Zócalo Public SquareVideo Archive – Zócalo Public Square http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org Ideas Journalism With a Head and a Heart Fri, 24 Nov 2017 08:01:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 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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As Trump’s Policies Harm Immigrants, How Can Local Efforts Best Help?http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/08/10/trumps-policies-harm-immigrants-can-local-efforts-best-help/events/the-takeaway/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/08/10/trumps-policies-harm-immigrants-can-local-efforts-best-help/events/the-takeaway/#respond Thu, 10 Aug 2017 10:00:03 +0000 By Reed Johnson http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=87414 Even by the tumultuous measure of Donald Trump’s first months in the White House, none of the new president’s policies or rhetorical outbursts has been more bitterly divisive than his stand on immigration.

Trump’s travel ban targeting predominantly Muslim nations, his eagerness to deport undocumented immigrants who don’t have serious criminal records, his slurring of Mexican migrants as drug dealers and rapists, and his promise to build a southern border wall and somehow get Mexico to pay for it have provoked outraged reactions and strong resistance by immigrants, activists, law enforcement authorities, lawyers, and judges across many parts of the United States.

That reaction has been as intense in immigrant-rich Los Angeles as anywhere, and the strong emotions that Trump’s policies have triggered came into play intermittently at an August 9th Zócalo/The California Wellness Foundation event at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in Little Tokyo in downtown

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Even by the tumultuous measure of Donald Trump’s first months in the White House, none of the new president’s policies or rhetorical outbursts has been more bitterly divisive than his stand on immigration.

Trump’s travel ban targeting predominantly Muslim nations, his eagerness to deport undocumented immigrants who don’t have serious criminal records, his slurring of Mexican migrants as drug dealers and rapists, and his promise to build a southern border wall and somehow get Mexico to pay for it have provoked outraged reactions and strong resistance by immigrants, activists, law enforcement authorities, lawyers, and judges across many parts of the United States.

That reaction has been as intense in immigrant-rich Los Angeles as anywhere, and the strong emotions that Trump’s policies have triggered came into play intermittently at an August 9th Zócalo/The California Wellness Foundation event at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in Little Tokyo in downtown Los Angeles.

Titled “What Does Trump Mean for Immigrant L.A.?,” the conversation, moderated by Jennifer Medina, a reporter for The New York Times, engaged a panel made up of Los Angeles Times immigration reporter Cindy Carcamo; Roberto Suro, a University of Southern California researcher and director of USC’s Tomás Rivera Policy Institute; Stephen Cheung, the president of World Trade Center Los Angeles; and Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell.

For much of the evening the dialogue rolled forward evenly, starting with Medina’s first question: “How has life changed in the Trump era?” Cheung, who was born in Hong Kong and migrated to Los Angeles through the government-sponsored “diversity lottery,” said that Trump’s polarizing words—as distinct from some of his attempted policies, which have been stalled in the courts—have aroused much of the anxiety afflicting immigrants.

But Cheung said that Trump’s immigration policies could cause a drop in foreign investment in Los Angeles County, which is home to many foreign-owned businesses that generate thousands of jobs and pump money into the local economy. The flow of 45 million tourists who annually visit the region also could begin to slow, he suggested.

Suro said the most “dramatic change” has resulted from the new administration’s willingness to target all undocumented immigrants for removal. President Obama, Carcamo noted at one point, also pursued an aggressive deportation policy; although his administration vowed to go after “felons, not families,” some studies indicate that that violent criminals constituted a minority of those deported during Obama’s presidency.

The Sheriff’s presence at the event attracted a contingent of protesters who were critical of McDonnell’s opposition to state Senate bill SB 54, the so-called “sanctuary state” bill that, among other things, would prevent local and state law enforcement agents from using their resources to assist federal immigrant authorities, notably the controversial Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Mayor Eric Garcetti, the L.A. City Council, and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, in addition to its state legislative sponsors and many other California elected officials, all have expressed support for SB 54.

At the Little Tokyo event, the sheriff repeated his previous stance that, if his department refuses to cooperate in some instances with ICE, ICE agents will be more likely to send their agents into L.A. neighborhoods to track down undocumented immigrants, causing even greater disruption to communities and families.

