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Showing posts from January, 2017

Yes, It's a Muslim Ban

The latest talking point from the White House and its allies is that President Trump’s Muslim ban isn’t a Muslim ban. There are lots of countries with Muslim populations that aren’t targeted by the ban, after all. So what’s the big deal.

So how do we know the Muslim ban is a Muslim ban? Because President Trump and his allies have told us so.

This is what Trump called for during the campaign:

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump called Monday for barring all Muslims from entering the United States.  "Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on," a campaign press release said.Rudy told us how the administration maneuvered to make the ban legal:
"He called me up, he said, ‘Put a commission together, show me the right way to do it legally.’"  Giuliani said he then put together a commission that included lawmakers and expert lawyers.…

Trump Treats Jews and Christians Differently

Saturday:
The White House has defended its omission of Jews and antisemitism from a statement remembering the Holocaust by saying that Donald Trump’s administration “took into account all of those who suffered”.  On International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Friday, the White House made no mention of Jews, Judaism or the antisemitism that fueled Nazi Germany’s mass murder of six million Jews in the 1940s.

White House representatives did not answer queries about the statement until Saturday, when spokeswoman Hope Hicks forwarded to CNN a link to a Huffington Post article about the millions of people who were killed by Nazis for their ethnicities, sexual orientation, politics or religious beliefs.

“Despite what the media reports, we are an incredibly inclusive group and we took into account all of those who suffered,” Hicks told CNN. Today:


Now. There's an "incredibly inclusive" group of people in Syria who have been made refugees by the war there, but President Trump has ch…

It's Not Just Muslims. We're Closing the Door to All Refugees.

Matt Welch points out a fact that's lost in most of the coverage I've seen:
The far-reaching order, which marks a sharp reversal of decades' worth of American policy, also slashed the annual target for the number of refugees accepted to 50,000, down from the original 110,000 for fiscal 2017 set by Barack Obama, and from the 85,000 refugees accepted in fiscal 2016. (The Obama administration consistently admitted around 75,000 refugees per year; only George W. Bush was stingier over the past 40 years.) In other words: We're not just shutting down Muslim immigration. We're closing the door to people fleeing war, poverty, and oppression everywhere.

Last one out, turn out the lights at the Statue of Liberty.

FYI: Trump, Immigrants, and Crimes

NYT:

A central point of an executive order President Trump signed on Wednesday — and a mainstay of his campaign speeches — is the view that undocumented immigrants pose a threat to public safety.  But several studies, over many years, have concluded that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than people born in the United States. And experts say the available evidence does not support the idea that undocumented immigrants commit a disproportionate share of crime.  “There’s no way I can mess with the numbers to get a different conclusion,” said Alex Nowrasteh, immigration policy analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute, which advocates more liberal immigration laws.

About Christians, Refugees, and Trump

If you call yourself Christian and you're OK with Trump working to save Syrian Christians while banning Syrians of other religions, then Christianity is not your faith, it is not your religion, and it's certainly not your relationship with Jesus.

It's just a tribe. Just a way of dividing us from them. Little could be more profane.

The Trump Era: Refugees

I've spent a decade offering my opinions in public forums, but I don't feel quite equal to this moment. Some of this is sheer flood of outrages — I'm just comprehending one when the next comes along. Which feels like my insights about the Trump Era are often limited to:

This is wrong.
This is wrong.
This is wrong.
This is wrong.

So let's be clear: It's not wrong to want to vet refugees, with a high degree of confidence but also within reason, to try to ensure they won't be a threat to their neighbors in the U.S. We have every right to expect the government will do so.

But to say "no" to refugees entirely — without any effort to separate the wheat from the chaff, but to assign a collective punishment to people already fleeing danger — is not the mark of a great nation. It is a cowardly act. Cowardly. I am ashamed of what my government is doing today. This is wrong. This is wrong. This is wrong. 

