Slow trains, Cab Rides: NYC, Fez, Mombasa

January 1, 2017

The slow train from Nairobi to Mombasa runs 18-20 hours to cover the 300 miles. First class cars provide sleeping “cabins” and access to a dining car with overhead fans that do not work. The toilet, as with all other cabins, is a hole through the floor, where whatever exits hits the rushing tracks below. A sign posted by the hole advises passengers not to use the facility while the train is in station (maybe the use would be too obvious to all those waiting at the station).
The slow train allows you to see the countryside unravel, from shantytowns outside the urban center to villages further out. Children from the shanties and villages alike rush out to greet the train. What does the train mean to them? What does it symbolize?
The looks on the faces of some “western” passengers in first class, particularly the females – from resigned despair to muffled revulsion – accompanied by the men wearing equally apologetic looks, suggest that the once-proud railroad line is long a relic of some past industrial glory. The excitement greeting the train as it “speeds” past the shanties and villages, however, suggests a different mythology lives amongst the imaginations of the dark complexioned children. 
An older Kenyan points out the new railway line under construction. The bridges connecting the hilly country, he says, are built by the Japanese. But the new railway line – connecting Nairobi and Mombasa by a mere four hours – and the highways, are Chinese-made. “This road is very nice” he declares, on the way to Mombasa’s Moi international airport. “You see there, that will be the new highway to Nairobi.” It is all being built by the Chinese. “You see, there!” He points to an Asian man in a yellow hard hat, standing admist a handful of African laborers working with rock and concrete. But the suspicion of foreign workers prevalent in the United States is not present in Kenya. The man almost seems to praise the Chinese without any prompting. “They work very hard. They build things fast.”
Hard work is admired in Kenya. The man saves his disdain for the ruling Kenyan elite. This administration is going around claiming credit for all the construction. He laughs: the projects were approved before the current administration and will be completed, perhaps after it- new elections will take place in August. The man believes that the opposition will win and take over the government.
I ask him about the contrast between the many schools I see along the roads – evangelical, baptist, pentacostal, and yet a common sight of women walking, covered completely, faces veiled, in flowing black hidjabs. [1] He seems to either not understand or chooses to ignore my question. Instead he offers, in a tone that hints at longing, “In America they welcome everybody.”
The mythology survives.
Notes:


1.


Postcript / slow train to Mombasa (1/1/2017)
[1] 1980, Kenya: “The charismatic Christians were no less aggressive than the fundamentalist Muslims in those days. The whole country was beginning to fall apart; perhaps people were grabbing for certainties. Preachers of some sect or other were all over the place…. The state in Kenya was crumbling from within, buckling under the larceny and nepotism of the men in control…. It was happening, in fact, almost everywhere in Africa and throughout the Islamic world. The more corrupt and unreliable the apparatus of government … the more those people headed back into their tribe, their traditions, their church or mosque, and hunkered down, like among like. 
“A new kind of Islam was on the march. It was much deeper, much clearer and stronger … than the old kind of Islam my grandmother believed in, along with her spirit ancestors and djinns …. It was a huge evangelical sect backed massively by Saudi oil wealth and Iranian martyr propaganda. It was militant, and it was growing.”
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, “Infidel,” Simon & Schuster, 2007
2.  January 16, 2016




My uber driver Ali is from Fez, the old capital of Morocco. Fez is dangerous now, Ali says. There is a lot of crime; there is “no government – it is just a show” for the monarchy. But Ali wants to go home.
Ali left Morocco after his father died, and his older brother took care of the family. As a man, Ali felt that he had to try and make it on his own, and decided to strike out for the Big Apple.
After eight years in the US, obtaining his college degree, and American citizenship, he is counting the time before abandoning the dream. Ali wants to start a family. There are no opportunities in Morocco, but at least it is home, he says. Here, there are no opportunities either, Wall Street is “corrupt”, *and* there is racism.
I tell Ali that New York City is not the United States. America is a large country. Maybe there is someplace else. Though I also tell him how people have said things to me like “Go back to where you came from” (not in NYC) – ostensibly judging me first by the color of my skin. But I was born in New Jersey and have no desire to move across the river, either.
Lack of economic opportunities, a sense of humiliation/absence of dignity, and the belief that the government does not work for its citizens – these are all flash points for radicalization amongst young men in the Maghreb. 
And people are expressing it here in the United States.
Anti-Terrorism (AT) is not a matter of simply defeating the actors carrying out violent ideologies. AT is a matter of creating/enabling functioning civil societies where people have the opportunities to make a life for themselves, are afforded basic human rights, and have the faith that the government exists to work, rather than take, from the people.
Otherwise, you will never stop treating the symptoms while the roots of terrorism persist. And it will be a “war” that never ends.



