Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Eat well. Stay warm.

It’s not just that Trump is a nasty piece of work.  It’s that he is outrageous in so many different ways.  This latest move, trying to keep out people who have any connection with Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Syria is a race between stupidity and cruelty. The worst kind of uninformed profiling. Bad on so many levels.

Remember that line from Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”? That’s what you get when you elect as president somebody who doesn’t even read, much less learn from history.  If he did, he’d also remember Manzanar and all the other camps we put Japanese-Americans in.  Profiling and lumping innocents with bad guys on the basis of accidental similarities beyond their control.  This is where viewing the world in black and white goes from a simple cognitive error to a dangerous and counterproductive one.  As Michael Gerson wrote in The Washington Post yesterday, it's "the half-baked work of amateurs who know little about security, little about immigration law and nothing about compassion." Does anybody doubt that ISIS is cheering this move?

One should also remember that when we stopped pushing Jews running from Hitler back out to sea and started letting them in we began to get Nobel Prize winners, artists, and scientists of all kinds, including Albert Einstein.  A new study out from Stanford shows there was a 31% increase in U.S. patents between 1920 and 1970 in fields where Jewish refugees excelled.  

Hitler was making Germany great again.  Building the autobahn, putting people back to work.  Again, great stuff, on the surface.  Until you come to see the method and the cost.  Generating scapegoats lines up angry followers. Generating weapons puts people back to work.  But then what do you do with the weapons once you’ve got them? (I'm not comparing turning your back on refugees to war-mongering; I'm drawing a parallel to policy that backfires.) In Trump’s case, his promise is to rebuild the infrastructure.  But he’s got no way to pay for it if he simultaneously intends to keep kicking the wealth upwards and making the people at the bottom pay for it.  They don’t see that coming, the people at the bottom.  But just you wait.

And while we focus on the Holocaust when we think of Hitler – the evil he brought into the world – it's easy to overlook the folly of kicking so many German thinkers out of the country who then went to work for other countries.  Stupid.  Self-destructive.  I’m sorry if this sounds like trivializing the horror of the concentration camps, but this part of the story, the loss, on the practical level of talent and wealth generation is not insignificant.  It illustrates how giant egos who work in isolation, convinced “Only I can fix it!” can put some seriously stupid policy in place.

I remember conversations with grad students at Stanford who were grateful for all the foreign students in math and engineering, because they created a demand for classes that would not have been taught otherwise.  You don’t have to justify taking in refugees running for their lives entirely out of the kindness of your heart.  You can justify taking them in because they enrich your life.  Apparently a piss ant like Donald Trump has trouble getting his mind around such a thought.

And don’t tell me that it was only because the Jewish refugees came from a highly educated German population that so much brain power was added to American life.  All you have to do is look at the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” from all over the world who have made good in America over the years who would not have had a chance to show their stuff if they had spent their years in refugee camps instead.  Or if they died before they could even get that far.

No Syrian has ever been charged with aiding terrorism.  There have been terrorists among the 7.5 million refugees, yes.  Two.  And they both came as kids and grew up here.  Would we seriously argue somebody else should be made responsible for those 7.5 million men, women and children?  Or that they should stay in war zones and risk God knows what?  American killed more people in six hours on any given day last year than refugees have killed ever.  Ever!

Does he have enough rope yet to hang himself with? Or do we keep having to wait and hope the next outrage does it?  Or will the next outrage only further condition us to think all this is normal?

The assistant attorney general refused to carry out his xenophobic order, calling it unconstitutional. So he fired her.  And now we move on to confirming Sessions.

There isn't enough opposition to the man to take him down.  People think he's nothing more than a blood blister and everything will get better all by itself in time.

While we wait and wonder, he dismantles safety regulations, denies climate change, takes more from the poor and gives it to the rich, tramples on human rights and rallies anti-Semites and homophobes and white supremacists behind him.  He touts his business acumen, but even I know that a good business deal is one in which both participants benefit.  His "America First" plan is an "I Win, You Lose" plan.  The world should not want to spit when they say the words "United States of America." 

I'm thinking positive. I think the resistance is building.  

In the meantime, eat well.  Sleep well.  Stay warm.

