggression and other uses of force, which is very different from what Trump was talking about. Remember that Trump talked about pulling back from the US being the world's policeman and anchor of alliances, and was widely criticized for it. The basic symbol of fascism is a bundle of rods (with an axe) symbolizing "strength through unity". The slogan "Stronger together" wasn't Trump's.
- Trump is an authoritarian. Nope, he lacks the requisite self-discipline, attention span, political skills, ...
- Claiming that Trump said "All Mexicans are rapists", when his actual statement was that a subset of a subset (of a subset?) of Mexicans were rapists. A certain amount of exaggeration is to be expected in political campaigns, but this was beyond that threshold. While many give leeway to candidates, such deceptive portrayals is unacceptable from the news media.
- Claiming that Trump invited/.../pleaded with the Russians to hack Clinton's computers for the missing emails. If you look at what he actually said in context (video from C-SPAN via YouTube), he was poking at Clinton about failing to have proper computer security for sensitive information, and implying that Russia might have stolen those emails long before. Besides, if you were to believe the characterization by Clinton and news media, that would mean that those emails still existed--one cannot find something that doesn't exist--and consequently Clinton had committed perjury when she testified that they had been deleted. With friends and supporters like this, who needs enemies.


Final reminder: Simitian's talk, and my commentary, are about the national Democratic Party being out-of-touch with large portions of the country, such as the three counties he visited. I heard nothing in his talk about Hillary Clinton that was not in service to this higher theme: The failings of her campaign seemed to be primarily a problem within the Democratic elite, exacerbated by her limitations. Simitian's surprise at a number of the things he heard is indicative of this disconnect, and he is to be commended for the time and effort he spent visiting the three counties (one week each).

The big message from the talk was the desperation that has been festering and growing for decades, and the danger it represents to the country. He encountered people that called out Silicon Valley as part of the problem.

For those of you who attended this, or other, presentations of this talk, I expect that readers here would appreciate your comments about what you found notable about what he said.

Also appropriate: Parallels to our local situation.

----Other Resources----

For getting a sense of the viewpoint of others, I prefer to listen to them speak over reading, partly because those who write about their positions constitute a much narrower range. And for listening, YouTube is my first choice, both because of its quantity, and because its recommendation algorithm allows me to start with a very few and get more offered up.

I would advise ignoring videos that are interviews and panels because they have much less content than scripted videos.

If you are interested in the conservative viewpoint, I recommend starting with Matt Christiansen and select some from the "Vlogs and Commentaries" on topics that interest you. He tends to make calm, reasoned, analytical critiques.
Remember: This is not a recommendation of his viewpoints, but recommending him as pump priming for the YouTube recommendations.

Another entry point is Roaming Millennial. She talks about issues at a higher level than Christiansen, and with more passion. Disagreeing without being disagreeable.

A third entry point is Independent Man who tends to provide mildly sarcastic commentary on videos of particular events, focusing on Social Justice advocates. He is an Australian, but also covers the US, Canada and other countries with similar phenomena.

Jordan B Peterson is a possibility, but his semi-scripted videos tend to meander. He tends to be sharper and more focused in interviews.

I recommend against Ben Shapiro because his presentations tend to be more aggressive and targeted to those in his bubble/echo chamber, which may antagonize those who are not true believers. Also, since he tends to be in the mode of telling his intended audience what they want to hear, his talks tend to have problems with logic and facts. I can't remember him saying anything I thought was interesting or well-formulated. However, Shapiro is prominent on the rightwing lecture circuits, and you might want to give him a listen to get a sense of what sort of red meat his audiences are devouring.
Note: I may be biased against Shapiro because in 2011 I had the misfortune of reading one of his books (very long Amazon review): It was massively disingenuous and dishonest.

Alternate approach: Pick a topic and see what shows up as the top recommendations. "Evergreen State College" is a good YouTube search term because it is recent and most of the videos are from a conservative perspective. "James Damore" (Google diversity memo) is not as good a search term because you may get many Progressive videos in the recommendations--recognize that your search results are influenced by your own viewing history.

Reminder: You are not listening to these speakers to be convinced or to refute them, but to try to better understand the viewpoints they represent.

Warning: Watching video of viewpoints you disagree with will skew your Google and YouTube recommendations--too many at a time will cause the recommendation algorithm to classify you as an adherent of that viewpoint and give you more and more extreme viewpoints and decrease recommendations of articles from your viewpoint.
I handle this by creating multiple personas, which is easy for me because I have my own Internet domain and thus can create email aliases that are the starting point for such personas.

1. Cambria County:
One of the cities Simitian visited in Cambria was the site of the Johnston Flood of 1889. I was surprised that this apparently wasn't mentioned in this conversations (in areas like the Appalachian plateau, 128 years--4-6 generations--can be recent history). A dam collapsed, sending a wall of water--up to 60 feet high--down the narrow valley, killing more than 2200 people, devastating the city and nearby villages. The dam provided a lake for a exclusive private resort and had been negligently managed and maintained. The city government deserved some blame for ignoring warnings about the situation, but there had been too many false warnings.

2. Origins of current economic policy:
The current US government economic policy is "financialization": "a process whereby financial services, broadly construed, take over the dominant economic, cultural, and political role in a national economy" (Kevin Phillips).
This began during the Jimmy Carter administration (1977-1981) and, with the election of Bill Clinton (1992), was confirmed as the dominant policy in the Democratic Party. This shift was aided by the Democrats' decision in the early 1980s to redirect their fundraising efforts to large donors as the best means to match Republican Party fundraising. The leading advocate for this change was Tony Coelho, a California Central Coast Congressman and chair of the DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee).
An interesting account/perspective--that I don't have the knowledge to vouch for--can be found in a long article "How Post-Watergate Liberals Killed Their Populist Soul: In the 1970s, a new wave of post-Watergate liberals stopped fighting monopoly power. The result is an increasingly dangerous political system" by Matt Stoller, 2016-10-24 (cited in a footnote of my blog of 2017-07-16).

3. Steelworker knowledge:
In footnote 3 of my blog of 2016-10-03, I gave some examples of the analogous knowledge required of glassworkers.

4. Recommending against book Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign :
This book is roughly what you would have read in the news media during the campaign, with small additions of details of interactions between the various members of the campaign. My interest was in why they failed to take some seemingly obvious actions, plus more details of the debate within the campaign. The book provides little of this. From reviews I knew that there would be long sections reiterating what was widely known, so I chose the audiobook so I could listen while doing other things, such as exercising (both myself and the cat).

5. Evangelical sermon:
The sermon starts with a discussion of America and democracy (many inaccuracies). Then specific issues: anti-abortion, anti-LGBT+ ... The overarching thesis comes @44:21: "Christians:
Your freedoms are seen by this party (Democrats) as bigotry.
Your beliefs are seen a bigotry.
Your morals are seen as bigotry.
You, as a fundamentalist, are seen (as a hitch) as a glitch in the evolutionary progress of which we would be better off if you were gone.
That is how we are seen. ...
They will not stand your stance, and they will not stand your standing.
One of them will go. Them or you will go."

6. Jonathan Haidt - Righteous Mind:
A collection of links to overlapping talks from the book tour, invited talks and participation on various panels.

7. Community safety net:
From what I read, see and experienced years ago, using the government social safety net is an admission of several types of failure for many segments of the population. In many of these places, there are an abnormally high number of people on Disability because Disability is what you earned from working (Disability Insurance payments), while welfare is a handout. There often is an understanding of this by local doctors and by the local offices of the large government agencies.

8. Investment in community:
This was part of my two-part blog of 2016-04/08: "Community or Extended-stay Hotel or ...?", Part 1 and Part 2.
The Brexit (Britain's Exit from the EU) election is routinely cited as an earlier example of the forces behind the 2016 US Presidential Election. Two things that struck me from the Brexit media coverage:
- The Remain supporters routinely emphasized the importance to them to be able to easily move to another country (job, retirement, ...), whereas the Leave supporters prioritized what was happening to their current local communities.
- The Leave supporters complained about the loss of local control, out-of-touch EU bureaucrats and the undemocratic behavior of the EU, whereas Remain supporters saw important benefits in EU-wide policies and for that they are willing to cede control to a large, distant bureaucracy ("the experts") in Brussels. The EU legislature has the reputation of being little more than a luxurious retirement home, or place of exile, for cast-off politicians from the member countries.

9. What's the Matter with Kansas + Condescension (cited twice):
"Were Trump Voters Irrational?" by Keith Stanovich, 2017-09-28.
A long form article about psychological research about the biases in judging other people's decision-making.