“There is a rhetoric out there that the police is an arm of immigration” enforcement, McDonnell said at one point, adding that his department is trying to balance “public safety” with “public trust.” Passing SB 54, he said, would endanger that balance.

Some protesters stood and turned their backs on the sheriff when he spoke; others occasionally hissed and snapped their fingers. At one point, a group of the demonstrators unveiled a large sign in front of the panelists denouncing McDonnell and Trump.

The panelists said there have been other forms of fallout from Trump’s hardline tactics. Carcamo said she has interviewed people who are fearful of leaving the country because they feared they’d be hassled upon their return to the United States.

“There’s definitely a perception that people will get hassled,” said Carcamo. But she emphasized that immigrants—many of whom risked their lives to come to the United States—“are very resilient” and not easily daunted by the fire and fury emanating from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

“It takes a certain kind of person to immigrate, usually someone who is very courageous. A lot of people I have spoken with see Trump as just another kind of obstacle,” Carcamo said.

Nevertheless, Suro said that some anecdotal evidence suggests that people’s daily lives are indeed being affected by what’s happening in Washington. There are reports that immigrants are shopping less, going out less, traveling less, he said.

“It’ll take quite a while to know for sure whether the popular reaction was something temporary or whether we’re talking about lasting changes in behavior,” Suro said. As far as Trump’s public statements, Suro added, “How much of it’s bluster, how much of it’s real—it’s hard to know what to take seriously.”

During the Q & A, one audience member asked the panelists what they envisioned the future will be like for L.A. immigrants. McDonnell suggested that he thought some of the hardline words urging deportation of undocumented immigrants won’t actually come to pass.

“When you look at the rhetoric that we’ve heard with the mass deportations, it’s not something that’s practical,” he said, “so I think we need to step back and see it as rhetoric.”

One of the evening’s biggest applause lines came from Suro, who said that, even if you believe that Trump’s immigration and other policies “present an existential threat” to our constitutional system, that system “leaves lots of space for state and local authorities” to push back against the feds—including in Los Angeles, where a large share of the undocumented population has been established for years, if not decades, Suro noted.

Some of the panelists—all of whom, as it happens, are either immigrants themselves or the first-generation children of immigrants—shared painful stories of their own experiences. Cheung said there’s a long history of racist discrimination against immigrants in Southern California, going back to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. He said he was called racist names when he was young. At a Denny’s in the San Gabriel Valley, a waiter asked if he wanted chopsticks.

Cheung’s reply: “Yes, if you have them!”

Cheung later wrapped up the evening by professing hope that “we’re going to stay strong” in standing up to the excesses of the Trump era.

“Maybe I’m foolishly optimistic,” he said, “but … that’s L.A.”

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Hawaii’s Identity Is Powerful–and Endangeredhttp://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/07/26/hawaiis-identity-powerful-endangered/events/the-takeaway/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/07/26/hawaiis-identity-powerful-endangered/events/the-takeaway/#respond Wed, 26 Jul 2017 14:00:29 +0000 By Reed Johnson http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=87025 America’s youngest state, Hawaii, isn’t known for making Texas-sized boasts about its greatness, or for aggressively pushing its brand on its neighbors, the way that, say, Florida and California do.

Yet Hawaii may have the strongest sense of identity of any U.S. state—a fierce cultural pride and feeling of exceptionalism that flow from its unique island heritage.

That was the premise of a Smithsonian/Zócalo “What It Means to Be American” panel discussion, supported by the Daniel K. Inouye Institute, before a packed audience at Artistry Honolulu. And when moderator Lee Cataluna, a metro columnist for The Honolulu Star-Advertiser, launched the conversation by asking whether the assumption about Hawaii’s staunch sense of selfhood was correct, four hands shot up in agreement.

One of those hands belonged to Lawrence Downes, a journalist and former editorial board member of The New York Times.

“No offense to Delaware or North Dakota,” Downes

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America’s youngest state, Hawaii, isn’t known for making Texas-sized boasts about its greatness, or for aggressively pushing its brand on its neighbors, the way that, say, Florida and California do.

