Saturday, November 12, 2016

UN bullies confirm conspiracy

Faith Goldy of is trying to report on the UN "nanny state" conference in Delhi but they are being thwarted at every turn

Editor's Note: This is the unaccountable Globalism that many of us around the world are fed up with.  There is no liberty when unelected bureaucrats run roughshod over their citizens back home. We must restore national democracy and stop pretending that these unaccountable fools are actually representing us.

I hate cigarettes but I love freedom.  

How to protect yourself from Hacking

How to protect yourself from Hacking.

NOV 10, 2016

The United States is one of the easier countries in which to be a journalist. Compared to countries with authoritarian governments in Russia, China, and nearly everywhere in the Middle East, a reporter can clash with the U.S. government and still go home from work feeling safe. Reporters without Borders, a nonprofit organization that advocates for reporters’ rights, has ranked the U.S. in the top 50 countries with the most press freedom since 2002.

Things are far from perfect. The Obama Administration has hotly pursued whistleblowers—especially those who leak information related to national security—and its attempt to force James Risen, a journalist for The New York Times, to reveal confidential sources was a major setback to press freedom.

But before long, these past eight years may look like summer camp for journalists. On Tuesday, American voters chose a new president, and he’s not a friend to the press.

Donald Trump has called for an “opening up” of libel laws in the U.S., which would make it easier to sue journalists who write unflattering things, and maintained blacklists of media outlets he didn’t want covering him. He’s got a penchant for surveillance, allegedly wiring up the phones in his Mar-A-Lago resort so that he could listen in on any call from the handset at his bedside. He’s called for boycotting Apple after the company refused to unlock the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters when asked by the FBI. He’s “keeping a list” of political figures who were disloyal to him, and he has a habit of singling out journalists he dislikes.

If you’re a journalist in the U.S., all this means that it’s time to protect yourself.

The government can ask technology companies to turn over information—like the contents of an email or instant message, for example—if they’ve got the appropriate warrant or court order. The best way to keep overreaching law enforcement from doing this is to use a messaging platform that, by design, can’t read the data it shuttles from user to user.

Here’s how: Tech-savvy reporters, including many who focus on digital privacy and surveillance, routinely use tools that encrypt their online communications end-to-end—that is, in such a way that not even the company delivering messages can read their contents. Signal, a smartphone app, is the medium of choice for privacy-conscious communicators, and is probably the easiest way to call or text securely. Encrypting email using PGP is also an option, but it’s far more cumbersome.

It’s also important to make up complex passwords—and never to reuse a username and password combination for more than one site. Password managers like 1Password, LastPass, and Dashlane can create a different randomized password for every website, and remember them all so that you don’t have to. Turning on two-factor authentication on every service that supports it—Google, Slack, Dropbox, Amazon, etc.—makes it much harder for hackers to get into your accounts, by requiring you to approve every login with a mobile device. And for those who need to browse the internet securely, a properly configured Tor browser allows users to poke around the web anonymously.

Already, journalists and human-rights activists around the world operate under hostile governments that use surveillance to detect and disrupt their work. To understand what U.S.-based journalists might learn from them, I reached out to Ali Bangi, the co-director of ASL19, a non-profit organization that helps Arabic- and Persian-speaking internet users protect their privacy and anonymity online, and bypass internet censorship.
Bangi made two predictions based on his experience with the media landscape in Iran. First, he said, journalists will need to work harder to keep their anonymous sources safe. Electronic surveillance can make it easy for the government to determine the identity a whistleblower, if a reporter isn’t careful. A vindictive administration could deploy surveillance tools more freely in order to figure out who’s leaking information.

It’s also possible that more types of information will be considered sensitive and dangerous. That’s why people other than national-security reporters should think about communicating more securely: Even run-of-the-mill political reporting could make journalists a target.

“Activists and journalists working on hostile situations understand very well that, unless you take the necessary precautions, your online activities can have consequences for your physical safety,” said Daniel Bedoya Arroyo, the incident-response manager at Access Now, a digital-rights advocacy group. “For example, a mobile device can reveal with a decent level of accuracy your physical location, even if geolocalization services are disabled. And unfortunately, this increased risk and fear can cause self-censorship in many situations.”

A survey conducted by PEN America, an organization that promotes freedom of expression, found that 16 percent of writers in the U.S. avoided writing or speaking about a topic as a result of government surveillance, and that another 11 percent had “seriously considered” avoiding a topic for that reason. (The survey was conducted after Edward Snowden’s leaks first began to reveal the massive scale of the National Security Agency’s spying operations.)

“If the government is monitoring your communication, or if you even perceive that they might be, you are not going to say precisely what you think, particularly in repressive societies where there are consequences for critical expression,” said Joel Simon, the executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The fact that the government’s spying apparatus will soon be under Trump’s control is causing panic among privacy advocates. Writing in The Guardian,Trevor Timm, the executive director of the nonprofit Freedom of the Press, argued that Trump could wreak havoc using President Obama’s secret drone program and a powerful NSA:

In a little over two months, Donald Trump—after his shocking victory last night—will control a vast, unaccountable national security and military apparatus unparalleled in world history. The nightmare that civil libertarians have warned of for years has now tragically come true: instead of dismantling the surveillance state and war machine, the Obama administration and Democrats institutionalized it—and it will soon be in the hands of a maniac.

