Thursday, March 30, 2017

Had Enough Yet Of Trumpalooza?

It’s now been two months of the Trump Administration barrage of executive orders, nominations and appointments claiming to bring about a new social, political and economic order. “When will there be good news again?” one news reader asks. “I can’t stand what I read every day,” another said, “but I can’t help but read the news every day.” Frankly, I don’t think it will get any easier.

The daily rounds of incoming bad news is not like a war zone but some of the anticipated effect of shock and awe is psychologically akin to what was once called shell shock: that numbness, that desensitized, nervous, anxious feeling. Unlike having to suffer in the foxhole, the trench or the basement bomb shelter, you can (and some advise us to) unplug. Have sex, play with the dog or the kids, walk in the woods, clean the closet or the garage.

But it’s hard not to keep reading, listening, watching. In the last two months the Trump barrage has come down on climate change, digging and burning coal, oil pipeline, immigration, deportation, health care, reproductive rights, science, public broadcasting, education, communication privacy, LGBT rights, Muslims, Hispanics... Trump and his cronies and emerging phalanx of industry collaborators have pretty much demonstrated who will win and who won’t in the new Trumpean Order. It’s as if “We are the 99%” and “Citizens United” and “Black Lives Matter” never happened.

This is a long march. Some of the fervor of the early opposition will probably be lost as the worst is averted (the GOP did not repeal the ACA) or sports and summer grab people’s attention.

However, more troubling is having to make choices as to where to put one’s dollars and time on multiple fronts under siege. This is the danger of battle fatigue. How can everything be important? Will there need to be winners and losers among the causes we champion?

A few years back David Domke of the UW School of Communication advised groups working for the social good to recognize in their communications that the majority public we wished to reach drank drip coffee, not espresso, watched Wheel of Fortune rather than PBS, and shopped at WalMart. He advised us to think through how we could communicate our individual messages in common themes of responsibility, opportunity and legacy so that, while individual in our efforts, we would be heard as standing together in our larger goals.

I think it’s crucial that we start that thinking as our causes come under assault. We need to show how our causes are thematically linked and form a united front that speaks to the kind of society and its values we are fighting for. I think those themes have something to do with equal opportunity, diversity, transparency and the rule of law. I don’t see it coming out of either the Republican or Democratic parties. If we are saying more than “no” to Trump and his cronies, who are “we” and what do we, united, stand for?

One good way to think about this is to chew on a recent piece by Eric Liu titled “How To Get Power” published in TED.Ideas. (Simone Alicea at KNKX interviewed Liu in advance of his talk in Seattle promoting his new book, You're More Powerful than You Think: A Citizen's Guide to Making Change Happen. Listen at: Citizen University Founder Says You're More Powerful Than You Think)

For Liu, the crux is the stories we tell to others: the story of self (what this cause means to me), the story of us (what we share that makes “us” us), and the story of now (this time, this moment calling for action.) Liu makes it tantalizingly simple: “Of these three stories, the middle one — about us — is crucial...Who is “us”?” I say “tantalizingly simple” because many have swooned over the simplicity of Tom Peters’ Passion For Excellence and Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point but found carrying out their lessons in the real world difficult.

For example, we know who “us” is among those who are part of the choir of loving animals and nature but do those who sing for LGBT rights or reproductive rights or immigration rights sing their songs about “us” that includes all of us? If you think it doesn’t matter, that’s that. But if you think if having a story we tell about us that includes many of us makes us more powerful against Trump and his cronies and collaborators, chew hard. I think it will take a lot of listening and give and take to converse about “us” so we can talk about “us.” There’s no guarantee we’ll be successful— but if there’s a kind of social, political and economic order we want to see as our society moving forward, that’s the kind of hard work it will take.

Let me know what you think.

--Mike Sato

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Would You Shake Hands With A Groper?