10. Thomas Frank book: Listen Liberal:
Among the many videos, I would recommend the one from the end of his book tour (2017-04-06) at the Kansas City Public Library: "What to Make of the Age of Trump by Thomas Frank" (1:45:50, talk begins at 19:45). The audience questions and the responses are interesting enough to be worth listening to. Frank said that one frustration of his life was the complacency of the Democratic Party, and that it believes in "The Coalition of the Ascendant": That everyone votes their demographics forever and you don't have to do anything or serve anyone (@1:06:55). .
Interesting aside: He claims that what he says in this talk is no longer permissible in the US mainstream media--NPR, NY Times, MSNBC--which is why he writes for the British-based The Guardian which provides extensive coverage of the US (Aside: The Guardian is decidedly left-wing, but often has better journalism than many US news media outlets).

11. Noonan's WSJ article:
"How Global Elites Forsake Their Countrymen" by Peggy Noonan, WSJ (paywall), 2016-08-11. "Declarations columnist Peggy Noonan writes that those in power see people at the bottom as aliens whose bizarre emotions they must try to manage."
This column was widely syndicated and you may be able to find it on some other newspapers site, but most of the search hits are on sites of news aggregators, that is, they have little more than the title and then link to the WSJ page.
Background: Noonan was a top speech writer for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. As a measure of her ability to first understand what would connect with the intended audience and then to execute on that, she is credited with writing two of the best US political speeches of the 20th Century, as well as producing several lasting and memorable phrases. She won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary.

12. Brand worse than Trump:
"After Ossoff defeat: Democrats Seethe After Georgia Loss: 'Our Brand Is Worse Than Trump' " - by Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin, 2017-06-21, NYTimes (tiered subscription).

13. Public statues:
Surveys over the years have found that most people have little awareness of the typical statues that they routinely walk by, some not even remembering that they are there. Even among those who notice the statues, only a minority can remember even vaguely who/what it commemorates, and very few who know any details. Who does notice statues? Pigeons. They are great places to perch and poop. (But does outreach on statue decisions ever include this large stakeholder group? No! :-).
Don't believe me? There is a statue in front of the California Academy of Sciences (in Golden Gate Park). Have you ever noticed it? Who and what is it about?
Answer: The statue is of Robert Emmet (picture) who was an Irish Republican rebel executed in 1803, with NO connection to San Francisco, California, or the US. Timeline: This execution occurred between the creation of The Presidio (1776) and the 1835 origin of the city of Yerba Buena--the predecessor of San Francisco.
My assessment is that statues are largely ineffective as either commemorations or propaganda, except for a brief burst of publicity surrounding the dedication or similar events. For example, there is Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square in central London. Notice that it is the massive column that people refer to--the statue at the top is irrelevant (perfunctory?).

14. Bathrooms:
Conservatives and classic liberals see such instances as evidence that SJWs (Social Justice Warriors) and various Progressives are basing policy choices on a hierarchy of oppression, marginalization and victimhood of various groups. In this instance, because transgender people are higher in the hierarchy, women's rights are to be subordinated.
These observations come up in various presentations--I remember it being part of some of the talks by Jonathan Haidt (mentioned above), probably in the section "Versions focusing on/applicable to academia". However, even if the policy is an instance of that approach, I expect that this will go largely unnoticed except to those sensitized to that way of thinking. For the typical voter, this will be too down in the weeds and they will likely view the decision in isolation.

15. Unfair process in campus-rape accusations::
A informative, but long, overview of the criticisms with examples: "The Uncomfortable Truth About Campus Rape Policy" by Emily Yoffe - The Atlantic, 2017-09-06.
"At many schools, the rules intended to protect victims of sexual assault mean students have lost their right to due process--and an accusation of wrongdoing can derail a person's entire college education."

16. Free college:
In 1980-1983, I was an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Oregon State University. Because of budget cutbacks for public schools, many students were entering with less than 3 years of math and 3 years of science, often only 1 year of each. Consequently remedial courses were a large part of their freshman year. I had come from The University of Michigan where that was prerequisite for all applicants. Thus, the typical Engineering or Science major at Oregon State was less prepared for that field than an English major at Michigan. From what I hear and read, this situation is common across the country.
Point: Free college tuition is irrelevant to students with poor secondary educations, and to students whose aptitudes and personalities are poor fits to careers requiring college degrees.
Point: For several decades it has been pointed out that many jobs that don't actually require a Bachelor's degree have come to have that being required of applicants. This has produced multiple distortions in the economy that free-college would exacerbate.

17. Deer hunting:
Absent their natural predators--wolves and mountain lions--deer tend to over-populate their environment. Even with hunting, they seem to remain abundant to the point of being pests or being at risk of mass die-offs in winter from starvation.

18. Guns: Ignorance among Democratic Party elite:
The cluelessly ignorant statements by Hillary Clinton, Tim Kaine (VP candidate) and others about "silencers" has been widely, and justifiable, ridiculed. They are a good example of Democratic politicians who don't appear to even have go-to people to fact-check drafts of such statements.

19. NRA:
The NRA is a powerful lobbying group with a budget that is tiny compared to many other lobbying groups. Their power comes from making very effective use of that budget to rally supporters. And various gun-control advocates often make it easy for them, providing gasoline to pour on the fire.

20. Gun control measures: Statistics and focus
The website FiveThirtyEight (Nate Silver et al) has done a series of articles analyzing gun deaths and related issues, with two summary articles in the aftermath of Las Vegas:
"Mass Shootings Are A Bad Way To Understand Gun Violence" by Maggie Koerth-Baker, 2017-10-03.
"I used to think gun control was the answer. My research told me otherwise." by Leah Libresco, Washington Post (tiered subscription), 2017-10-03.
The focus is on reducing gun deaths by what measures would produce the largest reductions. The biggest category is suicide, especially by older males, followed by "traditional" criminal acts (large majority are drug-related). Third is domestic violence. A substantial majority of gun deaths involve pistols--not semi-automatic rifles. An alternate focus might be on "innocent victims", which would ignore significant portions of the first two categories. Unfortunately, after yet another tragedy, the media chooses to highlight those who have an emotional reaction but can't be bothered to listen to the practicalities of what can be done, and those who cynically use the spotlight for virtue signaling and self-promotion.
Note: Although the authors of those articles appear to be of the urban professional elite with little/no experience with guns, their commitment to inquiry and statistically analysis seems to override their cultural biases.
Aside: Earlier data-based analyses had negligible impact on policy, and I see nothing to indicate that that will change.

21. Gun politics: Small but telling example:
During her confirmation hearing, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos stated that she was willing to let local school boards decide whether it was appropriate to have a gun available to the school staff, and cited as a potential example--from Wyoming Senator Enzi--of a rural Wyoming school that had tall fences to guard against grizzly bears ("In Grizzly Country, DeVos' Gun Remark Lands Differently" - AP, 2017-01-19). The reporter can be forgiven for not realizing that a gun can be used to scare off wildlife, not just kill it, with the former often preferable. However, the bias or cluelessness of the article is seen in the suggestion that an elementary school art teacher might be the one tasked with using the gun: Arts education in many rural schools disappeared many years ago as budgets shrunk.
In other versions of this story, gun control advocates made the argument that because of the massacres of students by people who illegally brought guns onto the campus, the students would be endangered by designated members of school staff having access to a gun. (No, I couldn't follow the logic)
Note: Every school I know of has a safe for things like standardized test materials, and it is typically in a locked closet in a room where students are not permitted, or permitted only with staff supervision. They could probably provide similar accommodations for a gun safe.
The end of the article quotes from a press release from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, but it no longer seems to be available on their web site. However, I did find it at one of their chapters. The opening two sentence make it seem like a parody, but the remainder is very characteristic of such proclamations:
"We get it, bears can be scary. But for every fatal bear attack in 2015, 18,000 Americans were killed with a gun. Too many of those were students, shot with a gun they should have never had access to in the first place. It's clear that Betsy DeVos barely understands the very real issue of school violence, or the risks of guns to our youngest and most vulnerable citizens, and American students deserve better."
Excuse me, but is the Brady Campaign portraying this as having semi-automatic rifles standing in the corners of classrooms, or teachers having pistols on their desks? If you wonder why it is so hard to get reasonable gun control even though it is supported by the large majority of Americans, it isn't just the NRA, but self-sabotaging idiocy and raw political partisanship such as this.
Personal example: I grew up in a semi-rural village of 2500. There were multiple occurrences of Black Bears wandering into town, and usually they were "encouraged" to wander back into the woods. However, one Sunday morning a sow and her cubs had wandered into the center of town and were in front of a church when it let out. The sow ordered the cubs to safety up a tree and stood protectively underneath it, but also blocking anyone from leaving the church. Fortunately the people could go back inside and wait for Fish and Game to show up with a tranquilizer gun and transport for the bears, but that was well over an hour (more likely over 2 hours).
Another time, a buck with full antlers wandered onto main street and and was charging at shoppers. Some volunteer matadors manage to distract the deer long enough for everyone to get safely inside buildings. The village's lone police officer, riding in the back of a pickup truck, managed to lasso the deer and tether it to a parking meter until Fish and Game could arrive. In each of these cases, there were people with rifles or shotguns standing by should the need arise.
Lesson: The urban elites, especially of the Democratic Party, have a long history of being resistant to making real attempts to comprehend how the non-urban areas are different.

