03 June 2016

On Racism

Trump's strategy to be himself in the primaries worked. Barely.  He didn't get a majority of Republican voters and he has really high unfavorable ratings.  Republican leaders are largely wishy-washy about him or totally against him.  He needs to broaden his base.  So why in the world does he continue to say things that further alienate Republicans who are concerned about him and that don't really persuade independents to vote for him?  Especially about people that do not matter in this race?

The latest horribleness has been about the judge in the Trump University case.  Trump, not surprisingly, disagrees with the judge and his rulings so far.  If he didn't, there wouldn't be a case anymore since Trump thinks it should have been dismissed a long time ago. But he has gone far beyond being irritated that things aren't going his way in the case.  He is saying that the judge shouldn't be over the case because "he is Mexican" and Trump is "building a wall."

First, Trump should not be using the word "Mexican" as a pejorative. His words are an attempt to portray people who, are Mexican, either by citizenship or by heritage, in a negative light.  He refuses to acknowledge that the judge is American.  He is only Mexican in Trump's words. When Latinos are a huge voting population in the US, this is idiocy, even if most Latino Americans aren't ethically Mexican.  We need to entirely end the negative connotations of the word Mexican.  Now.

Second, it is inherently racist to state that a person cannot do a job because of their ethnicity (acting jobs are the only exception I can think of) but Trump is arguing just that.  Since Trump is building a wall, a Mexican-American judge must be inherently biased against him, according to this argument.  Can we think this through to its logical conclusion?  I've heard people saying this is like saying an African-American judge shouldn't hear a discrimination  case, but it is so much worse that that. This case has nothing to do with anything related to being Mexican. Instead, the implication here is that no judge with Mexican heritage should hear a case with a defendant who is opposed to, for example, deporting undocumented workers.

Does that mean that Mexican-American judges need to keep a list of people in the country who are opposed to immigration from Mexico (no matter the personal opinions of the judge) so they can recuse themselves in case one of those people is a defendant in a case? Do African-American judges need to ask defendants their feelings about Black Lives Matter so the judge (again, no matter her or his personal opinion on the issue) can determine if they can hear the case? Should Muslim judges find out if the litigants think Muslims should be banned from entering the US so they can sit out if necessary? Trump seems to think so.  And he has explicitly stated that he does not think his suggestion that the judge recuse himself because of his Mexican heritage is racist.  Friends, that is the very definition of racism.

I've said this over and over, but this is yet another example of how concerning Trump's ideas are.

I honestly do not think this is helping the man.  I guess we're thoroughly testing the idea that there's no such thing as bad publicity. Or that he believes that the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.

Here's the ABA statement:

While publicly criticizing judicial decisions is every person’s constitutional right, levying personal criticism at an individual judge and suggesting punitive action against that judge for lawfully made decisions crosses the line of propriety and risks undermining judicial independence. Anyone running for the highest office in the land should understand that the independence of the judiciary is essential for an effective and orderly government and justice system.

30 May 2016

Trump keeps saying that conservatives, Republicans, whoever will lose the Supreme Court if Trump loses.  And that's true.  Hillary would appoint very different people that Trump has proposed nominating and that obviously matters to a lot of people.

However.  The Supreme Court is not the only important thing in this race, or the most important thing. There are things that are worth losing the Supreme Court over (and, if I might remind people, the current Senate has made it clear that even moderate SC nominees can be stymied no matter who is president so it's not as if all is entirely lost even if your candidate doesn't win) and I think one of those things is the way that people are treated.

The POTUS should not be a blatant bully.  Have we had bullying presidents before?  Of course.  But have we turned out in relatively large numbers to vote for a man who heaps abuse on anyone who doesn't do what he wants them to?  It's fascinating to talk to people in the DC area who have had various dealings, political and business, with Trump and hear how he treats people.  To hear how he treats contractors.  To hear how he treats attorneys he hires.  And then you read excerpts from his own books telling about how he treats people who don't do what he asks.

Trump always says that he's a counter puncher.  And in a way that's true.  He generally doesn't say much about people who aren't talking about him (although that's definitely not a rule).  But when people criticize his proposals, for example, he goes after them in a very harsh and personal way that has nothing to do with their criticism of his proposals or even his character.  