It will go down in history as perhaps President Obama’s most catastrophic mistake.

Evan Greer, the campaign director for Fight for the Future, a digital-rights nonprofit, called on Obama to shut down the NSA’s mass-surveillance programs in next few months, before he leaves office.

Institutional checks and a strong first amendment will probably keep press freedoms in the U.S. from eroding too much in the next four or eight years. It’s certainly won’t approach the situation in countries like Iran, where a journalist named Yashar Soltani was thrown in solitary confinement in September for exposing corruption in the office of Tehran’s mayor. “Encrypt, encrypt, encrypt!” said Bangi when I asked him what an Iranian journalist might advise an American reporter working under Trump’s NSA. “And if it's not safe anymore, leave.”

Friday, November 11, 2016

Leonard Cohen dies at 82. Here are his songs.

Happy Veterans Day- Teen Documents World II veterans.

Teen Dedicates Life to Finding World War II Combat Veterans

For as long as he can remember, Rishi Sharma's heroes haven't been sports stars or movie stars or any other kind of stars. They've been the U.S. combat veterans who won World War II.

Alarmed that even the youngest of them are now in their 90s and dying each day by the hundreds, the Southern California teenager has launched a campaign to try to ensure each one's legacy.

"I'm on a mission to in-depth film interview a World War II combat veteran every single day," the earnest 19-year-old says after a recent afternoon spent in the living room of William R. Hahn of Los Angeles, where Sharma mined the 93-year-old's memories for hours.

His Canon 70D camera rolling, his long, jet-black hair tied back in a tight ponytail, the son of Indian immigrants listened intently as Hahn recounted how he received the Silver Star for bravery by charging through a hail of gunfire on Easter Sunday 1945 as Allied forces retook the German town of Hettstandt.

Asked if he considers himself a hero, Hahn chuckled.

"Not really," said the retired metal-shop teacher who had a bullet come so close to him that it blew the canteen on his belt to smithereens. Other guys, he said, did similar things, and not all came back to talk about it.

Sharma wants to meet and honor every one who did, and he knows time is not on his side.

Of the approximately 16 million Americans who served in some capacity during WWII, some 620,000 survive, but they are dying at the rate of nearly 400 a day, according to the National Museum of World War II.

"I want to create this movement where people, where they just realize that we have such a limited time with these men who saved humanity," he says. "Let's try to learn as much as we can from them and give them a proper send-off and make them feel like their sacrifices they made were worth it."

He figures he's got about 10 years to do that so he's putting off college, putting off finding a job, putting off looking for a girlfriend, putting off just about everything except occasionally eating and sleeping between interviewing combat veterans.

Since childhood, Sharma says, he's been fascinated by the sacrifices men his age made during WWII, risking their lives for freedom, then returning home to raise families and take everyday jobs as they transitioned back to civilian life.

He read every book and watched every documentary he could find. But it wasn't until his junior year at Agoura Hills High School, just north of Los Angeles, that he became committed to meeting them.

He came across the name Lyle Bouck, one of the heroes of Germany's Battle of the Bulge offensive in Belgium, as he read historian Stephen Ambrose's book "Citizen Soldiers."

Fascinated, he looked up Bouck's phone number and called him, not realizing it was 1 a.m. where the 92-year-old war hero lives. A friendly voice on the other end of the phone told Sharma if he called back at a decent hour, Bouck would be happy to talk.

That's when the teen had an epiphany. "It made me realize these guys are really out there! And I could do this for all of them."

Soon Sharma was riding his bike to every retirement home within pedaling distance. After he interviewed every combat-hardened soldier there, he turned to veterans halls, then the internet.

Borrowing his parents' car, he traveled to Oregon over the summer, then back down the California coast, interviewing still more people. He's up to about 160, and has plans to expand his travels in the weeks ahead to Arizona and other states and, on next month's 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, to Hawaii.

He makes a DVD of every interview and gives it to the veteran. Some have passed on copies to the World War II museum.

"He's just totally dedicated and a very decent young fellow," says Howie Beach of Fullerton, whom Sharma recently interviewed. What he is doing is important, says Beach, another Silver Star recipient who at 91 sometimes speaks to high school groups.

"But a lot of them go on their merry way, just taking their lives and their freedoms and all that for granted," Beach says of those students. "So it's good to see a young man like Rishi with such a convincing way about him."

Such an effort doesn't come cheap, however, and Sharma quickly exhausted his modest life's savings carrying it out. He raised about $3,300 through a GoFundMe account and has spent most of that. To economize during the Oregon-Northern California trip, he limited himself to one meal every other day.

But Sharma, who also founded a nonprofit called Heroes of the Second World War, has huge dreams for his effort. He'd like to eventually recruit others to help conduct interviews, perhaps get the interviews to museums and allow others to get to know some of the people he says have become his closest friends.