22. Clinton supporters' faint praise, some examples:
"What Is Hillary's Greatest Accomplishment? Carly Fiorina dared Democrats to name it. 20 top Dems accepted the challenge" in Politico Magazine (2015-09-17).
"Why I'm supporting Hillary Clinton" by Thomas J. Vilsack (former Governor of Iowa) in The Gazette of Cedar Rapids Iowa (2015-08-25).
Aside: I mentioned these in my 2015-10-02 blog "Lessons in marketing yourself: 'Making lemonade' from the Presidential campaigns".

An abbreviated index by topic and chronologically is available.

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 +   1 person likes this
Posted by resident, a resident of Charleston Meadows,
on Oct 15, 2017 at 10:02 am

I think I grew up in a golden age in Los Angeles when we had a strong industrial base that provided jobs for all educational levels. We also had the entertainment and design industries which were doing very well at the time. West Hollywood was the gay city within Los Angeles County and due to the overall high employment in the entertainment industry (movies) seem to work well with no overt level of attention. They had the best restaurants, clothes, and overall quality of life. The LA Unified School District moved people around by bus to attempt to integrate the city overall. And we had a solid middle class in all races so no one could complain of not having an opportunity in life. The keys to this working was a variable economy and manageable population.
When major industrial businesses moved out (defense industry) and a automotive factory due to increased state taxes that eliminated the major sector for jobs with no advanced degrees. Then the fur began to fly - less jobs, increased population. So the trend throughout the rest of America as industrialization is reduced is a whole segment of the population which is now left out and angry. And that anger directs itself in random patterns.
Bottom line is that in the past EVERYONE MATTERED, if everyone was employed at their level of achievement. The state of CA is now skewed in a way that does not make sense and the bottom is falling out. As is the rest of the country.

 +   24 people like this
Posted by Lydia Kou, a resident of Barron Park,
on Oct 15, 2017 at 12:49 pm

I am a registered Democrat, yet I did not seek the endorsement of the county Democratic Party and Democratic groups when I ran for City Council both in 2014 and 2016.

I was told local elections are officially non-partisan and silly me, I believed it. Then, the different Democratic Party endorsement questionnaires started coming in and as I read them, I found the platforms would come with implicit obligations that have nothing to do with my duties as a Council member here in Palo Alto and would be distractions.

Firstly, there are so many events to attend and support for resolutions on national issues. This may not be a problem for a candidate who sees City Council as a stepping stone to higher office, and certainly, having your name on the program for those events provides visibility to the party establishment. Also, introducing and backing resolutions on outside issues establishes a hopeful's credentials with the various elements of the party. That is not me.

The second reason for not seeking the Democratic endorsements is what appears as manipulation by insiders. In 2014, one candidate seeking the endorsement was disqualified, without any checking by the Dem party, on the basis of a false claim by supporters of another candidate (they claimed that he endorsed a Republican). In 2016, the endorsement committee disqualified long-time party activist and fund-raiser Arthur Keller because he supported balanced growth (rather than fast growth). Instead two of the candidates the Democratic Party endorsed had changed party affiliations to become Democrats -- one had been a long-time Republican.

The third reason for not seeking the Democratic endorsements is local conditions. San Jose dominates Santa Clara County politics because its population is more than half of that of the county. San Jose is very different from Palo Alto, for example, it has far more housing than jobs and is aggressively seeking new and expanded employers. I have heard a San Jose City Council member blaming north County cities (Palo Alto, Mountain View, Cupertino, etc) for various SJ's problems. This is a local version of the Democratic Party establishment being out-of-touch with the people and only can see “establishment" ideology.

I view my constituents to be the residents of this city not the party establishment or the special interest groups. Along the way, the political parties and the elected officials have forgotten that we live in a nation that has a government of the people, by the people, for the people.

With a government elected by its people and that effects every aspect of our lives from our freedom to quality of life to schools to health care to homeland security to taxes, voting is an important right in our society. Therefore, people/citizens should take the right and privilege of voting seriously.

As a nation, we are going through a wake-up call and it all comes back to that individual voter.

 +   10 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Oct 15, 2017 at 1:30 pm

Joe Simitian is an exceptionally capable and experienced politician. When he talks about Democratic Party disconnect, he's very careful to specify he's talking about the National Leadership. His message is important, but as a professional Democrat he can't afford to offend local organizations. Because truth in politics is career limiting, he has to speak in code.

So I'll say what Simitian can't: it's the whole Democratic Party, top to bottom, from Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid all the way to volunteers at the local Club Chapter. They are so insularly focused on their own internal politics, special-interest kowtowing, and organized advocacy groups that they have lost touch with what massive numbers of people actually care about, including here in California, arguably the last true Democratic stronghold in the country. They don't understand how many people vote Democratic not because they believe, but just because the California Republicans are even worse. Dems look at how small the GOP tent is, and assume everybody else is under their own tent, instead of under no tent at all. Or maybe they do know, but don't care.

Is there likely to be change? Probably not in California. The Party is fat and happy as is, even with Trump in office; he's a culture-war scarecrow to rally the Progressive Base against. The risk is the California GOP wises up and grows their tent, and then California goes the way of the South and so many other states. But nobody believes that will ever happen. So we Democrats listen to Simitian's apt and timely message, wring our hands a little, and then it's back to business as usual.

 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 15, 2017 at 2:43 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Additional resources:

Re: Resident (immediately above): "...many people vote Democratic not because they believe, but just because the California Republicans are even worse."

This is called "negative partisanship". For those interested in more info, including links, this was the topic of my blog of 2017-07-16 "California Democrats seek to revive the Republican Party: Republicans expected to resist".

Re: Lydia Kou on endorsements
If you want to see examples of the questionnaires that candidates need to fill out in applying for organizational endorsements, they are linked to in my 2014-11-22 blog "Campaign Endorsements: Behind the Curtain". The blog provides background and commentary, but if you want to skip that: collection.

 +   2 people like this
Posted by resident, a resident of Charleston Meadows,
on Oct 15, 2017 at 7:41 pm

People keep talking about the economy of California. People need to realize that most very large companies are incorporated in the state of Delaware due to legal and tax reasons however their work force may be all over the world. Also the dependence on H1B visas does not work for the state in general - those people actually work for sourcing agencies which are located out of country. So their employment is as a subcontractor vs and employee. That means that a Google or FB is relieved of the employee taxes for that individual. That does not put us ahead of the game so as a selling point one has to ask the right questions. And our pension shortfalls are a topic on another thread (Web Link). So "business as usual" is not a selling point. And the party of No is not a selling point. People will be exhausted by this as we come into the next big election.

 +   4 people like this
Posted by Sea Seelam Reddy, a resident of College Terrace,
on Oct 17, 2017 at 4:35 am

Sea Seelam Reddy is a registered user.

It is good that Joe is travelling to these places on listening tour.

Democratic party and Republican party are not that different except for the extreme.

People in California are dismayed at the national politics and the leaders at the helm.

We need to clean up; have no special interest candidates and no donation candidates that speak ideas and not stubborn right or left wing views.

God bless America.

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 17, 2017 at 3:53 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Simitian will be repeating his talk at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on Monday Oct 23. Free to members; General Public $11.54.


UPDATE: Many of the Commonwealth talks become available on video. I didn't see any indication of whether this one would be.

 +   4 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Oct 17, 2017 at 4:19 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

Thank you Lydia for honestly and openly revealing your experience and expectations of serving on CC without party affiliation being a factor. You have told a truth that we all knew. PA CC elections are not non-partisan. You might have been naive but you're learning fast, and we welcome you as a new kid on the block...and a kind and understanding one. Hang in there.

 +  Like this comment
Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Oct 17, 2017 at 8:13 pm

Tempted to attend the Commonwealth Club rendition, just to compare audience demeanor.
But Monday evening... I'd miss our council meeting.