Yet Hawaii may have the strongest sense of identity of any U.S. state—a fierce cultural pride and feeling of exceptionalism that flow from its unique island heritage.

That was the premise of a Smithsonian/Zócalo “What It Means to Be American” panel discussion, supported by the Daniel K. Inouye Institute, before a packed audience at Artistry Honolulu. And when moderator Lee Cataluna, a metro columnist for The Honolulu Star-Advertiser, launched the conversation by asking whether the assumption about Hawaii’s staunch sense of selfhood was correct, four hands shot up in agreement.

One of those hands belonged to Lawrence Downes, a journalist and former editorial board member of The New York Times.

“No offense to Delaware or North Dakota,” Downes said, but Hawaii possesses a degree of self-awareness and communal feeling that sets it apart from the Lower 48. “Only in Hawaii do we have pretty much everything in common,” Downes said—the shared sensation of swimming in warm Pacific waters, or the exchanging of the familiar Hawaii “gang sign” (a signature hand signal).

Small signifiers give away someone’s Hawaii identity, especially to other people from Hawaii, said singer and American Idol finalist Jasmine Trias. She said she didn’t fully appreciate these social cues until she moved to California to compete in the popular TV talent-contest show.

“It’s like an unspoken thing that we can’t really explain, that only we can understand,” Trias said. It’s hard to fully appreciate paradise when you’re born into it, she added.

Trias said she gets particularly enthusiastic support from the local Hawaii community when she performs in Las Vegas, which she described as “like the 9th island.”

What attracts mainlanders to people from Hawaii, Cataluna asked?

“I think we have the Hawaii charm, the Aloha spirit,” Trias said. “We wear our hearts on our sleeve, and that’s our identity.” The concept of ohana—meaning a kind of extended family that embraces practically all humanity—also endears people from the island to those they meet when traveling.

“We call everyone ‘auntie’ and ‘uncle’ and ‘brother’ and ‘sister.’” Trias said. “I’ve kind of taken that from Hawaii to the mainland. We treat everyone like family and we try to be inclusive.”

The discussion was punctuated by moments of poignancy and bursts of raucous humor, in no small part because of panelist Augie T., a comedian who has been named the Aloha State’s funniest comic by The Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

Now that he’s regularly performing stateside, Augie T. said, his audiences often consist of ex-pats from Hawaii, who show up at his venues playing up their Hawaii-ness and who get all his Hawaii in-jokes—even in places like Boston and Evansville, Indiana.

“It’s amazing that you can go to any place and find one local person, and there’s an automatic connection,” he said.

Augie T., whose ancestors migrated from the Philippines and Portgual, suggested that he gets a pass on making jokes laced with Hawaiian ethnic humor because islanders are comfortable with their own polyglot, poly-ethnic peculiarities, and don’t take offense when this humor is self-directed (or self-inflicted). “If Augie is having a good time, you’re having a good time!” he said.

Later in the evening, the conversation took on a more philosophical and subdued tone, as panelists acknowledged that shifting economic winds and globalization are eroding some of Hawaii’s distinctive features.

Kurt Osaki, a graphic designer and founder of Osaki Creative Group, left Hawaii as a young man to study at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. He went on to create brands for Fortune 500 clients, including the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Jets.

Osaki said that he doesn’t wear Aloha shirts much anymore, but still feels his Hawaii-ness in other rituals, such as bringing food to potluck parties (in the Hawaii communal spirit) and not wearing shoes indoors.

“I think it’s important that we embrace and preserve,” Osaki said. “The world is moving so fast and everyone wants to be bigger, richer, faster.”

Hawaii must try to preserve its distinctiveness amid this onslaught of commercialized sameness, he suggested: “Why not be who we are here in Hawaii? Because that is very special.”

Even Augie T. dropped his one-liners temporarily to concede that there was a “sad” quality to finding success by leaving Hawaii—as many younger islanders have concluded they must do. When he plays at U.S. mainland venues before nostalgic ex-pats, he’ll pack the house, Augie T. said; but when he performs in Hawaii, “you’re lucky if you get 60, 70” people in the seats. “It’s sad that I gotta go away just to make ends meet.”