"This one guy I interviewed in Oregon told me he hadn't been visited by anyone in over five months and that he was just waiting to die," Sharma recalled. "This is a 94-year-old who saw combat in the South Pacific, and now he has no one."

Changing the things I cannot accept

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Damon Connolly gives a "state of the district" talk to Marin Coalition 11/2/2016

Damon Connolly gives a "State of the District" speech to Marin Coalition on November 2, 2016.  He is the supervisor for Marinwood-Lucas Valley, Terra Linda and parts of downtown San Rafael, CA (District One).

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

At last the election is Over! ( I hope)

Home Invasion Robbers Strike in Marinwood

Home Invasion Robbers Strike in Marinwood

Three men ransack a home, injure owner, leave with cash and jewelry.

MARIN COUNTY -- Police are seeking the public's help in solving a home invasion robbery case that occurred just before 12:30 am on Mt. Muir Ct. in Marinwood.
On Nov. 8, Marin County Sheriff’s Deputies were dispatched to the report of the robbery, in which three black males entered the home through an unlocked open sliding door while wearing masks. One subject brandished a firearm and another carried a baseball bat, according to the victims, and ordered the family from bedrooms and their movements were restricted while the men ransacked the home.
One subject struck the male homeowner with a bat, but his injuries did not require medical care.
The subjects, who fled by unknown means, managed to get away with cash, electronics, and jewelry. Deputies canvassed the area, searching for the subjects and evidence, but were unable to locate any.

If Trump loses, "this could be the last day of America"

(LANGUAGE WARNING:) Gavin McInnes of on election day. He wants Trump to win but what if he lose

Go Ahead, Throw Your Vote Away

Go Ahead, Throw Your Vote Away

A math lesson for critics of third-party voters

Jason KeislingJason KeislingI recently had a pleasant encounter with a great and outspoken American who, despite his libertarian leanings, supports Hillary Clinton for president. I congratulated him on making a tough call but allowed as how I was looking forward to casting my ballot for the Libertarian Party's flag bearers, Gary Johnson and William Weld. "It will be unadulterated pleasure," I offered, "as there is no opportunity cost."
My correspondent fired back: "Opportunity cost is Trump gets elected."
I stand by my recklessness.
Here's where the curious nature of the American Electoral College comes in handy. Even where my vote—or the votes of my 100 closest, most easily influenced "inner circle"—might swing an election, there is simply no real chance that pushing either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton over the top in South Carolina, where I live, will determine the outcome of the presidential race. If Hillary wobbles to victory in my current state of residence, she would have already demolished The Donald in the Electoral College. Similarly, in Maryland (where our family lived until 2014), a squeaker for Mr. Trump would indicate that Ms. Clinton had been vanquished in a yuuuuuge landslide elsewhere.
Now, it is extremely unlikely that any one person's vote will rock even one state's electoral outcome. In the closest state presidential election of the last half-century—New Mexico (no, not Florida) in 2000—the final margin for Al Gore came to 366. And even that did not swing the national prize.
But set those slim odds of individual influence at the state level off to one (long-shot) side. Assuming that you live in a red or blue, and not a purple, state, you swing completely out of the loop. In its most recent election forecast, the prediction site FiveThirtyEight estimates that there is a 17.9 percent chance that Florida will decide the election (putting one of the candidates "over the top"). Next in line are Ohio and Pennsylvania, where the chances are 11.5 percent each, followed by Michigan at 8.7 percent and Wisconsin at 6.2 percent. When you account for North Carolina, Virginia, Colorado, Minnesota, Georgia, Nevada, and Iowa, you've eliminated all the states with as much as an estimated 2 percent chance to determine the outcome. Multiply that by the probability that one's own vote can throw one's state from Hillary to Donald or back, and the prospect that your vote will crown the next chief of state is neatly forecast as equal to 0.0.
This safe harbor protects 67 percent of U.S. population, that portion living beyond the aforementioned swing states. This logic is not lost on the general public, which tends to vote for third parties more often in "one-party" states.
Citizens realize that they are not trekking to the polls to cast the deciding national vote but to do their patriotic duty, taking pride in affixing an "I Voted!" sticker to their lapels and relishing the thought of canceling out some barbarian's vote (or their spouse's). But why not go commando and check the ballot for a person you'd actually prefer to see as president? In most states, the Electoral College makes this a guilt-free option.
Consequential outcomes from individual presidential votes are so unlikely that Americans cast their chief of state endorsements while investing far less in research about their choice than the investigative effort they sink to select a smartphone data plan or their next Pokemon Go venue. This is straightforward: Decisions that affect actual results generally invite more attention than those that do not. It is called "rational ignorance."
In another sense, it's liberating. Because your one tally will not change the nation's fate, you can afford to exercise your judgment worry-free. You are not at fault if Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton should win. Meanwhile, you will have indulged your conscience.
It is often said that voting third party is "throwing your vote away." It would be more accurate to say that living in a non-swing state is throwing your vote away. One tactic to recapture some modicum of vote value is to pad the total for an upstart candidate. Moreover, you might help (if modestly) to put the system on notice that the Big Two political party choices are being rejected. Even when the minor parties do not elect a president, they can thus wield power. The classic example is the Socialist Party, which garnered a paltry 880,000 votes in the 1932 election, barely 2 percent of the total cast, but over the course of the decade saw significant pieces of its platform co-opted by the New Deal. Within years, versions of the party's proposals for Social Security, a minimum wage, and large-scale public works were law.
In this year's campaign, I am insulated from liability by the Electoral College. And the presidential festivities, in my view, feature two highly undesirable major party candidates. The Founders have spared me from having to precisely calibrate my coefficient of disgust. Voting for Libertarians who have an exceedingly slim chance of victory will be the least complicated choice I will make—until Saturday's Pokemon Go selections are available.