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Politics and Extremism in the Age of Nation States

My theory is this – in the prevalent framework of nation-states, we divide things through the verticle axis Y. So, maybe I’m American, and you’re Russian, and that nation-state paradigm shapes how we define conflict. But in a way, this is a superficial distinction, like branding.

The more useful differentiation is functional – along the x-axis, which says one truck has more in common with another truck, and one sedan with another sedan, than a truck with a sedan, regardless of the brand.

So the real tension isn’t America v Russia per se, than it is autocratic forces v liberal movements, pragmatist v ideologues, radical elements v moderate factions, secularists v Islamists/evangelicals, etc, etc that exist in each society.

And if, as with citizenship, the choice of “brand” is largely pre-determined, then the struggle in choosing a vehicle is a more matter of truck v sedan, than it is brand A v brand B.

This, in fact, is expressed whenever a politician argues that “moderate Muslims” aren’t doing enough to reign in radical Islamists. But no argument has been put forth that “moderate” Americans have failed to do enough to overcome our version of political extremists. 

(Frequently because those fanning the broader winds of Islamophobia are themselves the American extremists and, when challenged, seek to enforce the Y-axis, by denouncing X-axis dissent as unpatriotic, lacking the virtue of loyalty)



Notes:


1.  “Libtards” don’t win in times of crisis precisely because they aren’t tribal enough – the other side fights from a sense of self-preservation of us v them. While libtards talk about empathy, the other side is, well, calling them Libtards. Name-calling is nothing more than a declaration that “You and I belong to different tribes.” Liberal criticism of Conservatives tends to adopt the (accusatory, condescending, etc) formula of “you are wrong,” while the reverse just as often reveals the (reflexive) sentiment “you are different”
One triggers stronger survival instincts than the other.
2.  Nick Cohen, “Russian Treachery is Everywhere” The Guardian, January 7, 2017

 “… nationalists hate enemies in their countries more than they hate the enemies of their countries. Millions of American conservatives … voted for Donald Trump… Local hatreds, not national security, moved them. They hated Obama more than they feared Putin. They hated political correctness. They hated – not without reason – the attacks on freedom of speech. They hated rich liberals and defence lawyers…. 

“Even connoisseurs of the grotesque have had to take a deep breath and count to 10 after watching the Republican president-elect of the United States preferring the word of Julian Assange to the word of his own intelligence agencies. That Assange is cowering from rape charges in the basement of the Ecuadorian embassy, and maintaining that the same United States would persecute him if he emerged to face his accusers like an honourable man, only made the task of regaining your composure harder.”
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/07/russian-treachery-extreme-and-everywhere?
3.  Yitzak Rabin and ‘Alī ibn Abī Tālib died not because they didn’t face their enemies, but because they didn’t guard their flank from ideologues in their own party.
Anybody who doesn’t purport to be a radical, extremist, or ideologue, needs to be able to defend from not just one, but at least two fronts.

