Zócalo Public SquareThe Takeaway – Zócalo Public Square http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org Ideas Journalism With a Head and a Heart Mon, 22 Jan 2018 22:14:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 Latino? Sí. Latin American? Not So Much.http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2018/01/17/latino-si-latin-american-not-much/events/the-takeaway/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2018/01/17/latino-si-latin-american-not-much/events/the-takeaway/#respond Wed, 17 Jan 2018 11:00:48 +0000 By Reed Johnson http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=90512 Los Angeles has a Spanish-language name, a distinctly Latino ambience, and a mayor who puffs up with pride whenever he talks about his family’s Mexican roots.

Yet it’s also a city where most people of Latin American heritage are native-born, not immigrants, and where recent waves of white non-Latino newcomers are displacing Latinos across some neighborhoods.

So is Los Angeles really part of Latin America? That was the multi-layered topic of a Zócalo/Getty “Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA” panel discussion at The Getty Center.

Univisión nightly news anchor León Krauze, The New York Times national correspondent Jennifer Medina, and actor-director-art collector-and bon vivant Cheech Marin joined moderator Gregory Rodriguez, founder and editor-in-chief of Zócalo Public Square, to parse what Rodriguez acknowledged was “a little bit of an unwieldy question.”

“The majority of us are home-grown,” said Rodriguez, who framed the discussion by telling the audience that he was born at the

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Los Angeles has a Spanish-language name, a distinctly Latino ambience, and a mayor who puffs up with pride whenever he talks about his family’s Mexican roots.

Yet it’s also a city where most people of Latin American heritage are native-born, not immigrants, and where recent waves of white non-Latino newcomers are displacing Latinos across some neighborhoods.

So is Los Angeles really part of Latin America? That was the multi-layered topic of a Zócalo/Getty “Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA” panel discussion at The Getty Center.

Univisión nightly news anchor León Krauze, The New York Times national correspondent Jennifer Medina, and actor-director-art collector-and bon vivant Cheech Marin joined moderator Gregory Rodriguez, founder and editor-in-chief of Zócalo Public Square, to parse what Rodriguez acknowledged was “a little bit of an unwieldy question.”

“The majority of us are home-grown,” said Rodriguez, who framed the discussion by telling the audience that he was born at the corner of Sunset and Vermont, and that his family had been in the United States so long that he sometimes felt tempted to wear a Pilgrim hat.

Yet many Latino Angelenos, including those native-born, still feel a strong affinity with their ancestral homelands, and wrestle with the “weird distance and tension and affection and allure” of the vast Spanish-speaking universe that spins beyond California’s southern border.

Much of the discussion turned on personal stories and reminiscences. Marin grew up in the San Fernando Valley, the son of an LAPD cop; his parents always spoke Spanish when they didn’t want him to understand what they were saying. “That’s how I understood!”

Marin said that the inspiration for his 1987 satire Born In East L.A. was, fittingly, the offspring of a hybrid cultural encounter. He was reading a newspaper account about a young Mexican American, a U.S. citizen, who’d been deported to Mexico, at the same time Marin was listening to Bruce Springsteen’s hit “Born In the U.S.A.” on the radio.

Marin said that, one time, he himself had experienced the same surreal revelation as the character in his film, when he was touring the U.S.-Mexico border at Tijuana border and saw Mexican migrants waiting for nightfall to cross into the United States.

“I’m living in this twilight zone, like, ‘What is going on?’” Marin said. The comic fantasy depicted in his movie—of the American deported—is a reverse-reality for many Latin American migrants.

Medina, the Times correspondent, spoke of her own occasional feelings of cultural dislocation. Growing up in Riverside County, the child of Panamanian immigrants, she didn’t speak Spanish and all her friends at her predominantly Mexican high school called her guera (white girl). Back then, she had a Salvadoran boyfriend whose parents spoke only Spanish, and she tried to polish up her ancestral language to impress them.

“I still have a terrible vocabulary, I still have terrible grammar, and it’s still a considerable embarrassment,” said Medina, who joked that she also still guilt-trips her mom and dad about not doing more to make her learn Spanish as a child. Over time, she said, she adopted the phrase “Neither from here, nor from there” to describe her sense of bi-cultural identity. “I remember being so profoundly moved by that description. I thought, finally, ‘That’s what I am.’”

Krauze, a native of Mexico City—“East Mexico City,” he deadpanned–described his first quintessential Angeleno experience in 1981, when he was a boy and his father brought him to a Dodgers game to see the Mexican prodigy Fernando Valenzuela pitch.

“We sat in the last seat in Dodger Stadium, right by the lights,” Krauze recalled. Thirty years later he had the honor of throwing out the first pitch for a Dodgers game.

“I felt like I had made it. It was like a fast-track immigration story right there in Chavez Ravine.”

Now an L.A. resident who has no intention of ever returning to live in Mexico, Krauze suggested that he’s recognized in his adopted city by the restaurant workers and other immigrant laborers he encounters around town, while to many non-Latinos he might as well be invisible. Whenever he goes to a restaurant, he makes a point of talking to the kitchen staff, he said, “just to see the face of the uppity maître d’, who has no idea who I am.”

“I bet you get your car parked right away,” Marin joked. “And for free!”

“It’s a privilege, and it’s lots of fun, when I get to acknowledge the people who are the real protagonists,” Krauze said, referring to immigrant workers. “I found my calling here, and my calling is to tell the story of this place. That’s what I want to do with the rest of my life, and do it here.”

Rodriguez asked Marin about a T-shirt the actor wears, inscribed with the words, “Chicano Art Is American Art.” That statement may seem axiomatic, but Marin, a prominent collector of Chicano art, said that for decades many U.S. art museums resisted treating Chicano art as American art, or granting it the same prestige as they did to Latin American art.

“Where does the presumption of foreignness come from?” Rodriguez asked him. Marin suggested that in order to gain recognition for Chicano culture as being simply part of American culture, you must not cater to people’s preconceptions. To date, his private art collection has been exhibited in some 50 museums worldwide, Marin said.

Rodriguez challenged the panel to envision what L.A. will look like 20 years from now, as its native-born population grows ever larger. Medina said she had no idea, but that when she returned to L.A. after living in New York for a decade, she felt she was truly home when she went to a coffee shop and there was a bottle of Tapatío hot sauce on the table.

“I think the mishmash of L.A. is going to get deeper and deeper and more intrinsic. On the other hand, the gentrification is real,” Medina said. Many of her non-Latino friends have no idea they live in a city that is majority non-white, she added.

Another question from the moderator—Which is more Latin American, Miami or Los Angeles?—elicited a range of responses. Absolutely Los Angeles, Krauze affirmed. Medina said she’s never lived in Miami, “and I kind of hate it, too,” but she conceded that in Miami everyone presumes that everyone else speaks Spanish, giving that Florida metropolis a truly pan-Latin feel.

“I have been to Miami, I wanted to hate it and I totally loved it,” Rodriguez said. “The sense that ‘We own this joint’ was just a pleasure to watch, and I wanted to live there.”

Krauze described L.A. as “a lot more tender city” than Miami, because its immigrants have to “wrestle” with their “invisibility all the time.”

When the panel took questions from the audience, one man pointed out that Mexican identity itself is hardly monolithic, but is informed by its own multifarious indigenous cultures and languages.

“You’re absolutely right,” replied Krauze, who said he recently interviewed the Mexican Consul General in New York about the large proportion of Mexican immigrants who primarily or only speak an indigenous language.

“I think it’s a fascinating topic, these sub-divisions,” he said.

Another audience member asked about the strictures that are imposed by tying an individual’s identity to the primary language that she or he speaks. Marin agreed, noting that his father used to get punished at school for not speaking English.