 +   1 person likes this
Posted by the_punnisher, a resident of Mountain View,
on Oct 18, 2017 at 4:52 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

[[Blogger: Several people have reported this as inappropriate content. I believe that it is appropriate because it provides a perspective that is very relevant to the alienation that was the topic of Simitian's talk and this blog.
To see where this town is: Web Link

I was born in Ladysmith, Wisconsin. I lived there after being sent back during California Recessions ( yes, California has had recessions every 20 years or so ) and the first rule of living on a dairy farm/; YOU DON'T WORK, YOU DON'T EAT. Try to understand his; we remained money poor in both California and on Grandpa's dairy farm. Staying poor in the SFBA meant that with redlining practiced in Palo Alto, we could only get housing in East Palo Alto (" You would be with more people of your own kind " ) and we suffered as the Black people sent there turned East Palo Alto into a slum. ( I'll bet this history is not part of the celebration right now ) Yes, I wondered why I got beat up by the other students in the Ravenswood District ( Raven= BLACK ). We were one of the last white families that left EPA to it's fate.
So don't lecture me about POOR!

The reason that Trump got elected was the backlash over recent government policy. The EPA made a ruling that " any waterway you can float a boat on is OURS". This is a direct violation of our Federal Bill of Rights ( taking without just compensation ) and enraged many people to vote. It didn't help when the EPA breached that mining pit and DID NOT FIND ANYONE RESPONSIBLE FOR DOING IT!
These people deal with dangerous machinery every day. If they lose a finger or an arm, THEY TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR IT!! Not whining that the machinery was unsafe, or it should be banned.
When the EPA DIDN'T find someone responsible, the EPA became responsible!

Up until the recent events, our Federal Government was to be cursed at and endured. Curse words flew across the dinner table about the Feds or Madison. Now the problems changed with the behavior of the EPA. Actual damage to our property was threatened by the EPA. The local County Sheriffs became involved, more to protect local people from ANY Federal Agents. Many joined the " Oath Keepers " to show that our Constitution is being threatened and our very lives were at risk.

When I did an unofficial poll of my friends back in Indianhead Country, Everyone was a Trump supporter. My ex-father in law would have said " Look at what that N---er done to us" which is still the attitude of many hard working people throughout our country. Farmers, like myself, have VERY long memories and were screwed so many times by government, ANY CHANGE IS BETTER THAN " POLITICS AS USUAL ".
HRC represented " Politics as usual ". I believe that we just averted a real 2nd Revolution if HRC became president. Yes, I would have moved back to our 500 acres and my birthplace to defend it. Look up Tigerton Dells for just how we feel about Feds in Wisconsin.
We have been promised the Internet and paid for it; UTI ( now CenturyLink ) screwed us over. Better pricing for milk and cheese..Now most dairy farms are gone from " America's Dairyland " and Angus Beef or Mutton ( ours is mutton farming ) just to SURVIVE. ( We cheat; California Salaries were invested there and we bought up land when farm families said " uncle " ).

When UW Madison sent out researchers to find out WHY, many people did not trust them; MADISON=BAD for many years before. Whole communities would not talk with them. ( Most of the Mid-West people are very clannish in nature; Mennonites and Lutherans have been persecuted by government before; we just got invited to the local Mennonite clan because of our good works over the last 20 years.
When the UW people finally got the trust of some families, they may have found the microcosm of why Trump got elected: ( This survey was started before the actual election ) HATRED of the whole system that these hard working people lived under! Their usual world is fairly simple: Get up before sunrise, feed the cows, milk the cows, turn them out to pasture ( winter the silos fed the cows, internal cow heat kept the barn warm. On weekend add cleaning the barn and spreading the manure ( I have shoveled more S#1T than a politician ). Kids off to school, repeat...

In 8 years, this simple life has been threatened by that " N---er in the White House ". "' Our hard earned money is paid to many people who never worked a day in their lives! ". They sensed what I know; 2 and 1/2 years ago, we passed the number of workers to government assisted people. There are MORE people being assisted by government than WORKERS paying into our government.
When I talk to many poor people that ARE eligible for Welfare, the answer: BECAUSE I'M TOO PROUD is the return answer.

The survey got back to UW Madison; at least Madison knows why Donald J. Trump became POTUS. In History, any REPUBLIC has only lasted for ~200 years. Then anarchy and violence becomes the norm until a new leader ( fuhrer auf Deutsch ) takes control and runs the country as they want to.

In the meantime, I keep my aim straight and my powder dry...

I dare anybody to learn about the history of Palo Alto REDLINING and how that damaged many Servicemen and Women after the Korean War. Or one of the victims ( me ). That may also explain why Trump became President. I have a long memory, too...

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sanctimonious City, a resident of Barron Park,
on Oct 19, 2017 at 5:57 am

Sanctimonious City is a registered user.

[[ Removed. Off-topic. Possibly directed at the people in Wisconsin reported on in comment by "the_punnisher".]]

 +   4 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Oct 19, 2017 at 5:35 pm

The current hysteria for sucking up to Trump voters is pointless. Even if they are not themselves "racist, sexist, homophobic, misogynistic or xenophobic," they willingly--many eagerly--voted for a frankly "racist, sexist, homophobic, misogynistic, and xenophobic" candidate. They have nothing to tell us that is worth knowing.

Remember the Trump Voter Triad: You may be honest, you may be intelligent, you may be a Trump voter, but you cannot be all three.

 +   4 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 19, 2017 at 6:04 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: Curmudgeon

1. Rhetorical Question: Given how well this attitude worked in the 2016 Presidential election (sarcasm), why do you think that it will produce better results in the future?

2. Listen to what Simitian reported: For many, Trump was not a positive choice, but the lesser evil. Plus attitudes like your seemed to have played a significant role in alienating people from the national Democratic Party.

 +   5 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Oct 20, 2017 at 1:08 pm

A faithful recitation of the Democratic Party party line. I was expecting that but hoping for more.

Look, would we be indulging in this handwringing if the Electoral College was in its rightful place in history's dustbin and Clinton was inaugurated with a comfortable three million election margin, although some traditionally blue states were lost by paper-thin differences? Of course not. We'd be feeling all warm and glowy that common American decency had put down that racist, sexist, homophobic, misogynistic, xenophobic clown named Trump. Although some of us would be concerned because he got more than a few thousand votes, nobody would be sucking up to those degenerates (the word Clinton should have used, and no apology afterward).

If you want some real insight, actually read Vance's book. He and I have very similar backgrounds, so I can testify he got it right. Pay attention to his diagnoses early and late in the book. You may safely disregard the musings of confessed born-with-silver-spoon Williams. There is no substitute for membership in an extended working family in which nobody had finished high school.

BTW, I cannot imagine anybody I knew while growing up voting for a boor like Trump. They would have grimly washed his mouth out with Lava soap, tho.

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 20, 2017 at 2:45 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

> "You may safely disregard the musings of confessed born-with-silver-spoon Williams. There is no substitute for membership in an extended working family in which nobody had finished high school."

I found that the video by Williams--as a Progressive and a member of the academic elite--is worth viewing by the expected audience of this blog because it talks from their frame of reference.

> "BTW, I cannot imagine anybody I knew while growing up voting for a boor like Trump."

That may well have been true pre-2008, but there had been a growing recognition that the ruling elite (both parties) had betrayed much of the country, going back to the Vietnam War.
Aside: H.R. McMaster (US Army retired), the current head of the National Security Council, wrote a book "Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam".

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Posted by Derek, a resident of College Terrace,
on Oct 20, 2017 at 3:43 pm


Enjoyed reading this post and appreciate the effort you put into it. When I have the stomach for it, I'll check out your links, though I would prefer suggestions for reading, as I can generally skim faster than people can speak.

I have a few quick quibbles:

1 Re Removing Confederate statues. "Then there are the insults designed to very publicly demonstrate power and utter contempt for the targets." These words exactly describe the reason why some (most?) of the statues were erected.

2. When I've read about white privilege, I haven't read arguments solely on wealth, if at all. My understanding of white privilege is that it extends from the racial preference inherent in American society. Blacks in America experience worse treatment than whites of the same socio-economic background. I would agree that the disadvantages of being poor can override that privilege.

3. I think you know better than I that "Social Justice Warrior" is an epithet among the right. I wouldn't have expected a post presented as an analysis, and not a polemic, to have an epithet of any sort.

4. "People [from the context, I take this to be openly LBGTQ individuals] who unjustifiably... give offense " Your use of "unjustifiably" suggests that you are offended by openly LBGTQ individuals. In an analysis, I would have expected "justifiably or not." Or perhaps I'm one of those people unjustifiably taking offense :)

Again, thanks for sharing your thoughts and research.