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Interpretations

One of the most difficult things we nevertheless do, automatically and with no conscious effort, in day to day life, is determining intentions. We hear words and see actions, and read intentions into them.
On a larger level, its a subject of not insignificant study in the fields of economics (presuming rational behavior, spawning ideas like John Nash’s Game Theory) and international relations (in which many a movie has been made about *mis-reading intentions, eg, 13 Days on the Cuban Missile Crisis)
That reading or interpreting (really) intentions, from observed words and actions, is tremendously difficult may be understated.
We often misread the intentions of people we know well: co-workers, friends, family. It’s not uncommon at all to have “misunderstandings.” You spend enough time with kids, you often hear, “I didn’t mean it!” As adults, we forget how kids think (or don’t think …) when we judge their actions.
Another field in the social sciences – psychology – addresses reasons for potential misunderstanding. One such phenomena of the human mind is Projection. That is, we read into others behaviors, intentions bases on what *we would do in similar circumstances. Ie, we “project” upon others, the image of outselves. Thus, our interpretations are better reflections of who we are, than they are reliable observations of who others are.
Back to international relations. Much conflict persists between sides interpreting others actions through their own lens, and in their own shoes. One problem is language. We’ve seen movie titles that, when translated directly from or into another language, seem comical. Imagine where complex narratives with political undertones are involved.
But we do this everyday, in our day-to-day lives as well, interpreting intentions, ultimately revealing more about who we are, than shedding light on those we presume to read.
***
Antoine Walker is a good dude. Whereas a lot of people project their own insecurities and venality onto others, in interpreting the intentions behind other people’s actions, he projected his own sense of loyalty onto others:
“You know, when you are friends with so many people, whether it’s professional athletes or other friends, I wasn’t so much worried about a phone call, like “Hey, I need some money,” I was more worried about, I didn’t get the “Hey, ‘Toine, you all right?” Because when I was playing, the phone was ringing. I had three cellphones! All of them ringing. So it’s disturbing sometimes when that becomes your reality. Look, when you are a giver, you’re a giver. You know what I mean? I didn’t give to go through this and say to people, “Now it’s time to kick back to me.” It’s about [that phone call], “Man, let me call to check on you to see how you are doing.” I know how I would carry it if a friend of mine was in the same situation that I was in. And sometimes in life you have to learn that everybody doesn’t care like you. That’s the one thing I learned in this process over the last two and a half, three years of going through this. People sometimes just don’t care like you do, and you can’t expect people to do things the same way or care the same way that you do. And I’ve learned to download those situations for later on in life.
http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/11262284/antoine-walker-reframes-tale-woe-sessions-scoop
***

Standard piece of #interpretation: 
“Republicans and Democrats alike who warned against Trump in severest terms have been all too willing to backtrack for the sake of political expediency”
http://www.grubstreet.com/2016/12/a-look-at-chef-jos-andrss-legal-battle-with-donald-trump.html
This doesn’t tell me that the Romneys and Tim Cooks cave to political expediency. There’s a legitimate thought that you can more effectively advocate for issues within the system, even if you disagree with the guy at the top – and have his ear – than from staunch opposition in the wilderness.
People write or say stuff, and their own words more accurately reflect who they are than the other persons they purportedly describe. 
So what Hannah Goldfield is saying is – “I would let the perfect be the enemy if the good- my worldview is such that I want it all or I want nothing at all.” (And that is the standard by which I judge the actions others)
She could almost level the same accusation against Barack Obama, for having been conciliatory with Trump for purposes of a smooth transition. 
So now that “caving to expediency” narrative is out there for readers to digest. Those really upset with a Trump presidency may eat it up without much thought and come to see the Mitt Romneys as unprincipled political weaklings, when the truth may be that it’s much more difficult to learn to work with people you disagree with for the sake of the country, than to sit in the desert of self-righteousness.
#projection #rorschach #inception

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Depth Perception in a Quantum World

Facebook purchasing #WhatsApp years ago for globs of money was met with a lot of skepticism. So was their failed effort to buy Waze. Critics said they paid too much, WhatsApp wasnt worth that $22b. (http://www.forbes.com/sites/parmyolson/2014/10/06/facebook-closes-19-billion-whatsapp-deal/) But I suspect that Facebook wasn’t viewing at the acquisition in one dimension. They were possibly thinking, if a competitor acquired WhatsApp, what would it be worth to them.

Its the same way with #fantasyfootball: Lets say you are ok at Tight End (TE), and there is another decent TE on waivers. Lets say for you, using a waiver spot on that TE would net you +1. No big deal. 
But lets say your buddy’s team is weak at TE. Getting that waiver TE would be a +5 for him.