Downes, who moved away from Kailua to attend college at New York’s Fordham University in 1982, said that much of what Hawaii shares comes from plantation culture, from people recognizing each other’s common ancestral roots in Okinawa or Polynesia. Despite the idea of a shared identity, islanders themselves are acutely aware of the distinctions between native Hawaiian people and so-called Hawaii residents. 

Today, some of those derelict plantations have become homeless encampments. Pidgin dialect—another relic of plantation culture—is creeping slowly toward possible extinction. As people from Hawaii move to places like Las Vegas, or to attend college in Oregon or California, their native identity may dissolve. Downes said that one of the first stories he wrote for The New York Times was about folks who’d moved from Hawaii to Las Vegas. Among those he profiled was a lifeguard, who instead of bounding around in massive Pacific swells had been reduced to keeping watch on a “wave pool” at a Vegas hotel.

“There’s a stratification” of people from Hawaii, Downes said. “The thing that bound us all isn’t really there anymore.”

But those familiar bonds were plain to see as the evening wrapped up, and Trias led the traditional rendition of “Hawaii Aloha,” with its invocation of a beautiful and blessed “native home.” The entire room joined hands, locals and out-of-town guests, natives and residents, singing and swaying as one.

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Can Engaging with Art Turn a Bunch of Selfie-Takers into Citizens?http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/06/26/can-engaging-art-turn-bunch-selfie-takers-citizens/events/the-takeaway/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/06/26/can-engaging-art-turn-bunch-selfie-takers-citizens/events/the-takeaway/#respond Mon, 26 Jun 2017 10:00:31 +0000 By Joe Mathews and Reed Johnson http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=86448 If the essence of art is necessarily elusive and hard to define, so too is the essence of arts engagement. As audiences grow more diverse and demanding, and new digital technologies allow anyone to become a content creator with the click of a button, arts engagement now embraces a wide array of strategies, methods and goals.

On June 25 in downtown Los Angeles, more than 200 artists, producers, presenters, grant-makers, museum directors, curators, librarians, cultural administrators, government officials, members of philanthropic entities and journalists came together to consider “What Can the World Teach California About Arts Engagement?” The Zócalo Public Square conference attracted panelists and attendees from across California, the United States and other corners of the planet.

The gathering at the Omni Hotel began with welcoming remarks from Michael Alexander, executive director emeritus of Los Angeles’s Grand Performances series of free outdoor cultural events, followed by a live performance

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If the essence of art is necessarily elusive and hard to define, so too is the essence of arts engagement. As audiences grow more diverse and demanding, and new digital technologies allow anyone to become a content creator with the click of a button, arts engagement now embraces a wide array of strategies, methods and goals.

On June 25 in downtown Los Angeles, more than 200 artists, producers, presenters, grant-makers, museum directors, curators, librarians, cultural administrators, government officials, members of philanthropic entities and journalists came together to consider “What Can the World Teach California About Arts Engagement?” The Zócalo Public Square conference attracted panelists and attendees from across California, the United States and other corners of the planet.

The gathering at the Omni Hotel began with welcoming remarks from Michael Alexander, executive director emeritus of Los Angeles’s Grand Performances series of free outdoor cultural events, followed by a live performance by The Industry, the Los Angeles-based, independent, artist-driven experimental opera company led by artistic director Yuval Sharon.

To frame the day’s conversation, Sharon cited Bertolt Brecht’s adage that “a theater which makes no contact with the public is a nonsense.” Engagement is key to making art that is “responsive to our communities” and “to the times we’re living in,” and that enables us to address our hopes and fears, he concluded.

But how do artists tap into those communities? And does the public even know what it wants from the arts?

Chris Jones, chief theater critic of the Chicago Tribune, took up that question in the day’s first panel discussion. Jones flipped the question on its head, pointing out that some artists feel no obligation whatsoever to please their audiences, convinced that instead their main duty is to please themselves.

In response, panelist Randi Korn, who leads a Virginia-based museum planning firm, and has conducted extensive research on museum audiences, suggested that the real challenge for culture producers is how to create the memorable and meaningful experiences that arise “from people being surprised by what they see.”