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Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Oct 20, 2017 at 4:02 pm

"...there had been a growing recognition that the ruling elite (both parties) had betrayed much of the country, going back to the Vietnam War."

Yep. But I believe that Vietnam bit has much more impact among progressives than the Reagan/Bush/Bush/Trump voter bloc. The latter are the major supplier of soldiers for our current wars, and they keep on enlisting. They believe.

I think back to when the mill that was the major employer in my hometown closed during the Reagan Recession in 1982. That was in the early days of the newly-burgeoning Rust Belt.

It was a major, major shock that I thought would cause the local Democrats who voted overwhelmingly for Reagan to examine what Reagan really stood for. But the Reagan Democrats have nationally kept on voting for the Republican elites who have kept on offshoring their jobs.

Somebody's not looking around, or not thinking clearly, or is too enthralled by the Republicans' relentless White Backlash dogwhistle to notice they're being royally snookered and they're voting for their snookerers. Trump ditched the dogwhistle, dangled real meat, and stole that voter Base. They still love him despite his spectacular failures to deliver.

So pick two: Smart, Honest, Republican. I have no reason to doubt the honesty of the members of the Base. With the ruling elite swamp dwellers, however...

Back to the topic at hand. I think Supervisor Simitian is misspending his efforts. Democrats need to recognize and CULTIVATE their existing majority (Republicans have won the popular vote in only 1 of the last 7 presidential elections), and above all motivate it to turn out on election day.

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Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 20, 2017 at 4:57 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

> "But I believe that Vietnam bit has much more impact among progressives than the Reagan/Bush/Bush/Trump voter bloc. The latter are the major supplier of soldiers for our current wars, and they keep on enlisting."

There is a difference between supporting your country and believing in its elites.

For example, my experience: Circa 1966/67, The older brothers of friends were coming back from tours in Vietnam and saying that the war was unwinnable, and that although much of the population feared the Communists, they hated and despised the government more. Yet, they were volunteering for another tour -- it was important to support their comrades still there and important to support the country and the President, right or wrong. It was your duty. I was in high school and it was years before I understood this.
Aside: H.R. McMaster (US Army retired), the current head of the National Security Council, wrote a book "Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam".

My father had served on the front lines in WW2 -- from just after D-Day to just after entering German when his unit had taken so many casualties that it had to be withdrawn. Some of the other fathers had served under MacArthur (S. Pacific) or Mark Clark (Italy) and had very negative attitudes toward generals. Other fathers had served in the hell of Korea. M*A*S*H -- an anti-Vietnam War TV comedy series (1972-1983) -- was popular with many of them.

All three brothers of a classmate became casualties on the same night during attacks along the Danang perimeter. Although no one on my block died in Vietnam, one who was 10 years ahead of me was a POW (shot down August 1967) and another broken (he had the physical and intellectual skills to be a sniper, but not the psychological defenses).

As more info about the decision-making process trickled out, what appeared to be stupidity and negligence became to be seen more and more as betrayal by the elites. This was a slow process, but it was intertwined with so much more that it would be hard to quantify.

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Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Oct 20, 2017 at 6:31 pm

What is the operative definition of "betrayal" in this context?

Also, with no irony intended, why attribute to perfidy what can be explained as stupidity and negligence?

Don't discount the anticommunist posturing that was an absolute political necessity so soon after McCarthy's toxic circus. Everybody "knew" that the French had failed in Indochina; that the USA was obliged to clean up their mess or all Asian nations would fall like dominoes; that those commies in pajamas would be patsies for us. Six months at most.

Read Joseph Allsop's jingoist columns circa 1965/65. Syndicated nationally, he had a direct line to LBJ's big yet fragile ego. Warrior or wimp? Johnson privately claimed Allsop coerced him into the war.

So stupidity and ego, certainly. Nothing new. But where's the class betrayal?

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Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Oct 20, 2017 at 6:44 pm

One correction and one observation.

Correction: Allsop's columns of 1964/65.

Observation: M*A*S*H was indeed antiwar, especially the movie which purely coincidentally came out in 1970 just after the Kent State shootings. But it was set in Korea. I wonder what reception it would get if it were re-released now.

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Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 20, 2017 at 7:43 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: Derek

> "1. Re Removing Confederate statues. "Then there are the insults designed to very publicly demonstrate power and utter contempt for the targets." These words exactly describe the reason why some (most?) of the statues were erected."

That is the proffered justification, but exercise some skepticism: The cities where this is happening have long been under the control of Democrats, so if these statues are so offensive, why weren't they removed long ago? Could the removal rather be a response to the election of Trump?

The article "What Trump gets wrong about Confederate statues, in one chart: Confederate monuments are and always have been monuments to white supremacy " Vox, 2017-08-15. This has a graph from the showing the rate of new memorials. Caveat: This graph is from the Leftwing advocacy group Southern Poverty Law Center. I didn't see any evidence for this claim -- it seemed to be only what they chose to believe.
Again, apply skepticism. An alternative explanation for the peak of statues in the 1900-1915 is that this was 35-50 years after the end of the Civil War and was when many veterans were approaching end-of-life -- for those 20 in 1865 would be 45-70 and those who were 30 would be 65-80. Ask yourself why racists would feel the need to erect statues during a period when they were so visibly dominant in so many other ways? Statues and memorials are usually put up to preserve the memory of those who are likely to be forgotten.

> "2. When I've read about white privilege, I haven't read arguments solely on wealth,..."

It is a routine part of advocates such as Ta-Nehisi Coates, especially in arguments for reparations to the descendents of slaves.

> "... I would agree that the disadvantages of being poor can override that privilege."

Many Progressives and the Left disagree with this: Race is the primary determining factor and dismissing socio-economic factors. White is white; Black is black, period. For example, a graduate student (Jonathan Butler) at a prominent university and from a family worth roughly $20M is regarded as a "marginalized" person because he is Black.

> "... 3. I think you know better than I that "Social Justice Warrior" is an epithet among the right. I wouldn't have expected a post presented as an analysis, and not a polemic, to have an epithet of any sort."

SJW started out as a positive, self-descriptive term and I still hear people describing themselves as such. It took on a derogatory meaning because of what SJWs had become. While it is widely used by the Right, it is also widely used by classical liberals. SJWs have a well-deserved reputation for intolerance of other viewpoints, approaches and priorities--those who disagree are not just wrong, but evil. However, it is the "Warrior" aspect that is the biggest negative. They are willing to attack at the slightest perceived, even manufactured, slight or deviation from their ideology. To suppress other viewpoints, they resort to disruption, harassment, threats, force and violence, including threats of violence that make it cost-prohibitive to host dissenting viewpoints.
Example: An ACLU presentation on Free Speech and Demonstrations at the College of William and Mary was shutdown by Black Lives Matters demonstrators (starts at roughly 3:00 in the below video and continues for almost an hour). Among their chanted slogans were "The revolution will not uphold the Constitution", "Liberalism is White Supremacy", "ACLU, you protect Hitler too", "ACLU, Free Speech for who",...
Video from the protesters Facebook page
If you prefer the YouTube interface, this video has been widely excerpted and reproduced there (search).
Article: "ACLU Speaker Shouted Down at William & Mary", Inside Higher Ed, 2017-10-05.

> "4. "People [from the context, I take this to be openly LBGTQ individuals who unjustifiably... give offense " Your use of "unjustifiably" suggests that you are offended by openly LBGTQ individuals"

The example was part of the Simitian talk (a different interviewee: "Why do you have to push this in our face?"). The quoted sentence is from the final sentence of subsequent paragraph of my commentary on the general issue that Simitian raised. Please re-read that sequence (beginning of section "Disrespect") and consider why you made this linkage.

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Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 20, 2017 at 7:48 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

> "Observation: M*A*S*H was indeed antiwar, especially the movie which purely coincidentally came out in 1970 just after the Kent State shootings. But it was set in Korea."

People associated with the TV series openly acknowledged that it was about the Vietnam War, and many viewers saw it as such. Having it set in Korea provided a degree of separation, just as large categories of Science Fiction are actually about current societal issues.

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Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 20, 2017 at 10:09 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: Curmudgeon: "What is the operative definition of "betrayal" in this context?..."

There is a "contract" between leaders and followers. It is often called a "social contract" but similar arrangements are found among social animals, so it could be argued that there is a biological aspect to this.
The commonly used example from the animal kingdom are baboons. When a troop is threaten by a predator, the high-ranking males are expected to confront the predator and and risk their lives to give the rest of the troop time to get to safety. The alpha male is expected to lead from the front, and failure to do so may lead to his overthrow.
Historical digression: Throughout much of history, the rank of "citizen" or equivalent included the obligation to take up arms as needed. One of the social transformations in Medieval Europe was caused by the escalating expense of armor: Many warriors could not afford to meet the requirements and dropped out of the "citizenry" into a class of freemen who ranked above the serfs but didn't have the privileges of "citizens".

