opinion

Stephen Bannon

President elect Donald Trump has appointed Stephen Bannon as his “senior counselor” (think Karl Rove).

Bannon ran Trump’s campaign but many of us hoped the relationship would end if Trump got elected. It obviously hasn’t.

Bannon is the chairman of Breitbart News, an ultra right wing organization aligned with the Alt-right movement.

All of this to say, Donald Trump has appointed an openly anti-Semitic and racist person to be his closest political advisor.

Note: Even though I’m a news junkie and very political, I’ve tried over the many years I’ve been publishing this weblog to keep politics out of it. The fact that I’m posting about our recent US election and Donald Trump in particular has everything to do with the kind of campaign he ran, not his particular policies which we know little about at this point. My grandparents got out of Europe before 1900 but as a Jew I’ve been taught all my life to keep an eye on any politician who uses fear, especially of “foreigners” to drive popularity. Trump is the first politician in my lifetime (I’m 65) who has won an election using this tactic. It may not be the main reason he won, but its at least a part of the many reasons he won. I think it’s important to keep track of this and I plan to, here.

This Too Won’t Pass

This Too Won’t Pass

Dave Pell has written a terrific essay on how the US election looks to his parents who are both Holocaust survivors.

My dad survived the Holocaust, lost his entire family, fought with the Partisans, and is a full-fledged hero. My mom survived Kristallnacht, seventy-eight years ago today. She escaped to a children’s home in France and eventually made her way to America, where she’s been working to help educate people and end prejudice of all types for her entire adult life.

Can you imagine what they must have thought when they witnessed people at Trump rallies yelling “Jew-S-A”?!

Note: Even though I’m a news junkie and very political, I’ve tried over the many years I’ve been publishing this weblog to keep politics out of it. The fact that I’m posting about our recent US election and Donald Trump in particular has everything to do with the kind of campaign he ran, not his particular policies which we know little about at this point. My grandparents got out of Europe before 1900 but as a Jew I’ve been taught all my life to keep an eye on any politician who uses fear, especially of “foreigners” to drive popularity. Trump is the first politician in my lifetime (I’m 65) who has won an election using this tactic. It may not be the main reason he won, but its at least a part of the many reasons he won. I think it’s important to keep track of this and I plan to, here.

Vigilance

Vigilance

Jonathan Poritsky who writes The Candler Blog has written a great essay on what’s just happened with the U.S. election. As a fellow Jew I identified with all of it.

When I speak with friends about my concerns as a Jew, they often tell me it won’t happen here, that I am overreacting. But it’s already happening, just not to me. A man spent a year-and-a-half selling Americans on the forcible expulsion of millions of immigrants and shutting them off from us behind a wall. And then he got elected president. If the mass deportations happen, or if the wall gets built, this is a dark path for our country. And that will only be the beginning.

As someone who recently turned 65, I’ve lived long enough to have met people who got out of Europe before Hitler’s rein (my grandparents), and in this country I also experienced the aftermath of Joseph McCarthy’s communist witch hunt: the woman who introduced my parents’ father was a judge who went before HUAC and was eventually disbarred because he was Jewish and liberal.

What many don’t realize is that when you are part of a group who is being singled out, it’s particularly frightening when a person like Donald Trump stirs up fear and scapegoating. Trump may not be personally anti-Semitic (his son in law is an orthodox Jew and his daughter Ivanka converted) but pockets of his supporters most certainly are: witness crowds yelling “Jew-S.A” at Trump rallies and Trump’s last advertisement made reference to (Jews) who run the financial world and are responsible for all that is bad.

I’m definitely worried and while I’ve lived with mild anti-Semitism my whole life, I’m guessing it will get worse now. I’m also concerned for people like my late mother’s helper, Marta who is an American who emigrated from Ethiopia. How should she think about what happens at Trump rallies and the blatant hate of President Obama (because he is black).

Its possible that Donald Trump said many of the extreme things he said simply to get elected, that he doesn’t really want to make a wall or deport Muslims. But, as Jonathan says in his essay, this is what the beginning looks like and as Jew who was brought up to “never forget” I can tell you that I haven’t forgotten and I’m scared, both for myself and for my country.