More Government power means less Freedom for You

The Green Party's Jill Stein: Why Choose Between a 'Fascist' and a 'Warmonger'?

Editor's Note: Though you probably have chosen your candidate by now, i encourage everyone to examine ways we can get better candidates. I think that will come when we have more political parties. Consider voting for the third party of your choice.

The 2016 presidential race features two of the most disliked candidates in electoral history, which has given a boost not only to the Libertarian Party's Gary Johnson, but to Jill Stein, a 66-year-old Harvard-trained physician from Massachusetts who's running on the Green Party ticket. Stein, who sat down last week for an interview with Reason, says this election year presents an historic opportunity for third parties.

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The 2016 presidential race features two of the most disliked candidates in electoral history, which has given a boost not only to the Libertarian Party's Gary Johnson, but to Jill Stein, a 66-year-old Harvard-trained physician from Massachusetts who's running on the Green Party ticket.

"We have every reason to be terrified of Donald Trump in the White House," says Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein. "But I don't think we should fool ourselves into thinking that we should sleep well at night with Hillary Clinton in the White House either. They're both dangerous and unacceptable in different ways."

Stein is currently polling at about 2 percent, trailing Gary Johnson, who is on track to take about 4 percent of the popular vote. Stein, who sat down last week for an interview with Reason, says this election year presents an historic opportunity for third parties.

"This is a realignment election," says Stein. "And you have this marriage of the Democratic and Republican parties now. And its important, I think, for Greens and Libertarians to be working together right now to just break through this stranglehold and be challenging them right out of the gate."

Stein says that if only the U.S. were to adopt a new system of voting, Americans wouldn't have to make this choice between voting their conscience or the lesser of two evils.

Stein and the libertarian Gary Johnson have a lot in common on topics like foreign policy, marijuana legalization, and same-sex marriage. But on economic issues, the two candidates couldn't be farther apart.

For instance, Stein favors a single-payer health care system, which she claims would cost taxpayers nothing. She also says she would pour federal money into the clean energy sector and end our use of fossil fuels by the year 2030.

Stein has been battling the perception that the Green Party is anti vaccine after she told the Washington Post that "there were real questions that needed to be addressed. I think some of them at least have been addressed. I don't know if all of them have been addressed" with regards to small amounts of mercury once found in childhood vaccines, despite a scientific consensus that there's never been a link between vaccines and autism or any other serious health problems.

Stein calls the media coverage of her statements misleading and characterizes it as the "birther" issue of this election, claiming that she's only calling for reforms to the FDA, which she sees as corrupted by lobbyists.

With the election just days away, both Johnson and Stein's poll numbers are slipping. One meaningful benchmark for both parties would be to win 5 percent of the popular vote. That would lead the Federal Election Commission to confer the classification of "minor party," which means they'd get easier ballot access and be eligible for matching public funds.

"It's outrageous that people should be struggling right now with this questions of, 'Do I prefer a fascist or a warmonger?'" says Stein.

Interview by Zach Weissmueller. Produced and Edited by Justin Monticello and Jim Epstein. Camera by Monticello and Alex Manning. Music by RW Smith.