 Update: The Elephant in the Room It’s time we talked openly about Donald Trump’s mental health.  Rosemary K.M. Sword and Philip Zimbardo Ph.D. 2/26/17 (Psychology Today)

Would you shake hands with a someone who groped women? Someone who disrespects judges and a free press? Someone who lies and bullies the vulnerable? I’ve been thinking about this civil act of shaking hands for the past month of the Trump presidency.

I didn’t watch the address to Congress last week (I went to a talk about loons instead) but the TV replay showed lots of handshaking. Commentaries noted how ‘presidential’ Trump was without his customary campaign-style histrionics.

Handshaking is a custom that may have originated in ancient times to show a peaceful intent; the open hand having no weapon. According to Wikipedia, “The handshake is commonly done upon meeting, greeting, parting, offering congratulations, expressing gratitude, or completing an agreement. In sports or other competitive activities, it is also done as a sign of good sportsmanship. Its purpose is to convey trust, respect, balance, and equality. If it is done to form an agreement, the agreement is not official until the hands are parted.” Handshake

My gut feeling faced with the prospects of shaking hands with the President is one of revulsion. But that feeling is in deep conflict with the norms of what I grew up with and internalized as civilized behavior: At an all-boys Episcopal prep school one stands when a woman enters the room, says “sir” and “ma’am,” and shakes hands with a firm grip and eye-to-eye contact. You say, please, and you say, thank you and excuse me, and you respect your elders.

A lot of those norms got tested in the cultural cauldron of the ‘60s. I read Nietzsche's The Genealogy of Morals which examines where societal rules and moral norms come from and their purpose in maintaining social order and the authority of the status quo. I think it was Reed College history prof Owen Ulph who posited that, when the system is corrupt, the social contract with the state is broken and rules no longer apply. Hold that thought, then read Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke and write one’s own life essay on what it means to live a civil life in a time of change.

Unlike Will Rogers, I’ve met and known of a number of people I didn’t like. But I’ve never felt the moral and physical revulsion as I feel with the President. I’ve shaken hands with people I’ve disagreed with, feeling, despite disagreements, we still lived in the same moral universe. From all he’s said, says and done, President Trump and I live in different moral universes.

So, no handshake. But I think about— and worry about— what it means when I cannot maintain one of the most basic norms of civil greeting and tradition. What would a handshake between President Trump and me mean?

For me, the handshake conveys the currency of trust. I’ve shaken hands with people I’ve trusted my life to, my children to, my finances to. With elected officials, bureaucrats and business associates, the handshake’s currency of trust means I will do my part of the relationship and you will do yours. It may very well be a social contract whose rules and norms maintain the status quo, but that is what the currency of trust provides. With no social contract, there is no trust, no handshake. With no trust and no handshake, there is no social contract.

That’s not a comfortable feeling but that’s as far as I’ve come thus far in the current presidency, notwithstanding Trump’s last attempt to appear ‘presidential.’  I never felt this way, despite anger and disappointment, when Nixon, Reagan and Bush 2 began their presidencies. The shorter the term of Trump and his tribe the better.

Would you shake hands with President Trump?

-- Mike Sato

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Business of Real News

 UPDATE: Trump Bump Grows Into Subscription Surge -- and Not Just for the New York Times  Ken Doctor reports. (Newsonomics)

Who’d have thought we’d see in our lifetimes the demise of traditional newspapers? That’s what a long-time local reporter said a few years ago before the last issue of the daily Seattle Post-Intelligencer was printed. Today, the Trump Administration is happy to see that demise run its course, calling those who report real news “the enemies of the people” and barring them from last Friday’s news briefing. But, when that demise comes, America will not be great again.

That demise won’t come as a result of the histrionics of Trump and his minions. Those theatrics serve to inflame outrage and distract attention away from real issues. Reporters and editors of the national news and any state and local media worthy of their journalism titles will continue to report real news. Will the news be political? Yes it will, to the extent that the news reports the business of the people.