In the US Military, there is a concept of "Servant Leadership" (also found in Christianity...) with its associated slogan "Leaders eat last". The intent is to remind officers of their obligations to those they command.

Failure to honor these obligations and duties is betrayal, whether it be malfeasance, failing to do due diligence, cowardice (the leader protecting himself by endangering the group).

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Posted by Derek, a resident of College Terrace,
on Oct 20, 2017 at 10:23 pm

1. "If they were so offensive, why weren't they removed long ago?" There were even more offensive things to deal with. Or that even white Democrats didn't understand the degree to which they were offensive to black people.

Your alternative explanation works for the 1900-20 spike, but not the one in the 1940s and 1950s.

2. Ta-Nehisi Coates on White Privilege: "White commenters who were financially "better off" than me should assume only that, and no more. They should certainly not assume they were more privileged." Web Link

I think Ta-Nehisi Coates arguments for reparations comes not from a claim that, "Hey, you had rich ancestors, that's not fair," but from "Hey, you enriched yourselves by our slavery, and even after slavery was abolished, we were excluded from many of the mechanisms that created the middle class" (e.g. Woodrow Wilson's segregation of the civil service; the exclusion of blacks from FHA loans)

3. Wikipedia disagrees with your assessment that SJW is still a positive or even neutral term: Web Link If you want to use it as such, you should probably qualify your use, as the consensus seems to be that it's negative.

4. I re-read the Disrespect section, and I'm not clear on what you are trying to say in the first paragraph beginning ME:. I had assumed that this paragraph was related to the sentence preceding it---a gay couple married privately for fear of making people uncomfortable---but your response suggests otherwise. I'm not sure what to conclude, as I find this paragraph lacking your usual clarity.

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Posted by confused, a resident of Gunn High School,
on Oct 20, 2017 at 10:29 pm

Question: what is the difference between a white supremacist and a white nationalist? Steve Bannon and George Bush are having a wild debate about this issue that I am having a hard time understanding.

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Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Oct 20, 2017 at 10:37 pm

Re Doug Moran:

I should have mentioned I was interested in the operative definition. The romantic one is great, especially the baboon example, but advanced human civilization has enabled a much larger tiered elite, with a correspondingly greater degree of dependence on it by the epsilon thru omega classes, enabling a much expanded menu of betrayal options.

Democracy requires the betrayers to be cleverer than the betrayed, or the betrayed to be willing accomplices to their betrayal in return for an at least implied promise of reward, such as elite-sanctioned dominance over classes deemed further down the Greek alphabet. This seems to be the present situation in the Republican Base, with Donald Trump tweeting them to a new level of betrayal.

Or were you thinking of something else?

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Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 21, 2017 at 1:24 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Re: Confused

My understanding is that "White Nationalism" is establishing a nation that is ethnically "white" (large majority or exclusively), whatever that is. "White supremacy" is the belief that the "white race" is genetically superior to other races. So a "white nationalist" might not be a "white supremacist" (self-segregation) and a "white supremacist" could have no problem living in a multi-racial society.

However, I don't follow debates about the distinctions as I regard it as irrelevant to me.

One definition of "white" are the ethnic groups that speak the Indo-European languages and thought to have arisen on the Pontic Steppe (north of the Black Sea and Caucasus Mountains): The Iranian peoples are white, but not Finns/Suomi, Lapps/Sami, Hungarians, Basques...
Another definition includes ethnic groups speaking Semitic (Jews, Arabs ...) and supposed Hamitic languages (North Africans, Egyptians,...), thought to have arisen on the Anatolian plateau (in Turkey, south of the Black Sea).
Another involved Northern Europeans (including Finns) but not Gaels from Ireland. However, Gaels living 20 miles away in Scotland were "white", as were other Celtic-speaking peoples.
And this is only a few of the most common versions. I hope I have convinced you of the hopelessness of this endeavor.

I got introduced to this in a Linguistic course about the reconstruction of trees of language families and warnings about the problem of confusing loan words (from neighboring groups) from evidence of of language relationships.

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Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 21, 2017 at 1:59 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Re: Curmudgeon: betrayal, "I was interested in the operative definition. The romantic one ... a much larger tiered elite."

The definition I gave was not romantic, but one of principle / morality for a large segment of the US population. Dismissing it as "romantic" demonstrates one of the cultural divides in the US.

While underlings may not have enough power to appropriately punish betrayals, it is something that builds up. And an elite that is unwilling to discipline its "bad apples" is a betrayal by that elite as a group. The resentments and distrust continue to build (this was a thread in Simitian's talk).

Harvey Weinstein is a current example. In 2009, it was "Too big to jail" and bonuses to those that brought on the Great Recession.

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Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 21, 2017 at 3:06 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: Derek
> Statues: "There were even more offensive things to deal with. Or that even white Democrats didn't understand the degree to which they were offensive to black people."

It seems implausible that those statues would have gone from off-the-radar to a top priority in the few months after Trump's election. And it wasn't just Whites "who didn't understand..." - an African-American (Ray Nagin) was mayor of New Orleans for 8 years and didn't see a need to remove the statues.
The process in New Orleans began in 2015--unlike other cities--by the current (White) mayor, but selecting Confederate Memorial Day to do the first of the removals occurred with little notice. (Aside: I grew up in New York state and my first encounter with "Confederate Memorial Day" came when it figured prominently in the news coverage, so don't ask for details).

> "Your alternative explanation works for the 1900-20 spike, but not the one in the 1940s and 1950s."

Hitchens' Razor: "What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence."
Having seen that one part of the claim was made in bad faith, there is no call to waste time on the remainder.

> "Ta-Nehisi Coates on White Privilege..."

I have read multiple articles by Coates that make the bare claim without the qualification you cite. And the bare claim is also made by others ("advocates such as ...Coates"), although I don't know if they got it from him or a common source.
I stopped reading Coates after many demonstrations that he is a vile racist -- he defines people by the color of their skin. Additionally, the amount of racially-based animosity he radiates puts him in the same bin as White Supremacists.

> "you enriched yourselves by our slavery...we were excluded from many of the mechanisms that created the middle class"

Yet he demands reparations from Whites who never made it into the Middle Class. And his chain of connections for Whites benefiting would make many conspiracy theorists blush. For example, a farmer in Minnesota benefited from slavery because the same bank that loaned him money did business (indirectly?) with banks that loaned money to merchants who bought cotton and shipped it to Europe. Apparently, if there had been no cotton trade, whatever banks there were would not have had funds to lend to the farmer.

In what I did read, Coates equates the economic output of the US to the value of exports alone, and thus cotton plantations were the economic engine for the whole US. Yet one of the major reasons for the Confederacy losing the Civil War was that their economy was weak and the Union's was robust and much larger. And if Coates is right, shouldn't the economy of the Union crashed shortly after succession?

And since reparations would come from the taxpayers, he includes other races and ethnic groups--Asians, Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, Africans who arrived after slavery,...--as having benefited from slavery.

> "Wikipedia disagrees with your assessment that SJW is still a positive or even neutral term"

I didn't say that it was still generally regarded as a non-derogatory term or the reverse), but that some still self-identified as such. The remainder of that portion of the response should have indicated that I thought that the use of "SJW" as a derogatory term was well earned and solidly justified.

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Posted by confused, a resident of Gunn High School,
on Oct 21, 2017 at 10:27 am

I am still confused. What is the point of being being white nationalists unless they are also white supremacists? Are they in denial about their white supremacist beliefs or are they just trying to keep their beliefs in the closet? What do they want to happen to non-white people like me? Create a second-class citizenship? Or expel us from this country? My family moved here 7 generations ago and the country we came from no longer exists.

I know that many prominent "alt right" White House officials have been fired, such as Bannon, Scaramucci, Priebus, and Gorka. Does that mean that the current government is no longer pursuing white nationalism, or are they just in the closet about this program? George Bush has been calling out the current government for being white nationalist, but only the fired people are responding.

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Posted by Home Front, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Oct 21, 2017 at 12:03 pm

Everyone wants to study the Dems, and heaven knows, they have a lot of work to do!

But... really? Why talk to voters? Just listen to what elected "conservatives" said about Trump.


[[Blogger: Portion removed as being off-topic: It was a list of negative things Republican officeholders said about Trump before endorsing him (both Trump and Republicans are off-topic).

As to "Why talk to voters?" -- one big motivation for Simitian's visits and the talk were why people who had voted for Obama voted for Trump (against Clinton). The primaries showed the Republican elite to be out-of-touch with its base, so what Republican officials said is irrelevant to that exploration.