“Why wouldn’t you want to speak as many languages as you can?” asked Marin, who earlier had recalled the heated cultural debates of the 1980s, when he would tell “English-only” proponents that they would have to give up all those all-American Spanish words like “Arizona,” “Colorado,” “San Francisco” ….

And, he hardly needed to add, “Los Angeles.”

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Depression Isn’t Just a Global Epidemic. It’s a Silent One.http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/12/12/depression-isnt-just-global-epidemic-silent-one/events/the-takeaway/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/12/12/depression-isnt-just-global-epidemic-silent-one/events/the-takeaway/#respond Tue, 12 Dec 2017 11:00:00 +0000 By Reed Johnson http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=89926 Depression is still the illness that dares not speak its name. Taboos persist. Social stigmas endure. Many confounding mysteries remain about exactly what causes depression and how best to treat it—even though it affects tens of millions of people worldwide, and even as the number of suicides globally has soared to 1 million.

Those painful realities formed the backdrop to a Zócalo/UCLA event titled “How Can We Reverse the Depression Epidemic?” at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in downtown Los Angeles. But over the course of a wide-ranging hour-long discussion, panelists pointed to several signs of progress in recognizing and dealing with depression.

Moderator Anna Gorman, senior correspondent for Kaiser Health News, opened the conversation by asking panelist Gene Block, the chancellor of UCLA, about his university’s UCLA Depression Grand Challenge (DGC), a campus-wide initiative aimed at reducing depression both within the school’s community and beyond. Some

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Depression is still the illness that dares not speak its name. Taboos persist. Social stigmas endure. Many confounding mysteries remain about exactly what causes depression and how best to treat it—even though it affects tens of millions of people worldwide, and even as the number of suicides globally has soared to 1 million.

Those painful realities formed the backdrop to a Zócalo/UCLA event titled “How Can We Reverse the Depression Epidemic?” at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in downtown Los Angeles. But over the course of a wide-ranging hour-long discussion, panelists pointed to several signs of progress in recognizing and dealing with depression.

Moderator Anna Gorman, senior correspondent for Kaiser Health News, opened the conversation by asking panelist Gene Block, the chancellor of UCLA, about his university’s UCLA Depression Grand Challenge (DGC), a campus-wide initiative aimed at reducing depression both within the school’s community and beyond. Some 25 university departments and thousands of students are taking part in the initiative, which deals with an area that Block said “maybe wasn’t ignored, but wasn’t focused on” as extensively as it needs to be.

One of the DGC’s components is offering free depression screening to all UCLA students. “If you can catch some of these conditions early,” Block said, you can do more about them. However, he added, follow-up treatment has to be individually tailored. “When you go from retail to wholesale with an issue like this, you can’t treat everybody the same way,” he said.

The need for “personalized medicine” in treating depression was emphasized by another panelist, Dr. Rhonda Robinson Beale, a psychiatrist and chief medical officer at Blue Cross of Idaho. Robinson Beale said that, although popular culture often depicts some type of pill (usually Prozac) as the standard treatment for depression, these medications unfortunately only affect a minority of the patient population on a first trial.

“There’s nothing that tells you when a patient walks through the door which one of these treatments is going to be effective with them,” Robinson Beale said. But although a host of activities can help to promote positive brain chemistry—exercise, managing stress, going to a stage or film comedy, taking time out every day to relax—she added, there’s no one-size-fits-all prescription.

“It’s really trial and error, and I think that’s one of the most unfortunate things about it,” Robinson Beale said.

Dr. Jonathan Flint, a UCLA behavioral geneticist and expert in the genetic causes of depression, discussed in detail the limitations of scientific insight into what triggers depression and, accordingly, what to do about it.

Isolating the possible genetic roots of one person’s depression isn’t as simple as finding a gene for Huntington’s Disease or Cystic Fibrosis, Flint said. The symptoms of various individuals can be similar, and yet they may be suffering from different forms of depression. Gender also seems to have a part in susceptibility to depression: Flint said that, on average, about 15 to 20 percent of women, and 12 percent of men, would be likely to acknowledge having experienced at least one episode of depression.

Socioeconomic factors, and physical trauma such as violence or sexual abuse, can also play crucial roles in precipitating depression, the panelists said.

“There’s a big environmental component. Everyone knows that,” said Flint, who was part of a research team that conducted a large study of depression in China.

“We went to China because we needed to find a large group of people who were very, very depressed,” Flint deadpanned. When Gorman asked why Chinese people should be any more depressed than we are, Flint responded, “You should go there.”

Acute depression is not only agonizing for individuals and families, the panelists concurred. It’s also costly to society, a toll that can be measured in worker absenteeism, lost productivity, disability rates, and alcohol and drug abuse, among many other indices.

Darcy Gruttadaro, director of the American Psychiatric Foundation’s Center for Workplace Mental Health, said that employers are looking more closely at these issues and trying to figure out how to address depression in the workplace. New technologies are offering new forms of treatment, Gruttadaro said, but “It’s a little bit of a Wild West right now because there’s not really a process for evaluating some of this technology.”

Getting access to mental health care can be much more complex and convoluted than getting treatment for physical ailments, and workers may hesitate to seek help for depression because they fear it won’t stay confidential, and could hurt their careers. Similarly, said Block, the UCLA chancellor, some college students struggle alone with depression out of concern that admitting it could sabotage their futures. One of the more hopeful, relatively new lines of research into depression involves using artificial intelligence and other interactive technologies to identify symptoms more readily. “This is an area that’s a little spooky, but promising as well,” Block said.

But older technologies, even one in particular that conjures fearful associations—Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), in which tiny electric currents are applied to the brain—can be highly effective for certain patients as a last resort, Flint said.

When the floor was opened for questions, one audience member asked whether people could become depressed by comparing their lives and achievements on social media. It’s a factor worth studying more, Flint suggested. Another man asked about whether there’s evidence that depression could be linked to the release of electromagnetic energy from cellphones and other devices. No evidence so far bears this out, the panelists replied.

A third audience member asked the panelists whether comic entertainers such as Robin Williams, who took his own life, may be especially prone to depression. In response, Robinson Beale said that bi-polar manic-depression can occur in very outwardly successful people. “Just as they get that high, they can also get that low,” she said.

What’s the biggest aid in addressing the global pandemic of depression? Frank and open talk, the panelists suggested. Gruttadaro said that less than half of people with depression get treatment. Many people fear that, if diagnosed, they will be perceived as weak or as someone who can’t handle life, she said.

“Mental health is still for so many a taboo topic, so we all have a responsibility to normalize” it, Gruttadaro said. “Research shows that if you’re afraid that someone may be suicidal, the best thing to do is to ask them.”

“I think the more we do that, we can really put a dent in suicide in this country.”

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Barack Obama Had an ‘Iron Will’ to Succeed—but What Was at His Core?http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/12/07/barack-obama-iron-will-succeed-core/events/the-takeaway/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/12/07/barack-obama-iron-will-succeed-core/events/the-takeaway/#respond Thu, 07 Dec 2017 11:00:47 +0000 By Reed Johnson http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=89839 Historian David J. Garrow acknowledges that he’s “cynical” about Barack Obama, a conclusion that he reached while conducting 1,000 interviews and spending nine years researching the formation and political rise of America’s 44th president.

Garrow shared some of his reasons for what he called his “huge disappointment” with the Obama presidency at a Zócalo/KCRW “Critical Thinking with Warren Olney” event, “How Did Barack Obama Create Himself?”.

Hosted by Olney, the longtime KCRW radio personality and dean of Los Angeles news broadcasters, the evening echoed many of the thematic lines—and withering criticisms—that surface in Garrow’s 1,400-page biography Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama. “It’s worth reading,” Olney quipped, “but it takes a long time.” (Most reviewers agreed: The New York Times appraised Rising Star as “impressive if gratuitously snarly,” while Politico judged it to be “a masterwork of historical and journalistic research.”)