“It’s not about meeting people’s expectations,” Korn said. “It’s about exceeding them.”

Another panelist, Cristina King Miranda, a Mexico City-based performing arts curator, suggested that being part of an audience requires its members to connect with each other, and not shy from the debate, conflict and even pain that great art sometimes provokes. “We need to become cartographers of our own experiences in our communities,” she said.

Leslie A. Ito, president of the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center, said that culture producers should be asking themselves how to create the kind of cultural spaces that encourage the fullest participation. She said that her center is presenting more non-Japanese artists in order to connect with the rest of Greater Los Angeles, but also was careful “to ground them in Japanese culture.” For a recent series on world dance music, for example, “we brought artists in for orientation that started with a tea ceremony—so they understand the space and the history of the place in which they are performing,” Ito said.

The conversation also took up the issue of how digital “sharing” and social media have conditioned audiences to seek out cultural events that make cool Facebook posts and generate dozens of Instagram “likes.” Korn warned against “superficial” arts experiences that rely on ginning up Snapchat and Twitter traffic. To make an impact, she said, you “want to be about deepening experience,” as opposed to broadening the arts experience.

Yet the panel concurred that arts and cultural organizations can engage wider audiences, and new audience segments, without pandering to them. Ito cited one New York Historical Society exhibition about taxi drivers that extended its hours from 2 to 6 a.m. to accommodate cabbies working the graveyard shift.

When Jones pressed about how the arts might survive if arts organizations offer collections that are a whole lot of “non-interactive stuff,” panelists said the ability to be in the presence of great stuff (otherwise known as art) still reliably draws audiences and keeps them coming back. “It’s about the intimacy of being with stuff,” said Ito, who recalled visiting a theater in Kyoto, Japan with a very small performance space, no bigger than a table, and the impact of experiencing art in such close, personal quarters.

Jones also pressed the panel on whether the arts must present ways of talking and interacting with people with whom we sharply disagree—particularly in stressed-out, polarized eras like the present. King Miranda responded by making a distinction between “normalization” and “democratization.” She noted that in Mexico, where the state “has failed us” in protecting “security, peace, and justice,” the arts represent a form of resistance.

“The arts remind us of our otherness and our normalness,” King Miranda said.

The morning panel’s exchange set the stage for Steven J. Tepper to deliver the lunchtime keynote address, entitled “Does Arts Engagement Even Matter?” Tepper, the Dean of Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute for Design & the Arts, structured his talk around a transitional process that he described as moving from “Me Experiences” to “Bigger-Than-Me Experiences.”

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Americans generated much of their own art by themselves and at home, through playing parlor piano, reciting Shakespeare around the dinner table, and other exercises in Emersonian self-reliance. All that changed with the introduction of radio, sound recordings, movie theaters, and other forms of industrially produced mass entertainment. The audience’s role increasingly was reduced to coming to a large venue, sitting in a darkened room, then applauding on cue.

“We saw the rise of cathedrals of consumption,” Tepper said. “It distinctly removed arts and culture from our everyday lives and put it in other places.”

That paradigm persisted through the decades following World War II. But a Wallace Foundation study later recorded a sharp drop in participation in benchmark arts events, setting off some hand-wringing and soul-searching among the cultural cognoscenti.

What was missing in this analysis, Tepper said, was that new forms of engagement were emerging to replace the old ones, leading to a “renaissance” of engagement, in cultural as well as civil life. That ongoing renaissance has been powered by what sociologist C. Wright Mills called “the exuberant expression of self,” which Tepper reframed as the culture of the “I Want What I Want When and How I Want It” generation.

Tepper said he’d taken his daughter to a Taylor Swift concert at which costumed fans posed in front of Taylor Swift-branded props that had been set up to give fangirls a place to snap selfies. Meanwhile, Tepper said, his son has been ordering personally customized Nike shoes.

They’re all symptoms of a phenomenon that Tepper calls the “Curatorial Me.” But if that sounds hopelessly self-absorbed, it also is the phenomenon behind the soaring numbers of people who are buying musical instruments, making their own music, uploading 6 billion hours of content each month onto YouTube, and teaching themselves other new creative pursuits.

