Monthly Archives: April 2017

Berkeley Gets Trolled


CBS News

“What’s happening to Berkeley?  Are you safe?” our friends ask.  National headlines scream: “Riots in Berkeley!” “The Death of Free Speech!”  Yes, something is happening in Berkeley.  We’ve been trolled by the hard right.  And our “leaders” haven’t responded effectively.  Now it’s time for the true defenders of free speech to step forward.

The so-called “riot” unfolded in three acts.  ACT ONE: Berkeley Young Republicans invited Breitbart bigot Milo Yiannopoulous to speak on campus (  On February 1st a crowd formed before the speech (estimated size 1000).  Suddenly it was invaded by the East Bay anarchists, who call themselves “AntiFa.”  They threw cherry bombs, started fights, and generally riled things up.  Campus police cancelled the speech.

Milo’s speech, and subsequent (cancelled) speeches by David Horowitz and Ann Coulter, were funded by the Young America’s Foundation,  one of whose donors is the notorious Rebekah Mercer — daughter of Oligarch (and Trump supporter) Robert Mercer.( )  [Young America’s Foundation has sued the University of California over the cancellation of the Coulter speech.]

ACT TWO: Subsequent to the cancellation of Milo’s speech, a pro-Trump group scheduled a protest in a downtown Berkeley park; part of the nation “March 4 Trump” demonstrations — which drew a laughable 160 to the National Mall.  A few Trump supporters showed up in Berkeley and were met by many more Anarchists, resulting in fist fights and 10 arrests.

On April 15th there were national tax day marches.  Once again, in the same downtown Berkeley park, the pro-Trump forces staged a rally.  Predictably they were met by the anarchists, resulting in a several hours of sporadic fistfights and 23 arrests.  And national news headlines: “Riots in Berkeley!”

It’s informative to consider who was at the April 15th rally.  Prominent was Identity Evropa a White Nationalist group founded by Nathan Damigo ( Their office is in Oakdale, California, the central valley.  The source of their funding is unclear but Damigo is affiliated with Richard Spencer, of the National Policy Institute (  The National Policy Institute was founded by far-right donor William Regnery;  some of its board members are connected to Rebekah Mercer.

Another group at the rally was the Oath Keepers.  Formed in 2009, this is among the largest US extremist groups claiming 30,000 members many of whom are former members of the military or law enforcement.  It’s founder, L. Stewart Rhodes, was present on April 15.  Again their funding is unclear.  Rhodes lives in Montana.

Also present were The Proud Boys, who called for the April 15 Alt-right rally.  They were represented by Rich Black.  Once again, it’s not clear how they raise funds.  (Although Black has solicited donations for his organization, “Liberty Revival Alliance” on the notorious Alt-right site Wesearchr.)  The Proud Boys’ offices are in New York City.

What these three Alt-right groups have in common is their mysterious funding and that they are headquartered outside the Bay Area,

On the other hand,  the Antifa group is local.  Antifa, short for anti-fascism, is a collection of anarchists, including the Berkeley chapter of “By Any Means Necessary.”  Its most prominent member is Yvette Felarca.

On April 27th, the hard right staged another Berkeley protest because of the cancellation of Ann Coulter’s speech.  At the downtown Berkeley segment, there were a couple of dozen identified Alt-right individuals.  Oathkeeper L. Stewart Rhodes said he was there to defend free speech.  (Antifa didn’t show; Yvette Felarca reportedly boasted, “We don’t need to come to the park.  We won.  We caused the cancellation of Coulter’s speech.”)

ACT Three: In hindsight, the Milo Yiannopoulous event was mishandled by the UC authorities.  The hard right has seized upon this as an excuse to troll Berkeley; they’re likely to keep doing this until Berkeley citizens take charge.

Milo Yiannopoulous should have been allowed to speak, as should other conservatives no matter how inflammatory their views.  Antifa is wrong to block the exercise of free speech.  Berkeley must remain the home of free speech.

History indicates that if there is a massive outpouring of nonviolent-free-speech support this will check the violence from the Alt-right and from Antifa.  Therefore, the Berkeley nonviolent community has to mount a concerted effort to mobilize several thousand free-speech advocates to show up whenever there is a far-right speech or the Alt-right schedules a rally.

This is our challenge, Berkeley.  We must defend free speech by standing up to political violence.

Reaching Out To Trump Voters

On April 17th, my Berkeley Indivisible group  hosted a two-hour discussion on “Reaching out to Trump voters,” featuring UC professors Arlie Hochschild and George Lakoff.  Participants learned how to approach a group that some consider a lost cause.