This ties in with something else that comes up over and over and that the media doesn't get right.  Yes, Trump says awful things about a lot of women, but he says awful things about everyone he doesn't like and/or respect.  He's certainly not just picking on women and I don't think he's necessarily being a misogynist there- he's just horrible to a lot of people.  He does used gendered language a lot of the time when he's talking about women which is a problem, but I think there's a much bigger and more troublesome reason that illustrates his misogyny.  He objectifies women.  We have no value unless we are doing something to help him.  For Trump, men are worthy of respect if they are strong leaders, tough negotiators, fighters- things that have nothing to do with Trump. He considers women worthy of respect if he perceives them as increasing his own value and that, my friends, is appalling. He's not a misogynist because he says mean things about women, it's because he sees no value in women except as they relate to him.

There is so much more here than the Supreme Court.

27 May 2016

DC Bests

So, it's easy to find things to do in DC since there are so many monuments and museums that are well worth visiting.  But if you visit the city more often, there's a lot more to see than war memorials and Smithsonian museums.  Here are some of my best lists in DC, in no particular order.

My top five of all the things to do in DC:
  • Anacostia (Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, Anacostia Neighborhood Heritage Trail, Anacostia Community Museum)
  • Alleys (Hughes Mews and Snows Court in Foggy Bottom, Georgetown alleys, Blagden Alley and Naylor Court in Shaw, F Street Terrace in Barracks Row, etc.)
  • National Building Museum historical building tour- this was one of the best tours we have ever been on anywhere in the world
  • MLK Library for the Washingtonia Collection
  • Cherry blossoms at the site where a tree was cut down after Pearl Harbor

Top Five Smithsonians:
  • Renwick Galley
  • American Indian Museum
  • Sackler and Freer Galleries
  • American History Museum
  • Anacostia Community Museum

Top Five Neighborhood Heritage Trails (besides Anacostia):

Top Five Annual Events:
  • EU Embassies' Open House (second weekend in May) and the Around the World Embassy Tour (first weekend in May)
  • Family days/holiday events at individual Smithsonians (Dia de los Muertos, Holiday events at the beginning of December, Family Days in the summer at the Air and Space Musuem, etc.)
  • Cherry Blossoms when it isn't crowded 
  • National Christmas Tree
  • So many street festivals

Places I love or that have great stories that you don't hear much about:
  • Boundary Stones 
  • Larz Anderson House (tour)- this is one of the few houses you can go in all the time on Embassy Row and it's a great house with lots of history and a good tour
  • Lithuanian Embassy- (there's a sign in front of the building with its interesting history)
  • Peirce Mill (milling demonstrations on 2nd and 4th Saturdays, midday, except in winter)
  • Georgetown and Alexandria colonial-era places to visit
  • Octagon House (self-guided free tours)
  • Fort Washington (visiting info, free)
  • Washington City Canal Lockkeeper's House (17th and Constitution- read the signs)
  • Civil War forts all over and around the city- try Fort Stevens for a taste
  • Lincoln Cottage (this doesn't seem to be all that popular, maybe because the house tour is fairly expensive for a family, but you can see the house from the outside and go in the worthwhile museum for free)
  • US Botanic Garden- go at all different times of the year
  • Cavalry Baptist Church (designed by Adolph Cluss)
  • Grant Road Historic District- one of the few country roads remaining after L'Enfant's grid was extended to the suburbs
  • Striver's Section (brochure)
  • 1727 S Street NW
  • Eastern Market (closed Mondays) or any of the other old public markets like Georgetown Market (now Dean & DeLuca), Central Market (razed for the National Archives), etc.
  • Ben's Chili Bowl
  • Site of Schneider’s Hardware, beginning of Berman v. Parker (west side of 4th Street SW between G and I)
  • Old Mormon chapel on 16th street- fossils!
  • National Cathedral
  • Sixth and I synagogue
  • 437 Seventh St NW- Clara Barton office (and read the sign for the story)
  • Ninth and F NW alley- John Wilkes Booth escape
  • 604 H St NW- Mary Surratt's boardinghouse

25 May 2016


One of my favorite things we did when we were here in DC last time was the Embassy open houses.  Last time we did the EU embassies and this time we did the regular weekend.  Since the embassies on Massachusetts have huge long line and we don't like waiting in huge long lines, we went off the beaten path to see Gabon, Saudi Arabia, Dominican Republic, Afghanistan, Albania, and Barbados for a lovely time.  I hope we'll be here again in May someday.