Has the pendulum swung too far toward cultural self-expression and consumer autonomy? Studies suggest that this overstimulating our brains may limit capacity for empathy, our receptivity to others’ stories and others’ lives, Tepper said.

Tepper added that “Bigger-Than-Me Experiences” are about purpose more than pleasure, about transformation rather than merely “doing,” about identification rather than identity, and about the “empathetic imagination” rather than the “egoist imagination.” Millennials have shown that they value immersive experiences, diversity, loyalty and the “slow-down economy,” which can be glimpsed in the comeback of vinyl records, the resurgence of community darkrooms, and the popularity of mass group experiences like the Coachella music festival.

“Something about re-immersing ourselves in these shared experiences is extremely powerful for the millennials,” Tepper said.

Alexander then took the floor again to direct an informal exchange among conference attendees, who were encouraged to share their own ideas about arts engagement. One conferee, a library historian, said that museums and theaters could learn a valuable lesson from libraries. “The message that I can bring you from library history is … [if you] provide access and content” you’ll maintain your value, she said.

The discussion moved deeper into the political realm with the day’s third panel talk, “Does Art Really Make Us Better Citizens?” Lynne Conner, a University of North Carolina at Charlotte cultural historian, said that our experiences as members of arts audiences have the potential to teach us how to be better citizens—by learning how to be free thinkers. She added that arts participation can be a means of “rehearsing citizenship.”

Luz María Sánchez, arts and humanities chair of the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana de México, Lerma, argued that arts serve society and citizenship in three ways. First, the arts are one of the best ways humans have to include people whose voices aren’t being heard.

Second, she noted that in arts work she had done in San Antonio, Texas and Matamoros, Mexico, art could make people more aware of the places they live, and empower them to improve communities. And third, the arts can democratize knowledge. “It is a better way to make outside knowledge, that is being made in the university, and get it out in the proper way and socialize concepts around it,” she said.

In response to a question about the connection between art and citizenship in the Middle East from moderator Suse Anderson, an assistant professor of museum studies at George Washington University, Lyne Sneige, director of the Middle East Institute Arts & Culture Program, said that arts play huge roles in social transformations and in response to conflict. As illustrated by the Arab Spring, she said, “the arts have been the way in which younger generations have resisted in a non-violent way … and the way that they have really demanded that they be treated as citizens in a dignified and respectful way.”

The global arts consultant Gail Dexter Lord said that the arts constitute “a soft power” that influences people’s behavior as citizens through persuasion and agenda setting. Such persuasion can be good—she said that 19th-century novels fostered readers’ empathy and provided the foundation of the modern human rights movement. And she noted that cities around the world have become welcoming places where artists and newcomers can champion notions of citizenship that serve as a check on states that rely on the “hard power” of war and violence.

But, she added, people with ill intentions can also use the arts to try to persuade or set an agenda. “My theory is that art makes some people better citizens, and some people worse citizens,” she said.

So how are the arts and artists innovating to take up these myriad challenges to reach broader audiences? Moderator Seth Porges, a technology writer and television personality, led the day’s third panel in chewing over that question. For New Orleans-based visual artist Brandan “BMike” Odums, an answer has been doing stealth mural interventions in New Orleans public housing complexes that were abandoned in the wake of the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster. Odums said he didn’t view these buildings as “blank canvasses” for making art, but as spaces that had histories and told pre-existing stories, and where a shared “level of struggle” was required of those wanting to share in the experience.

“You had to physically get dirty with the space and consequently to ask questions about what could be in that space and what should be in that space,” Odums said.

Lydia Steier, a Connecticut-born opera director who has been living and working in Europe for the last 15 years, emphasized the importance of having a public funding stream for the arts, as is far more common in European countries than the United States. That financial security allows for greater freedom to experiment with content and form, and permits occasional failure. In the United States, she said, the reliance on private money creates an artistic environment that is generally more conservative.

“The reason people [in America] think [opera] is an uncool art for uncool people is because you need funders who tend to be old rich white ladies,” Steier explained. “You’re looking at extremely traditional productions, corsets, the big wigs.”