The demise of traditional newspapers, when it comes, comes because the business model is no longer sustainable. When revenue from subscriptions and advertising does not sufficiently pay for operating expenses and doesn’t provide an acceptable return on investment, the business fails. The traditional business model of delivering readers to paying advertiser no longer addresses a media world of 24/7 news cycles, decentralized information sources and evolving readership tastes and styles. Not much of a future for horse buggies after automobiles came on the market. Not much of a future for traditional print newspapers after the internet came on the scene.

The new business model for traditional news publications is a strategic shift to pay-to-view digital content enhanced by multi-media and personalized life-style services. Advertising revenue remains important but marketing news content and services to paying subscribers in a 24/7 digital environment is where traditional news media will go in its new form to survive. It’s a big risk but we’ve know for quite a while that the old business model was a dead end.

Easy to say but hard to do. Take a look at the New York Times digital edition and appreciate the tremendous amount of resources going into both producing the product and marketing the product in order to grow and remain competitive. Take a look at the digital edition of your local news publication and try to see whether it can grow and remain competitive in today’s and tomorrow’s media business. Our world and our society will be a much more dark and dangerous place without real news to inform our civic decisions but the rhetoric of ‘freedom of the press’ and ‘voice of democracy’ means little if we forget that the news business is a business.

If you like a business, you support that business as a customer. You subscribe and pay for the news content and services. And you support the businesses that advertise in the publication. Like any other business, if you like the service you’re getting, you continue doing business; if not, you complain and, if service doesn’t improve, you take your business elsewhere.

Trump by engaging in real news media bashing (‘enemy of the people,’ ‘failing New York Times’) has done a great job to galvanize support for real news journalism. The New York Times is not going to fail and neither is the Washington Post; more people have subscribed, just as support for Planned Parenthood increases with every presidential and congressional assault on women’s reproductive rights.

Wait until Scott Pruitt begins dismantling the EPA and environmental groups and their people fight back.

(A year’s full digital access to publications like the New York Times and the Washington Post and local daily papers in the region costs about $100. The New York Times provides a first-year discount of 50%. Independent news publications like Crosscut, Investigate West and Honolulu Civic Beat do not charge for content and are not businesses per se but, like National Public Radio stations, welcome donations to pay operating expenses.)

--Mike Sato

Monday, February 13, 2017

Voyage On The Tides With Jonathan White

It was quite a treat last week during the snowstorm that again gripped us northern Salish Sea folks to voyage with Jonathan White, author of the newly published book, Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean. It’s a great read— travelogue, science, personal reflection— the kind of book I finished and wanted to sit with the author to hear more and to share my “tides” stories....

I first met Jonathan in 1992 when Jonathan, Lela Hilton and the crew of Resource Institute sailed the advocacy group People For Puget Sound on its inaugural ‘Round the Sound voyage on the 65-foot wooden schooner, Crusader. A few years earlier, as Jonathan recounts in his dramatic introduction, he had almost lost Crusader in Kalinin Bay near Sitka, a mishap that drove home the importance of studying and respecting tides.

Over the last two decades, he’s done extensive research, travel and reflection on the physics, the spectacle and the spirit of the water’s movement along our coast and estuaries, up tidal rivers, through narrow passages and on the ebb and flood of shallow bays. He’s described as “a sailor, a surfer, a science mind, and a seeker” and, most importantly, a writer with a keen sense of detail and an educator with the patience to understand and teach the complexities of tidal science without losing the sense of physical wonder the tides demonstrate.

His personal accounts of tidal encounters around the globe— the Bay of Fundy, Mont Saint-Michel, the Qiantang River, California’s Mavericks, Schelt (Skookumchuck) Narrows, and even the Royal Society of London— are interspersed with lucid explanations from the astronomical basics of earth, moon and sun through the complexities of tide variations, predictions, wave dynamics and fluid oscillation and resonance, ending with the challenges posed by climate change and the future of capturing tidal energy. Where the Coast Salish might say it’s as simple as “When the tide is out, the table is set,” the Inuit of northern Quebec’s Ungava Bay forage on the ebb tide after tunneling through the thick shelf of ice formed over the bay.