24 May 2016

The Final List

So here's our final list of (mostly) chronological DC field trips.  35 field trips in 8 months.  We did a good job and learned so much.

We also read Empire of Mud and Washington: A History of Our National City which is the most boring title ever for a very interesting book.

My son is also writing a final research paper about the impact of redevelopment, displacement, and property rights in DC with a focus on Southwest DC and the currently proposed Barry Farm redevelopment.

1. Georgetown and Alexandria
2. Capitol and Library of Congress
3. White House and surrounding area
4. Rock Creek area
5. Washington City Canal, Navy Yard, and Congressional Cemetery
6. Washington Monument and Smithsonian Castle
7. Fort Washington
8. Downtown Heritage Trail
9. White House tour
10. Anacostia Museum and SE forts
11. Fort Stevens and the Lincoln Cottage
12. Ford's Theater, Petersen House, east loop of downtown heritage trail
13. Washington Monument and Adolf Cluss
14. Renwick Gallery
15. Tenleytown
16. Barracks Row Trail and the National Building Museum
17. Georgia Ave Trail
18. Frederick Douglass National Historic Site
19. Greater H Street Trail
20. MLK Library, Washingtoniana Collection
21. Dupont Circle
22. Federal Triangle trail
23. Logan Circle
24. National Cathedral
25. Adams Morgan
26. Cherry Blossoms
27. U Street
28. Lincoln Memorial, Watergate, and Hughes Mews and Snows Court
29. Georgetown Alleys
30. Mt. Pleasant 
31. Anacostia 
32. Shaw 
33. Anacostia Museum
34. Columbia Heights
35. Southwest

Southwest Walk

I think this might have been our last field trip for the year. This DC history class has been amazing.

I'd put this walk in my top five of DC heritage walks.  It includes a bit of colonial/federal history, some industrial history (even though you can't see it anymore), slavery history since the Pearl left from the waterfront here, and then plenty to learn about race, poverty, politics, property, and government.  And some architecture too.

Anacostia Community Museum

I went back to the Anacostia Museum with my son on a rainy day when we didn't have a lot of time for a field trip to see their exhibit on DC from 1963-1975.  It truly is one of the most interesting exhibits ever and I love that museum.  It's too bad many people don't go to Anacostia very often.

23 May 2016

Columbia Heights Heritage Trail

I think this is another important DC walk to do since it highlights the city's diversity north of downtown.

22 May 2016

Stuff I've Been Thinking About While I've Been Busy with Life

-Bathrooms. If you are concerned about this, have you actually read the letter from the Obama administration?  Nowhere in the letter does it ask public schools to allow children to arbitrarily go into any bathroom they wish.  Instead, it lays out guidelines for schools on how to accommodate children who identify themselves, either personally or through their parents, as transgender to school administrators. The letter states that girls, including transgender girls, use the girls bathroom.  Boys, including transgender boys, use the boys bathroom.  It does not allow boys to use the girls bathroom or locker room.  In addition to other guidelines, it states that harassment of transgender students cannot be tolerated.

I think the reaction to this letter has been misleading and disproportionate. It would have been a disappointing reaction if it weren't unexpected.

-The Republican Party.  I used to be a Republican but couldn't identify myself as one by the time George W. Bush's presidency was over.  And then the Tea Party happened.  And the government shutdown. And now Trump.  Even if I'd managed to hang on until now, it would be over.  I admire Republicans who will not endorse Trump or who won't commit to voting for "the party's nominee."  I get the difference.  I  also get that no nominee is perfect and every time you vote, you're voting for some positions you disagree with.  But if you vote for the Republican nominee, you are really voting for an actual human being named Trump who has, based on the day and the audience, promoted some extremely troubling policies, many of which can be implemented without oversight by executive fiat. You're also voting for someone who is running on fear, intolerance, hate, xenophobia, bigotry, greed, pride, obfuscation, and willful ignorance, none of which should define the Republican Party.