Published last spring, the book charts his

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Historian David J. Garrow acknowledges that he’s “cynical” about Barack Obama, a conclusion that he reached while conducting 1,000 interviews and spending nine years researching the formation and political rise of America’s 44th president.

Garrow shared some of his reasons for what he called his “huge disappointment” with the Obama presidency at a Zócalo/KCRW “Critical Thinking with Warren Olney” event, “How Did Barack Obama Create Himself?”.

Hosted by Olney, the longtime KCRW radio personality and dean of Los Angeles news broadcasters, the evening echoed many of the thematic lines—and withering criticisms—that surface in Garrow’s 1,400-page biography Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama. “It’s worth reading,” Olney quipped, “but it takes a long time.” (Most reviewers agreed: The New York Times appraised Rising Star as “impressive if gratuitously snarly,” while Politico judged it to be “a masterwork of historical and journalistic research.”)

Published last spring, the book charts his subject’s transformation from a highly intelligent, rather aimless young man into a calculatingly ambitious politician who, according to Garrow, wore various masks at various life stages, walled off his emotions when it served his career goals, and remained an enigma even to friends and lovers.

“It has to be said that from at least 2001, 2002, Barack Obama has been first and foremost, fundamentally, a politician,” said Garrow, the author of well-regarded books on the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case, the Civil Rights Movement, and the FBI. “There’s a very absolute compartmentalization that Barack imposes on his life, even as a 25-year-old.”

Garrow sketched out an abbreviated version of his book’s sometimes unflattering portrait of Obama, drawing applause and nodding assents, as well as occasional gasps and murmured objections, from the overflow audience.

Following Olney’s line of questioning, Garrow started out by discussing Obama’s high school and college career, his stint as a Chicago community organizer, and his youthful romantic life. Garrow faulted the future president for dumping Sheila Jager, the half-Dutch, half-Japanese woman with whom he lived for two years in the late 1980s, because Obama had made a determination that having a white wife would have been “a political non-starter” for a black politician in the Chicago of that time.

He said that Obama, born in Hawaii and raised with a “friendship network” of international students, only really began living among African Americans once he moved to Chicago and set his sights on a political career.

In Garrow’s view, Exhibit A in the saga of how Obama selectively re-invented himself is his 1995 best-selling memoir, Dreams From My Father, a reflection on his upbringing and his absentee Kenyan father. In Rising Star, Garrow describes Obama’s book as “a work of historical fiction.”

Garrow said that, in Dreams of My Father, Obama was “making a very conscious effort to reconstruct his life as dramatically more African American than it really was.” He also was attempting to re-cast himself as a rebellious tough guy, rather than the academically gifted nerd he really was, according to Garrow.

At one point, Olney quoted from the Rising Star epilogue that Obama had “willed himself into being” and that “the crucible of self-creation had produced an iron will,” but “the vessel was hollow at the core.”

“That’s pretty rough,” Olney said.

Garrow—who late in the evening described himself as “a Bernie Sanders Democrat” and “a great fan of Edward Snowden”—conceded that it was. But the author’s strongest criticisms centered on what Garrow regards as three key ways in which Obama walked back key campaign promises: by accepting large amounts of private campaign financing; by presiding over the growth of the federal government’s surveillance and anti-terrorist apparatus; and by retreating from support for same-sex marriage until Vice-President Joe Biden “got out there first.”

In response to Garrow’s comments, Olney asked whether Obama was really so different from other politicians who realized, once they got elected, that their campaign promises had to yield to more pragmatic considerations. Had Abraham Lincoln been “absolutely consistent in the things he said and the things that he did?” Olney asked, drawing one of the night’s biggest applause lines.

“I probably frankly have never read an Abraham Lincoln biography because I am almost entirely a post-1945 person,” Garrow replied.

Noting that Obama had read the first 10 chapters of Garrow’s book, Olney wanted to know what the former president thought of its less-than-glowing appraisal.

“The impression I came away with,” Garrow responded, “is that when someone has written up a version of their life story, at that point 20 years earlier, they remember better and remain attached to the version of their life which they wrote than the version which they lived.”

But if Garrow was unsparing in his remarks on Obama, he saved perhaps his harshest rebukes for Obama’s successor, Donald Trump, and the current U.S. Senate candidate from Alabama, Roy Moore—and for the American people themselves.

“The last 13 months again highlight, to me as a political historian, how American public opinion, oftentimes, lots of times, at a mass level gets huge numbers of things fundamentally wrong,” Garrow said. “I think there is a deep weakness in the American people, in American public opinion. I think there is a deep vulnerability to ignorance in American culture and American opinion that we continue to see, and that I fear we will see again next Tuesday, Dec. 12 in Alabama.”

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Hawaii Isn’t So Beautiful at the Ballot Boxhttp://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/11/30/hawaii-isnt-beautiful-ballot-box/events/the-takeaway/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/11/30/hawaii-isnt-beautiful-ballot-box/events/the-takeaway/#respond Thu, 30 Nov 2017 11:00:57 +0000 By Reed Johnson http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=89689 During Hawaii’s early days as an American state, the late U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye would boast about its high voter participation rate.

But since that mid-20th-century high watermark, Hawaii has fallen behind the mainland in measures of civic participation and engagement. Its voters ranked dead last among the 50 states in the 2016 presidential election, and, despite its reputation as a warm, personable place, Hawaii ranks low in charitable activity, volunteering, and public service.

“If We Love Hawaii So Much, Why Don’t We Vote?” was the question in a Zócalo/Daniel K. Inouye Institute “Pau Hana” event at Artistry Honolulu in Hawaii’s state capital.

Moderator Gina Mangieri, an investigative reporter for KHON2 in Honolulu, asked panelists how to explain the plummeting voter participation rate.

Over an hour, many suspects were blamed for Hawaii’s statistically dismal performance in civic affairs: cellphones that distract young voters from interacting with live human beings;

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During Hawaii’s early days as an American state, the late U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye would boast about its high voter participation rate.

But since that mid-20th-century high watermark, Hawaii has fallen behind the mainland in measures of civic participation and engagement. Its voters ranked dead last among the 50 states in the 2016 presidential election, and, despite its reputation as a warm, personable place, Hawaii ranks low in charitable activity, volunteering, and public service.

“If We Love Hawaii So Much, Why Don’t We Vote?” was the question in a Zócalo/Daniel K. Inouye Institute “Pau Hana” event at Artistry Honolulu in Hawaii’s state capital.

Moderator Gina Mangieri, an investigative reporter for KHON2 in Honolulu, asked panelists how to explain the plummeting voter participation rate.

Over an hour, many suspects were blamed for Hawaii’s statistically dismal performance in civic affairs: cellphones that distract young voters from interacting with live human beings; partisan loudmouths who hog the microphone and monopolize public forums; elected officials who regard their constituents as mere props to be used at will, then tossed aside after election day; the state’s indigo-blue political culture, which makes it nearly impossible for non-Democrats to win statewide office; and the fun-packed lifestyles that encourage many Hawaii residents to hit the beaches rather than the voting booth.

“There’s just a myriad of—I’m going to call them excuses,” said Barbara Ankersmit, president of research at marketing and communications firm Anthology, ticking off the list of reasons some Hawaii residents offer. “If the weather was too nice, they went to a football game instead. They had to [do] this, they had to [do] that.”

But Ankersmit also blamed a “creeping cynicism” that causes people to believe that their votes don’t count, even when evidence shows that major electoral contests can turn on a mere handful of ballots. And she said that Hawaii has become “a state of activists and non-participants.”

“You’re one or the other; there’s not the average person who’s willing to step up and state your opinion”—a dynamic in which small groups of angry hyper-partisans can drown out quieter, less strident, more thoughtful voices, Ankersmit said.