So, net result of letting *him get the TE is effectively a -5 for you, in a head-to-head matchup. Viewing the value of that TE, within the confines of your own roster (+1), you’d undervalue him. Your team doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

I.e. if it were a business acquisition, the value of that TE isn’t necessarily what something is worth to your team or your company, than it should be its value in the context of its potentially shaping the competitiveness of the entire ecosystem.
And this is true for everything else in the non-linear world, to include #politics, foreign relations, etc.


When people were blasting Mitt Romney as potential Secretary of State, were they not looking at the potential alternatives, the likes if noun-plus-verb-plus-911=sentence Rudy Giuliani or John Bolton? 
“We look at the world in a very silo’ed way”

***

I wonder on and off about why we are hypersensitive to terrorism but not larger strategic threats. What Michael Hayden described as “the urgent” versus “the important”, terrorism versus managing our relations with strategic competitors/adversaries like Russia/China/N Korea/Iran.

So, 90% of our attention goes to preventing paper cuts that when inflicted, sting and can be vivid; and 10% to malignant tumors, which lurk unseen but can be far more deadly.

China steals an underwater drone. Oh well, just a piece of technology the average voter doesn’t understand anyway. Russia hacks us, oh well, who knows (though with the USG getting warrants to read a dead killers’ iphone – HOW DARE YOU even *apply for judicial authorization) Hell, global warming? (If true, we all die – not just Americans. But even before that, we’ll have to first lived through intensified conflicts from resource scarcity etc)

If its not easy to make a tangible connection to our immediate lives, its just discounted.

The results this kind of no-depth-perception thinking leads to, would be comical if they weren’t also potentially serious, at least in the long run.
Not color-blind but depth-deprived. 
#OnTheRoad

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Inquisitions in a time of Trump

1.  WHEN I went to Dachau, the guide noted that in the concentration camps, there were layers of hierarchies. Thus, some Jewish prisoners were put in charge, by the German guards, over other Jewish prisoners.

Viktor Frankl in his memoirs of life in a concentration camp, “Man’s Search For Meaning,” observed how quite often, the Jews placed in charge of overseeing their fellow prisoners were even more cruel than the German guards.

Our guide at Dachau echoed this, noting that within the layers of hierarchies,

Nazi Germany was an “environment that allowed the sadists (within each community) to rise to the top.”

And so with the Spanish Inquisition.
In military speak – its about the Command Climate. One aspect of command climate applicable to modern management, that reflects a demand for uniform thinking, consistent with pre-existing conclusions:

“Leaders in horrible command climates also destroy their subordinates’ trust of higher ups. They can do this in a many ways, but one of the fastest is to make truth and honesty secondary to expediency and desired outcome, supplanting the truth with falsehoods and half-truths for the sake of getting what higher leaders want.”

https://www.taskandpurpose.com/8-symptoms-of-a-toxic-command-climate/amp/?

2.  INQUISITIONS 


“Trump transition team for Energy Department seeks names of employees involved in climate meetings,” THE WASHINGTON POST, 9 December 2016:

“The Trump transition team has issued a list of 74 questions for the Energy Department, asking officials there to identify which department employees and contractors have worked on forging an international climate pact as well as domestic efforts to cut the nation’s carbon output.
“With some of these questions, it feels more like an inquisition than a question, in terms of going after career employees who have been here through Bush years to Clinton, and up to now,” said one current Energy Department employee. 
“All of a sudden you have questions that feel more like a congressional investigation than an actual probing of how the Department of Energy does its job.”
Michael Halpern, deputy director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Center for Science and Democracy, called the memo’s demand that Energy officials identify specific employees “alarming…



https://www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/12/09/trump-transition-team-for-energy-department-seeks-names-of-employees-involved-in-climate-meetings/?



3.  CONVERSIONS 


“Secret CIA assessment says Russia was trying to help Trump win White House,” THE WASHINGTON POST, 10 December 2016:

The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter….
The Trump transition team dismissed the findings in a short statement issued Friday evening. “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again,’ ” the statement read.


https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/obama-orders-review-of-russian-hacking-during-presidential-campaign/2016/12/09/31d6b300-be2a-11e6-94ac-3d324840106c_story.html



SYNOPSIS-
2001: an apolitical process is subverted by a White House to conform to the results it wants, later proven false;
 2016: that *result of political subversion is now used, to dismiss work with no indication of being less than professional (and handled with a restraint by the White House, in a manner criticized by its own party in Congress), that does *not conform to an incoming administration’s self-interest.