-Religious freedom.  I'm still not seeing the problem that some religious people are seeing.  I still have the right to believe what I want, to go to church where I want to, to not be religious if I don't want to be, and so much more.  Religious institutions don't have to follow discrimination laws in hiring, Churches don't have to marry anyone they don't want to.

I don't want to see religious freedom elevated above all other rights.  If a person incorporates a business, they need to follow all discrimination laws, not just the ones they agree with.  If we allowed people to opt out of discrimination laws because of strongly-held beliefs, I honestly don't think that civil rights would ever had happened in the US because there was such strong opposition, including religious opposition to it.  There still is in some circles, and we still hear people saying that it should be okay for businesses to deny service to anyone they want to (and I can't help pointing out that a lot of those same people seem to think they should be able to conceal carry wherever they want to, including private businesses).

There are a lot of different rights here to balance.  If someone loses their job because they belong to a church that doesn't support gay marriage, I have a problem with that, just like I have a problem with someone losing their job because they married their gay partner.  Discrimination laws are worth supporting because they stop both things from happening.  I'd rather see the focus on making sure everyone can live their lives without fear or discrimination rather than worrying about people disagreeing with beliefs.  Disagreement =/= discrimination or persecution.

16 May 2016

LDS Refugee Relief Effort

A friend of mine and I have worked on gathering a lot of different resources and ideas for participating with the church's new relief effort.  Here's the link to the Google doc.


Please do something in your ward or your home or on your own to support this.

05 May 2016

Shaw Heritage Trail

This is another important DC trail because it documents so much African-American history.  Also, Blagden Alley and Naylor Court.

04 May 2016

Rolled Baklava

A friend of mine taught me this version of baklava that she learned from her sister's mother-in-law who from Greece a few miles from the border with Turkey.  I love to learn regional variations of different dishes and this is a good one.  I really should post recipes for layered baklava and for the Turkic versions from further east with thicker layers of dough.

This is just a basic outline of how it's done.

Grind lots of walnuts with cinnamon- 1 T of cinnamon for every cup of walnuts (or whatever nuts you're using).  Preheat the oven to 375.

Stack three sheets of phyllo (no buttering, just stacking) then sprinkle on some walnuts- 1 tablespoon per sheet if your phyllo sheets aren't huge.  Roll it up from the short end, then cut the dough into 1.5-inch pieces.  Stand them up in a buttered baking dish and keep going till it's full.

Meanwhile, start heating lots of butter.  It will need to be very hot and will brown. Just don't let it burn.  Once the baking dish is full, blob a bit of very hot butter onto each roll.  If the butter doesn't sizzle when you do that, heat it more.  After all the rolls have been buttered and sizzled, stick the dish in the oven and bake for 30 minutes till they're golden.

While they're baking, combine 2 parts water and 1 part sugar and simmer it to make syrup. It should boil down quite a bit.  After the baklava comes out of the oven, spoon a blop of syrup onto each roll and you're done.

As with all baklava, it's better the next day but you can also eat it right away.

24 April 2016

Anacostia Trail

I loved this trail and I think it's an important one to do because there are so many pieces of DC history here.  You'll read about the Bonus Army, the first mental hospital in DC, segregation, Barry Farm, redevelopment, and so much more.  Totally fascinating.

Anacostia isn't the safest part of DC and its reputation is probably worse than the area actually is.  I decided that since we're running out of time to do everything I want to do, I wouldn't try to fit it in with my son's weekly field trips and to go with my husband on another day instead.  It was such a good walk that I want to go back with my son, but if we don't have time to do the entire walk, we will definitely go back to the Anacostia Community Museum because they have an amazing exhibit on DC history from 1963-1975 (it replaced the DC after the Civil War exhibit we went to last fall that was so good).

23 April 2016

Mt Pleasant Trail

This was a lovely walk to do in the spring because the area is so nice and it was interesting.  However, it wouldn't be at the top of my list of most important heritage trails to do in DC, especially if you'd done others in the area.