I promise you’ll like Jonathan’s stories; you will have to pay attention, which isn’t a bad thing these days, when it comes to the science. Anyway, there’s nothing wrong with being smart and knowing the difference between apogee and perigee when it comes up at the next party, or being able to say “Now just hold on a minute” when you hear someone say, “Time and tide stayeth for no man...”

I do want to hear more of Jonathan’s stories and I want to tell him my stories about growing up with Hawaii tides and my tidal adventures in the San Juans-- some unusual, some hilarious, some deeply personal. That’s my reaction to the kind of book he’s written.

Jonathan is on a quick book launch  around Puget Sound in February. Go to the reading, buy the book, have him sign it and, if you have a chance, tell him your tide story.

Feb. 15, South Sound Estuary Association, Olympia, 7 pm.
Feb. 16, Eagle Harbor Book Company, Bainbridge, 7 pm.
Feb. 17, Lopez Bookshop, Lopez Island, 7 pm.
Feb. 18, Orcas Center, Orcas Island, 5:30 pm.
Feb. 19, Griffin Bay Books, Friday Harbor, 7 pm.
Feb. 21, Village Books, Bellingham, 7 pm.
Feb. 22, Anacortes Library, Anacortes, 7 pm.
Feb. 23, Northwest Maritime Center, Port Townsend, 5 pm.
Feb. 24, Port Book and News, Port Angeles, 7 pm.

--Mike Sato

Monday, January 16, 2017

Oil v. Orca

Guest blog by Shaun Hubbard

The San Juan Islands, smack-dab in the middle of the Salish Sea, attract thousands and thousands of summer visitors – the two-legged kind. One of the main reasons they choose to visit the islands is to see our other summer visitors – the finned kind. The Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW), or orca whales, do not show up in the thousands however, but are fewer than 80 in number and, with the 7 reported dead or missing last year, are declining still.

In 2005, NOAA determined the SRKW to be in danger of extinction, and so added them to the Endangered Species List . The critical habitat legally designated under the Endangered Species Act for the SRKW is the Salish Sea, which reaches north across the Canadian border to Georgia Strait, south into Puget Sound, and west to the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. By definition, what makes the Salish Sea a habitat critical to the SRKW is that it “contains features essential for their conservation” and that it “may require special management and protection”. From San Juan Islanders’, and the orcas’, points of view there is no “may” about it.

Threats to the essential features of the Salish Sea, and therefore the whales, abound. One of the biggest threats is the recently approved Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project. This pipeline will transport Alberta tar sands crude oil (particularly heavy, toxic oil also known as diluted bitumen or “dilbit”) to Vancouver BC where it will be loaded onto tankers. As approved, 348 more tankers per year will travel the west side of our islands on their way to US, and potentially Asian, refineries. Many Canadians are advocating for rerouting the pipeline to a Washington State refinery, which would export the tar sands through Rosario Strait, along our eastern and southern shores. Either way, the islands – and the orcas – are surrounded.

Ship noise pollution hinders the whales’ search for food. Ship strikes happen and may have been the cause of death for J34, a member of the J-pod found dead in Canadian waters on December 20. Oil spills of any size and form – be it a container ship’s propulsion fuel, or an oil tanker’s cargo – will decimate the whales’ food supply and our islands’ tourist economy because oil spill “cleanup” is impossible.

Of all the new and proposed terminal projects in the Salish Sea, the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion would cause the greatest oil spill risk: a 9-fold (800%) increase of a 20,000 barrel or larger spill over the next ten years in Haro Strait/Boundary Pass.

It wouldn’t take much of an oil spill to push the orcas over the brink or to devastate our islands’ economy and way of life, which is dependent on a healthy marine environment and unspoiled natural resources.

The San Juans aren’t the only community that would be negatively affected by the increase in shipping traffic due to this project. Imagine every city, town or village on or near the Salish Sea that relies on the marine environment for its livelihood. Imagine every company or community that identifies with the sea, and the orca in particular, and perhaps even uses the orca as its namesake, logo, or welcome sign. Now imagine every orca logo being replaced by a tanker logo.