After November 8, many progressives were dismayed to learn that one or more members of their family had voted for Donald Trump. It wasn’t some random Republican in a remote red state, it was someone they had shared holidays and vacations with.  It was a beloved member of their family.

Indivisible was founded with two primary values in mind: inclusivity and nonviolence.  Reaching out to a Trump voter is a reflection of inclusivity, including everyone in the conversation.  Involving every voter regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, sexual preference, or how they voted on November 8th.

The Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn defined nonviolence as “love in action.”  Certainly reaching out to a family member who voted for Trump is love in action.

Conflict-resolution studies suggest ten tips for talking to difficult people; ten lessons that are applicable to talking to a family member who voted for trump:  First, do it in private.  This is not a conversation that should take place in a typical family setting such as Thanksgiving dinner after a couple of drinks.  Second, leave plenty of time for the conversation.  This is not a conversation that will consume only a few minutes; allocate several hours.  Third, begin with the well-formed intention to listen to the member of your family who voted for Trump.  Fourth, make sure that you have the energy to do this.  If you are getting over a cold and didn’t sleep the night before then today is probably not a good time to have a difficult conversation with “Uncle Al.”  Fifth, sustain eye contact.  This is a good practice in all intimate conversations but particularly important in dealing with difficult people.

Sixth, recognize when you are “triggered.”  Recognition of triggers is worthy of a special training; suffice it to say that if, during your conversation with Uncle AL, you suddenly feel very angry or you have gone numb, you are likely “triggered.”  Seventh, if you are triggered it’s okay to ask for a timeout.  Take the time you need to collect yourself.  Eighth, it’s a good idea to practice your interaction with Uncle Al ahead of time; that is, have a friend play the part of Uncle  Al and practice a conversation about why Uncle Al voted for Trump.  Ninth,  it’s okay to take more than one session to talk to Uncle Al.  If after an hour, you feel your energy drain, it’s okay for you to say, “We’ve accomplished a lot.  How about scheduling another meeting.”  Finally, if more than one member of your family voted for Trump, take them one at a time.  (Save Aunt Minnie for later.)

After reading Hochschild and Lakoff, I deduced seven observations they share about reaching out to Trump voters:

1. Listen: Trump voters expect liberals to disrespect them.  Therefore, no matter how outrageous Uncle Al’s statements may be, listen, and perhaps comment, “I’m interested that you think that.”

2. Do not insult Trump.  Hochschild and Lakoff’s writings make it clear that Trump voters identify with Trump; to them, he’s successful, politically incorrect, and a guy who has beaten the system.  When they say something positive about Trump, reply, “I hear what you say but I’m worried about corruption and safety.  Corruption because Trump will not reveal his tax returns and safety because of his ties to Russia.  What do you think?”

3. Clarify your own values:  Trump voters have different values from liberals.  Before you talk to Uncle Al, be clear about your own values.  For example, do you believe that we are “our brother’s keeper and our sister’s keeper?”  Search for common ground.  For example, does the Trump voter believe in “the Golden Rule?”  How does that belief apply to treatment of people of color?”  George Lakoff suggests: we ask Uncle Al, “What actions are you most proud of?”

4. Recognize worldview: Trump voters see the world as an elaborate hierarchy (with rich American white straight Christian guys at the top).  Nonetheless, most Americans cherish the myth of “the little guy who started out with nothing and fought his way to the top.”  Search for common ground on the concept of fairness; everyone deserves a chance.

5. Be careful about climate change: Most Trump voters do not believe in global climate change.  Rather than take on this issue in general, talk about a specific local issue such as contaminated drinking water.  Say, “I believe that we should protect our children from contaminated water.  Don’t you agree?”

6. Be careful about race, ethnicity, and national origin: Many Trump voters live in segregated communities and do not know immigrants or have social contacts with people of color.  Search for common ground by referring to “the Golden Rule.”  “What would Jesus do if he saw a Black man being beaten by the police?”

7. Take back patriotic symbols: Search for common ground using the symbols of patriotism: flag, constitution, and love of country.  You can say, “I’m reaching out to you because I love you and I love America.”

Trump voters are not “deplorables.”  There’s a way to reach out to beloved family members who  voted for Trump.  It begins with listening.

While the Media Slept

Donald Trump has called the mainstream media “the enemy.”  But since January 20th, the media has been Trump’s best friend because they have, in the main, ignored the big stories about his disastrous presidency.

To be fair, Rachel Maddow has been superb.  And the New York Times, Washington Post, and a few other print outlets have done a great job with the Trump-Russia imbroglio.  Nonetheless, here are some of the big stories they’ve missed.