Randy Perreira, director of the Hawaii Government Employees Association, the state’s largest union, said that voting isn’t a problem among his 42,000 members. But he cited a basic ignorance among voters of how their political system is supposed to work—and why it doesn’t.

“I think people today don’t understand the different jurisdictions of government, they don’t understand how it works,” Perreira said.

“I’m not going to blame a one-party system, but they’re not interested in the candidates. And it just fuels this apathy.”

Mangieri turned next to Pete Peterson, dean of the Pepperdine School of Public Policy in Malibu, California, to ask which mainland states have been most successful in finding ways to engage the public as active citizens.

Peterson confirmed that sagging civic engagement is a national form of malaise, citing a recent Malibu mayoral election for which voter turnout was a piffling 20 percent.

Peterson said that younger voters, in particular, have shown a disinclination to vote, and that regions with greater ethnic diversity also tend to have lower voting rates. Hawaii’s relative youthfulness, as well as its ethnic mix, contribute to its low turnout, he said.

Later, Peterson said that voters have been turned off by indifferent and unresponsive elected officials who don’t seem to pay attention to what their constituents say, or who ask for input only after an issue is already a fait accompli. He recalled, for example, that many local town hall meetings on the Affordable Care Act were held after Congress already had voted back in Washington. Local constituents who turned up to give their representatives an earful realized that no one was taking notes, and their opinions weren’t really being tallied.

But although “everybody knows” that public meetings are broken, Peterson said, there’s some reason for hope: Hundreds of local and state government officials have received training from various institutes about how to run more effective and transparent public meetings, Peterson said. “Just showing up at a dais and sitting and listening, those days are over.”

Peterson said that California has tried to encourage voter participation by automatically granting voter registration to people receiving their driver’s licenses. Voting by absentee ballot also has helped swell electoral participation in some parts of the United States, the panelists noted.

But this kind of technical, procedural tinkering only “dances around the edges of the problem,” without really changing deeper modes of behavior, Peterson said.

The panelists agreed that elected officials, educators, and others need to do a better job of motivating voters by helping them perceive the impact that particular issues can have on their own lives.

But that’s a challenge in a state—and, it seems, a nation—that votes for people and personalities more than issues.

“That’s how former wrestlers and Arnold Schwarzenegger and perhaps our president got elected,” Perreira said.

The panelists proposed some basic measures that could encourage more young voters to get active. Ankersmit, who grew up in Chicago, said that her family used to vote together, a hands-on approach that she has instilled in her own children.

The panelists also agreed that, in order to get civically engaged, people need to believe that going to a town hall meeting or casting a vote will yield practical, personal benefits, such as helping to land a job so that they can move out of their parents’ basement, or help their grandmother get the medicine she needs.

When it came time for audience questions, a retired police lieutenant wanted to know whether an increase in electronic voting could provide a partial antidote to voter apathy.

“It’s going to be a while,” said Peterson, because of the threat of hacking. “Most of the research that’s been done on online voting is very disturbing. Most of the technology that’s available is not up to the security that would be necessary in order to do this.”

The panelists wrapped up by urging Hawaii residents and non-residents alike: get informed; do your part; believe you can make a difference.

“If you don’t know who your mayor is, shame on you,” Peterson said. “If you don’t know the difference between what a city council decides on and what a school board decides on, you should.”

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China Soon Could Dominate the Global Economy—but Leading It Will Be Tougherhttp://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/11/17/china-soon-dominate-global-economy-leading-will-tougher/events/the-takeaway/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/11/17/china-soon-dominate-global-economy-leading-will-tougher/events/the-takeaway/#respond Fri, 17 Nov 2017 11:00:20 +0000 By Joe Mathews http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=89424 For China, pursuing global economic leadership is not just a goal. It’s an imperative.

That was the message from panelists at a Zòcalo/UCLA Anderson School of Management event, “Is China Prepared to Lead the Global Economy?” at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in downtown Los Angeles.

China is seeking global economic leadership, panelists said, as Chinese President Xi Jinping made clear at the recently concluded 19th National Congress of the Chinese Community Party. “They want to make China great again,” quipped panelist Jerry Nickelsburg, director of the UCLA Anderson Forecast.

And, 40 years after the opening up of China under Deng Xiaoping, China has achieved global leadership in several areas, including mobile platforms and mobile finance. The event moderator, former Los Angeles Times Beijing bureau chief Julie Makinen, lamented that when she returned to the United States, she lost the ability to pay easily for items—even flowers

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For China, pursuing global economic leadership is not just a goal. It’s an imperative.

That was the message from panelists at a Zòcalo/UCLA Anderson School of Management event, “Is China Prepared to Lead the Global Economy?” at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in downtown Los Angeles.

China is seeking global economic leadership, panelists said, as Chinese President Xi Jinping made clear at the recently concluded 19th National Congress of the Chinese Community Party. “They want to make China great again,” quipped panelist Jerry Nickelsburg, director of the UCLA Anderson Forecast.

And, 40 years after the opening up of China under Deng Xiaoping, China has achieved global leadership in several areas, including mobile platforms and mobile finance. The event moderator, former Los Angeles Times Beijing bureau chief Julie Makinen, lamented that when she returned to the United States, she lost the ability to pay easily for items—even flowers from a street vendor—with WeChat, which is ubiquitous in China.

But the panelists, in a variety of ways, suggested another Chinese motive for pursuing global economic leadership: It has to—if it’s going to deal with its own internal challenges.

Ruixue Jia, a political economist at UC San Diego, said that the Chinese push to dominate global trade and infrastructure reflects the reality of the country’s high savings rate. Since Chinese growth is slowing, “the investment opportunities within China are likely to be reduced,” she said. So it makes sense, Jia said, that China is pursuing initiatives such as One Belt and One Road, a plan to recreate the old Silk Road, via rail and maritime links, all the way to Africa. And “many of these countries” along the One Belt and One Road routes “do need a lot of this infrastructure.”

Christopher S. Tang, the Edward W. Carter Chair in Business Administration at UCLA Anderson, said China was following the path of previous empires, including the British, that conquered the world by global trade. It’s also seizing an opening left by the United States, which pulled out of the Paris climate accords, to seize environmental leadership. But China also needs to make big environmental strides to address its own problems with water and air pollution.

“Now China is thinking maybe they can take the lead. Why not turn it around and be a leader?” Tang said. He noted the country’s pioneering efforts in solar panels and its aggressive development of electric cars.

China is also seeking to lead in innovation—not only as a way of earning global respect, but because of its own economic challenges. “The hidden message” of government calls for more entrepreneurship and innovation, Tang said, “is the economy is slowing down. There are not that many jobs. Labor costs are growing rapidly.” So entrepreneurs are needed to produce new jobs.

Nickelsburg, director of the UCLA Anderson Forecast, said that China, although it now rivals the United States in the size of its overall economy and in trade, remains a poor country that is not blessed in natural resources or farmland. So it needs to trade and build infrastructure links in other countries in order to procure an adequate food supply—which, in turn, is essential if the communist regime wants to keep control over the country’s massive population. “They need to trade, because having hungry citizens is not really a recipe for staying in power,” Nickelsburg said.

Yiwen Li, a young biotech executive who works for U.S. companies that expand globally, marveled at the changes in her native city of Wuhan, where her family lives, that have resulted from China’s growing links to the world. More progress—and more global leadership—is essential internally, she argued, in part because of changes in demography.

She pointed in particular to the need for China to become a leader in health care, because its longtime one-child policy and other demographic factors are causing the country to age rapidly. China also is home to the world’s largest number of people with cancer and other diseases requiring lengthy and expensive treatment. “China is going to be the oldest country in the world,” she said. “China has to innovate.” To illustrate the scale of the challenge, she noted that when the Obama administration invested $250 million in personalized medicine at one point, China countered with a $9 billion investment.