Mozart will help.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Cherry-picking in Norway

Norway, how do I love Thee? With apologies to EBB, let me count the ways…

Norway, like many other European countries, has a state church.  (Actually had a state church; I'll get to that in a minute.) And since I am very American in wanting to keep church and state apart, and a non-believer who doesn’t think much about organized religion anyway, I know I’m a hypocrite to say this, but I just love the fact that Norway has just decided to allow same-sex weddings in their state ("Norwegian People's") church.  And I don’t know what tickles me more: that fact, or the fact that Sweden and Denmark got there before them, Sweden in 2009 and Denmark in 2012.

But enough with the false humility.  I recognized a long time ago that religious bodies are social entities that lay down a bunch of arrogant assumptions about knowledge of truth, but at the same time provide succor and comfort to millions of people. In their good moments, they inspire and bring out the best in people - when they focus on the parts which encourage them to be kind and compassionate and loving.  Churches, both local congregations and the institution writ large, are what people make of them.

For the longest time I struggled with the commonly held notion that what’s wrong with Islam is not just the radical jihadists but the very religion itself, particularly the Qur’an and all those passages telling people when and how to lop off people’s heads.  I’ve come down from that position, having taken a closer look in recent months at the contents of the Bible and discovered what a wretched collection of bashing kids’ heads against rocks type stories that abound.  It really isn’t the “bad parts” or the “good parts” of a religious Scripture that determines what the faith is; it’s what the collective makes of those parts, which ones it chooses to stand by, which ones it chooses to define as limited to historical-and-no-longer-binding contexts.

I spend a lot of time listening to German talk shows where a bunch of people sit around discussing things like “Is Islam compatible with Germany?”  And I’ve come to see what a really dumb question that is.  The response should be that the question is unanswerable, because there is no ultimate authority – no ultimate single authority – on what exactly Islam is.  Germany is a secular democracy – even with its state churches – and what binds its people is its Grundgesetz (Basic Law) – its equivalent to our U.S. Constitution.  Claim it as your own, agree to live by it, and you’ve got the makings of a good citizen.  Reject it and it doesn’t matter whether you’re religious or not – you’re choosing to be an outsider to the national community.  Religion is irrelevant in the modern world when it comes to civic identity and civic duty.

One of the good things that has come from the Protestant Reformation is the weakening of authoritarian religion.  It took a few centuries.  Lutherans for a time got just as nasty and authoritarian as the Catholic Church they broke away from, but they established the pattern of thinking for oneself when it comes to religious matters, and that, in time, led to making people receptive to the notion of universal rights without regard to race, creed, sexual preference – and ultimately religion itself.  And it opened organized religion to the possibility of placing the values of the larger universal modern culture ahead of the traditional values of a particular local religion.  And yes, I see the Church of Rome as local, despite its “catholic” claims.

I blogged earlier on cherry-picking and how it is supposed to be a bad thing when it comes to religion.  Authoritarian (clericalist) Catholics sneer about “cafeteria Catholics” who think they can have the sugary parts of the faith and not eat their vegetables, but even these folk are usually careful to live by the rules set down by the secularized community they live in.  They don’t jail senators for passing abortion-rights laws (although they do try to deny them communion), or throw rocks at gay weddings.  They simply state their views, and agree to disagree with their compatriots.  And that makes it possible for us all to live together in the modern world. 

The point is we have reached a time in the history of the Western World when we rise or fall on the basis of our secular values.  And the Church of Norway has just decided those values include extending Christian love and compassion to their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters – all the way and not just half way.  And I predict that, in time, the Christians of the nations with state churches that marry LGBT people (and agree to support without reservation the families that come from such unions) will wonder what the hell took them so long?  I doubt there are many whose dying words are, “I should not have extended a loving embrace to my gay neighbors.  I should have left them out in the cold to live in shame.”

What a happy place is Norway today.

And what a cool dude their king is.