Trump is electrifying the Polls

Funny Hillary Clinton Gifs

Monday, November 7, 2016

A Clinton win won’t be a victory for women but a victory for corruption

A Clinton win won’t be a victory for women but a victory for corruption

I woke up this morning with heartburn.
I’ve had it pretty bad this whole election season. I never quite expected heartburn to be a side effect of living in the final days of the Republic, but I suppose we’re all learning about this process as we go along. In any case, it’s worse today than it’s ever been because I’m anticipating all of the fawning absurdities that will be spewed forth by the media should Hillary win on Tuesday.
“History has been made!”
“A historic day for women!”
“The glass ceiling is broken!”
“This is a victory for all women!”
And on and on.
The New York Times just gave us a preview of what’s to come with an editorial (not that I can really tell the difference between their editorials and their news articles) titled “The Men Feminists Left Behind.” A typical feminist screed, full of bitterness, loneliness, and misandry, it explains how Hillary’s victory will be both an achievement for women and a long-deserved punishment of men.
We men, the author Jill Filipovic explains, have not “evolved nearly as rapidly as women.” Hillary Clinton proves that “women changed” and feminism “transformed the culture,” but men, especially white men, are still stuck in the past, chomping on our cigars and clinging to our sexism. And this is just the kind of idiocy they’re writing today. One can only imagine what they’ll say when and if she actually wins.
Of course, the idea that women — or any other group of Americans — are “exhilarated” by Hillary Clinton is plainly delusional. She may be leading among women, but most of them will vote for her simply because they find Trump slightly more detestable, just as most Trump voters will vote for him simply because they hate her a bit more. In both cases, the voters are far from “exhilarated.” No two general election candidates have been more roundly despised than these two, which means neither can do much gloating if they pull this thing off.
But that won’t stop them, obviously, and in Hillary’s case we already know what form the gloating will take. Not satisfied to merely win the presidency, she will demand that we all faint over the historic nature of her accomplishment. She will insist that, even if we disagree with her politics, we still stop to “appreciate” what an incredible moment it is “for women.” And, naturally, the slobbering sycophants in the media will be happy to comply.
That’s why I think this must be said now again, finally, once and for all: a Hillary Clinton victory will not be a victory for women. It will be a victory for the Democrats, for liberal elites, for the multiple foreign governments who’ve hacked her emails, for Wall Street bankers, for the media, for whoever stitches together her sci-fi pantsuits, for fans of spirit cooking, for her SNL impersonator; it will be a victory for all sorts of nefarious people, none more so than Hillary herself, but the average American woman will lose as much from her reign as we unevolved men.
But more than anything or anyone else, a Hillary Clinton victory will be a victory for corruption. The most corrupt and distrusted nominee in the history of the country will have ascended all the way to the pinnacle of power, proving not that the American people are progressive forward thinkers, but that we have a virtually unlimited tolerance for tyranny and corruption. Many aspiring despots in the future — men and women alike — will surely take advantage of this tolerance, but that can no more be considered a victory for the female gender than it can be considered a victory for the male gender or for any of the mythological genders in between the two.
I, for one, would never defame women in such a way as to make Hillary Rodham Clinton into their crowning achievement. Indeed, calling Hillary’s potential presidency a triumph for women is like calling Anthony Weiner’s career a triumph for Jews. Neither the Jewish people nor the women of America deserve to be defined by the most pitiful and degenerate among them.
Hillary Clinton clearly wants to be seen as the George Washington of women presidents simply because she would be the first. But what set Washington apart was his courage and his integrity, not just his place in the presidential chronology. It is clear that Hillary lacks courage and integrity to the same degree that Washington possessed those qualities. In fact, it is exactly this, which makes her remarkable — and also unremarkable.
Unremarkable because she is just another deceitful, crooked politician in a long line of deceitful, crooked politicians. But remarkable because, despite her being potentially the first woman president, she rose to that position precisely by renouncing all of the beautiful and admirable characteristics of womanhood.
Just as men are meant to be strong, protective, and courageous, women are meant to be kind, gracious, compassionate, upright, and honest. Hillary Clinton demonstrates none of these virtues. It’s not accurate to say that she “acts like a man” because she repudiates her womanhood, but rather that she acts like a shallow, empty husk of a human being whose only motivation is her self-serving lust for power. In this way, she is neither a worthy example for women or an accurate example of them. She is an example of greed and corruption, and greed and corruption have no gender.
Now, if Hillary Clinton had risen to this lofty state by being an honorable woman, a woman of feminine virtue, a woman of grace and moral strength, a woman much like all of the great women I’ve known in my life or read about in history books and Scripture, then it would be true that her victory could be seen as a victory for women, in a sense. Or maybe it would be more true to say that it’s a victory for womanness and femininity. But that is not the case, sadly.
Hillary Clinton is a narcissist, a tyrant, and a cold, callous, pathological liar.  Her victory — should she achieve a victory at all — will not therefore show that our culture has embraced femininity. On the contrary, it will show yet again that we have rejected it.
Editor's Note: By all accounts, Hillary Clinton will win California by a landslide.  The best use of my vote is for a third party candidate.  With more party choices, we can have better candidates.  To qualify for the ballot, the third parties need to reach a minimum voter turnout.  Vote for the third party candidate of your choice.

What is the purpose of capitalism? | His Holiness the Dalai Lama and AEI's Arthur Brooks

In many ways, there has never been a better time to be alive. Violence plagues some corners of the world, and too many still live under the grip of tyrannical regimes. And although all the world’s major faiths love, compassion and tolerance, unthinkable violence is being perpetrated in the name of religion.
And yet, fewer among us are poor, fewer are hungry, fewer children are dying, and more men and women can read than ever before. In many countries, recognition of women’s and minority rights is now the norm. There is still much work to do, of course, but there is hope and there is progress.