Rosa Ferré, exhibitions chief at the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, stressed the importance of helping audiences to grasp the relevance and context of artistic expression.

“I think that going to new audiences you need to have risk, you have to have the possibility of failure,” she said, recounting how hard it had been to persuade her board to do an exhibition on Big Data.

In a concluding keynote, Boon Hui Tan, the Asia Society’s vice president for global arts programming, warned against blockbuster exhibitions and attempts to define arts as global.

In this era, the former director of the Singapore Art Museum said, “the purpose of the arts is to awaken a sense of empathy—towards other lives.” With so many social, political, and economic forces creating a situation in which lines are drawn, “the purpose of the arts now is to scratch that line.” Specifically, that requires the arts to help build people’s “ability to read ambiguity,” though that is challenging because “the way things are funded” can encourage simplification or “dumbing down” of art.

“We need, across all sectors of art, to teach people how to engage with complex and ambiguous ideas,” he said.

He championed a “comparative approach” in which a specific locality connects its arts with those of a geographically or historically distant place. He mentioned efforts from Indonesia to Holland to do that kind of comparative work.

Finally, he argued that children’s exhibitions can be particularly powerful in reaching people, and he argued for creating physical spaces for communities (he noted powerful examples from Japan to France) and physical links between neighboring arts institutions so that people find their ways between them.

That brought the day full circle to a point made by emcee Michael Alexander several hours earlier, paraphrasing an observation made by late UCLA musicologist Charles Seeger. “The question is not whether the art is good,” Alexander said. “It’s what the art is good for.”

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Yes, Classroom Tech Can Tackle Inequality—but Change Takes Politics and Patiencehttp://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/06/16/yes-classroom-tech-can-tackle-inequality-change-takes-politics-patience/events/the-takeaway/ http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2017/06/16/yes-classroom-tech-can-tackle-inequality-change-takes-politics-patience/events/the-takeaway/#respond Fri, 16 Jun 2017 10:00:08 +0000 By Reed Johnson http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/?p=86053 Even as digital technology has grown exponentially more sophisticated, accessible, and integral to our lives, social inequality has cast a deeper shadow across the United States in recent decades. Simultaneously, getting a quality education has become ever more essential for individual success and fulfillment.

The question of whether tech-enhanced education can help break down—or perhaps even erase—growing social divisions confronted a panel of educators brought together at a Zócalo/Arizona State University event titled “Can Digital Learning Dismantle the American Class System?”

The panelists’ collective answer: Digital education can indeed shake up rigid class hierarchies, and it’s already having that effect. But it’s going to take more time and commitment.

“We’re just getting to the point where these tools can start being useful,” said Jaime Casap, the chief education evangelist at Google, who noted that in 1995 only one percent of the world was online. Twenty years later, some 40 percent

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Even as digital technology has grown exponentially more sophisticated, accessible, and integral to our lives, social inequality has cast a deeper shadow across the United States in recent decades. Simultaneously, getting a quality education has become ever more essential for individual success and fulfillment.

The question of whether tech-enhanced education can help break down—or perhaps even erase—growing social divisions confronted a panel of educators brought together at a Zócalo/Arizona State University event titled “Can Digital Learning Dismantle the American Class System?”

The panelists’ collective answer: Digital education can indeed shake up rigid class hierarchies, and it’s already having that effect. But it’s going to take more time and commitment.

“We’re just getting to the point where these tools can start being useful,” said Jaime Casap, the chief education evangelist at Google, who noted that in 1995 only one percent of the world was online. Twenty years later, some 40 percent is.

Casap’s opinion was echoed by Arizona State University president Michael Crow. Crow suggested that giving every student access to digital tools would empower them—not as faceless members of a socio-ethnic group or class hierarchy, but as individuals.

“We’re at the early stages of an extremely complicated process,” Crow said. “We’ve never lived as a species when everyone was actually equal.”

The conversation unfolded before an overflow audience at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in Little Tokyo in downtown Los Angeles. Moderator Goldie Blumenstyk, senior writer at The Chronicle of Higher Education, started the dialogue by asking each panelist to reframe the evening’s theme in a sentence or two.

