Donald Trump is President

Donald Trump’s use of racism and xenophobia is unprecedented in my lifetime. Is it fair to say he is the most overtly racist candidate since George Wallace? Putting religious restrictions on immigration, demonizing minorities, and failing to denounce racist white nationalists should be the stuff of lazy caricature. Instead the Republican nominee for president reintroduced these ideas to the mainstream and won the presidency in part because of them. If you can't see that as a major part of what happened then I question if you think racism plays a part in daily life or politics.

The takeaway here is that these ideas need to be stood up to. You’re not moving to Canada. If descendants of slaves stuck around, so can you. The time for letting these ideas slide passed a long time ago and this is what we got for letting them slide. Those friends or relatives you said "oh that's just X" to have to be confronted. Letting those ideas out into the open unchallenged makes it more likely that someone will propose them as law, or that people will act on them in their own lives. Flat out, this has to be resisted.

I know when online you’re supposed to act like stuff doesn’t phase you, like you’re unflappable. I'm an optimist but a cynic as well so that's never been hard for me. I’ll admit though that the night of the election I could not sleep. I felt legitimate anxiety about the future of our country. Plenty of elections have made me feel like the country was going to be worse off, but I’ve never felt anything like this before. This wasn’t “oh shit 4 more years of war with George W Bush”.

I got out of bed the next morning having not slept at all. It hit me that I could mope around or do something. I decided to pay extra attention to my kids that morning. Just soak them in and be extra patient with them. (As I’m writing this I notice I’m completely ignoring my wife, which is another thing.) I got to work and refocused on a particularly frustrating thing I happened to be mired in that week. I thought about the kids I coached in U8 soccer. Then I thought about all the things the people I know do to build and maintain my community. And finally I thought about what needs to be done beyond everything that is immediately adjacent to me. I certainly don’t do the latter. I talk a lot, less so since I had kids. I try to stay informed. I’ve never made the leap to much action though. I feel like I have to do that now.

This isn't the only takeaway from the election but it's the most immediate and visceral. There's a reason I waited a week to write this. I wanted to think about it beyond that feeling I had the night of the election. After some thought I really believe this is a dangerous time. It’s difficult but you have to make a commitment to make a difference.

11/16/2016 12:53:22 AM
Filed Under: US Politics
Keywords: donald+trump 2016 election
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Marital Advice

Marital advice: Don't do what Curt Schilling just did. No, I don't mean signing up to get molly whopped by Elizabeth Warren and the Democratic machine in Massachusetts, with your only argument being racist Native American whooping noises.

What you shouldn't do, kids, is commit to doing something (running for senate) in front of a bunch of people (on the radio dude) and then say "but I gotta check with my wife". Cause then if it turns out you can't go out with the boys on Friday night you've totally sold your wife out. Everyone will know she's the one who shut it down (and if she loves you, Curt, she will shut it down). This is shit you should learn in freshman year marriage classes. Keep your disagreements internal to the relationship, Curt. Come on now.

10/19/2016 1:55:36 PM
Filed Under: US Politics
Keywords: curt+schilling marriage elizabeth+warren massachusetts
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Have You "Disrespected" More Than Kaepernick

What is Colin Kaepernick "disrespecting" when he doesn't stand and salute the flag during the national anthem? Surely the issue isn't that he's not showing respect to a song or a piece of cloth. It must be what that song and flag represent - and these particular things represent the United States of America, right? And what is America? It's not just a boundary created by a river or a checkpoint or a wall, denoted by a darker line on a map. What is it? It's the people who live inside and sometimes outside those borders. It's the cultures (plural) they live in and the morality and ideals they live by. It's the institutions and law they've created. It's the history they've lived and the traditions they keep.

So when you complain about athletes disrespecting a symbol of America ask yourself if you haven't gone a step further than that, cut out the middle man as they say. Ask yourself if your words and actions disrespect - not just criticize, disrespect - the people, ideals, institutions, and traditions of the country that is represented by that flag and that anthem.

9/26/2016 12:21:16 PM
Filed Under: US Politics
Keywords: racism protest colin+kaepernick black+lives+matter
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What We Always Fail to Understand About Terrorism

Groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda know they cannot win by killing people. I really wish Americans and Westerners would get that. This isn't some hippy liberal theory I thought up. It's straight out of their playbook and they're quite open about their strategy. The only thing ISIS can hope to do is bait us into actions that make us look worse than them.