John Oliver on the future of newspaper journalism

John Oliver discusses the disintegration of newspapers and their newsrooms (their advertising revenue is drying up) while aggregation sites like Huffington Post (and many others) routinely piggy-back on newspaper reporting without doing any of the work or paying adequately or at all for the information.

Brilliant.

“We’ve just grown accustomed to getting our news for free. And the longer that we get something for free, the less willing we are to pay for it. And I’m talking to you, the person watching this segment on YouTube using the wifi from the coffee shop underneath your apartment. You’re killing us!”

The Year of Living Mirrorlessly

The Year of Living Mirrorlessly*

A great essay by Randall Armor up on PetaPixel.

This is one of the best pieces of writing on photography gear and being a photographer I’ve ever read. It’s right on point, well written, humorous, and informative. It seems to be pushing the Fuji X100T but in fact, it’s pushing this deeper ideas about photography and photographers.

“I see you rolling your eyes right now. Sure, Fuji probably went a little overboard cashing in on Leica fever. But why not? Camera companies stay fat and happy by understanding their customers’ psychology. Once you’ve gotten the Id, the Ego, and the Superego out of the way, photographers’ personalities can be further distilled into three subcategories: your Poseur, your Old Poop, and your Shooter.”

I’d love to think I’m a “shooter” but I may have a sprinkling of “old poop” folded in as well.

“For Shooters, having too many choices is just that– too many choices. They know that hauling around a bag full of lenses only makes it that much more likely that they will have the wrong lens on the camera every time that once in a lifetime shot presents itself.”

Amen.

*The Year of Living Dangerously is a fantastic film by Peter Weir. Well worth seeing if you haven’t seen it.

More on gun control

I just read this fascinating piece on Medium: Why I “Need” an AR-15 by Jon Stokes and I just finished writing a long comment up on Medium which I’m reposting here with a few edits.

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I enjoyed reading this piece and while I’m on the “anti-gun” side of the great gun divide, you’ve shown me that if I were a gun owner, I might look into an AR-15.

Prelude: I was talked into going out on a deer hunt with a friend and this friend shot a deer (cleanly), walked over to it, said a prayer, then field dressed the animal and we carried what was left back to his barn and I ended up with a lot of venison in my freezer.

I get it. If I’m not going to be a vegetarian buying factory raised meat is an odd and hypocritical place to stand as I get worked up about hunters killing deer for food (sport is another matter). I heat my house with wood that I process myself: I get what it’s like to be closer in to the process.

That said, you pointed to the idea that the shooter is the issue, not the gun but given current laws (and lack of enforcement) and the NRA’s full court press on all considerations of restrictions, it’s tough to sort that out.

This is why I like to think about guns like cars: we already have plenty of experience with testing, licensing, registration and liability insurance and we have a bit more control of drivers and the ability to get bad drivers off the road when they’re caught and the ability to make sure new drivers know the rules of the road and how to control a car. And, it costs more to insure a sports car if you’re 16 or a tractor trailer if you’re any age, it maybe ought to cost more to insure larger caliber or semi-automatic guns.

But, I misspeak; we don’t need to insure guns, we need gun owners to carry liability insurance so that if they cause harm, those harmed will get a bit of support and gun owners’ premiums will go up and maybe, if they have enough problems, they’ll lose the ability to have guns. If every gun had to be registered and every gun owner needed a license to own a gun and liability insurance it might put a stop to hoarding arsenals of guns and ammo.

Then there’s the argument I don’t make often but is personally meaningful to me: You may have the right to have a gun, but I have the right to live without the fear that you’ll miss and hit me.

I live in rural Connecticut and in season, we have deer hunters here. Twice pairs of hunters crossed posted signs on our property (we can see them in winter, no leave on trees) and once, a shot rang out while that person was standing on our property. The first time I put on a bright jacket and walked out and gently reminded the hunters that they’d crossed a posted property line. They were polite and immediately turned around (and crossed into my neighbor’s posted property). The second time, when I heard a shot I immediately called 911 which around here will bring a state police cruiser. The state cop found the hunters about 1/2 mile south of my place on someone else’s property and arrested them for trespassing.

I’ve had many Rambo fantasies about: you come on my property with a gun, I’m going to mess you up.