If you live, work or play on or near the Salish Sea, if you have ever been a visitor to the islands (or longed to be), if you care about the future of the Sea and its inhabitants – two-legged, finned, or otherwise – and if it’s important to you to prevent any additional hazards to these inhabitants, then please write to Governor Inslee and our US Senators Cantwell and Murray and tell them.

Islanders and island-lovers need to urge our governor and representatives to engage with the Canadian government. We need to tell Canada that this project is not in our state’s or our country’s best interest. We need to remind them that oil spills know no borders.

Please write and urge them to enact strong legislation that will protect our waters from the threats that this pipeline and other such projects will bring to the Salish Sea – unless we want it to be known as a highway for tankers instead of a healthy home for orcas.

For more information on increased shipping in the Salish Sea, please visit the safe shipping page on the Friends of the San Juans’ website.

Shaun Hubbard

Shaun Hubbard is a 5th-generation San Juan Islander and co-founder of San Juan Islanders for Safe Shipping, a grassroots educational outreach and advocacy group in the San Juan Islands focused on shipping safety and oil spill prevention.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Us vs Me, We vs I — Farewell Obama, Hello Trump

[USA Today]
 Tuesday night I listened to President Obama’s farewell speech and Wednesday morning I listened to president-elect Trump’s news conference. I was sad listening to my president say good-bye and angry listening to the president-elect spout off but aside from policy differences in the speech and the news conference, what struck me was the shift from “We can do it” to “I can do it.”

The President looked back to his early days as a community organizer and how he “learned that change only happens when ordinary people get involved, get engaged, and come together to demand it.”

And: “After eight years as your president, I still believe that.  And it’s not just my belief.  It’s the beating heart of our American idea – our bold experiment in self-government.”

In closing: “I am asking you to believe.  Not in my ability to bring about change – but in yours.... Yes We Can. Yes We Did. Yes We Can.”  [Full transcript of President Obama's farewell speech]

Maybe you would dismiss all that as pretty rhetoric but it was hard not to be struck by the vulgarity of the next morning’s news conference.

By contrast, president-elect Trump was boisterously selling his Trump brand throughout his news conference, pledging what he was going to do, who he liked (his people, ‘brilliant’) and who he didn’t like (the ‘fake’ news media, intelligence agency leakers, Lindsey Graham, Chuck Schummer). With president-elect Trump it’s all about Trump and the American people will get what he’s promised because Trump and ‘his people’ are successful people and they are successful because they are smart. [Full transcript of Trump press conference]

After I watched President Obama’s speech, I wondered whether he had expected too much of us citizens, asked too much for our engagement in the civil process of self-government. A thoughtful friend also pondered: “I fear we are a nation of greedy people, and that is the most depressing. You are right, he asks more than the country is made up of. Maybe the next generation? We keep talking about what went wrong - maybe that declaration of independence was taken too literally and people are too independent and not enough dependent on each other.”

But after I listen to the bully braggart who promises he will “Make America Great Again,” I wondered what my part would be in his America. Where would teamwork and inclusiveness and diversity and cooperation be welcomed and not looked upon as impediments to the success of those in power? If what President Obama asked of us citizens was too hard, then maybe folks would just rather sit back and let Trump and his cronies turn the United States of America into Trump America?

I doubt it. Not without our say-so. Our America. We the people. We can. We will.

Thank you, President Obama.

--Mike Sato

Monday, January 9, 2017

Are You Willing to Work 150 Years For Salmon Recovery?

from State of Salmon 2016
In 1998, Washington Governor Gary Locke declared, regarding Puget Sound Chinook salmon, “extinction is not an option.” The recent State of Salmon 2016 summary issued by the state says, “It took more than 150 years to bring salmon to the brink of extinction; it may take just as long to bring them all the way back.” And it’s gotten worse for Puget Sound Chinook and steelhead over the last 15 years. Keep working?