Islamic fundamentalist terrorists know there are a billion Muslims who don't subscribe to their interpretation of Islam, and who think their tactics are abhorrent. There are a billion Muslims who don't want any part of killing innocents, nor do they want to get killed themselves. They'd just like to live their lives in happiness, safety, and prosperity like every other person on the planet. Right now Muslims have the ability to dislike ISIS and the West separately for whatever reasons. If you think about it, that's pretty obvious. People hate extremists within their own culture, and are somewhat distrustful of other cultures. ISIS's only hope is to make the West lash out and become the extremists. If those billion Muslims fear a war mongering West hell bent on destroying Islam they'll have no choice but to side with Islamic extremists.

The irony of people immediately making this about Syrian refugees is astounding. We are buying into the falsehoods that these terrorist groups are pushing. They want us to see this attack in Paris and link it to the thousands of Syrian refugees even though those refugees are fleeing the same type of groups that committed these attacks. And we oblige instead of showing we know the difference between desperate people and terrorists.

Justice for the perpetrators, yes. Punishing all Muslims for this attack, no. It's not being compassionate (even though it is), it's doing what's best to keep America safe and win the battle.

11/14/2015 6:09:15 PM
Filed Under: Sci/Tech
Keywords: islam terrorism isis france paris+attacks
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The End of "They Hate us for our Freedom"

Soon after 9/11 Americans began asking why Al-Qaeda was fighting America. George W. Bush, in an address to a joint session of Congress soon after the attacks attempted to answer that very question

Americans are asking "Why do they hate us?"

They hate what they see right here in this chamber: a democratically elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.
And so "they hate us for our freedom" was born. It immediately struck many as a simplistic and self-serving, but given the nation’s mood we just had to live with it.

The correctness of that answer has consistently been chipped away at over the years. The US went to war in Iraq less than two years later. The justifications for the war proved false, tanking American credibility across the globe. There was legalized torture, by the US or through proxies. Even the war in Afghanistan dragged on, bringing down its popularity with it. Whether these actions were done with malice or good will, laziness or great care; whether they were right or wrong, they affected the way others viewed us.

This all brings me to something probably no one is even aware of. And I’m probably going to lose you at the next sentence. Right now Saudi Arabia is trying to put down a rebellion in Yemen. The very condensed summary is that Shia rebels are fighting the Sunni-led government, which has backing from a coalition of nations (including the genocidal Sudanese government) led by Saudi Arabia. Al Qaeda and ISIS are involved as well. Whether the rebels (the Houthis) are justified in their war I cannot say.

What I can say though is the Saudis are basically destroying Yemen. War has done what you would expect a bombing campaign to do to an already poor country - created a humanitarian crisis. The Saudi Arabian bombing of Yemeni ports and its blockade of the country has exacerbated the peril to civilians. You probably heard about the US bombing of a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan. Well, the Saudis have done the same in Yemen. Two weddings have reportedly been bombed. Thousands of civilians have been killed.

One of the most distressing things to see is the destruction of ancient Yemeni artifacts.
The roster of antiquities damaged in the war in Yemen runs long. Missiles fired from the coalition's planes have obliterated a museum (where the fruits of an American-Yemeni archaeological dig were stored), historic caked-mud high-rise dwellings, 12th century citadels and minarets and other places whose importance to humanity's heritage has been recognised by the UN. The Great Dam of Marib, a feat of engineering that was undertaken 2,800 years ago, has been struck four times, most recently on August 18th. Antiquities experts fear for the oldest surviving fragment of the Koran, in a six-month war which has killed over 4,000 and injured 20,000.
What would you think of the country that was wiping out your heritage?

What does this have to do with the United States though? .Well, the US has provided "arms, intelligence, and fuel" to the Saudis. On top of that, the United States has actively scuttled any attempt to investigate the Saudis for war crimes.

"They hate us for our freedom" is dead. It’s dead because there are plenty of reasons to contemplate "hating us", whether they are legitimate or not. That’s not to justify terrorism against Americans, Westerners, or Jews. And, let’s be real here, anyone who deliberately flies a plane into a building with the goal of killing tens of thousands of people didn’t need an errant US bomb to push him over the edge. Ego, fanaticism, and a lack of simple humanity were all that Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda needed

What these things do is turn opinion against America. They expose our stated goals - democracy, freedom, human rights - as empty rhetoric. They give pause to any of the billion peaceful Muslims when they contemplate speaking out against America’s enemies or speaking out for America’s goals. And yes, for a small percentage of Muslims, it’s a reason to join a group that actively tries to harm Americans. And so our enemies grow in strength.