The toxic command climate from politicized, Inquisition-style, management:


National Security Archives, The George Washington University

http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB254/


See, also, Joby Warrick, THE BLACK FLAGS: The Rise of ISIS, 2016.

– a CIA analyst described receiving direct phone calls from Vice President Dick Cheney questioning, berating, and intimidating her for her work that made the President’s daily intelligence briefings. She reported it to her boss, the CIA requested the White House go through formal channels in commenting on intelligence reports, before Cheney backed off from calling her directly to question and berate her.

4.  Command Climate, Morale, and Potential Impact


These are things that could hurt American national security in the long run, unrelated to external factors, and are completely in-house issues: poor organizational morale, challenges to recruitment and retention.


You don’t pluck new CIA case officers off the street and have them ready to go in 30-days, or replace seasoned analysts with institutional knowledge with bright but new college grads, and think things will be as effective. Some of our intelligence agencies – you put them under enough organizational stress to cause the loss of talent and experience, they won’t be quick to recover.


Everyone is so focused on politics or policy, but the apparent management style is becoming a big red flag, and could have a tendency to hollow out our civil service.


Then what will America be.


One of the things O-BA-MA doesn’t get credit for, and in fact got beat up by many liberals for, when he first took office, was stating that there would be no investigations on individual CIA officers for “enhanced interrogation” authorized and pushed under the Bush administration that exerted a lot of political pressure on the professional bureaucracy. I don’t know if anyone with half a brain would have wanted to work for Agency after that.


There are policy issues, and there are management issues. You could be right on policy and still run your organization into complete disarray by your leadership style.

***

I can’t imagine if Jeff Bezos went on twitter to announce that he didn’t agree with something the, say marketing division, proposed, so they were “doing a terrible job!” or being “completedly dishonest!”

Man, people would quit in droves.
What kind of organizational leader would publicly humiliate the people he/she leads like that? (Or let his/her gatekeepers do so). They’re people, not political pawns.

***


I’m constantly reminded of what the Securities Exchange Commission head of Trial Division told us when we were interns in school: “You have to know the waters you swim in.”

Otherwise the larger tides of politics in public service, the broad criticism that ebbs and flows, can destroy your idealism and faith that your work – that has no partisan agenda – has meaning.


 

NOTES:

Spain, 1390-

“… the Spanish Inquisition served to consolidate power in the monarchy of the newly unified Spanish kingdom, but it achieved that end through infamously brutal methods.

The medieval inquisition had played a considerable role in Christian Spain during the 13th century, but the struggle against the Moors had kept the inhabitants of the Iberian Peninsula busy and served to strengthen their faith. When toward the end of the 15th century the Reconquista was all but complete, the desire for religious unity became more and more pronounced. Spain’s Jewish population, which was among the largest in Europe, soon became a target.


Over centuries, the Jewish community in Spain had flourished and grown in numbers and influence, though anti-Semitism had surfaced from time to time. During the reign of Henry III of Castile and Leon (1390–1406), Jews faced increased persecution and were pressured to convert to Christianity. The pogroms of 1391 were especially brutal, and the threat of violence hung over the Jewish community in Spain. 


Faced with the choice between baptism and death, the number of nominal converts to the Christian faith soon became very great. Many Jews were killed, and those who adopted Christian beliefs—the so-called conversos (Spanish: “converted”)—faced continued suspicion and prejudice. In addition, there remained a significant population of Jews who had professed #conversion but continued to practice their faith in secret. Known as Marranos, those nominal converts from Judaism were perceived to be an even greater threat to the social order than those who had rejected forced conversion. After Aragon and Castile were united by the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella (1469), the Marranos were denounced as a danger to the existence of Christian Spain. 