Some gave bluntly personal responses. Darryl Adams, retired superintendent of the Coachella Valley Unified School District, talked about growing up economically disadvantaged in Memphis, Tennessee.

“Now, with digital access and the tools that are available, power is available to everyone,” Adams said. “That is opportunity.”

Casap spoke of his family’s dependence on food stamps and welfare while he was growing up in New York City’s rough Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. When he was a kid, to look up information he had to trudge over to the Columbus branch of the New York Public Library on 10th Avenue—unless it was a Sunday or holiday, when it was closed.

Today, more young students like him could get that information by pressing a key. Withholding technology from needy students guarantees they’ll fall further behind rich ones whose parents can pay for it privately, he suggested.

“I get to do what I do today because of education,” said Casap, who did graduate work at Arizona State University. The educational benefits he received are now being enhanced by digital tools and extended to the next generation, Casap said, mentioning one of his own children’s pursuit of a higher education degree.

“She assumed I was going to pay for it, so that’s a good problem to have,” he joked.

Marie Cini, college provost at the University of Maryland University College, ventured that digital education alone won’t end the class system. Rather, she suggested, digital education creates connectivity among formerly disadvantaged and marginalized people, which in turn creates opportunities and shifts power relationships. That, eventually, leads to changes within the class system.

But there still are obstacles to obtaining all the benefits that digitally enhanced education can offer, Cini said. Parents worried about social status may hesitate to support a child who chooses a blue-collar career, even a high-skilled one. Brand-name institutions still have big advantages over their less well-endowed rivals. These social distinctions and prejudices can carry forward and be exacerbated well after an individual leaves college.

“Look at who runs the country, look who’s on the Supreme Court,” Cini said. “We segment as people, and that’s what ossifies the class system.”

Access to digital technology is important, “but it’s not enough,” Cini said.

Blumenstyk repeatedly pressed the panelists about whether digital technology really could shake up the class system and deliver on its utopian promises if elected officials and taxpayers aren’t willing to pony up more money—an uncertain possibility, at best, in the current political climate.

Adams replied that his school district actually had banded together and agreed to tax itself to provide digital technology to its students, including those living in isolated trailer homes scattered across the region. To reach those students, buses were outfitted with routers and parked in remote neighborhoods so students could access the internet.

“It’s possible to make this transformation, but you’ve got to have the will,” Adams said.

At one point, Blumenstyk reminded Crow of an interview in which he raised the troubling prospect of a future world in which rich kids get taught by professors and poor kids get taught by computers.

Crow responded that there always will be a need for master teachers and professors giving face-to-face instruction, but technology can be an enhancement and a means for “evening out the outcomes.” Virtually everything in our human-made environment—from food, eyewear, and clothing to dictionaries and cell phones—is a technology, “passive objects” that can be “empowered” through “the creativity of individual students or individual teachers,” Crow had said earlier.

And the notion that we must make an either/or choice between old-fashioned learning and digital learning is false, he stressed. As for the cost of education, Crow said, investing in technology reduces it over the long term.

As the evening moved toward its question-and-answer portion, one audience member wondered aloud how digital learning could foster an improved civic culture. Casap said that young students need not simply to be given access to technology, but shown how to use it. For example, he said, studies have shown many kids don’t know how to tell a sponsored website from a real news website.

Another questioner asked why, despite the wider availability of digital technology, there aren’t more people of color working in Silicon Valley.

“What I told my kids was, ‘Build your own company. Don’t wait for Apple to call you,’” Adams responded.

Digital learning, the panelists concurred, is not a panacea, either for all of society’s problems or for any individual’s challenge in staying productive and engaged.

“It’s a long life, you’re probably going to have nine different careers, so you have keep going back and reinventing yourself,” Cini said.

But if digital learning isn’t a cure-all, or a revolutionary action, the panelists seemed to agree that we’re long past the point when moving forward without it is an option.

“We’re going to get the name of the species altered,” Crow said, “so that everyone born before 2000 is a homo sapiens; everyone born after 2000 is a homo sapiens.net.”

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