The harder question, panelists suggested, is whether China can achieve leadership. Xia, the UCSD political economist, said that Chinese manufacturers are struggling, and that its economy’s heavy competition and the lack of intellectual and other property rights discourage innovation.

Tang, of UCLA Anderson, said that China has huge strengths that put it in a strong position—he called them the four C’s, for Culture (of trade and entrepreneurialism among its people), Customers (given China’s massive and growing middle class), Capabilities (it’s producing 500,000 graduates in STEM fields annually), and Cash (given the high savings rate).

But in order to lead globally, China needs to make the difficult shift to a service economy, and become better at building global brands and developing leadership of major companies that allows for succession between generations. “Take Alibaba—what happens after Jack Ma? No one knows,” Tang said.

During the question-and-answer session with the audience, panelists were pressed on whether China could ever really lead without becoming an open society, or without becoming more of a market economy and less of a planned one.

In response, Nickelsburg noted that China has made tremendous advances as a planned economy, and should continue to make progress on its current path, given its political leadership, for the foreseeable future, even without market changes. “Don’t mistake Xi Jinping for Adam Smith,” he cautioned.

Nickelsburg said that China wouldn’t set the rules of the global economy in the United States or the European Union. But, he added, “in the part of the world where they are most interested—which is Asia and Africa—they really do have the possibility of doing it.”

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Before Going to War in North Korea, Try Understanding the Place Firsthttp://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/10/25/going-war-north-korea-try-understanding-place-first/events/the-takeaway/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/10/25/going-war-north-korea-try-understanding-place-first/events/the-takeaway/#respond Wed, 25 Oct 2017 10:00:07 +0000 By Reed Johnson http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=88964 With schoolyard taunts hurtling between Washington and Pyongyang, and fears of nuclear Armageddon escalating from Seoul to Tokyo to Los Angeles, the once-unthinkable idea of a military showdown between North Korea and the United States has become frighteningly plausible.

On an October evening when many Angelenos were pondering the opening game of the World Series rather than end-of-the-world scenarios, a Zócalo/UCLA panel discussion explored the question, “Is War With North Korea Inevitable?” By the end of an intense hour-long discussion at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in downtown Los Angeles, the consensus was that a catastrophic confrontation isn’t unavoidable. But to lower the odds of it happening, America’s policymakers and its public need a more nuanced and humanistic perspective on the reclusive rogue Asian nation, the panelists said.

As President Donald Trump and North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un have waged a battle of insults this year,

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With schoolyard taunts hurtling between Washington and Pyongyang, and fears of nuclear Armageddon escalating from Seoul to Tokyo to Los Angeles, the once-unthinkable idea of a military showdown between North Korea and the United States has become frighteningly plausible.

On an October evening when many Angelenos were pondering the opening game of the World Series rather than end-of-the-world scenarios, a Zócalo/UCLA panel discussion explored the question, “Is War With North Korea Inevitable?” By the end of an intense hour-long discussion at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in downtown Los Angeles, the consensus was that a catastrophic confrontation isn’t unavoidable. But to lower the odds of it happening, America’s policymakers and its public need a more nuanced and humanistic perspective on the reclusive rogue Asian nation, the panelists said.

As President Donald Trump and North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un have waged a battle of insults this year, Western attention has focused on the dueling egos and chest-thumping rhetoric of the two leaders. But the panelists stressed instead the importance of understanding Korea’s complex history, the motivations and fears driving its leadership, and the yearnings and hardships of its 25 million people.

Suk-Young Kim—a South Korea native who is a professor and cultural researcher at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film, and Television, and an expert on North Korean propaganda—said that North Koreans are a very proud people who crave respect from the outside world. Their country’s well-oiled propaganda machine encourages North Koreans to see themselves as the true protectors of Korea’s historic and cultural essence—and to view their South Korean neighbors as the lapdogs of an imperialistic United States, she said.

Despite the suffering inflicted on North Koreans by their own regime, and further imposed on them by Western economic sanctions, “Pride is what keeps them going,” Kim said. And if it’s the case that the North Korean state dehumanizes Americans—who often are depicted as sadistic, war-mongering barbarians in official propaganda—the American media likewise tends to stereotype North Koreans as a monolithic, brainwashed population in thrall to a demagogic madman, she suggested.

Hannah Song, President and CEO of Liberty in North Korea, an international NGO that helps North Korean refugees with escape and resettlement, said the United States and the West need to develop a “holistic understanding” of North Korea, cognizant of the important economic, social, and informational changes that have swept the country in recent decades, such as the epic 1990s famine.

Prior to that government-abetted disaster, the North Korean state was at the center of everything, Song said. Since the famine, during which some starving North Koreans were reduced to eating tree bark, North Korea’s relatively miniscule but growing economic markets have taken on a much more important role. The famine also exposed the profound inequalities between the lives of ordinary North Koreans and the ruling military and political elite. Refugees fleeing famine conditions bolstered the population of roughly 30,000 North Koreans now living in South Korea, where, as outsiders, they often face harsh discrimination and are stereotyped as backward by the South Koreans.

Since the famine, ordinary North Korean citizens’ knowledge of the outside world has increased, said Song, adding: “A lot of people don’t realize that North Korea has really changed a lot in the last 20 years on the ground level.” Song said that the vast majority of North Korean refugees who work with her NGO have little or no interest in Kim Jong Un’s machinations. They’re far more concerned about sending money back to their family members in the north, and trying to adjust to the competitive rigors of South Korea’s capitalist system.

Citing an old Korean proverb about survival, moderator Jean H. Lee, a journalist and former Pyongyang Bureau Chief for the Associated Press, asked the panelists how Korea’s historically precarious position in a tough part of the world has shaped its identity.

John B. Duncan, a UCLA scholar of Korean history, said one reason Koreans are so proud is because they’ve lived for 2,000 years under the shadow of an economic, military, and cultural giant—China, which at times has looked down on Korea while trumpeting the presumed superiority of Chinese culture. For their part, Koreans—north and south—have responded by asserting their own nationalistic pride, Duncan said. (Later during the panel, Duncan noted that North Korea was outpacing South Korea in per capita income until the latter part of the 1970s.)

But even if North Korea can’t be judged solely by the outlandish acts of its young leader, the panelists agreed that the potential for a resumption of war exists on the Korean peninsula, particularly as North Korea has accelerated its testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles, while boasting about its development of atomic weapons.

Since the famine, ordinary North Korean citizens’ knowledge of the outside world has increased, said Song, adding: “A lot of people don’t realize that North Korea has really changed a lot in the last 20 years on the ground level.”

Paul Carroll, the senior advisor at N Square, a nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation collaborative, said that the United States must learn to live with North Korea “as it is, not as how we wish it to be.”

“We need to assume that North Korea could make a nuclear weapon with a ballistic missile that can reach North America,” he said. “Their pace also shows that they are doubling down.”

Lee, the moderator, asked how President Trump factors into this equation—she didn’t specifically mention his derisive nickname for Kim Jong Un (“Little Rocket Man”) or his declaration last month at the United Nations that if the United States “is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”
Carroll shot back in response: “He’s not helping.”

Duncan, who was stationed in Korea in the 1960s while serving with the U.S. Army, said that period also was marked by severe tensions, as a flurry of North Korean cross-border attacks killed South Korean and U.S. troops. That decade’s tensions culminated in the January 1968 seizure by North Korean forces of the USS Pueblo, a U.S. Navy spy ship.

“I was in the U.S. Army, and we thought we were going to war,” said Duncan, who credited the avoidance of war to the restraint shown by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

“I hope the current occupant of the White House shows the same good sense,” Duncan said.

During a question-and-answer session with the audience, one attendee asked how much influence China could wield in holding back North Korea from war. Not a lot, the panelists said, despite the two countries’ historical symbiosis and North Korea’s role as a buffer state between China and its Japanese rival, as well as the Western powers.

