Did you “FactCheck” your parents?  The “Pocahontas” case: what we take “for granted”

Donald Trump has referred dismissively to Senator Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas” and “the Indian,” and a “loser.”

Warren listed herself as part Native American in the papers related to her appointment to a named full professorship at the Harvard Law School.

She didn’t “FactCheck” her family lore.  (Nevermind that there was no “FactCheck” when she was growing up.)  I share this with her; I didn’t check mine either.

When questioned about this, by the Boston Herald, during her winning US Senate race, she said that she had learned it from family lore.  Her home state had many Native Americans.

Harvard listed her name in materials used to show the diversity of its faculty.  Whether appointment papers ask for one’s ethnic identity to report diversity results is unknown to me.  My guess is that, while answering is likely optional, they do.

I’d be surprised if any large percentage of the population did FactCheck its parents, even as more genealogical and ethnic history has become readily accessible.

How silly can it get?

On many matters that still inform my perspective on the world, I learned from my family.  They took it as their job to teach their children. They spoke of the things they “took for granted” and the lessons they drew from experience.  Just as they did, at least before the teenage years, I took it for granted that they were telling me the truth.  I still do.  If all the things I “take for granted” were “spelled-out,” and the questionable ones, especially those based on “anecdotal” evidence, were closely examined, I couldn’t navigate my world.

My maternal grandfather’s name was “Caudle” and I was told that was a French name.  My paternal grandmother’s maiden name was “McKnight” so there was a Scot in the line.   About any others, I know nothing although I’ve been told of one who was an industrial-scale mule thief.

One genealogy website (up to, but not beyond the paywall) reports “Wilkersons” as having arrived in England with William the Conqueror.  If so, it seems fair to say that “the stock’s run out” with me*

I’ve lived ignorant of my genealogy for 73 years and almost one week.  I hardly know how to say how easy that has been.

Now, as for Senator Warren being a “loser:” at the time of her reporting some Native American heritage, she was accepting a named professorship at the Harvard Law School.  She launched her legal education only after being a stay-at-home mother to two children.  She was recruited for her expertise in “commercial law” and “bankruptcy.”  (Note to Trump:  It probably wouldn’t be wise to get into a debate with her over your bankruptcies and, if commercial law includes real estate, maybe not on your own field of assumed expertise.  She might turn out not to be a “loser” after all.)

In his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, Donald Trump has demonstrated an ability raise and dismiss a question tangential -at best- to the important issues confronting the country.    (Marco Rubio’s masterful “small hands” insult of “The Donald” himself deserves “honorable mention.”)  They are often characterizations of other candidates and Trump critics, then repeated ad nauseum by the media that mostly scorns him.

The question that arises is whether we, not the media, not Trump or any other candidate, are ready to see through this foolishness and insist on straightforward answers to important questions.  I’m unsure about the answer.

*Isabel Wilkerson is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration.  Wikipedia excerpt:  “In 1994, while Chicago bureau chief of The New York Times, she became the first woman of African-American heritage to win thePulitzer Prize in journalism,[2] winning the feature writing award for her coverage of the 1993 midwestern floods and her profile of a 10-year-old boy who was responsible for his four siblings.[3] Several of Wilkerson’s articles are included in the book Pulitzer Prize Feature Stories: America’s Best Writing, 1979 – 2003, edited by David Garlock.”

A Visit to Highlander Folk School

If you care about Civil Rights in the largest sense, whether you know about Highlander or not, this is a worthwhile read…

As part of Sewanee’s new “Finding Your Place” program for freshmen, my students and I today went to the nearby site of the Highlander Folk School, the populist educational facilit…

Source: A Visit to Highlander Folk School

Think about it: Apple’s gift to the government*

What a favor Apple is doing the government.

* The House Judiciary Committee conducted a hearing yesterday ( The Encryption Debate). It posed questions to the FBI, Apple, prosecutors and experts. The videos are long but there is also a narrative on the page summarizing much.

Expert Susan Landau testified suggested the FBI should use this situation to develop the capabilities it seeks from Apple.  (It has just asked for an extra $38 million appropriation.)

But the big Apple gift was to the government as a whole.  Cyber security has been neglected, both encryption and decryption.  Key government agencies could have protected their files as Apple protects its devices. If they had, 20+ million people would not have been hacked.

Many parts of the government have not yet taken the protection of their data seriously.  Apple is showing them they can make it damned near impossible for anyone to get information to which they have no right.  Yes, the agency would need a key for administration.  It could be highly secured.

Let me make clear, throughout this dispute, my sympathies have been with Apple.  How can access for the good guys be protected from the bad guys?  No one ever says.

In fact, we don’t know that some US government agency or someone else hasn’t already built exactly what the FBI wants Apple to build.  If you think it is sad we don’t know whether other agencies have already done what Apple is being asked to do, well, I do too.)

The Case Against the Case Against General Petraeus – Lawfare

To reduce his rank, now, is gratuitous.  Justice has already been done.  The actual requirements for reduction are pertinent:

“The legal standard that determines the retirement grade of an officer is “highest grade in which he served on active duty satisfactorily, as determined by the Secretary of the military department concerned, for not less than six months.” Clearly, General Petraeus committed the serious violation of transmitting classified information to a person without valid access and a need to know. But, however salacious the circumstances, that information was never in real jeopardy of compromise to a foreign power. His biographer was – and is – a reserve Army officer and held an active securityclearance at or above the level of the materials she viewed. The issue is only that she lacked the specific access and need to know for the particular classified material that Petraeus shared.”


Source: The Case Against the Case Against General Petraeus – Lawfare

American Japanese internment camp to be national historic site?  Confederate sites being removed?

Somehow we must decide how to handle the disgraceful aspects of our history without losing our awareness of that history.  We aren’t doing that very well.

In my own view, symbols can, and do, change their meaning over time.  Removing history solves nothing and risks losing memories we should never forget.  The very fact that what once could be approved is now intolerable makes symbols vital to our civic health.