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Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 21, 2017 at 2:55 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

> Confused: "I am still confused. What is the point of being being white nationalists unless they are also white supremacists?"

You can want to self-segregate yourself from other groups without believing that you are intrinsically superior to those other groups. Recognize that in the US there is also a significant Black Nationalist movement and a tiny Mexican Nationalist movement (a call to emulate the Spanish Reconquista that killed and expelled other ethnic/religious groups).

Because I have not looked for a clean definition by a White Nationalism, I don't know what they are saying. However, in the conservative blogosphere, there is much concern about attacks on Western Civilization. If this is the motivation for WN, the irony is that most of these attacks come from other Whites. A talk by a classical liberal showed a Leftwing protestor with a sign "Assimilation is cultural genocide."

Another version of White Nationalism might be to define "White" not as ethnicity, but Western Culture. This version might oppose immigration that undermined this culture, but accept immigrants that assimilate. For example, they would oppose immigration for those that oppose Western liberal democratic values.

One conservative vlogger had a very eloquent statement of this concern (Note: he is neither a White Supremacist nor a White Nationalist):
"None of this presentation is to say that people don't deserve to have their rights but some rights have, in part, always been surrendered for the good of the community and to keep it cohesive. The problem is there is no collective community anymore, only atomized groups that mutually revile each other while having to physically exist in the same space. Having no standards, no agreed upon norms or collective values makes any society so unfortunate to be in this position to basically be maladaptive and this does not bode well for the future."
The End Game: Why the West is Lost -- apologies, I don't have a link to when this passage started. I suspect this passage is derived from elsewhere because the rest of the video is nowhere near as polished. Trigger warning: The vlogger is "unconventional" in appearance and has various views that I find offensive.

This could be called "The Tower of Babel Argument" but I haven't seen that term used.

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Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Oct 21, 2017 at 7:46 pm

"The definition [of betrayal] I gave was not romantic, but one of principle / morality for a large segment of the US population. Dismissing it as "romantic" demonstrates one of the cultural divides in the US."

You no doubt intended to define "betrayal," hence you believe you did. But I cannot find it. To the point again, what is your operational definition of "betrayal" in the contemporary context of this topic? It's important. I think we are on the same track and want to be sure.

"one big motivation for Simitian's visits and the talk were why people who had voted for Obama voted for Trump (against Clinton)."

Some people just vote by their current whim. I read (can't recall where) that the fraction of such switchers was 18%. That's suggestively close to the 14% fraction of undecideds occurring in most surveys. So, is the phenomenon significant or merely the fuzz? The margins were very, very tight after all. I think Simitian is in a dark room looking for a black cat that's not even there. He has lots of company.

"The primaries showed the Republican elite to be out-of-touch with its base, so what Republican officials said is irrelevant to that exploration."

No, no. Those elites cynically created and cultivated that Base, and they know it thoroughly. Trump is the nightmare they feared--the outsider who offers their pet mob real red meat instead of the Spam they dogwhistled every election season, then set aside during the interims while they quietly shafted the suckers. Trump violated the rules and stole The Base by being authentic. (He is the unplanned-for Mule who upsets the carefully regimented order in Asimov's Foundation Trilogy.)

Finally, I don't think Trump planned this. He was/is just being himself, bigoted and insane. The Base got it immediately; the "nattering nabobs" are just now beginning to.

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Posted by Derek, a resident of College Terrace,
on Oct 21, 2017 at 10:56 pm

"Hitchens' Razor: "What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence."
Having seen that one part of the claim was made in bad faith, there is no call to waste time on the remainder."

Who are you accusing of bad faith?

[[ Blogger: You were asking about the multiple claims of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Their claims, their bad faith.]]

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Posted by the_punnisher, a resident of Mountain View,
on Oct 22, 2017 at 3:11 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

My relevance as the link(s) you asked for:

My parents were both soldiers in the Korean Conflict at the time. Please note that was NOT considered a WAR at the time.

My mother indicated that at the time, my Dad was on the front lines as one of the helicopter pilots that picked up the living and the dead. Yes, THE DEAD, not like the humor in the movie or the TV show M.A.S.H. .
Yes, he was rotated out of the Service once his tour of duty expired. For us at home, he suffered from PTSD big time. We did NOT have the choices we have now and my mother would not sign the paper to have him committed to Agnews were they were trying shock therapy and lobotomy at the time.
When my mother was contacted by our government about her ( and us children's ) rights, she decided on a separation instead a divorce.

Because my parents still loved each other, when Dad was given the divorce papers, the violence stopped. They are still together all these years. All this happened in the SFBA. That history was reluctantly given to me recently.

Here I am, trying to be the bridge you seek. When you grow up with violence, you understand violence better than the person who doesn't. I have also seen death first hand at several places, at the Sprint Car racing tracks ( I know first aid and know how people can go into shock; keep them talking until the paramedics come ) or watch helplessly when they die a violent death.

Lately, I have seen death in the nursing homes and in Stanford Hospital. These were in the same room in the bed next to me.

Many of these deaths have given me the old saying " That which does not kill us, makes us stronger ", A cynics view of life.

When you ask the right questions, I an willing to give the right answers.

I am much like the computers I helped design and build, from early S-100 personal computers to $100 Million supercomputers. Yes, I'm a Cray-on who helped design supercomputers and later DARPAnet before it became the World Wide Web . Yes, I'm listed on the excray site www.excray,com and as a node on the original UUnet site.

Why? Because I decided to become a " world saver ". I was there when the PAUSD was willing to break laws that were dealt properly with by my ( now retired ) Assistant Administrator parent who was originally a Special Ed teacher. ( the staff at Palo Alto knows this already ) This was a valuable resource that was ignored and what followed was the typical response.

Knowledge is Power but only if it is applied at the right time and place.

You are willing to understand and ask the right questions; that is why I'm willing to give as much information as I can from the poor to the family and property rich people we have become. My case also involved $$$, so I know many of the roles it plays outside California, both personal and political. My now dead wife of several years ( The Big C got her ) was Clerk of Courts for Clark County ( Las Vegas ) and Chief Clerk of Courts in the City and County Building of Denver Colorado. You watch and listen, you find out how " the system " really works behind the closed doors to the public.
I worked the same jails at the time. I went to the same parties and events the " movers and shakers " of Denver and Colorado did.

Me, I'm stuck in a wheelchair after 2 strokes. I have kept my technical mind but lost my memories of my wives, my last one is sorely missed.
I have a $10,000 supercomputer I'm building using the patented Cray Research designed optical system we developed for the then canceled $150,000,000 MP-64 Project which was never built, an MIT grad will give it AI and I will give it sensor systems to give it realtime input.

I'm being as complete and open as I can. I've given everyone the 5 Ws and an H of information of I have. Most of my early Mtn. View and Palo Alto days where the Statutes of Limitation apply now..Yes, I was a true " Pirate of Silicon Valley " and proud of it.

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Posted by the_punnisher, a resident of Mountain View,
on Oct 22, 2017 at 3:47 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

What made " The Twilight Zone " interesting entertainment is that it tackled many social issues of the time, some of which involved Christian behavior of the time it was a TV show, 156 episodes. Most of the bridge crew we know and love ( except Uhura )were stars in some of the episode: Kirk, Spock and Sulu as many others started their acting careers on " The Twilight Zone ".

You get a social snapshot of the time it was having " Family Entertainment Value " as noted by the seal of approval of the broadcast industry.

Note that the " Civil Rights Movement " had not started yet but they had one episode with a Black Main Character. He had to LOSE the boxing match he was in. This is the world I grew up in, where I was beaten up by all of the black majority kids in the named " Ravenswood School District " where I didn't know about bigotry and prejudice; I was a kid that spent more time in the lunchroom or nurses office.

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Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 22, 2017 at 4:11 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

An article in the Mercury News from a presentation earlier than the one I attended:
"A supervisor’s search to fathom Trump’s appeal" by Scott Herhold, 2017-09-06.
It includes parts of the talk that I omitted, for space or because it is a specific instance of a larger item.


An opinion piece from Robeson County NC -- one of the three that Simitian visited -- by the chair of the County Republican Party.
Nothing new or insightful, but interesting for what it focuses on (and confirmation).

"Robeson doesn’t explain Trump" by Phillip Stephens in The Robeson, 2017-03-03.

