We Have a Responsibility to These Refugees

Right now the biggest policy decision we have in our immigration debate is how we should react to people seeking refuge from danger throughout the world. The most likely outcome of the upcoming debate, given that Donald Trump is president and Republicans control both houses of congress, is that we'll turn our back on these people. The worst part about where our immigration policy is going is that we Americans are in no small part responsible for the danger these people are in. Hatred, fear, and callousness towards immigrants is one sorry thing. The same towards refugees is a degree worse. But our current mood toward the people of Iraq, Syria, and other Muslim countries is a whole other level of shameful.

I'm always struck by how similar it is to our policy in Latin America, Mexico specifically. From Mexico we see people running from a drug war. That war is not as dire as Syria's but make no doubt about it, it is creating the economic and political conditions that compel people to immigrate to the United States. We Americans fund one side through our consumption of drugs and exacerbate it by making such consumption illegal. Then we fund the other side, law enforcement, by sending military aid.

And then, after we've armed both sides, we want to build a wall to keep everyone in. It's sick.

In Syria and Iraq it's worse because we explicitly created a war that created so much death and displacement and chaos. That, in fact, was one of the stated goals of the war - create a spot far away from America where the terrorists would attack us so they weren't attacking us here. Attack they did. Let's be honest too, they attacked there more then they could have ever dreamed of attacking here.

Now, when thousands of people are running from the bad guys we say "no". They're running away from our enemies, the terrorists. If they're lucky they're in camps hundreds of miles away from their homes. Many have drowned when overcrowded boats tip over or were bombed to death in what was once their home. How can we abdicate any responsibility for helping these people? How can we ignore that they are on the same side as us in the war we are fighting?

Hell, we're even refusing to help Iraqis who put their lives on the line to protect our troops.

There's nothing new about anti-immigrant sentiment. Opponents of immigrants and refugees are saying the same things that were said by their ancestors or said about their ancestors with regards to the Irish, Italians, Poles, Jews, Slavs, Vietnamese, Chinese, and the list goes on. I'd oppose this type of mentality no matter what the situation. This time though it's worse given our hand in creating the situation these people are trying to escape.

1/27/2017 1:38:01 PM
Filed Under: US Politics
Keywords: immigration refugees
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Hillary Clinton is not President

There was a moment in Obama’s second term when I realized it was going to be tough for me to vote for Hillary Clinton. It seems so long ago when the stories about the extent of the NSA’s domestic spying capability broke but I remember being disappointed despite myself (look, I used to blog). I remember thinking to myself, if Obama won’t or can’t stop this - or worse, wants to do more - how can I possibly vote for someone who is more wedded to the security state (and more hawkish for that matter) as Clinton has always been.

I actually think I’m probably somewhere between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton on the political spectrum. It took me a while to even consider who I was voting for because I just assumed Clinton would be the nominee and eventually president. And that was the problem. We just assumed. It’s not that Clinton didn’t work for it. No matter what you think of her you can’t dispute she’s put in the work. No, it’s that we as progressives/liberals/leftists didn’t work for it. Clinton was the easy choice. She was given to us even if she wasn’t exactly what we wanted and we accepted it.

As a progressive/liberal/leftist if Clinton won would everything be ok? It would not. She‘s not a great progressive/liberal/left candidate even though she would have furthered many of the causes. She was certainly qualified for office having been a senator, secretary of state, and a part of policy discussion for decades.

Regardless of what Donald Trump stands for - and make no doubt about it, he stands for the worst America has to offer - the truth is Hillary Clinton was a flawed candidate. I’m not talking about the ridiculously overblown email scandal. I’m talking about where she stood on so many issues.

Clinton refused to do the one thing that has been proven to win presidential elections of late - mobilize the base. I can’t remember which debate it was, but I remember a point where she could have absolutely hammered the Republican party on an issue. Instead she continually narrowed her focus to Trump. She truly believed she could win over voters who had been conditioned to hate her for 25 years and who had spent the last 8 years giving Barack Obama nothing.

And this is a microcosm of the Democrats over the last two decades. Here’s a conversation I had with a friend after my last post. He was pushing back against racism being a major factor in Trump’s victory.

Anyway. You say "democrats have lost working class whites" and that's such a weird thing that I hear everyone saying. What about working class blacks and latinos? Isn't the differentiating factor the whiteness?

But to your point - and the point of my next post - she is totally the establishment. She absolutely would have been a qualified president. She, despite being a bog standard centrist corporate democrat, would have still be able to push liberal/left/progressive/whatthehelldowecallitnow ideas. But who did she court down the stretch of the campaign? Did she try to use the strategy that won the last 3 elections (mobilizing your base)? No. She tried to get votes from sensible Republicans. Did she seriously forget the last 25 years of those people trying to destroy her.

The thing that pisses me off about all this white working class butthurt about not being loved anymore is they did it to themselves to a certain extent. What would help the "working class"? Unions, campaign finance laws, infrastructure projects, more protectionist trade deals. Who supports those? All those awful leftists they've been voting against. But what's more infuriating is as those policies that help the working class took a hit the Democrats were just like, well I guess we should cozy up to big money. And then all the sudden people figured it out and Democrats were left looking like the Wall Street Party because, yes, they did abandon all those causes.
Being a centrist is often vastly overrated by mainstream pundits but it also isn’t the worst thing in the world. And it is somewhat admirable that throughout her career Clinton has worked on both sides of the aisle. But it also means she and a large part of the Democratic party - from party leaders to elected officials down to rank and file voters - were willing to ignore a whole segment of the political spectrum and ignore ideas that were not just appealing to millions of voters but that would actually help them.

You can’t just accept the anointed candidate. Like I said in my last post, you have to work for it.

12/23/2016 2:19:30 AM
Filed Under: US Politics
Keywords: hillary+clinton 2016 election
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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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