Donald Trump Is Turning America Into a "Watchmen" Comic

NYT:
On Thursday, the group of scientists who orchestrate the Doomsday Clock, a symbolic instrument informing the public when the earth is facing imminent disaster, moved its minute hand to two and a half minutes before the final hour.  It was the closest the clock had been to midnight since 1953, the year after the United States and the Soviet Union conducted competing tests of the hydrogen bomb. Why? "In an op-ed for The New York Times, Mr. Titley and Mr. Krauss elaborated on their concerns, citing the increasing threats of nuclear weapons and climate change, as well as President Trump’s pledges to impede what they see as progress on both fronts, as reasons for moving the clock closer to midnight."

About the Twitter Rebellion

So about the Twitter rebellion apparently being mounted by social media managers at various government agencies...

There's a theory within conservatism that America's "administrative state" — basically, your mid-level federal bureaucrats — has become an unaccountable tyrant, both by virtue of issue regulations independently of Congress and, through unionizing, becoming a political force that politicians must appease instead of their own constituents.

A lot of people who hold to that theory signed on to the Trump Bandwagon pretty early in the process, believing that he alone had the chance to smash the bureaucracy and return American government to its more accountable roots. And Congress' move this session to make it easy to punish individual federal workers is of a piece with that theory. So is Trump's hiring freeze for federal workers.

All of which is to say this: Enjoy the Twitter Rebellion while you can, if you're so inclined.  But the odds are it can&…

Slowing Down

I'm edging my way back into social media. But it's kind of like edging your way back into the path of a fire hydrant: You can't get just a little wet — you're going to get soaked on contact.

Anyway, here's the mantra I'm trying to live by right now:

You don't have to express your opinion about everything.
You don't have to express your opinion about everything.
You don't have to express your opinion about everything.

It's possible, in fact, that the more opinion I put into the world, the less valuable any one opinion might be. So. Trying to control myself.

(Pauses.)

If I were to have an opinion about shit that doesn't matter much, though, it would be this:

Gov. Pence shouted to his wife, Karen, his closest adviser, at the other end of the table. "Mother, Mother, who prepared our meal this evening?" The legislators looked at one another, speaking with their eyes: He just called his wife "Mother." Maybe it was a joke, the legi…

Yoga

I've been making some life changes lately — trying to use the time I have, now that I'm back in Kansas, to improve my health and lifestyle. Among the changes: More exercise. 30 minutes a day on the treadmill. Doesn't sound like a lot, but some is more than none, and I know from experience that getting overambitious early leads to failure. So. Thirty minutes a day.

One other thing: Yoga, a couple of times a week. It's nothing huge — a 15-minute flexibility routine downloaded from an iPhone app. But I've noticed that I'm increasingly limber.

Tonight, friends, I noticed a piece of trash on the floor. I bent over at the waist and picked it up, and threw it away.

Then I wept. I literally could not remember the last time I'd tried to pick something off the floor without grunting and bracing myself. I just did it.

Small victories, people. Small victories.

Hey David Brooks, Here's Why a Diverse Media Should Matter

David Brooks this morning:
But now progressives seem intent on doubling down on exactly what has doomed them so often. Lilla pointed out that identity politics isolates progressives from the wider country: “The fixation on diversity in our schools and in the press has produced a generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups, and indifferent to the task of reaching out to Americans in every walk of life.” There's a contradiction in the Lilla-via-Brooks complaint.

How diverse is the press? Not very.  It's pretty white. So. Diversifying the press is one way of producing people more aware of the conditions of "Americans in every walk of life." I'd hanker to say the same thing is true in the education arena, too.

Somehow, though, I don't think that's what Brooks or Douthat mean.

Quote of the Day: Philip Roth

New Yorker “I was born in 1933,” he continued, “the year that F.D.R. was inaugurated. He was President until I was twelve years old. I’ve been a Roosevelt Democrat ever since. I found much that was alarming about being a citizen during the tenures of Richard Nixon and George W. Bush. But, whatever I may have seen as their limitations of character or intellect, neither was anything like as humanly impoverished as Trump is: ignorant of government, of history, of science, of philosophy, of art, incapable of expressing or recognizing subtlety or nuance, destitute of all decency, and wielding a vocabulary of seventy-seven words that is better called Jerkish than English.”

