Scouting for all

I applaud BSA for this change. Scouting is an excellent program that I believe in and that I spent years supporting as a den leader and Cubmaster. My boys chose not to continue into Boy Scouts, but I had hoped they would. And now I think it’s great that girls will get the same opportunity.

Our country would be better off if more of our citizens – and especially our leaders, both in and out government – lived according to the Scout Oath and Law. And I say this as a secular humanist and a liberal who doesn’t have much use for the more religious and nationalistic elements of Scouting. Broadly, Scouting is about building character and resilience. Those human qualities shouldn’t know any boundaries.

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Carrying on without hope

I hate to admit it, but I approach American politics and current events with a deep sense of despair anymore. It wasn’t a one-two punch, but a one-two-three punch.

First, no one was prosecuted for turning the US into a torturer. Second, no one was prosecuted in the aftermath of the financial crisis. And finally, we took no action after small children were shot to pieces at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Collective madness grips societies, occasionally, so – in a way – it’s what you do after the peak madness that counts. We’re now in our second decade of letting enormous wrongs go unaddressed. And I don’t see any hope on the horizon.

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Many Americans voted to make an admitted sexual harasser president. Just sayin’.

If you are critical of Harvey Weinstein and you voted for Trump, then you are part of the problem, not part of the solution to sexual harassment.

On a related topic, this is a key reason I came to dislike Bill Clinton and be suspicious of the Democratic Party. Had he been a Republican, they never would have defended him like they did. None of us can avoid bias in our politics, but party politics seems to make us especially stupid.

Oh, and if you’re one of these people that wants to bring Hillary Clinton into this for some reason, I can only remind you that she’s not the president.

Remember when Pres. Obama was supposedly our most divisive president ever? – Taking the knee

Thanks to our divisive and publicly potty-mouthed president, apparently I now have to think about professional sports, which doesn’t interest me in the least. And apparently, I have to choose whether to side with some athletes over others, which I thought could avoid by ignoring the tribalism of pro sports. Oh, well. Fine. I’ll side with the athletes taking the knee.

America isn’t about a flag. It’s about what the flag represents. And I can tell you, living overseas as I do, that the First Amendment is a hugely important part of the American tradition that should be celebrated, not shut down. You do an enormous disservice to the American promise when you demand mindless nationalism. Any country and its leaders in the world can do that. We’re supposed to be different.

Now, two things more:

First, just because you have the right to speak does not mean that you are free from the consequences. So, if the players face blowback, so be it. Of course, at this moment, it’s unclear if those delivering the blowback aren’t just getting drowned out themselves.

Second, regarding Pres. Trump’s call to fire the players, I can only thank him for pointing out that, really, you have zero free speech at the workplace. In fact, many of the values we cherish in our politics – free speech, free right to organize, the right to challenge authority – are for all practical purposes dead on arrival in the workplace because you can be fired. Thankfully, unlike other countries, free speech in the political sphere in the US is largely free of severe consequences. But in the economic sphere, free speech can destroy your life. Along this line, I applaud the many owners who have chosen to stand with their employees and colleagues, rather than stand with someone who is simply trying to stir up trouble for his own gain.

Some other thoughts:

Regarding the substance of the protest – that blacks in the US face persistent disparities in policing, justice, income, wealth, education, and health and that we should do something about it – well, of course! These disparities are real, and we should address them. It’s what Americans do for one another.

I know that many whites think and say that it’s the blacks’ own fault. You can’t be a white American and not have heard this line of argument before from family, friends, or acquaintances. Some of that, of course, is true. Like all people, we create problems for ourselves, and it can be hard to accept self-blame. But I think that fact is swamped by the tidal wave of history and more recent events that show that whenever the black community tries to stand up on its own or play by the rules, some fraction of the white community is there to push it back down. Just look through past events to find the many examples of black middle-class communities that have been destroyed by white riots or public policy. One riot even happened in the adopted hometown of Abraham Lincoln himself. The American north is not immune here.

Now, whether the take-the-knee protests are the right way to bring people around to this history and these discussions, I don’t know. Maybe. Look at what I’m doing right here. I guess that’s proof.

By the way, I think the best way to address many of these disparities is by focusing on universal values and programs and less on race. But that’s a post for another day.

On a petty point, can anyone explain to me why the heck we reaffirm our patriotism at sports events, anyway? What in the world does that have to do with it? I’ve had one European acquaintance tell me that such a display would actually be considered anti-patriotic in some countries there because a celebration of nationhood should be treated with reverence. Instead, we use it to open events where adults play children’s games and many people spend and earn obscene amounts of money watching them do it.

Finally, what disturbs me the most right now is that, while this knee controversy was stoked by Pres. Trump, he moved us closer to a nuclear war with North Korea and has effectively ignored the plight of our fellow Americans on Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico has more than 3.5 million people. That’s more than 20 states. Ignoring the disaster there is unpatriotic and immoral.

We’re stuck with North Korea

This is the best analysis you’ll hear of our realistic options with North Korea in the short run. Basically, we have to make peace with the fact that the current regime is here to stay and that we are in a situation of mutually assured destruction. There are no reasonable military options. Instead, we need creative options, and the guest on this program, Goldstein, has a few. Two other items from this interview: a reminder that China is under as much of a threat of MAD as the US, and much of this trouble started with the George W. Bush administration, as so many of our foreign policy problems did.

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Don’t Mess with DACA

As someone who has written that Donald Trump, Republicans, and his supporters are not entirely wrong to be concerned that our borders were so porous that 11 million people entered the country illegally, I find his actions on DACA to be utterly ridiculous. These people were children, who had no agency whatsoever in their coming the US. They are fine residents of our country. To put them in limbo, with a hope that Congress will do the right thing, is just cruel. And the people who support this policy are cruel, as well.

Regarding kicking the can to Congress, I’m sympathetic to the argument that handling this issue really was its job all along. For the long-term health of the republic, we need to reign in the imperial presidency. Too much governing gets done by however the sitting president chooses to interpret the law. Congress should make a decision here. It also, ideally, helps get buy-in across the political spectrum. However, Pres. Trump could have made enshrining DACA a legislative priority without tearing the rug up under people. Again, cruel.

 

North Korea doesn’t look entirely crazy to me

Thing is, what North Korea is doing looks perfectly rational to me. If you know hostile nations are committed to your destruction – and have the recently proven capacity and willingness to do so – see Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya – why wouldn’t you get the most powerful weapon possible and try to credibly threaten to use it? This situation represents a policy failure since the Bush administration (at least). Trump just happens to be uniquely unsuitable to fix it.

To be clear, I think someone in the US government has to be saying the crazy stuff that Trump is. North Korea needs to understand that we’re a credible threat, too. But it can’t be the president. That person should appear to be the “good cop”, the sane one. But like all things during the Trump era, we’re living in a bizarro, upside down world.

I’m not saying I know how to fix this, but I’m certain the path out requires the president to be committed to de-escalating the situation, rather than escalating it.