Have a listen to this... 
Norwegians come from the north of Norway, from the middle, from the south and all the other regions.  Norwegians are also immigrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Poland, Sweden, Somalia and Syria.  It is not always easy to say where we come from, to which nationality we belong.  Home is where the heart is.  That cannot always be placed within country borders. 
Norwegians are girls who love girls, boys who love boys, and boys and girls who love each other. Norwegians believe in God, Allah, everything and nothing.  Norwegians like Grieg, Kygo, Hellbillies and Kari Bremnes.  In other words, You are Norway.  We are Norway.
My biggest hope for Norway is that we will manage to take care of each other.  That we can build this country further on trust, solidarity and generosity.
... and ask yourself whether the head of the church of Norway got this way from being the head of the church of Norway.  Or whether the church of Norway became what it is today because of men and women like King Harald.  I take the view that the two evolved together, that religion and culture become inseparable in time, that one hand washes the other and an organized religious group can actually become its better self through the influence of enlightened cultural values, many of which come from folk and from traditions outside the religion itself.

Technically, what was once the state church of Norway no longer is.  Its official designation was changed in 2012 from state church to “Norges Folkekirke” (Norway’s people’s church) a designation that took legal effect just a few weeks ago, on January 1, 2017.  Its 1250 active clergy are no longer employees of the Norwegian government.  And King Harald is no longer its head.

And, I might add, only about 20% of the population now identify with the church, so cynics are welcome to say they’ve only shut the barn door now that the horses have escaped.

Be that as it may.  The church is there if you want it, and it’s a warmer, more inclusive compassionate place than it used to be.  Christianity in Norway  – in its official organized form – has come a long way since it was introduced in the 9th Century. Olaf II was killed for the faith and canonized in 1031 for killing the church’s enemies.  In 1537 Christian III of Denmark forced the Lutheran Church down everybody’s throat, banished the Catholics and plundered their resources.

Norwegian (and other) Christians can celebrate Olaf and Christian, if they choose.

Or they can celebrate the decision this week to allow its pastors to marry gay people.

How you identify as a Christian is pretty much up to you.

picture credit: fjords of Norway


People need to read the bible more.  If they did, they would understand we are probably going to have to raise taxes.  There are an estimated 152 million men in America.  And, according to one source, about 57% of them have committed adultery.  If we did as the Bible instructed us to do, we’d raise some serious tax money.  Enough to put 866,000 American men to death.  I don’t know how typical Maryland is, but in Maryland it costs about $3 million to execute somebody.  $3 million times 866,000 is $2,598,000,000,000 if I’ve done the math right.  The good news is, I’m sure once we really get the executions started, the cost will go down, so we will not actually have to raise that large a sum.

Executing adulterers isn’t the only thing we have to take care of.  We need to apologize to the Confederacy for forcing them to give up slavery.  Maybe pay them some compensation for all the years they had to pay an exorbitant price to cotton pickers after 1865.  If we had read our bibles (as many did) we would have concluded (as many did at the time) that the Bible not only approves of slavery; it has rules for regulating it.

To wit:
·      "slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling" (Ephesians 6:5), or 
·      "tell slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect" (Titus 2:9). 

Gay men have gotten away with entirely too much.  No matter how hard they try, gay people cannot deny that the bible says quite clearly:
·      "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination" (Leviticus 18:22). 

And please note, in passing, that if you read Luther’s translation, remembering that it was Luther who first translated the bible into the vernacular so we could all understand it, you will find:

·       Du sollst nicht beim Knaben liegen wie beim Weibe; denn es ist ein Greuel.  Which in English translates to “thou shalt not lie with a boy (sic) as with a woman, for it is a horror/ atrocity/ anathema/ abomination."

Pick your translation.  English speaking people will find “mankind” where German speaking people find “boys.”  In either case, you get the idea.  Diddling is a definite no-no.

OK.  So while we’re into Leviticus, which Christians and Jews both agree is sacred scripture, look what we find in the very next chapter, Leviticus 19:19:
·      Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee.

So no linen and wool, no mixed crops.

and in 19:26:
·      Ye shall not eat any thing with the blood: neither shall ye use enchantment...

So no juicy steaks, looks like.  And no reading of Harry Potter, which celebrates enchantment.
·      Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.
     No shaving your beard.

It’s in 20:10 where you find the command to execute adulterers, which is where I began all this:
·      And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

Now there is a way out to the scary prospect of killing 866,000 or so of our fellow citizens, actually.  One can stop reading the bible literally.  And one can cherry-pick.