Social media break....

I'm two days into a break from Twitter and Facebook. I'm not doing anything so foolish as to say I'm "quitting" this time — I know myself too well, so I only intend to be gone a week. (Basically, this seems like a good time to slow my roll a bit.) There's been a little bit of withdrawal: The Trump Administration's penchant for "alternative facts" seems to require a response.

But it's getting one without me. Probably telling.

Other than that, it's been a fantastic weekend for reading and thinking without the need to spread word of my thoughts immediately. Some highlights:

• The New Yorker's article about El Salvadorans who've been deported back to their home country is infuriating, increasingly so at every new revelation along the way. Basically: Young people who are Americans for all intents and purposes — having come here too young to remember their home country — are deported back, where they end up serving as the cheap workforce…

Remembering Obama's Inauguration Day: Philadelphia 2009

It was my good fortune that, after a lifetime in Kansas, I found myself living in Philadelphia during the summer of 2008 — as it happens, working in an office one floor down from Barack Obama's campaign headquarters in the city. And one day late in the election, I rode the press bus as it joined the then-Senator on a whirlwind four-stop campaign swing through the city — culminating with a final rally in fabled West Philadelphia.

Obama himself wasn't too memorable. He gave the same speech, told the same jokes at every stop, the message modified slightly for each audience. ("Don't let them give you the okey doke," he warned the largely black audiences.)

What I remember about the West Philadelphia stop: It was the most black people I'd ever seen in one place at one time — probably the most I'll ever see again. And the mood, it bordered on religious. Not that these folks worshipped Obama, no. It's just at this point in the campaign, so much hope was veste…

On Being Humane in Inhumane Times

At noon Friday, Donald Trump becomes the president of the United States.

It’s a prospect that I can barely wrap my head around. At times, it enrages me. Many of my liberal friends have spent the last couple of months giving voice to that rage, breaking off relationships with Trump-voting family and friends. I’ve sought to resist that path, which at times has seemed to incur further rage from my liberal friends. But I understand the temptation to offer a hearty “fuck you” to some people that, in all other cases, I have cared dearly about for years or even decades.

So far, I’ve been able to resist the temptation. I’ve had to remind myself of a truth that I’ve discovered as I’ve gotten older: Almost everybody I’ve ever thought of as my “enemy” – and there have been exceptions — has, over time, also showed me grace I never expected from them. The people I disagree with are not devils. They have their own sets of fears and hopes. They are human, with all the complexity that involves.

Thi…

Lord, Hear My Prayer

A few months ago, in the face of one of 2016's many disasters, I posted a prayer to Facebook and Twitter — seeking to be quiet, to listen, and to understand rather than spout off about why the disaster proved me right on some political point or another.

The nice folks at the Kansas Leadership Council spotted it and asked A) to publish it and B) for me to write about it.I did. An excerpt.

The Prayer of St. Francis – “Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace” – provided a good but incomplete starting point. I wanted to remind myself that other people deserved to be heard, despite their different fears and different solutions. I wanted to remind myself that people, even when they are at odds with you, usually have the best intentions. I wanted to remind myself that listening is more of a virtue than talking.  Sometimes, though, the best thing to do is shut up. At least for a little while.
Let me confess: I'm inconsistent about living up to my own advice here. If you want to cal…

Movie Queue: "Singin' In The Rain"

Three thoughts about "Singin' in the Rain" just as soon as I dry off....


1. I've seen this movie countless times over the years — for awhile, when he was a toddler, it was my son's favorite — but today was the first time I'd ever seen it on the big screen. Even in this era of gigantic home entertainment systems, there's STILL nothing like seeing a movie on the big screen.

2. A lot of the songs in this movie were used previously in the 1928 Best Picture-winning "Broadway Melody" which ... doesn't hold up well. A lot of the jokes about the rise of the the "talkie" era of movies probably came from the earlier production, I'm guessing — Arthur Freed was involved in both flicks.

3. Gene Kelly stomping through the water is as pure an expression of joy as has ever been put on film.