How strange, then, to see such anger and great discontent in some of the world’s richest nations. In the United States, Britain and across the European Continent, people are convulsed with political frustration and anxiety about the future. Refugees and migrants clamor for the chance to live in these safe, prosperous countries, but those who already live in those promised lands report great uneasiness about their own futures that seems to border on hopelessness.
A small hint comes from interesting research about how people thrive. In one shocking experiment, researchers found that senior citizens who didn’t feel useful to others were nearly three times as likely to die prematurely as those who did feel useful. This speaks to a broader human truth: We all need to be needed.
Being “needed” does not entail selfish pride or unhealthy attachment to the worldly esteem of others. Rather, it consists of a natural human hunger to serve our fellow men and women. As the 13th-century Buddhist sages taught, “If one lights a fire for others, it will also brighten one’s own way.”
Virtually all the world’s major religions teach that diligent work in the service of others is our highest nature and thus lies at the center of a happy life. Scientific surveys and studies confirm shared tenets of our faiths. Americans who prioritize doing good for others are almost twice as likely to say they are very happy about their lives. In Germany, people who seek to serve society are five times likelier to say they are very happy than those who do not view service as important. Selflessness and joy are intertwined. The more we are one with the rest of humanity, the better we feel.
This helps explain why pain and indignation are sweeping through prosperous countries. The problem is not a lack of material riches. It is the growing number of people who feel they are no longer useful, no longer needed, no longer one with their societies.
In America today, compared with 50 years ago, three times as many working-age men are completely outside the work force. This pattern is occurring throughout the developed world — and the consequences are not merely economic. Feeling superfluous is a blow to the human spirit. It leads to social isolation and emotional pain, and creates the conditions for negative emotions to take root.
What can we do to help? The first answer is not systematic. It is personal. Everyone has something valuable to share. We should start each day by consciously asking ourselves, “What can I do today to appreciate the gifts that others offer me?” We need to make sure that global brotherhood and oneness with others are not just abstract ideas that we profess, but personal commitments that we mindfully put into practice.
Each of us has the responsibility to make this a habit. But those in positions of responsibility have a special opportunity to expand inclusion and build societies that truly need everyone.
Leaders need to recognize that a compassionate society must create a wealth of opportunities for meaningful work, so that everyone who is capable of contributing can do so. A compassionate society must provide children with education and training that enriches their lives, both with greater ethical understanding and with practical skills that can lead to economic security and inner peace. A compassionate society must protect the vulnerable while ensuring that these policies do not trap people in misery and dependence.
Building such a society is no easy task. No ideology or political party holds all the answers. Misguided thinking from all sides contributes to social exclusion, so overcoming it will take innovative solutions from all sides. Indeed, what unites the two of us in friendship and collaboration is not shared politics or the same religion. It is something simpler: a shared belief in compassion, in human dignity, in the intrinsic usefulness of every person to contribute positively for a better and more meaningful world. The problems we face cut across conventional categories; so must our dialogue, and our friendships.
Many are confused and frightened to see anger and frustration sweeping like wildfire across societies that enjoy historic safety and prosperity. But their refusal to be content with physical and material security actually reveals something beautiful: a universal human hunger to be needed. Let us work together to build a society that feeds this hunger.

The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is the spiritual leader of Tibet and a Nobel laureate for peace. Arthur C. Brooks is president of the American Enterprise Institute and a contributing opinion writer.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Joel Kotkin Makes a Plea for 'Localism'

Joel Kotkin Makes a Plea for 'Localism'

The urban contrarian talks about why the suburbs offer our best hope for stitching America back together.