Cherry-picking has gotten a bad name.  It has come to be understood as "the overemphasis of token data that supports a preferred conclusion, excluding all contradictory evidence."  Much of the time, it is a term associated with religion because it flows easily off the tongues of the self-righteous, the holier-than-thou who want you to know you’re a sinner and they’re sinners too except that they’ve been saved so they’re in God’s good graces while your ass is going to hell.

I think that's unfortunate.  We have done ourselves a disservice in seeing cherry picking as a term with negative connotations only, when there is no reason not to see it as a synonym for using your head.

Personally, I’d just as soon chuck any and all so-called holy scriptures out once and for all.  They’ve done – and continued to do – so much harm, riling up the insecure and the low-informationals and making them bash about shouting things like “Allahu Akhbar” or “Hallelujah,” depending on the part of the Eastern Mediterranean region their religion is native to.  But I appreciate that for every verse like Psalm 137:9
Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.
 there are verses like the six verses of the 23rd Psalm:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

And you don’t have to be a Christian, or even believe in God, to recognize how beautiful those words are in the English language and how comforting they are to folks who see themselves as helpless and vulnerable little sheep and their deity as a kind of shepherd.  The “valley of the shadow of death” in this poem makes this passage popular at funerals.  I wouldn’t want to take this inspired piece from anyone.  And not just because it’s carved into my dear grandparents’ gravestone.

Feel like you need some inspiration to get yourself out of bed and go to work so you can afford some new clothes?

Try Proverbs 13:4:
The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.

Looking for a reason to take a day off and stay home instead?

Try Matthew 6:28:
And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:

We sneer at Catholics who practice birth control and call them hypocrites.  Well, I don’t, but some people do.  We also call them “cafeteria catholics,” and imply that they are lazy and irresponsible for selecting only the rules established by their ruling hierarchy and by scripture which it suits them to follow. 
“Don’t kill?”
“Absolutely.  Wouldn’t dream of it.”
“Don’t eat meat on Friday.”
“OK now to eat meat on Friday.”
“Don’t masturbate.”
“Can we change the subject?”
“Don’t marry outside the faith.”
“I know it’s wrong, but I love him.”
“Don’t divorce.”
“You try living with this asshole!”

Anybody who actually does read the Bible – I mean really read the Bible – confirms early on what common sense and an education beyond grade school will make plain – that the Bible was not written by a deity or by folks whose hands are guided by a deity, but by a lot of different people in different times and places, working within a faith community and sharing common attitudes, values and beliefs, for the most part, each putting the tribe or community’s knowledge in writing.  Since it’s done over time, discrepancies have crept in.  It should surprise nobody that the two different sets of writers of Genesis have different notions of how things started.  One version has Adam and Eve created at the same time.  The other has Eve created later.  The quaint tale of God getting up each day and going to work to create different things on different days is a curiously human idea of how one goes to work, complete with taking a nap when it’s all over.  Hardly the image of a god who, if he chose, could do it all at once at the snap of his human-like fingers.

Such inconsistencies are of little consequence to folks who cherry-pick the bible and find in it an appeal to love one’s neighbors and forgive people who wrong you.  It’s no more possible to do that in most cases, but it feels right.  There is something praiseworthy about the notions.  It matches our gut feelings and the life experiences we build up which have led us to an understanding of right and wrong and the advantage of supporting the right to the greatest degree possible.  People who read the bible for inspiration, for positive thinking, for its comforting notion that there is a big daddy out there who will take care of you and explain away all the absurdities and injustices that plague our everyday, those people – let’s call them seekers – make one understand that religion need not be cruel and destructive.  In fact, it’s only cruel and destructive if you cherry-pick the wrong parts.  If you ignore the love/duty/friendship/charity portions of the Qur’an and stress the militant parts, for example.  If you sing praises to the Lord of Hosts (ever stop to realize that Hosts means armies?) instead of the Lord who makes the blind to see.  And while we’re at it, “Heavenly hosts?”  Really?  God needs an army in heaven?