22 April 2016

Georgetown Alleys

My son isn't quite as interested in alleys as I am, so I got my husband to come with me on this one.  We started at Pomander Walk (south off Volta between 33rd and 34th), then went to Cashell Alley (which was just named and doesn't really have older buildings or homes on it so you could skip it, but it's right there north off Volta between Wisconsin and 33rd).  Then we went up Wisconsin to Caton/Scott Place (Reservoir and 32nd- you can walk through it on Google street view) and over to Orchard Alley (NW of P and 30th), then down to Corcoran and Oak Alleys (between 31st and Wisconsin and M and N).  We crossed the canal to go to Cady Alley and Cecil Place, then into Georgetown University and back to the car.

I loved it.

If you think alleys are interesting, you might like this pdf about alleys in DC.

12 April 2016

The Choir, Updated

I was reading the other day about Miriam (the sister of Aaron) and her chorus of female musicians and dancers who celebrated after the Israelites crossed the Red Sea/Sea of Reeds.  Miriam leads a group of women who are carrying frame drums (tof) and dancing which is similar to women celebrating David's victory in 1 Samuel 18 and Jephthah's daughter's doomed celebration of her father's victory in Judges 11 (and also, likely, Deborah's song in Judges 5 and a mention of Philistine women singing to celebrate a military victory in 2 Samuel 1).  It's also reminiscent of Jeremiah 31:4, "Again you shall take your tambourines [hand drums], and go forth in the dance of the merrymakers." The reference to Philistine women performing musical celebrations, and quite a bit of archaeological evidence that shows women as the primary players of hand-drums throughout the Mediterranean suggests that playing these instruments was a specifically female role in the ancient Near East.

So, if this assumption that the tof was a woman's instrument is accurate, it implies that women were present when that instrument is mentioned.  For example, Psalms 68:25 ("The singers in front, the musicians last, between them girls playing tambourines...") uses a grammatically feminine construction for the drum players.  Psalms 81:2, 149:3, and 150:4 likely include women since they all refer to the tof.  All of these psalms aren't merely hymns or nice-sounding collections, but part of Israelite ritual processions and celebrations in praise of Yahweh.  

The point here is that it appears that this is another piece of evidence (and I was sure I'd written somewhere about women serving in the temple in ancient Israel but I cannot find it so I'll link to that later) that women were part of public religious events in ancient Israel.  "Gathering to rehearse, compose, and perform provided women with the opportunity to experience leadership and camaraderie, as well as the esteem of their colleagues and also of their audiences. Such experience is empowering." (Carol Meyers)

It was that quote that reminded me strongly of the choir that sang at the Women's Meeting a couple of weeks ago.  It wasn't just a nice group of people to listen to, their performance allowed those women to do all the things Meyers mentions, plus give them the opportunity to take a prominent part in a major religious observance.  It would not have been the same without them and their role was as necessary as anyone else's.

11 April 2016

Lincoln Memorial, Watergate, and Hughes Mews and Snows Court

Last week's field trip was stuffed in with other DC appointments and ACT prep so we didn't have much flexibility and we ended up going to the Lincoln Memorial, Watergate, and Hughes Mews and Snows Court.  None of those are in the right time period (with one exception) but they were all in the right location so that will have to do.

There's not much to do at Watergate except look at it, at least right now.  There is supposed to be a Foggy Bottom Trail in progress but the signs aren't up yet.  I'd recommend doing that trail when it opens, hopefully later this year.

We went to the Lincoln Memorial to talk about the March on Washington, of course, and also Marian Anderson's concert on its steps in 1939 when the Daughters of the American Revolution wouldn't allow her to sing in Constitution Hall.

Hughes Mews and Snows Court are some of the only places left in DC where you can still see how the old alleys and interiors of the city blocks were used for housing.  Definitely worth a stop.


Two things from the last week.

Another defining point of Trumpism is petulant ignorance. Trump's complaining about the unfairness of the delegate rules is another reason why Trump would make a terrible president.  There are plenty of people in the US who view the party nomination system as a democratic process that's simply based on a popular vote (sort of as if we had a two-round system), but for a candidate to not understand that isn't the case is not acceptable.  Trump has consistently campaigned on not caring about how the system works, but sometimes the POTUS actually needs to understand how things work.  If you want to change the system, don't tell us it's unfair, give us concrete and practical ways to fix it.  Trump completely ignores most issues, spouts half-baked ideas when pressed, rarely outlines workable proposals to fix the few problems he actually cares about, and sulks and whines when get doesn't get his way or people point out his misconceptions. Petulant ignorance.