1.Trump isn’t an executive.  Everything we’ve seen since January 20th, confirms the painful truth: Trump is in way over his head.  Let’s consider the five basic tasks of any CEO: Vision, Resources, Culture, Decisions, and Performance. (

Vision: What is Trump’s vision for America?  We understand that he offers “Make America Great Again” as his vision, but what lies behind that?  “Where’s the beef?”  There isn’t any.  Trump’s budget document — the closest we have to a plan — tears down the Federal government and gives massive tax breaks to the rich.  Trump’s real vision is “Screw the 99 percent.”

Resources: Another responsibility of an effective CEO is to allocate resources (money, personnel, time, and facilities) to accomplish specific objectives.  Trump’s budget gives resources to ICE and the national security state.  The domestic agencies get the shaft.  There’s nothing in Trump’s budget to improve the lot of the 99 percent.

Culture: A successful CEO builds a culture of competency.  “A good culture makes people feel safe and respected, enabling them to perform at their best.”  Except for his national security advisers (Mattis and McMaster), Trump has surrounded himself with a team of bumpkins.  From the White House staff through the Cabinet secretaries to all the (few) political appointees, Trump’s prevailing credo has been “do they like me?” rather than “can they do the job?” or better yet, “can they make America greater?”

Decision-making:  One of the defining aspects of management is making timely, effective, and responsible decisions.  Trump doesn’t make decisions: he dithers.  And equivocates.

When he has made decisions, such as his ineffective “full-court press” to repeal Obamacare, Trump has made bad choices.  And then, when his initiatives have failed, he’s attempted to blame others.  He’s a coward.

Forget looking for responsibility within this Administration.  Trump’s operational model is “the buck doesn’t stop here.”

Performance:  America’s corporate CEOs ultimately get judged by a narrow standard: share price.  For President, the equivalent standard is, “How’s the stock market doing?”  So far the stock market is up, so Wall Street thinks Trump is doing okay.  Really?  (According to Gallup, U.S. Economic Confidence is trending down.)

Another standard for a President is, “Has he kept us safe?”  The good news is that there have not been any domestic terrorist attacks under Trump.  The bad news is that since walked into the White House the whole world has been unsettled.  Moreover, tourists are afraid to come here — any non-native person-of-color is afraid to come to the US.  Hmmm.  That can’t be good for national security.  Hmmm.  If the rest of the world doesn’t like Trump, maybe that could have some impact on our economy.

2. Trump has no Foreign Policy: Trump wasn’t elected because of his foreign-policy chops but we expected some coherence.  It’s not like all the Republican leaders are dummies.  (Or have we got that wrong, too?)

First Trump liked Russia; now he doesn’t.  Initially Trump didn’t like China but now apparently he does.  And on and on.  Trump’s foreign policy seems totally random; as if it is was most influenced by what he learned from watching “Fox and Friends” while he was getting dressed.

Consider North Korea.  From his recent remarks, sounds like Donald is “mad as hell and won’t take it anymore.”  What’s this mean?  Is he going to attack North Korea?  Hmmm.  Think Donald knows that Seoul, South Korea, is less than 35 miles from the border with North Korea — that’s less than the distance between New York City and Coney Island?  Think Donald understands that if we attack North Korea it’s inevitable that Seoul would be devastated?  Probably not but breathe a sigh of relief: there are Trump properties in Seoul so he probably won’t attack North Korea.

3. Trump’s Attack on Syria: The media mostly missed that Trump precipitated the heinous gas attacks because his administration announced they had take Syrian regime change off the table (  Next the ruler of Syria, or someone else, gassed the poor folks in Khan Sheikhun, Syria.   Then Trump got pissed off, jumped to a conclusion, and bombed a Syrian airport — with undetermined results.

The media applauded because they had been waiting for Trump to do something a tiny bit presidential.  The problem is the media have now set the bar so low that any Trump act of foreign-policy violence is likely to painted as “presidential.”  Rather than what it really is: thuggery.

4. Trump’s missing legislative agenda:  Remember when Trump was going to sweep in and repeal Obamacare, cut everybody’s taxes, and unleash a trillion-dollar infrastructure program?  That’s disappeared.

Trump isn’t going to be able to get anything passed in Congress but that won’t keep him from dismantling the social safety net — and every part of government that isn’t the national security state.  But the media doesn’t report this disgrace because it’s all “nuts and bolts” government stuff and the media doesn’t think their readers/viewers are interested.  So, Trump will propose gutting Social Security to almost no notice while the mainstream media ponders weighty concerns like, “What’s Ivanka going to do next?”

Wake up national media!  This isn’t a drill, it’s a real catastrophe!