When I was 13 we went to visit some relatives in Palm Springs, California. I found myself walking down a street with a cousin I’d never met before. We were on our way up into the hills to, I thought, explore and climb around. My cousin said he had to stop at a friend’s house for a second and I waited in the street. I noticed that a kid our age came to the door, then that kid’s mother, and then my cousin returned and we continued on.

About 2 minutes later there was a large explosion and I found myself on my back with blood squirting out of various places on my body. I could see bones in my right arm and it was smoking near the elbow. My left wrist was squirting blood like a geyser. The right side of my t-shirt was burnt and blood soaked. I looked up and my cousin was also on the ground with his right hand blown off, his left hand mangled and his face a total mess and blood was squirting out of him as well.

I got up and dragged my cousin by his shirt to the nearest house and pounded on the door. A woman came to the door and immediately fainted and clonked her head on the tile floor. The husband saw all of this and slammed the door. I passed out in the bushes next to the door.

The fire department came and picked up my cousin and rushed him to the hospital. They didn’t see me in the bushes. A bit later, the police found the blood trail and me in the bushes and rushed me to the hospital.

Both of us almost died, although he was far worse off than me.

A year later, after many operations both of us had survived although him without a hand and only a piece of his other and a rebuilt face, me with shrapnel in my arms and side, a broken nerve that never healed right and scars all over my body.

I’m 64 now so that memory is mixed in with plenty of others but it was and remains a powerful experience in my life. Less because I almost died, more because the reason I almost died was not because I was messing around with explosives and made a mistake, but because I had the misfortune to be standing next to someone else who was.

The boy who my cousin had interacted with had sold him a small, glass jar of black powder and the mother had made change in the transaction. They never discovered what triggered the explosion but it was a hot day, who knows? Later it was discovered that the “gun family” had a lot of legal and illegal guns and associated stuff in their basement and because the mother had made change in the transaction they were sued by us to cover our medical expenses and a bit more.

But, winning that suit did not erase the memory from my mind that my cousin, who frankly I didn’t know before that day got us both blown up.

So, I won’t be shooting off fireworks this 4th of July. And, I’m generally pretty careful about hanging out with folks who mess with fireworks or firearms. I used to do a lot of traveling for a living and once Arizona started having open carry, I stopped taking jobs there.

Yes, you have a right to own a gun, but I have a right to be safe (from your mistakes) in my home and I would argue, in my country.

I did some writing on this earlier: Liability insurance as a form of gun control.

Liability insurance as a form of gun control

Let me preface this by saying that I don’t own a gun but I have no problem with the farmer who lives across the road from me taking a deer now and then (he dresses and eats them) and shooting coyotes who threaten his dairy cattle.

I live in Connecticut and one of my senators, Chris Murphy is currently filibustering the Senate to get them to act on gun control. When Chris was in the House he represented the district that had the Sandy Hook school in it, the school where kids were killed with an assault rifle. I support what Chris is doing.

Here’s an idea that might help with guns in the United States:

Why not treat guns like cars: in order to own one you have to carry liability insurance for each one you own. If that gun is involved in a crime or even an accidental killing, in or out of your possession, you’re liable. Guns have serial numbers just like cars have VINs. It would not be impossible to register and insure them at time of purchase, just like cars.

No doubt insuring a tractor trailer is more expensive than insuring a family car so if you have a semi-automatic weapon like an AR15 the you have to carry more insurance because that gun can cause more harm. Frankly, I’d like to see these types of weapons banned; they have no place in civilian life but until that happens, liability insurance would force people to assume some responsibility for them: keep them locked up, out of the hands of children, and out of the hands of criminals.

If you’re caught without liability insurance on one of your guns you’re fined and eventually, you lose the weapon and further, if you continue to abuse the law you lose the right to have weapons.

Of, if you’re found liable in enough accidents, just like cars, the cost of your insurance goes up and eventually it will be impossible for you to get insurance.

It’s not a perfect solution but it does force the folks who have guns to begin to understand that owning one comes with responsibility. And, maybe if one has to insure each gun people will stop buying so many.

I also think that rock climbers, hikers, BASE jumpers, etc. should be encouraged to buy liability insurance to pay for rescues which are incredibly expensive. Or, they should be forced to pay for the rescues.