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Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 23, 2017 at 3:52 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

This came to me indirectly as an example of some of the Confederate memorials being removed.
The articles (below) state that this was a marker for 140 Confederate POWs who died near Madison WI.
The text of the bronze plaque is:


The valiant Confederate soldiers who lie buried here were members of the 1st Alabama Inf. Reg., Confederate States of America. They were captured in the spring of 1862 in the Civil War Battle of Island No. 10 in the Mississippi River south of Cairo, Illinois. Their task was to stop traffic carrying men and supplies to Northern forces further south.

After weeks of fighting under extremely difficult conditions, they were forced to surrender. Constant fire from river gunboats and land forces made their position untenable. After surrender, they were moved to Camp Randall and when they arrived many were suffering from wounds, malnutrition and various diseases.

Within a few weeks 140 graves were filled, the last resting places for these unsung heroes, far from their homes in Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas.

Here, also, is the grave of Alice Whiting Waterman, a gracious Southern lady who devoted more than 30 years of her life caring for the graves of "her boys."


The bronze plaque is pictured at the top of this article:
"Debunking the claim that 'The KKK was founded as the military arm of the Democratic Party.'" -Polifact Wisconsin, 2017-10-23.

The official statement for the removal of this plaque.
"Mayor Paul Soglin’s Statement and Historical Perspective of Confederate Monuments at Forest Hill Cemetery"

As you read the text of the removed plaque, ask yourself if this is an instance of the purported intent:
"This is because the purpose of Confederate monuments, as Princeton historian Kevin Kruse argues on Twitter, is not to serve as pure historical markers — but to glorify the Confederate cause. They assert that a war fought on behalf of slavery was a just one, that the people who fought it were morally upright, and that white supremacy should be cherished as part of Southern 'heritage'." (from Vox article cited in a comment above).

Small examples like this reveal much about the (bad) character of the Democratic Party elite. As Joesph Welch famously said to Sen. Joe McCarthy: "Have you no sense of decency? Sir, at long last, have you left no sense of decency. "

The Republicans also have their desperate and despicable behaviors. The topic of the Polifact-Wisconsin article was Republicans trying to link the current Democratic Party to the KKK. This is an instance of a nation-wide tactic of Republicans of trying to link the modern Democratic Party to slavery and KKK terrorism.

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Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Oct 23, 2017 at 9:33 pm

"... nation-wide tactic of Republicans of trying to link the modern Democratic Party to slavery and KKK terrorism."

They better rethink that campaign. It could boomerang and cost them the core of their newly-affirmed Base if those "fine people" in white hoods get the idea that the action is on the Democratic side after all ;-]

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Posted by Derek, a resident of College Terrace,
on Oct 25, 2017 at 12:24 pm

I thought you were making a good point about this particular memorial until I read "unsung heroes." That would have prompted me to a least replace the plaque. I would be pretty galled if the people who fought to keep me enslaved were called "heroes." Perhaps your sceptical eye is too focussed on the people who want to remove memorials and not enough on the ones who want to keep them.

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Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 25, 2017 at 2:25 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

> "Perhaps your sceptical eye is too focussed on the people who want to remove memorials and not enough on the ones who want to keep them."

No, I saw it ("unsung heroes").
In the context of military battles, for ordinary soldiers, "hero" refers to "courage".
There is a long history of acknowledging an enemy's courage, going back to ancient times. For example, most histories of WW2 in Europe acknowledge the courage of German soldiers. When one side fails to acknowledge that, it is a signal to look deeper.
Recognize that many in the Confederate Army were not volunteers: The Confederacy instituted a draft very early in the war and, before that, there had been an informal draft (I was surprised to learn this when I got to books that were more than histories of battles). While the Confederate elite was fighting to not just preserve slavery but expand it into additional territory--including Mexico...--I haven't seen a credible assessment what portion of the common soldiers were fighting for what (there are indications that many were fighting for "my country=state right or wrong").

To deny an enemy's courage displays a lack of basic human decency and a venomous character, especially when it is applied to graves. For a lot of voters (all sides), good character ranks high in their evaluation of candidates. For example, if I lived in Madison, this lone incident would cause me to vote against officials who voted for the removal as being of such bad character as to be unfit to govern.

My "focus" was on highlighting some of the many ways that Democrats, Progressives and the Left have alienated large groups of voters that had voted for national Democrats. Similarly for the moderate Republicans who have been abandoned and disparaged as the Republicans move further and further to the Right, but reluctantly vote Republican because they see the Democrats as even worse.

BTW, one of the articles I cited had a Confederate "memorial" currently being built on private land as an "in your face" action. Although it was presented as being in reaction to the removal of Confederate memorials from public land, it was a deplorable act.

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Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Oct 25, 2017 at 8:49 pm

"...highlighting some of the many ways that Democrats, Progressives and the Left have alienated large groups of voters that had voted for national Democrats."

Well, that is certainly the Right media machine's eternal mantra. But it cannot be true. The Dems have no coherent message or visible platform.

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Posted by Last GOP majority?, a resident of Charleston Gardens,
on Oct 26, 2017 at 5:50 pm

3 million votes.

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Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 26, 2017 at 6:18 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

> "3 million votes."

This rejection of the legitimacy of the election results is a red flag to many citizens. The GOP and Trump's "Birther-ism" is a shoe on the other foot.

This is a rejection of democracy.

Twisting election results after the fact to have your candidate win is immature, entitled, ...

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Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Oct 27, 2017 at 8:13 pm

"This is a rejection of democracy."

Most democracies use the logical "one voter, one vote" principle. They do not gerrymander the results ...

[[Blogger: remainder was deleted as off-topic: author's usual rant about the Electoral College, followed by off-topic attacks on Republicans.

Detail: This claim is false. The US is relatively rare in electing the Head of Government separately from the legislature. Parliamentary democracies are much more common. In many, the voters elect their members of parliament from districts (similar to the US House of Representatives) and the parliament elects the prime minister/premier--although in practice that is usually done by the winning party or coalition and confirmed by their majority in the parliament. There are some parliamentary democracies that award representatives proportionately to the national vote, but those tend to be smaller countries. The proportional representation system is notorious for giving tiny and extremist parties outsized influence because the major parties often need to make deals with them to get a parliamentary majority to form and maintain a government.

Aside: Many countries have separate Head-of-Government (Premier/PM) and Head-of-State (President/Royalty/...), but the US President is both.

The US is not that different from parliamentary democracies, except for the 2 electors per state (corresponding to senators) and the bundling of districts into state-size units. However, two states elect one elector per Congressional District and 2 state-wide.

Because electors in the US are elected by state boundaries that are permanent, there is far more potential for gerrymandering in parliamentary district systems. If a parliamentary district system had been used, Trump would still have won in 2016 and Obama would have been defeated by Romney in 2012.

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Posted by the_punnisher, a resident of Mountain View,
on Nov 2, 2017 at 8:02 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

Breaking a rib is painful. Why I'm late to add my bridge comment

Actually, I'm glad to see current events. Many of the Trump voters like the fact that we see more news and " snowflake " outrage. As in the very old joke: What do politicians and diapers have in common?

Also the saying: " Let's stir the cesspool and see what floats to the top "

Remember, most rural places still have cesspools and some have leach fields.

Many farmers and rural people have seen Washington DC become a cesspool with dishonorable people and liars for some time. The campaign promise " I will drain the swamp " AND ACTUALLY DOING IT, buys into what rural people are thinking already.

They feel that someone actually listened to them and was far more " earthier " instead of making the usual campaign promises that disappeared once the politician takes office.

As an aside, one of the major parties in Minnesota was known as the DFL Party. Web Link

THAT might explain why many farmers distrust the Democrats and their policies. They know that someone MUST pay the bills and most have attended auctions that happen when someone DID NOT pay their bills. ( I have also attended some of these auctions ). That is a grim reminder of what could happen and is always in your face.
Obamaphones and other " freebies " infuriate these hard workers.." All you city slickers can go back to where you came from " is a milder form of what is being said. I have an uncle who farms..and has created problems with our local sheriff because he takes that message a mite too seriously.

For many of those voters ( some of which were first timers ) had lost hope that anything could done FOR them, not TO them. ANY change was far better than NO change. " What have we got to lose " is what some have said.

Me, I was accepted as doing the right thing, defending our country by building Wisconsin based supercomputers. That is what the host/hostess always said when introducing me. I CREATED SOMETHING, instead of pushing paper around. That was an acceptable occupation that had respect.

I hope you can understand just how basic a farmers life is. Not much has changed since the ancestors came as steerage on the boat, 200 years ago.

Another trait: VERY clannish behavior. Mennonites are all over the area. We actually " own " the property the local Mennonite church sits on. Our family was NOT their family until last year. My sister, who does medical work for the county, was told by one of her patients that we were now members of their family, for all the good works we have done.

I hope that all will get the fear that these people live under.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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