And it shows. When democratic movements broke out across the Muslim world did we in the United States applaud or fear them? There was much more fear because we aren’t sure that put up to a vote America would win.

11/8/2015 6:45:49 PM
Filed Under: US Politics
Keywords: terrorism al+qaeda war+on+terror yemen saudi+arabia
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Politicizing Tragedy

I said this after Sandy Hook, and it bears repeating now after the recent shooting at a community college in Oregon and the shootings in Aurora, Colorado, the Washington Navy yard, and Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church among others

But I'm not saying we should wait to talk about this. Sure, things are going to come out years later, but now is the time to have a discussion about gun control. And again, this is from someone who is a "Second Amendment as the right to own a gun" supporter. Sorry if you feel that talking about it is "politicizing" it, but the shooting has political implications. We're not going to wait two weeks to talk about this because in two weeks Syria is going collapse or there's going to be an earthquake or some celebrity is going to do something. I wish it weren't that way, but that's our nation's attention span. We're talking about it now because it's on our minds and it's important. Let's do it with a basic understanding of the facts of the case, but let’s not let the opportunity pass, whether you support more or less gun control.
Every death or otherwise adverse event is the result of political decisions we made or did not make. Maybe that means we could have stopped this by confiscating guns or maybe it means we could have stopped it if everyone was forced to carry a gun. Maybe both of those options are too extreme, their cost too high, but that right there is a political decision. In terms of being a political decision doing nothing is on the same level as doing something.

I said on Twitter/Facebook I think the problem with the liberal response to gun violence is it always seems to amount to "We gotta do something!" without knowing what, why, or how. I think we could reduce gun violence but it would take massive gun confiscation that would lead to deeper mistrust of government, much less freedom, and a huge black market for guns bringing about an increase in crime. I support the 2nd Amendment, but every time a tragedy like this happens I think "Am I just completely wrong?" I'm perfectly willing to have these debates, even in the midst of tragedy. It happens now or it doesn't happen at all. And if that's the case then you've said we're not even going to talk about mass murder.

10/3/2015 6:36:57 PM
Filed Under: US Politics
Keywords: gun+control gun+violence
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Don Draper Sucks

A while back a friend on Facebook posted this:



Three of the first four responses confirmed a negative stereotype of men as fathers. Luckily the second response (from a guy), and the many that came in later (from men and women), added up to a resounding “fuck that” to the idea that bad, uninvolved parenting is a man thing. I don’t get angry when people think of men as poor parents. When I have the kids by myself and someone asks me if I’m “babysitting” I politely correct them with “parenting”. There are men out there who get defensive or angry about this stereotype. I get where that feeling comes from, but it just doesn’t bring me to anger. I just shake my head. If this is all you ask out of men, this is all you’re going to get. Is that what you want?

Mad Men, one of the greatest shows in TV history, ended recently. I loved the character of Don Draper, but he sure was a shitty father. Maybe that image of an uninvolved, uncaring dad had more relevance back then, but I don’t see it in my circles and I can’t understand why fathers would subscribe to it now. I know dozens of dads who are nothing like that. I've been wanting to write a post like this for a while, but when I started today it didn't even seem relevant because I just don't know any shitty dads. I’m not saying they are always equal partners or perfect fathers. I’m an involved father but my wife stays at home with the kids so it can only be equal when I’m around. All the dads I know put in significant effort with their kids, even if they can’t match their spouse’s. If I knew someone who didn’t see themselves as an equal partner in parenting I would think much less of them and maybe even not consider them a friend.



I’m tempted to say that if you are a terrible dad you should just get up and get out of your kid’s life. By terrible I don’t mean “you always miss his soccer games”. My dad missed a lot of soccer games (he coached a lot of them too) and I don’t hold that against him because he was bringing in income for us. I’m talking about guys who don’t give a shit about their kids. If that’s you then yes, maybe you ought to just get the hell out. But you know what, your kid still loves you and needs you despite you being a shitty person. Despite your disregard for your responsibility as a parent the kid would probably be better off with you around. So stop. Just be a good father.