People vote in the U.S. presidential primary election at a polling station located in a grocery store, in National City, California, United States. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Joel Kotkin swears he doesn’t hate cities—it’s just that most urbanists have a misguided perspective on them. Why focus on city centers, where populations tend to be too young, poor, and transient to invest in property or politics?
For the author, pundit, and Chapman University scholar of geography, America’s low-density suburbs—the ones growing the fastest, where people are more likely to be homeowners, where voter turnout is often higher, and “happiness” is said to be more common—are where the real action’s at. In his view, suburbs offer the greatest chance at community cohesion and engagement, and should be supported, not disparaged, by planners and policy makers.
Chief among the principles of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism, the Houston-based think tank of which Kotkin is executive director, is that “People should have a range of neighborhood choices ... rather than being socially engineered into high-density, transit-oriented developments beloved by overly prescriptive planners.”
For Kotkin, excessive top-down planning isn’t just an academic concern—it’s a scourge on the American ideal of community-based self-reliance. In “Restoring Localism,” a sprawling new report from the COU, Kotkin and co-author Wendell Cox identify with grave concern a national trend towards “hyper-centralization,” especially in federal and state policies on poverty, education, and climate change. This is happening in spite what Kotkin views as a popular preference for community-based solutions, an increasingly diverse set of urban and suburban populations, and the public’s documented decline in confidence in government.
“‘[H]yper-centralization’ assumes the superior expertise and wisdom of bureaucracies with the power to regulate,” he writes. “It is tied to the nationalization of politics, an approach that ignores local conditions and rationalizes single solutions for a highly diverse country.” Kotkin wants the country needs to “return” to what he terms “localism,” a governance structure that’s rooted in cohesive groups of people, as opposed to a centralized city, state, and (especially) federal government.
How might the nation embrace a mode of local governance that is truly by and of the people, in all their diversity and difference? Despite its title, the report doesn’t focus much on the mechanics; it spends more time describing the regulatory misdeeds of the Obama administration’s energy mandates and California Governor Jerry Brown’s excessively “coercive” climate and housing policies. Still, Kotkin’s larger point is provocative, especially in an election season dominated by painful political antipathies and identity “sorting” along lines of class, race, and geography. If we weren’t trying so hard to centralize big policy decisions, might we all get along a little better?
We spoke with Kotkin about local control, the value of homeownership, and what’s wrong with California. (For more urbanist mano-a-mano, our own Richard Florida will also be taking part in a town-hall-style debate with Kotkin in Kansas City on Friday, November 4.)
Thanks for agreeing to chat with us. You could say that the urbanism CityLab typically covers is rather at odds with yours.
It’s more of a different focus than a disagreement. I focus frankly on where 75 to 85 percent of the population lives, while Richard Florida is focused on where the other 15 percent lives. They’re different age groups, different populations, their economies are different. The whole argument with localism is that we’re becoming so diverse from place to place that the more regions can come up with their own ways of doing things, the better we’ll all be.
What exactly is localism?
First, it’s not an absolute ideal. Different eras require different things. The New Deal, recovering from World War II, the Civil Rights Movement: All of those required some strengthening of federal power.
But in the here and now, our problems are these high concentrations of wealth and power, and the growing desire of government to operate without getting into even the details of how local communities work. It seems to be that, especially, in an era where information can be distributed easily among groups of people, trying to concentrate everything in one bureaucracy is not the best way of going.
It’s funny to me when progressive says they want locally sourced food or business chains, but then you ask, well, do you want control over your local government? And they say no, we’d rather have ten Ph.Ds in Sacramento tell us how to live. I think those are contradictory. If you like local when you shop, why not in your politics?
You write in the report that “the New Urbanism movement is founded on the sound principle of small districts built around ‘the concept of community.’ But its founding principles favor solutions that would require centralized planning around a fixed set of preferred, even mandated, options.” Why does “centralized” planning, when it’s coming at the city level, necessarily contradict your theory of localism?
I’m perfectly OK if the city of Portland decides to ban cars in the middle of the city. A city deciding as a democratic entity on issues like minimum wage, environmental laws, density requirements—whatever those people want—I have no problem with an area deciding to do that. But what I don’t want is some big Washington, D.C. government or regional bureaucracy saying that you have to be a certain way. That’s not in the spirit of self-governance. It’s less about the result of the decisions as about who gets to decide. I think that’s the real issue, and that’s why we get these crazy politics: People feel powerless, they feel like someone is telling them what to do. And that’s not useful.
You do seem to identify a corollary problem at the city level.
Yes. For instance, the city of L.A. is moving in a direction of higher density, which I think is not helpful for most people in L.A. But that’s what the political consensus is. There I think the one big problem is size: When you’re a city like L.A., council districts are like congressional districts, and you need lots of money and support to get elected, and you can’t have grassroots democracy in that kind of system. You just can’t run for city council because your neighbors think you’d be good. It becomes something where only certain players with certain backers can get anywhere.

[California State Senator] Bob Hertzberg had the idea of breaking down L.A. into seven boroughs, each with its own local legislature made up people who weren’t career politicians. If each of those were divided into nine districts, then you could have someone from Sherman Oaks going door-to-door, gathering local support, and win. Well, that’s never going to happen, because the die there is cast. That is one of the reasons that people move to suburban areas or to smaller towns: to get a greater sense of control over things, like they don’t feel like they have in L.A.
Are there cities you’d hold up as exemplary models of localism?
What I like about Houston is that there’s a clarity of choices for residents. If I go into neighborhood A, there is this specific housing covenant. But if I move to neighborhood B, there is a protection for higher density development. That’s why there are so many planned communities outside of Houston, these gigantic things like the Woodlands and Cinco Ranch, where people say, ‘I want something that is predictable.’ I also like Houston because of the cost. You can be a young person, live inside the 610, go to bars and stay out late, and when you grow up and want a family and establish yourself, you can go to the suburbs and they’re affordable. The Bay Area is a problem, because you can’t buy a house anywhere within 40 miles of San Francisco, unless you have rich parents and you rob the bank. In Houston, there are a lot of choices—different towns with different approaches, many of which aren’t necessarily tied to any sort of city government. You know, I follow opportunities for minorities to buy houses, and it’s clearly better for minorities to buy houses in Texas than a place like New York City or Boston.
You frequently emphasize the importance of giving middle-class families opportunities in the way of work and education. Who exactly are you talking about when you say “middle class”?
Middle class is a very fungible term, but i’ll give you some sense: It’s people who are probably somewhere between the 10 and 20th percentiles, up to the 40 to 60th percentiles, in income. Everything has to be adjusted for cost of living. Making $100,000 a year in San Francisco is a poverty wage, whereas in Houston you can have a really decent life. There is also a big issue of age. The group that is really leaving California right now are people ages 35 to 44. That’s the age of marriage, kids, buying houses. That’s the group I’m interested in. Again, I’m also concerned with ethnic groups and immigrants. Can they buy houses? The chances of African-American families buying houses are way lower than for whites. I believe the Madisonian idea of having a large dispersion of homes is very important to democracy, and we’re moving in other directions all over the country. Especially in California.