There’s a battle going on over whether Islam is really a religion of peace, as its name implies.  Or whether, as people like Hamed Abdel-Samad and Sam Harris like to claim, Islam is inherently violent and that ISIS and Al Qaeda and all the other Islamic terrorists are merely “reading their Qur’an correctly.”  Yes, the answer is.  They are reading their Qur’an correctly.  They open it up, see that its tells them to cut off the heads of infidels, and go out and do their god’s bidding.  There was a time when the pope got Christians to behave in like manner.  They were reading their scriptures correctly.  What they were not doing was cherry-picking, recognizing that their so-called holy scriptures are compendia of history of their tribe at different stages in its development and therefore by nature wide-ranging in scope and contradictory in content.

Don’t want to bash the brains of your enemies’ kids against a rock?  Don’t.  Cherry-pick that part out and toss it in the trashcan of history, something from a time of intense hatred of one’s enemies and the need to be brutal and heartless.  Don’t like the rule in Deuteronomy 22:28-29 that says
   If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days.
Toss it out.  Recognize that we have evolved as a society where women are not the property of men any longer, and put that rule in the “no longer relevant” column, along with the rules for not eating pork or shellfish.

Time to take a second look at the word “cherry-pick.”

It’s not a word to throw at people with a sneer.

When I lived in Saudi Arabia I remember talking about abortion with one of my students.  Not a very well-educated young man, not traveled, not sophisticated.  “What does the Qur’an say about abortion?” I asked him.  “I don’t think it says anything about abortion,” he answered.  “I think that’s one of the places where Allah wants you to use the brain he gave you to make your own decision.”

A Protestant might have an easier time with his answer than a traditionalist Catholic.  But in the end, thinking Christians can agree with thinking Muslims and Jews and others as well that right and wrong are not something you look up in a book.  You deal with it as best you can.  You struggle with moral dilemmas, you use the wisdom of your community and loved ones to find a course of behavior to follow.  You may even use some holy scriptures on occasion for inspiration.

But you cherry-pick.  

Pick the good parts.  

Leave the rest.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Down with the Kakistocracy

Here’s a multiple-choice quiz for you.

In 1829, the English writer, Thomas Love Peacock, a close friend of Percy Bysshe Shelley, coined the term kakistocracy, to mean “government by the least qualified and most unprincipled citizens.”  What is the origin of the term?

1.     Radio station KAKI in Juneau, Alaska (88.1 FM)
2.     The city of Kaki, in the Iranian province of Bushehr
3.     The village of Kaki, in the French Polynesian Tuamotu Archipelago
4.     The name used by the residents of the town of Kaltenkirchen to refer to the place where they live, when they don’t want to take the time to say all four syllables
5.     Abubaker Kaki, the Sudanese runner
6.     Kaki King, the musician
7.     a misspelling of khaki
8.     the Telegu word for crow
9.     the Maori word for the world’s rarest wading bird, the black stilt
10.  the Hungarian word for shit
11.  the Japanese word for persimmon…()
12.  …or fence or hedge or wall ( or sometimes , a variant writing of )
13.  …or oyster (牡蠣)
14.  …or firearms (火器)
15.  …or summertime (lit. “the flowering season”) (夏季)
16.  …or flower vase (花器)
17.  …or “as follows” (下記) (and there you see one of the main arguments for retaining kanji - to disambiguate the many homonyms)
18.  the ancient Greek word κάκιστος – kakistos – meaning “the worst”

Whatever the origin, I am joining in spirit the 40 democratic members of Congress who have committed themselves to skipping out on the inauguration of a colossal American kakistocracy on Friday.  And I am joining with a number of friends in body and spirit the Women’s March the following day in Oakland, California.  For those of you who can make it, it begins at Madison and 9th (by the Lake Merritt BART Station).  It will go up Oak to Lake Merritt, then along the lake past Snow Park and the Cathedral, left on Grand Avenue to Broadway, then down Broadway to the City Center.  Gathering time is 10 a.m. 

If I weren’t 99% certain that’s about all the walking I can do for one day, I would then hop BART over to San Francisco and join in their candlelight march on the same day, starting with a rally at 3 at the Civic Center and a march at some point down Market St. to the Embarcadero.  For those of you in the South Bay, there is also a march in San Jose starting at 10 a.m. in front of City Hall and ending at Cesar Chavez Plaza.  And if you live elsewhere in the country, word has it there are some 600 others to choose from!