If the problem is it doesn’t feel “manly” to parent, then I have good news. Taking care of the weak is the most manly thing you can do in the history of the universe. Sure, when I see dads at swim class splashing around with their 2 year old in the water it does not look tough. Men look better in suits or dirtied work clothes than they do in striped swim trunks. But who cares? Admittedly I’m not a person who thinks about being perceived as manly. I don’t care about cars, I never got into fights as a kid, and I’d rather pay someone for home improvements and read a book with my time. So you can rest assured I'm not trying to stroke my ego when I say being a protector is the essence of “manhood” as defined by traditional gender roles. There's really no reason left for men not to put in the effort at parenting.

6/21/2015 6:01:47 PM
Filed Under: Personal
Keywords: parenting
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Bravery Comes in Many Forms, Many Degrees

Calling a person brave for coming out as transgender in a society that routinely harasses and ridicules them simply for who they are does not actually mean you are calling members of the armed services pussies.

I was actually heartened that it took a few days from when Caitlyn Jenner announced her name change to when I saw someone make a comparison between her - yes, her, deal with it - and Chris Kyle. From the moment I heard the news I knew people were going to use members of the armed services to denigrate the importance of what was happening.

For the most part I haven't paid attention to the Caitlyn Jenner story, but it's hard to miss it and it is an important story. Transgender people get harassed just for who they are. They face discrimination that is illegal when practiced against other races, sexes, religions, and ethnicities. Remember, this is their biological make up, not a cry for attention. All of this leads to transgender people attempting suicide at obscenely high rates. Seeing a person on the national stage speak up and own their identity could literally save a life. Is it the most important story on the planet? No. Does it shed light on people who are suffering? Yes.

There's nothing about this that denigrates members of the armed services. Our soldiers constantly get the highest imaginable praise in our society. They receive official recognition from the most powerful people in the country. Parades are thrown for them. They’re honored at sporting events and get their names on highways and city squares. People buy drinks, give up their seats on airplanes, or just randomly go up to them and say thanks. All of that is just to name a few of the ways we acknowledge them. And rightly so. Taking a second to note someone else's bravery in a non-life threatening situation does not change our appreciation for what our military does. Saying someone is a hero to others despite never having fired a gun also does not do this. Haven’t you had a teacher change your life? Haven’t you had someone inspire you? I hope to be a hero to my kids without having to snipe insurgents from my rooftop.

A common way to deflect attention from a subject you don't want to talk about - or you can't handle rationally - is to try to claim some sort of misplaced concern for something you claim is of lesser importance. Often this takes the form of a charge of hypocrisy. Whatever the charge, the key to this tactic is never addressing the issue at hand.

Guess what? There's always something more important. You don't have to talk about only the most important thing or the most heroic person. There are myriad struggles in this world. The predictable callous response to this one shows a disturbing lack of empathy running through our society.

6/4/2015 12:53:16 PM
Filed Under: US Politics
Keywords: transgender caitlyn+jenner chris+kyle
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Ballghazi, because why not

As a Buffalo Bills fan I'm all for punishing the New England Patriots - fines, forfeited draft picks, vacated wins, suspensions, the razing of Gillette Stadium - but I can't believe the level of attention and outrage "Ballghazi" (better than "Deflategate") has gotten. I was talking about it last night without knowing the NFL had already handed out its penalty - $1 million fine, 4 game suspension for Brady, and the loss of a first and fourth round draft pick. The severity of the penalty simultaneously blew me away and brought me immense joy. In a classic Bills fan move I'm trying to decide if Rex Ryan will go 14-2 or 15-1 in his inaugural season.

It strikes me that the Patriots' own arrogance in this situation and in other cheating scandals is what is getting them the bulk of their punishment. It's pretty obvious that everyone spied on other teams back in the day, and everyone probably "adjusts" their footballs, but the Patriots flaunted it so the league had to act. It reminds me of Michael Pineda's pine tar incident last year. Pineda was obviously using pine tar in a game against the Red Sox in Yankee Stadium. The Red Sox ignored it because their pitchers probably do the same (you can find some images and/or video on the internet attempting to document it). The next week in Fenway Park Pineda very obviously did it again. Red Sox manager John Farrell was forced to call him on it when it was clear there was an unwritten understanding around the league that everyone does it. If the Patriots weren't so obvious and arrogant about it they would have gotten away with it.