Sanders' complaining is in a different category- just irritating, not a symptom of a serious underlying problem.  If you're going to run as a Democrat, and Sanders freely admits that he chose to run as a Democrat because "in terms of media coverage, you had to run within the Democratic Party."  Bernie has benefited greatly from running as a Democrat and I think that's okay.  But it's not all good things when you choose to run as a Democrat.  You also accept the nomination process which includes superdelegates which may well choose someone who's definitely a Democrat (and raises lots of money for Democrats). This is the system Bernie signed up for.

Honestly, I think both Trump and Sanders could run as independents at this point and I'm not sure either or both won't.  That would be an election to remember.

And the other thing.  I'm concerned about these religious freedom laws that have been passed in the South.

In many ways they are unnecessary because sexual orientation isn't a protected class in most states, and in many of those states it's only protected in housing and employment.  Obviously, none of the states passing these laws designate sexual orientation and/or gender identity as a protected class.  When people talk about a wedding photographer in New Mexico in 2013 who was required to photograph a same-sex wedding, they often forget that New Mexico state law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity "in matters of employment, housing, credit, public accommodations and union membership."  The New Mexico Court of Appeals made the ruling based on New Mexico law and it only can apply in New Mexico.

People in North Carolina and Tennessee and every other state are already been free to turn away business for pretty much any reason. Laws that specifically say you can discriminate based on marital status, gender identity, and sexual orientation (while ignoring all the other ways you can discriminate, like how you treat your children, or whether you contribute financially to worthy causes, or if you're wearing shoes and a shirt, or most anything else) are insulting and harmful.  They contribute to an atmosphere of distrust and miscommunication that can easily make life hard or dangerous for some people and that is not what I want to see happen.  I also think that laws like these make it much more likely that gender identity and sexual orientation will become protected in the future and I'm pretty sure that's as far from the goal as possible for the people passing these laws.

However, these laws are much more than unnecessary in many ways.  They're actively harmful when, for example, they mandate which bathroom anyone uses rather than allowing flexibility on that point.  I understand that there is a lot of concern over this issue, but the worst way to deal with this is to mandate from the top that people use the bathroom that matches the gender on their birth certificate. This solves nothing.

And one final point- I think it would be helpful for religious people to reframe at least some of the discussion around religious freedom today to empowering us to take responsibility for our religious choices rather shifting the blame to someone else.  If a religious school isn't able to participate in a national sports tournament because some games are scheduled on Sunday, say that the school chooses not to participate rather than saying it's barred from participating (or, to be especially positive, say the school chooses to uphold its principles and not participate).  If you are a religious person and choose to incorporate a business, realize that you will need to follow state and federal discrimination law- don't frame it as an undue religious burden to do so.

(Also, can we please remember that official religious institutions like churches and religious universities already can ignore most discrimination laws?  An extreme example is that a pastor can still refuse to marry an interracial couple in a religious ceremony.  I hope no pastor would ever do that, but it wouldn't be illegal.  I truly do not foresee a time when participation in private religious ceremonies is controlled by the government.)

04 April 2016

U Street Trail

This is a good walk to do for the first half of the 20th century.  It does cover some of the second half but it's more about the first half.  This was a lovely and interesting walk.

Also, there are lots of signs from the African American  Heritage Trail in this area so look for those too.

01 April 2016

Cherry Blossoms and Pearl Harbor

We couldn't do our regular field trip last week because of spring break, but the entire family did see the cherry blossoms right when they first bloomed (and before the massive Easter weekend crowds).  We walked down to the spot where this photo was taken (this is an AP photo).

We talked about the way Japanese, including US citizens, were treated in the US during WWII. That's more a story on from the west coast rather than the east coast, but people were constantly writing to DC during WWII demanding that the cherry trees all be destroyed.  This photo and all it symbolizes is a lot more relevant this year than it ought to be.

There are new trees planted on the spot where this one was cut down.