A final audience question asked the panelists to review the question that had framed the discussion: Is war inevitable?

“Let me say this: Kim Jong Un will not fire first,” Duncan replied.

Carroll said that “inevitable is a pretty high bar” to set, but human behavior is harder to calculate, and we could blunder into war by accident or misunderstanding.

“Humans are incredibly fallible,” he said. “The odds need to be lower.”

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California’s Housing Crisis Is a Nasty Intersection of the State’s Worst Problemshttp://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/10/13/californias-housing-crisis-nasty-intersection-states-worst-problems/events/the-takeaway/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/10/13/californias-housing-crisis-nasty-intersection-states-worst-problems/events/the-takeaway/#respond Fri, 13 Oct 2017 10:00:07 +0000 By Joe Mathews http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=88773 California’s sky-high housing prices haven’t just made it hard to find and afford a place to live. They’ve put pressures on the economy, the environment, transportation, and health that threaten the California dream itself, said panelists at a Zócalo/AARP event at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in Los Angeles.

The event—entitled “Are Housing Prices Destroying the California Dream?”—brought together a scholar, a politician, a leading journalist, the head of a nonprofit housing organization, and a national expert on housing to examine a crisis that the panelists said touches every person in every region of the state.

This problem “affects all ends of the economic distribution, and all ends of the age distribution,” said Gary Segura, dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, adding: “I am one of millions of Californians who cannot afford my house the day I retire.”

Moderator David Lesher, CEO and editor

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California’s sky-high housing prices haven’t just made it hard to find and afford a place to live. They’ve put pressures on the economy, the environment, transportation, and health that threaten the California dream itself, said panelists at a Zócalo/AARP event at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in Los Angeles.

The event—entitled “Are Housing Prices Destroying the California Dream?”—brought together a scholar, a politician, a leading journalist, the head of a nonprofit housing organization, and a national expert on housing to examine a crisis that the panelists said touches every person in every region of the state.

This problem “affects all ends of the economic distribution, and all ends of the age distribution,” said Gary Segura, dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, adding: “I am one of millions of Californians who cannot afford my house the day I retire.”

Moderator David Lesher, CEO and editor of the nonprofit media organization CALMatters, framed the conversation around three questions: “How big of a problem is housing? What’s the cause of the problem? And what are we going to do about it?”

The panelists said the housing crisis involves the intersection of many different problems: zoning, planning, taxation, environment, infrastructure, transportation, mental health, homelessness, demands on developers, financing, and Californians’ high expectations for the places where they live.

This complicated intersection makes the housing situation difficult to understand. One panelist, Kevin de León, president pro tem of the California State Senate, recalled a day he spent in downtown L.A. with a wide variety of people—from housing advocates to police and local officials—to learn more about housing and homelessness. “My conclusion was the following: The left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing,” he said.

But that can’t be an excuse, given how high the stakes are. “We have a housing crisis, and it’s a big driver without a doubt when it comes to poverty,” de León said. He cited the statistic that a Californian who makes minimum wage would need to work three full-time jobs to afford the average two-bedroom apartment.

Another panelist, AARP housing policy expert Rodney Harrell, said that affordable housing is a national crisis, but it’s even worse in California. An AARP survey, he noted, found that almost two-thirds of Californians have thought about leaving the state because of high housing costs.

He said the heart of the matter is a lack of supply, but fixing it is not just a matter of building more places to live. “There are not enough housing units of the types that people need”—affordable, near jobs or transit, and with designs for people who may have special needs because of their age or health. And high costs leave people very vulnerable. “The folks I worry about most are the people who have not planned for an emergency—something happens to your spouse, you have a health crisis, you lose a job” and then you can no longer afford your housing.

Segura, of UCLA, spoke of the need to reduce the costs that local governments put on developers, by demanding they widen streets, provide parking, or take on wage issues as a condition of building housing. Such demands add to the cost of housing and make “pulling a building permit the most expensive thing you can do in California.”

He also argued that linkage fees, which make developers pay for affordable housing, reflect attempts by local governments to make up for some of the control and revenue they lost under Proposition 13, the 1978 ballot initiative that limited property taxes. While noting that it’s unpopular to free up developers, he warned, “We cannot use developers and development to solve all issues.”

Lisa Hershey, executive director of the nonprofit Housing California, said that too much public money goes into tax subsidies for our homes—she mentioned the mortgage interest rate deduction—and not enough into infrastructure, transit, access to schools, and livable community policies that stabilize neighborhoods, and keep people in their homes. “The stability of home makes everything else possible” in terms of improving people’s lives, she said.

She also lamented how efforts to address the housing crisis—by building more transit and housing—can end up pushing out longstanding residents of certain neighborhoods, as land values, rents, and home prices rise. Many Californians are being pushed out of established neighborhoods to places far from jobs, creating longer commutes.

De León noted that a development in Boyle Heights, which is part of his Senate district, was blocked because of concerns about such displacement. “People are thinking, ‘If I’m going to be displaced, where am I going to live? My cultural identity, my linguistic identity—everything is in this neighborhood, this block,’” he said.

Hershey and de León both touted a package of 15 bills that the legislature passed in the just concluded session, and that Governor Jerry Brown signed into law. It includes a dedicated funding source for affordable housing, a housing bond that will go to voters, and legislation that should speed up permitting in localities. De León said that the push on housing would be enhanced by other new laws that promote road and infrastructure repair, boost transit, add parks, and reduce pollution.

“This package we’ve moved forward—I’m hoping it will be the first step of many steps,” he said.

De León also noted that the housing package—in combination with previously allocated state money for the homeless and mentally ill and local measures for funding housing and homeless programs—meant that an unprecedented amount of money is flowing to address housing issues. But that doesn’t guarantee that local leaders will find ways to turn money into housing that meets people’s needs.

“At a macro level we can move all the capital that is necessary to catalyze and attract money,” de León said. “But if at the local level, the leadership is lacking, it just takes a really bad problem and makes it even worse.”

During a question-and-answer session with the audience, one person asked why, if California is producing so little housing, she sees so much development as she drives around.

Harrell, of AARP, responded that “not all supply is created equal—just because a building is going up, it doesn’t mean it has enough units that folks can afford.” And UCLA’s Segura noted that the housing being built is simply not enough for a state that’s reaching a population of 40 million.

Hershey, of Housing California, called this “a historic moment,” with opportunities to address the housing crisis given the resources, the focus on the problem, and “a gubernatorial campaign with several candidates who are interested in housing.”

But she cautioned that such a complex problem won’t be solved quickly. “This is the long game,” she said.

At that, Harrell added, “We all need to take part.”

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Can Colleges Teach America What Consensual Sex Looks Like?http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/10/12/can-colleges-teach-america-what-consensual-sex-looks-like/events/the-takeaway/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/10/12/can-colleges-teach-america-what-consensual-sex-looks-like/events/the-takeaway/#respond Thu, 12 Oct 2017 10:00:06 +0000 By Joe Mathews http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=88730 American college campuses, after considerable struggle, are succeeding in drawing a clearer line between consensual and non-consensual sex. But it’s far from clear when the rest of society will follow suit and adopt a similar standard.

That was the message of a Zócalo lecture entitled, “Are College Campuses Rewriting the Rules of Sex in America?” by journalist Vanessa Grigoriadis, contributing editor at The New York Times Magazine and author of Blurred Lines: Rethinking Sex, Power, and Consent on Campus.

Grigoriadis, speaking at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in Los Angeles, detailed the difficult and messy story of how universities have come to confront sexual assault on campus—and the backlash against these efforts.

“What’s happening on college campuses has a lot to do with the meaning of consent, and the need for us to change that meaning for a new generation,” she said. Through her extensive reporting

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American college campuses, after considerable struggle, are succeeding in drawing a clearer line between consensual and non-consensual sex. But it’s far from clear when the rest of society will follow suit and adopt a similar standard.