In 1478 Pope Sixtus IV issued a bull authorizing the Catholic Monarchs to name inquisitors who would address the issue. That did not mean that the Spanish sovereigns were turning over to the church the struggle for unity; on the contrary, they sought to use the Inquisition to support their absolute and centralizing regime and most especially to increase royal power in Aragon. The first Spanish inquisitors, operating in Seville, proved so severe that Sixtus IV attempted to intervene. The Spanish crown now had in its possession a weapon too precious to give up, however, and the efforts of the pope to limit the powers of the Inquisition were without avail. In 1483 he was induced to authorize the naming by the Spanish government of a grand inquisitor (inquisitor general) for Castile, and during that same year Aragon, Valencia, and Catalonia were placed under the power of the Inquisition.

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Spanish-Inquisition

Epilogue

1 January 2017

A couple of weeks ago, I made a few posts about #servantleadership, and the Marine Corps leadership ethos #OfficersEatLast and relationship between officer-enlisted as that of coach/mentor-student/mentee. It was prompted by Trump’s outbursts against the CIA, his choice of Ambassador to Israel’s attack on State Department employees (threatening to fire them), and his transition team’s perceived inquisitorial approach to agencies such as DOE. I thought the way they were attacking Executive Agencies before inauguration and the opportunity to listen to them first, before publicly passing judgment, must be incredibly demoralizing to civil servants.
In contrast, I noted how in some of the best leaders I’ve met, the loyalty first flows down, before it flows up.
Marine General James Mattis and Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari are pretty good foils to (the “abrasive”) Mike Flynn and Bobby Knight schools of leadership, that demand obedience and loyalty bottom-up, but are not known for giving it top-down.
Marines would follow Mattis to war with a spoon, and top recruits will continue to flock to Calipari, because they speak *and behave as if theirs are positions of #privilege in that to lead is to serve. 
These leadership traits matter in a Commander-in-Chief, and his staff, when it comes to running the day-to-day matters and establishing the “command climate” in Executive Agencies. Civil servants, including those who are elected, are just that: Public #Servants. 
Enlisted Marines swear an oath to follow the orders of those officers appointed over them. This point is emphasized in the Marine Corps officer schoolhouse- that there is no choice. But that lack of choice only highlights the need for loyalty to first flow from top down, if you expect Marines to truly follow you, even with just a spoon.
American citizens pay taxes regardless of whether their candidate-of-choice enters the Oval Office. The implicit contract in this democracy, in this Republic, is that elected official strive to serve all their constituents, and maybe those who did not support them in their candidacies will give them a chance. But only if the loyalty first flows down.

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The Family Business

In July 2004 my father passed away from pancreatic cancer. Soon after, many of his friends gathered at our home. Many expressed their condolences. One family friend then asked, directly, “When are you coming home to take over your father’s business?” I had graduated from law school just six months earlier, and had no experience or real qualifications to run my father’s venture capital firm – other than being the boss’ son.
I saw a lot of this growing up in Asia, but especially attending the private overseas American schools alongside many family “scions”. Kids who returned home from college during Christmas break, and would attend their family businesses board meetings – being groomed to take over the family businesses. Old management at the businesses all knew and accepted this.
When I told my mom what uncle/auntie so-and-so had said (all family friends are “uncles” and “aunties”) and how unqualified I would be, my mom said, in a very matter of fact manner, “Lin Han-dong will teach you.” That was my dad’s right hand man. Ostensibly, an industry veteran who worked years for my dad who would, as custom, step aside for and mentor the boss’ son when time came.
Nepotism was part of the social fabric – not so much frowned upon, than envied. My non-American School friends would comment, “it’s great to have a business to just walk into.” You didn’t have to deal with the job insecurities. They thought I would be crazy if I didn’t do it.
I had many friends who took over the family businesses. Some didn’t seek it. They felt their life choices were already made for them. From the outside, they were envied business socialites. But some privately chaffed at the notion that others from the outside would have died for, but ultimately followed in their fathers’ footsteps to keep the business within the family. They had to work their asses off. It wasn’t that things were just given to them, even though the opportunity was (similar to defenses of “White Male privilege” – I worked for everything I earned). In others, a more dangerous mentality set in.
The more dangerous mindset that comes with growing up with the shadow of a family business is one characterized foremost by entitlement, but also that the rules that apply to everyone else don’t apply to you.
You don’t stand in line. There is a line for the ordinary worker, and there is the express line for the Boss’ son. Ordinary salary employee pay taxes. The families have their armies of accountants. (In the past few years, when my mom calls, she has occasional news of of which “uncle” got caught up in tax/fraud issues and might be looking at jail time.)
This is a world I knew.
My friend says I appear to be “brooding” a lot lately. It’s probably true that I brood when I see the children of a President-elect sitting in on meetings with foreign heads of state; that I brood when a President-elect brushes aside conflict-of-interest issues as not applicable to him; that I brood when the public appears indifferent to open documentation of self-dealing (Trump Foundation IRS filings) – and appears more interested in Hamilton tweets.
I never thought that I would leave a world I was born into, only to find the highest office – an office ostensibly for *public service- in the one I chose, this close to capture by people I have not met but know well. 
***
Just two dudes about to treat the Office of the Presidency like a Family Business?
The rest of America are freiers.
http://www.haaretz.com/world-news/u-s-election-2016/.premium-1.755140?v=E9F6A891CB2B51E50F4CC52D9CF075E3
“It’s shocking to hear boastful and haughty words like: ‘Laws are meant to be circumvented.’ How many times have we heard people who’ve returned from trips abroad, who make fun of the citizens of the countries they visited, because they act like nerds: They stand in line, they make sure to pay.”