Before answering that question, take a look at the summary report on the progress of salmon recovery efforts and read Kimberly Cauvel’s account in the Skagit Valley Herald, “State: More work needed to save the salmon.”

According to the state report, $516.55 million has been spent on Puget Sound salmon recovery (out of $883.95 million total statewide, 1997-2015).

According to the report, the condition of Endangered Species Act-listed Puget Sound Chinook and steelhead is getting worse. Major barriers to salmon recovery in Puget Sound come from rapid population growth and development: Shoreline armoring, water quality, stormwater, in-stream flows, impervious surfaces, loss of forest cover, fish passage barriers, and development in floodplains and estuaries. Put bluntly, “There is a clear need for increased habitat protection for salmon in Puget Sound.”

But we’ve known for years that it is habitats for salmon and salmon-prey spawning and rearing that are major limiting factors in salmon recovery.

According to a provocatively argued paper now in publication by Robert T. Lackey at the Oregon State University Fisheries and Wildlife Department, salmon recovery is not a matter of science but one of policy and politics.

“Efforts to restore declining wild salmon runs in California, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho have evolved into a “salmon recovery industry” with multiple local, state, and federal government bureaucracies and the associated contractors. Overall, the recovery industry employs thousands of scientists and other technical experts. Over many years and after hundreds of millions of dollars spent for scientific research, salmon are arguably the most studied group of fishes in the world. The vast bureaucracy and massive quantity of science have, however, failed to reverse the long-term decline of wild salmon.

“Successful wild salmon recovery, if it ever occurs, rests squarely in the realm of the political process. Despite well over a century of failure to recover wild salmon, however, many in the salmon recovery industry insist that science continue to play a privileged, even dominant role in helping to decipher and decide key elements of this highly contested, complex, policy problem. The preference for science appears to be supported by both traditionally Democratic and traditionally Republican constituencies; in short, policy advocates from all parts of the political spectrum usually champion science as a critical or determining factor in policy decisions.”  [Science and salmon recovery. In: Sc
ience and Problem Solving Under Post-Normal Conditions: From Complex Problems to New Problem Solving Strategies, Edward P. Weber, Denise H. Lach, and Brent S. Steel, editors, Oregon State Press, Corvallis, Oregon.[In Press] ]

For salmon recovery to be successful, Lackey argues that the inadequacies of using a normal science approach to salmon decline need to be overcome:

Salmon Policy Lesson 1 — Efforts of recovery wild salmon will continue to struggle because of conflicting policy priorities and the constraints of the ESA’s approach to species protection.

Salmon Policy Lesson 2 — Current institutional and political dynamics limit our ability to deal effectively with salmon recovery.

Salmon Policy Lesson 3 — Market incentives and the rules of commerce tend to work against increasing wild salmon numbers.

Salmon Policy Lesson 4 — Competition for critical natural resources, especially for water, will continue to increase and will work against recovering wild salmon.

Salmon Policy Lesson 5 — Dramatic increases in the human population of the Pacific Northwest will work against wild salmon recovery.

Salmon Policy Lesson 6 — Individual and collective life-style preferences are important and substantial changes must take place in these preferences if long-term downward trends in wild salmon abundance are to be reversed.

He concludes: “To succeed, a wild salmon recovery strategy must change the trajectory of the major policy drivers or that strategy will fail. If society only continues to spend billions of dollars in quick-fix efforts to restore wild salmon runs, then in most cases these efforts will be only marginally successful... In the opinion of this author, the billions spent on salmon recovery might be considered “guilt money” — modern-day indulgences — a tax society and individuals willingly bear to alleviate their collective and individual remorse. It is money spent on activities not likely to achieve recovery of wild salmon, but it helps people feel better as they continue the behaviors and choices that preclude the recovery of wild salmon. It also sustains a job program for scientists and other technocrats by funding the salmon recovery industry.”

What do you think? Keep working? Work smarter, work tougher? Let me know.

--Mike Sato