That was the message of a Zócalo lecture entitled, “Are College Campuses Rewriting the Rules of Sex in America?” by journalist Vanessa Grigoriadis, contributing editor at The New York Times Magazine and author of Blurred Lines: Rethinking Sex, Power, and Consent on Campus.

Grigoriadis, speaking at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in Los Angeles, detailed the difficult and messy story of how universities have come to confront sexual assault on campus—and the backlash against these efforts.

“What’s happening on college campuses has a lot to do with the meaning of consent, and the need for us to change that meaning for a new generation,” she said. Through her extensive reporting on campuses, which involved spending time with students and others in social situations, she witnessed how a standard of affirmative consent before sex—also known as “yes means yes”—has taken hold among college students.

She also praised the state of California for adopting “yes means yes” in state law, and requiring it be part of the high school curriculum. But the standard is still largely confined to universities.

“The rules on college campuses are not the rules in the rest of America,” she said.

Grigoriadis offered a history of the movement to adopt affirmative consent that began with the passage of Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, which bars discrimination in education. More progress was made thanks to efforts by the Obama administration to make clear that Title IX applied to sexual assault, and to force universities to reckon more aggressively and clearly with the problem, she said.

She credited President Obama—who wrote about his two daughters—personally with acting on data that showed sexual assault on campus was a significant problem. But she added that the government and universities only got serious under pressure from students who organized to make sure new federal rules for handling sexual assault cases on campus were followed. Students at east coast universities were successful in lobbying schools and Washington politicians on the issue, and students at west coast universities led the way in making the issue bigger in the media.

But the momentum of the past few years has been reversed since Rolling Stone published a story in late 2014 on a gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity that was later proved to be false. The resulting backlash came from fraternities, conservative and libertarian lawyers, religious institutions, and especially from the parents of accused students, who organized to push back against the Obama administration’s rules on sexual assault cases. “It turned out that there were problems with the campus courts, and there were some boys being railroaded,” she said. As a result, “what we’ve been watching since early 2015 is the death of the campus movement.”

This culminated recently in U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s decision to reverse two sets of the Obama guidelines on sexual assault. DeVos argued that the guidelines—specifically a standard of “preponderance of the evidence,” or proving that an assault occurred “more likely than not”—did not do enough to protect the rights of accused students.

Grigoriadis countered that the preponderance standard is high—and justified—because such cases are so messy and hard to prove.

And she added that DeVos’ decision, and statements by the secretary and her aides that exaggerate the incidence of wrongly accused students, are part of a major problem with misinformation on the campus sexual assault issue.

Grigoriadis warned that extreme or exceptional cases of sexual assault were creating false impressions. Made-up stories and railroaded students are actually exceptional, she said. So are cases of fraternity brothers using drugs to rape students. She also said perceptions of universities as having failed in this area—a claim made by the documentary The Hunting Ground—are exaggerated.

The problem, she said, is that sexual assault has become a hot button issue. “I can’t tell you how many parties I’ve been to where I’ve been cornered by someone who tells I’m totally wrong about sexual assault, or I’m totally right about this,” she said, adding that people are basing their opinions on preconceptions rather than facts.

At the same time, Grigoriadis was critical of universities for tolerating fraternities and protecting important athletes. And she called the online webinars and trainings that universities require students to take on sexual assault “a total mess.” In particular, while trainings often focus on “bystander education” for people who may witness sexual assault, she said that teaching self-defense strategies was more effective. In particular, people can avoid dangerous encounters by learning ways to identify students who were most likely to commit sexual assault by their behavior (“It’s the guys who are very misogynistic, who interrupt women, who make sexualized jokes,” she said.)

In response to questions from audience members about specific high-profile cases, Grigoriadis argued for not getting trapped in the back and forth of particular controversies. We should focus instead on establishing and teaching affirmative consent, she said, which requires changing social norms. And the good news is that today’s college students have already made that shift and support affirmative consent. Fundamentally, changing the definition of consent to “yes means yes” is “about gender parity in the bedroom.”

This is a shift, and a subject, that “is kind of a mess,” she concluded. “The last few years have been very messy. But the point is getting across.”

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It’s Hard to Be an American Traitor, Even If You Tryhttp://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/10/11/its-hard-to-be-american-traitor-even-if-you-try/events/the-takeaway/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/10/11/its-hard-to-be-american-traitor-even-if-you-try/events/the-takeaway/#respond Wed, 11 Oct 2017 10:00:10 +0000 By Joe Mathews http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=88687 Why is it so hard to commit treason in the United States?

The short answer—offered at the debut of a Zócalo/KCRW event series, “Critical Thinking with Warren Olney”—amounted to this: America was founded by traitors.

“The American Revolution was a massive act of treason against the British government,” said UC Davis legal scholar Carlton F.W. Larson, who is working on a book about treason. And even before the war, American colonists had been accused of treason under English law for acts of protest like the Boston Tea Party.

So, Larson said, the Founders pointedly included a limited definition of treason in the U.S. constitution. The more expansive version in English law made it easier to punish those who opposed the King as traitors—with not just execution but decapitation and disembowelment. The Founders had another reason for making treason hard to charge and prove: to discourage political opponents from accusing one

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Why is it so hard to commit treason in the United States?

The short answer—offered at the debut of a Zócalo/KCRW event series, “Critical Thinking with Warren Olney”—amounted to this: America was founded by traitors.

“The American Revolution was a massive act of treason against the British government,” said UC Davis legal scholar Carlton F.W. Larson, who is working on a book about treason. And even before the war, American colonists had been accused of treason under English law for acts of protest like the Boston Tea Party.

So, Larson said, the Founders pointedly included a limited definition of treason in the U.S. constitution. The more expansive version in English law made it easier to punish those who opposed the King as traitors—with not just execution but decapitation and disembowelment. The Founders had another reason for making treason hard to charge and prove: to discourage political opponents from accusing one another of treason and being un-American.

“What the framers did not want was to have a democracy where the winning side prosecutes the losing side for treason,” Larson said, a sentiment that echoes in today’s bitterly partisan American politics.

Larson explained the history in response to questions from Olney, the legendary public radio host and dean of Southern California journalists, during the event at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in Los Angeles. Larson and his fellow panelists, all lawyers and scholars, emphasized that treason is the only crime defined in the U.S. constitution: “Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.” It is also the only crime with a standard of evidence: “No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open Court.”

UCLA legal scholar Eugene Volokh said those requirements—treason must occur in the context of war, and there must be two witnesses—severely limit prosecution for treason. When Americans commit crimes that are popularly characterized as treason, they are usually charged with other crimes. Even assisting countries like Russia and China, with whom the U.S. is often in conflict, isn’t treason because we’re not currently at war.

“There is a vast range of bad behavior, including bad behavior having to do with other countries,” he said, “a tiny fraction of which is treason.”

Another panelist, senior lecturer at Yale’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs Asha Rangappa, had firsthand dealings with what might be called treason in her previous job as an FBI special agent. She worked to identify those engaged in intelligence for foreign governments, and then flipped them to help the U.S. “They are essentially betraying their country for the United States,” she noted. “This is the spy game. We do it. Other countries do it.”

But American double agents do not necessarily commit treason under the Constitution, she said, given the requirements of war and witnesses. The notorious Robert Hanssen, a former FBI special agent who provided information to the Soviet and Russian governments for two decades, wasn’t convicted of treason, but of espionage.

“There are very few laws against spying,” said Rangappa.

Rangappa suggested using alternative words to convey betraying the country—her preference is “treachery.” In the Inferno, Dante reserved the ninth circle of hell for treachery. “He made it the lowest, blackest, and furthest from heaven,” she recalled. “When I talk about Edward Snowden or Chelsea Manning,” both of whom she said she considered traitors, their behavior “may not be the legal definition of treason,” but it is “treacherous.”