What can we do, at this point, but register our dismay at the takeover of government by people willing to throw up to thirty-two million people off their health care insurance plans by 2026 and 18 million within the coming year, give preference to charter schools over public schools, deny climate change? To a gaggle of folk led by a pathologically narcissistic leader who uses language to rouse crowds and then denies having made his own statements in spite of incontrovertible evidence that he has made them, the presence of millions of eyes and ears.  A leader who promised to “drain the swamp,” leading most Americans to believe that meant rule by the 1% and then pulled a switch and proceeded to increase and tighten the very oligarchic control people thought he was freeing them from.  A man who tells the great civil rights leader John Lewis, who fought for the rights of blacks to vote his entire life, and got a cracked skull for his efforts, that he is “all talk and no action.”  A man who feuds with traditional media outlets and reaches out to the white supremacist organization Breitbart as its propaganda organ.  A man who has thrown his support behind the further proliferation of nuclear weapons.

I hope the marches will highlight the fact that despite the technical legitimacy of Trump’s win (I disagree with Lewis on that), the way the election was managed is highly suspect.   Our intelligence agencies assure us there was Russian interference; there is a strong argument to be made that the FBI chief sabotaged Hillary Clinton’s campaign at a crucial final moment; and he actually came in behind by nearly three million votes, but won anyway, thanks to a bizarre and outdated electoral system kept in place in part by the gerrymandering of voting districts.

I support Oakland’s decision to refer to this march not as a “protest” march, but a march of support for the rights of women and minorities, a movement, in the organizers words, “to unify and empower everyone who stands for human rights, civil liberties, and social justice for all… to find healing and strength through tolerance, civility, and compassion.”

But at the same time, I think most people marching will share my conviction that, whether you call it one or not, it is a protest march.  And not just against the assumption of power by a superrich bunch of self-serving bastards.  But over the seriously messed up American way of doing business and running ourselves as a society. While Lewis's claim that Trump is illegitimate is controversial, what is not arguable is that the election brought out in clear relief how thoroughly corrupted America’s political system has become.  How terribly far we have strayed off the path toward democracy to a rule by oligarchs, with the widest gap between rich and poor since 1928. And a tax plan that would give 99.6% of tax cuts to people in the top 1%. 

So much is seriously wrong.  The pitiful sight of watching Americans run from the frying pan that was Hillary Clinton to the fire that is Donald Trump has only revealed the danger of believing what you want to believe, rather than insisting on facts supported by evidence.

I’m marching mostly because I don't know what else to do and I'm so pissed off that I have to move my arms and legs or go crazy.  And I'm hoping it will serve as an impetus for consciousness raising.  For some sign that we can get off this "Make America great again" bullshit train.  Again?  You mean we were a better place once than we are now? When was that?  When we had slaves and committed genocide against the native population?  Before women could vote?  When children worked in factories?  When a black man could be lynched with impunity?  When gays learned self-loathing with their mother's milk?  Just what the hell are we supposed to be going back to?

I know, I know.  I'm getting carried away with the liberal lefty crap.  I know they're referring to a time when we had more manufacturing jobs, and I appreciate that it has been heartbreaking to watch jobs dry up.  And watch your country develop more wealth than ever before, but not get your fair share of it.  But it's not foreigners who took the jobs; it's technology.  Not Mexicans. Robots. And the robots are not going to give them back to you. 

This scapegoating of foreigners has some people (like me) wondering if this isn't opening the door to fascism.

I heard Michelle Malkin tell an audience at UC Berkeley some time ago that we were right to intern Japanese-Americans during World War II.  The audience consisted in large part of Japanese-Americans, some of whom had vivid memories of those camps. Because they're Japanese, they internalized their rage. Instead of storming the stage and ripping her heart out, they sat in their chairs and cried quietly. I consoled myself by saying she was part of the lunatic fringe.

Until I heard her speak again, and tell us this time we should be using that experience to isolate Muslims.  And I realized her lunacy was now a policy advocated by the soon to be inaugurated president-elect.

I'll tell you what I'd like to go back to.  To a time before Republicans began sneering when they uttered the word "progressive." 

Progress is going from good to better and hoping to eventually get to the best.  

Best.  You know.  That's the opposite of the worst.