A home with solar panels on its roof in a residential neighborhood in San Marcos, California. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Why is the notion of widespread homeownership so critical to you?
I think it’s the basis of a republic. You can’t have a small group of people who own the vast majority of properties. If you’re a renter for life, then you’re basically paying some wealthy person’s mortgage and have no assets at the end. That’s not healthy. People need a certain degree of independence and have skin in the game. If you live in a neighborhood of homeowners, then they’re more concerned about what’s going on in your area. You’re more engaged with local politics. If you’re a renter, maybe you stay in the neighborhood, maybe not, and the relationship to the sate is very really different. That dispersion of ownership was the ballast of the democratic system. We’ve had periods where property ownership is heavily concentrated into a few hands, like the late 19th century and now, where property ownership is prohibitive in many parts of country, and we have these large concentrations of corporate wealth. That doesn’t work well with a democratic system.
You said that California is where you see the most dramatic trend away from this vision of dispersed homeownership. What’s the matter there?
It’s increasingly centralized. It’s increasingly state mandates that dominate what cities can and cannot do. [Governor Jerry] Brown is basically saying no more greenfield development. But if you talk to developers, they say they want to build 20 units to an acre in Rancho Cucamonga but the state says it needs to be 50 to an acre. Otherwise the projects won’t get approvals, you’ll get sued by the state, you might not get transportation funding. Well, the developers can’t sell that! No one is going to move out to the Inland Empire and spend $400-to-$500,000 for a box.
Growth of state control has become pretty extreme in California, and I think we’re going to see more of that in the country in general, where you have housing decisions that should be made at local level being made by the state and the federal level too. You have general erosion of local control.
A lot of California’s state-level planning policies have been a means to reduce driving and vehicle emissions. Isn’t climate policy one of those areas where you really need a coherent, centralized vision to get results?
I think there is a vision that Jerry has had from early on, and has become deeply entrenched, which is that density is good, and if we could have a state made up of mostly renters in little spaces, that’s better. I think that’s not a very good strategy long term. A lot of the decisions being made today are not that concerned with middle-class families. California is so far gone that there is almost no discussion about that strategy left. We have these kinds of orthodoxies that have become so entrenched in planning, media, academia, and government that we don’t even think about whether there is another way of doing things that doesn’t undermine the future of the next generation.
But wouldn’t failing to develop policies that limit travel-inducing, emissions-generating sprawl “undermine the future of the next generation” in a far broader, deadlier way?
If you’re saying because of climate, we have to live this way this way and this way no matter what, then you have a certain kind of society and you’re going to have certain results—the problem is that we can really no longer make the argument that people don’t want to live in suburbs. Most prefer it.

So are there other ways of getting to that goal of reduced emissions without essentially turning America into a country of people living in little spaces with no children because we refuse to take up space? We can look at more efficient cars. Autonomous cars also opens up all sorts of opportunities to reduce space for cars. And what about the growing number of people working from home? People can have a larger house but work at home. With jobs becoming more dispersed, maybe they can commute 10 minutes rather than an hour. And maybe we should invest on making solar more effective, or converting coal use to natural gas.
I think the environmental movement would do much better if they talked about how to deal with these issues without undermining the way people live. It’s going to be ugly when you decide how to make people live—you’re going to have cities where only really rich people can have houses and backyards. That’s not my vision of a democratic society.
Which brings us back to localism. Isn’t there a risk that by grouping off into smaller sub-communities, we’re kind of exacerbating the “Big Sort” we’ve seen happening on the political landscape? The kind of geopolitical class-sorting that helped give rise to Donald Trump, and Brexit, and anti-outsider fervor in the U.S. and beyond?
Well, if you say in Europe, that people in Brussels have a right to tell you what to do with your life, you’re going to get a response. To me, Trump is different. He’s somewhere between a danger and a crackpot. He has a kind of authoritarian approach that’s almost the opposite of localism. I don’t think he’d understand what the term would mean. Hilary is probably going to be a centralizer, but at least she gets the argument.
How do you get around the fact that communities often form their identities on the basis of exclusion?
Is racism a part of localism? That’s not the case at all. The communities I live in are very diverse. People who are Hispanic and Asian and so on want the same things from their communities that Anglos do. One of the advantages of localism as I see it is that it would force people to talk to each other as neighbors as opposed to members of a particular ethnic group. Local politics have less invective than at the national level.
If nothing else I’m trying to start some sort of debate or rational conversation about things that have become orthodoxies. Why don’t we consider something else and have a discussion? I think the planning community is all reading from the same hymnal, and that’s not such a good idea. And we get this thing where planners want A and people want B and there is no attempt to figure how how to address both. That’s where I hope we’d start.
Then what? What might a localist system of governance actually look like?
The next paper, which we hope to start in January, asks: How exactly can we do this? What would a government policy look like that was respectful of local concerns and address these larger concerns? Can we empower local areas within bigger regions?
The progressive tradition was always very much about how do you diminish concentrations of power. So it’s not a liberal or conservative thing at all, or even an urban or suburban thing: It’s about governance, and who decides. And how you maintain a system where people are not disenfranchised and have some control over the world they live in.