Snowden and Manning are part of a long line of American figures who are perceived at least by some as traitors. The panelists mentioned Benedict Arnold (who “remains the greatest traitor America ever had,” said Larson); Robert E. Lee (Volokh saw him as a traitor but noted that the Civil War shows the wisdom of having a pardon power to promote national reconciliation); and John Walker Lindh, who aided the Taliban (he pleaded guilty to charges lesser than treason).

The panelists also argued in complicated detail over Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born cleric who became an Al Qaeda propagandist and was killed by a U.S. drone on orders of President Obama. Intriguingly, panelists said that al-Awlaki’s online recruitment videos would not meet the Constitution’s requirement of two witnesses. However, Larson allowed that if the Founders had anticipated video technology, they might have included such a video declaration as a standard for proving treason.

During the question-and-answer session, audience members pressed the panelists to comment on the ongoing investigations surrounding Russia, the 2016 elections, and President Trump and his associates. One audience member asked: “Could you explain what might happen when we have the results of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation?”

“Many things,” said Volokh, “but not a treason prosecution.”

Rangappa praised Mueller, her former boss when he served as FBI director, but said that people expecting his investigation to put people in prison may be disappointed. Even if he uncovers bad behavior, it could be difficult to prove federal crimes. At another point in the evening, she noted that providing information to Russians on how to use Facebook to target certain voters is not a crime, and definitely not treason.

She added that it’s important not to equate what’s legal with what’s right. She recalled doing FBI background checks of government appointees, and asking questions about people’s loyalties, bias, personal finances, or use of alcohol and drugs. The point of such checks isn’t to identify crimes so much as it is to identify people who should not be in positions of public trust.

“There’s a bigger picture we lose sight of when we just focus on legality and criminality,” she said.

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The Two-Party System Is Not Working—and Not Going Anywherehttp://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/08/11/two-party-system-not-working-not-going-anywhere/events/the-takeaway/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/08/11/two-party-system-not-working-not-going-anywhere/events/the-takeaway/#respond Fri, 11 Aug 2017 10:00:39 +0000 By Reed Johnson http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=87433 The bad news for Republicans is that their party is dead. The “good” news for the party of Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, William F. Buckley, and Donald Trump is that the Democratic Party also is dead—or maybe even deader.

That was the big takeaway from an August 10th Zócalo panel discussion at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in downtown L.A.’s Little Tokyo district. Titled “Is the Republican Party Dead?” the conversation amounted to a kind of autopsy not only of the GOP, but also of the American two-party system as a whole.

“I think you’re seeing the lug nuts come off and the wheels are starting to rattle,” said panelist Mike Madrid, a political consultant at the Sacramento-based public affairs firm GrassrootsLab, who previously served as the political director for the California Republican Party.

Madrid’s dire assessment of the donkey-elephant dyad that has dominated American politics since the

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The bad news for Republicans is that their party is dead. The “good” news for the party of Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, William F. Buckley, and Donald Trump is that the Democratic Party also is dead—or maybe even deader.

That was the big takeaway from an August 10th Zócalo panel discussion at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in downtown L.A.’s Little Tokyo district. Titled “Is the Republican Party Dead?” the conversation amounted to a kind of autopsy not only of the GOP, but also of the American two-party system as a whole.

“I think you’re seeing the lug nuts come off and the wheels are starting to rattle,” said panelist Mike Madrid, a political consultant at the Sacramento-based public affairs firm GrassrootsLab, who previously served as the political director for the California Republican Party.

Madrid’s dire assessment of the donkey-elephant dyad that has dominated American politics since the Civil War was largely shared by his fellow panelists: Cassandra Pye, a public affairs strategist who was the deputy chief of staff to former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger; and Leslie Graves, publisher of Ballotpedia, the Encyclopedia of American Politics.

The panelists concurred that American voters increasingly define their politics by what they’re against, not what they’re for; by the politicians they hate, rather than the politicians they admire; by the party they revile rather than the one they identify with.

If American voters are united in anything these days, it’s in their bipartisan contempt for both major parties, along with most major institutions, the panelists suggested. For many voters, as for many politicians and their cheerleaders in the increasingly partisan and echo-chambered mass media, winning simply means that the other team loses, as if politics had no higher stakes—and no more broadly shared idea of a greater public good—than a Giants-Dodgers double-header.

“You could say the [Republican] party is in the most trouble—except for the other one,” Graves said.

When moderator Christina Bellantoni, assistant managing editor, politics, at the Los Angeles Times, asked the panelists how they would sum up what the Republican Party stands for to space aliens landing on Earth, Graves responded: “It’s that they’re not Democrats.”

Bellantoni was the first to mention Donald Trump, and the discussion turned to the furiously anti-establishment, drain-the-swamp sales pitches that won him the White House. The panelists agreed that the anger that propelled Trump to the presidency went deeper than mere disgust with Washington’s legislative dysfunction. The nation is suffering from a deeper malaise, the panelists said, because many Americans feel that the political system has failed them, and that neither of the two major parties is going to be able to solve the problems of stagnant wages, rising homelessness, and other challenges that voters experience in their daily lives.

While the media obsesses over “culture war” issues, voters are preoccupied with what Pye called “real-people stuff”—the fear of not being able to attain better lives than their parents, for example, and the lingering ripple effects of the Great Recession.

“We’re at a time when both parties are dealing with very serious cleavages in their base,” Madrid said. “The populist dynamic that is driving both parties is really across the spectrum.” For the Republicans, those fissures resulted in the multi-candidate “clown car” of the 2016 Republican Party primary season, Madrid said.

If the national picture for both major parties is jumbled and increasingly bleak, the picture for Republicans in California at the state, local, and federal level is as poor as it is for Democrats across large swathes of the Deep South and the Great Plains.

“One has got the impression that there is at least a nail or two in the coffin in California” of the Republican Party, Pye said. For a California Republican to have a viable chance of winning a statewide office, she added, “It’ll take a great candidate, it’ll take a lot of cash, it’ll take some good timing, and a little bit of luck.”

But Madrid said that recent low turnout in California shows that, although many voters know they really dislike the Republicans, they’re not strongly motivated to show up at the polls to back Democrats.

And Graves pointed out that, although it’s conventional wisdom that voters are clamoring for change, congressional incumbents keep getting re-elected in droves, and have huge advantages over first-time challengers.

In that same vein of reasoning, Graves questioned the idea that Trump is going to drag down California’s seven most vulnerable Republican Congress members, who’ve been targeted by Democrats for 2018. After all, she pointed out, those Republicans did manage to win in 2016 with Trump at the top of the ticket, even in congressional districts that went for Hillary Clinton.

Madrid said that when he first became active in politics, the Republicans were the party of rich old white people. “That party is now the Democratic Party,” Madrid said. “The Republican Party is now the party of poor white people,” who now regard themselves as an oppressed minority in need of protection. But while economic issues remain paramount, appealing to racial hatred is not a good—or effective—strategy for the GOP, panelists agreed. Pye said she thinks that one reason Trump’s approval rating is so low is that he repeatedly has flirted with white nationalists.

When the evening opened up to the audience Q & A, a Green Party supporter asked why there isn’t more discussion about backing measures that would dismantle the “winner-take-all” system that favors the major parties and stifles third-party alternatives. Graves said proposals for such measures may get onto a few state ballots next year, but such a serious shake-up to the status quo won’t happen overnight.

Another audience member asked how the major parties could be restored, and kept from being hijacked by the extremes of right and left.

“I think the first thing we have to acknowledge is that the system doesn’t work for a rapidly growing segment of our society,” Madrid replied. It was a disquieting conclusion to an evening that offered little cause for optimism for Republicans—or their main rivals.

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