Don't get me wrong, this is cheating so it deserves some sort of punishment. What gets me about it is the punishment is so arbitrary. The NFL has been doing this for a few years now. A scandal hits, calls for punishment arise, and Roger Goodell lawlessly decrees one. It's bad for the NFL as a product because it means the league will have more (arbitrary) power over the players, and will be likely to abuse it for their own gain (suspending players who speak out against the league, invalidating large contracts, etc). The players are the ones who put their bodies on the line, and they are the ones who deserve to be protected.

On a final note, there are two things about the rule that are perplexing to begin with. For one, why does the NFL allow teams to manage their own footballs? As a friend pointed out the other night, in every other sport the officials manage the ball. Second, why is this a rule? So it helps the offense to take air out of the ball...who cares? The NFL has spent years modifying rules to make it easier for quarterbacks to throw touchdowns. Who cares if they deflate footballs? Let them take all the air out and wing it around like a frisbee if it makes scoring easier. Put jet fuel in it and shoot it like a missile. Who cares?

5/13/2015 2:04:30 AM
Filed Under: Sports
Keywords: nfl new+england+patriots football
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Careless Judgment

Daniel Larison* calls out Libyan War supporters for the mess the country has become. My position on the Libyan War was ... complicated. I was at first very much opposed to air strikes in Libya, noting the hollow call for a humanitarian intervention. I then waffled a little on my opposition and started to optimistic about the intervention. The more I read about it, the more I realized there was a chance we could be watching the beginning of a genocide, at which point I reluctantly supported the war, despite knowing a lot of the bad things I opposed could very well happen. Basically this is where I left it:

On moral and legal grounds I think we were justified in the initial phase of this war. Obama has staked the United States and NATO to a limited role in this conflict. I don't completely believe this, but that's what he said. In his speech he somewhat tips his hand about trying to get rid of Gaddafi. He clearly wants it and it's possible that he will break his promise and commit to that action. I don't support that. Maybe I'm naive to think we can protect the civilians without committing to a greater war. We are, in fact, already at war. If that ends up happening, I will say that I did not support that, but I will also have to face that fact that support for a limited defense of human rights may have made it easier to wage a broader war for regime change.
Obviously everything I didn’t support happened and I was naive to think it had a chance of not happening. So now's a good time to look back at the decision to support the war.

A comparison can be made between proponents of war in Iraq and Libya. Ignore the respective justifications for war - WMD, Al Qaeda, innocent Iraqis in Iraq, innocent Libyans in Libya - and both sides essentially made the same mistake - they didn't account for the aftermath. I'm completely guilty of this, having seen the objective of stopping an imminent massacre accomplished I lost interest. That's very easy for an American. It's very easy for Americans to say accomplishing the initial objective was worth the devastation after because we don't have to live it. We can say it was the right choice because things are "better", but of course it's not our decision to make. It's not our lives that will be destroyed.

Can you extract the reasons for going to war from the repercussions? I don't think you can. If what you are trying to accomplish is ostensibly a moral good then how can you? How can you say we want to make the world better by destroying WMDs or defeating Al Qaeda or stopping a genocide but then leave pain and suffering in your wake?

As I've said in the past about Iraq War supporters, it's a cop out to say - when the situation turns bad - that your support was in error because you failed to see how badly the aftermath would be handled. Handling the aftermath has to be part of the decision. (Iraq War supporters have the added burden of being dead wrong about the two biggest justifications for war, but that's not my point.) If you didn't think about it, and didn't make it a large part of your decision, then you've made a mistake in judgement just like if you believed some politician's claim about WMD programs.

It's still hard for me to admit the net effect of the war I supported was negative. I'm not certain that's the case. I'm not certain things wouldn't be just as bad. But I have to admit that I made the same mistake so many others have made in the past when supporting a war. More damning, I was just as careless with my support for war - just as careless about the lives of people thousands of miles away - as others were.



* Daniel Larison, writing at the American Conservative (I know!) is very good. If you're interested in the state of the country now, Larison links to a long article on the Lybian Civil War. It's actually a fairly complicated situation - so much so that a look at the Wikipedia entry is helpful.

2/23/2015 11:15:17 PM
Filed Under: World
Keywords: iraq+war iraq libya libyan+war war
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