http://www.haaretz.com/thou-shalt-not-be-a-freier-1.211247

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Currents

I would be very careful, too, about confusing chauvinism with patriotism. #Patriotism celebrates free speech, particularly free speech that you disagree with. Because in America, its not the speech we cherish, its the underlying Freedom. #Chauvinism demands loyalty and attempts to silence dissent (it could say, just trust me; I alone can fix it.)
#History is not an irrelevant artifact. It is a continuous river with currents (some dangerous) – parts that exist in the past but, nevetheless, continue to direct future:
History … is how you “really see what direction you are going and without understanding what direction you are going, it’s really hard to correct course in order to make change in the future.” – Dan Freidenburg
http://mashable.com/2015/04/29/google-dan-fredinburg-tribute/#q4nOZG5omkqT
“It doesn’t give me all the answers, but it lights what is often a dark path ahead… [a] understanding of history means that we face NOTHING new under the sun….As commanders and staff officers, we are coaches and sentries for our units…. And how can you be a sentinel and not have your unit caught flat-footed if you don’t know what the warning signs are…
– General James Mattis
http://www.businessinsider.com/viral-james-mattis-email-reading-marines-2013-5 
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“One of the things that I’ve learned to appreciate more as President is you are essentially a relay swimmer in a river full of rapids, and that river is history,” he later told me. “You don’t start with a clean slate, and the things you start may not come to full fruition on your timetable. But you can move things forward. And sometimes the things that start small may turn out to be fairly significant.
“I think we are born into this world and inherit all the grudges and rivalries and hatreds and sins of the past,” he said. “But we also inherit the beauty and the joy and goodness of our forebears. And we’re on this planet a pretty short time, so that we cannot remake the world entirely during this little stretch that we have.” The long view again. “But I think our decisions matter,” he went on. “And I think America was very lucky that Abraham Lincoln was President when he was President. If he hadn’t been, the course of history would be very different. But I also think that, despite being the greatest President, in my mind, in our history, it took another hundred and fifty years before African-Americans had anything approaching formal equality, much less real equality. I think that doesn’t diminish Lincoln’s achievements, but it acknowledges that at the end of the day we’re part of a long-running story. We just try to get our paragraph right.”
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O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; Of the endless trains of the faithless–of cities fill’d with the foolish; Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?) Of eyes that vainly crave the light–of the objects mean–of the struggle ever renew’d; Of the poor results of all–of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me; Of the empty and useless years of the rest–with the rest me intertwined;
The question, O me! so sad, recurring–What good amid these, O me, O life?

 

Answer.

 

That you are here–that life exists, and identity; That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.
– Walt Whitman. LEAVES OF GRASS. 1900

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