We should accept more refugees not make it harder for them

We already require refugees to go through absurd hoops. We admitted just barely over 12,000 people last year. I say admitted because clearly many Americans do not wish to welcome them. The Syrian war — which partially exists because of our war in Iraq — has caused millions of refugees to leave Syria (plus millions more who have had to move within Syria). Most of the external refugees have gone to neighboring countries and some to Europe.

We have accepted maybe a few tens of thousands of those millions. We are the wealthiest nation that has ever existed in the history of humanity. We consider ourselves the most free country to have existed in all of human history. We believe in the ability of any human being to be and do great things. We believe the accident of your birth should not define the scope of your life.

We have only accepted a few tens of thousands of people from Syria.

I am deeply ambivalent about religion and the possibility of God. But that our President is about to further restrict people fleeing war and death based on little more than bigotry and xenophobia makes me look over my shoulder. That feeling that I — that we — are being watched and judged haunts me.

I am holding back tears that all I can do here is write, to call my Democratic representatives who can do little to change this and give money. There are so many things I can care about that I have to partition them off and ignore them much of the time.

The president is planning wrong today. The congress is going to encourage him to. History will look back at us and judge, even if God may not.

March and Call and Write!

I know a lot of folks don’t like protest marches or don’t think they are useful. But they are IF you then get more engaged.

Call and write your elected officials. You can have more impact locally in a lot of cases so don’t just call people in national office! You’ve probably got a mayor, city councillors, maybe a county council, probably multiple state legislators, a governor! They all matter a lot and people are generally even less engaged in state and local politics. Pick a couple issues (or even one) you care a lot about and find out what they are all doing, then call and write.

Write media outlets about their coverage. Subscribe and pay for some media if you can. Yes they will make mistakes covering politics. Write them when they do. Mention you are a subscriber.

Show up to local activist groups. The local Democratic Party needs and wants you to show up. They have meetings where they decide what to focus on and who to support. If you’re conservative but don’t like some of what Republicans are doing, then please, please show up. Your voice is needed. I don’t believe we are as polarized as it seems — I just believe the most extreme voices control the parties. If party politics isn’t your thing, find a local group on a cause you care a lot about and show up to their meetings and events.

And if the main way you want to engage is to push back against Trump and radical changes by Republicans controlling all branches of government, there’s a guide just for that.

Finally, think about running for office or supporting a friend do it! Politicians really are just people like you. I believe most do actually mean it when they say they run for office to make peoples lives better. You can too.

Why I am Marching Tomorrow

First, to get this out of the way: I am not marching “against Trump”.

Now, obviously I believe he holds odious notions. He thinks poorly of women and has likely assaulted more than he can count on his hands. His words make it clear he thinks all black people are a racist caricature from television. He is explicitly anti-Christian in his words against Muslims and immigrants. What would Jesus do? The one I studied in Bible school would insist I welcome Muslims and immigrants, not keep or kick them out. The list of his failures before he even takes office is long.

But Trump wasn’t elected alone. The leadership of the Republican party sat by and said it was okay to vote for him. I understand party politics and representatives you like. When one of my senators — both of whom I like — say what they think, I don’t dismiss it out of hand. So when Paul Ryan told his constituents vote Republican for president, of course they did. With few exceptions, the Republican party leadership went along with Trump because they hoped they could ride him to legislative success.

So I’m marching against Republican plans to take health care away from millions of Americans. I’m marching against Republican plans to deny help to more the poorest among us so that the wealthiest can contribute even less to running our society. I’m marching against Republican plans to force women to have babies while not taking care of those babies after birth.

I’m marching against their creeping fascism. The executive is already powerful and the Republicans may find that while they quietly try to pass their agenda, they have let the Republic fall.

I’m marching for the perfection of the union. I need to tell people that we are here. That we want to work to make America better. That we believe America is great but we still need to make it better. That we do not do enough to lift the poorest out of poverty. That immigrants are not a threat but the strength of the union. That when we work for the rights of those who have been treated worst then we work for the rights of all.

I’m marching to remind the country and the world that we exist. I’m marching to remind my friends and and fellow Americans that they too can show up and are not alone. That bluster and demonization are not what we are. That we are here and will stay here and will not be quiet.

Let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season, we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.

This week in Congress, Jan 3–6, 2017

In case you were under the misapprehension that Trump is the anomaly — that the things he’s advocated and said are beyond acceptability in national politics and don’t represent the Republican party or that Republican leaders just went along with him because they hope he’ll rubber stamp their different agenda — here are a few things that happened in the first week of the new Congressional session:

  • A bill was introduced (versions in both houses) to replace the national personal and corporate income taxes, estate taxes and employment taxes with a national consumption tax. All policy I’ve ever seen on this topic suggests the rate would have to be incredibly high and would be extremely regressive in order to come anywhere near to replacing income taxes.

  • Senator Inhofe introduced a bill (no text available yet on congress.gov) that would seemingly allow the indefinite detention of an undocumented person if the US couldn’t find another government willing to accept them. Currently, if we can’t find a country that will take someone after a time period, we release them back into the United States. Because it’s pretty damn immoral to keep someone indefinitely in detention. Another bill also appears to be planning to use gang association rules (notably unfair) to deport legal immigrants.
  • A ridiculous bill was introduced that requires agencies to repeal or amend two rules for each rule they want to create or amend. The outcome of any such rule would probably just be pointless extra paper busy work to create additional changes and simplifications to justify new rules.
  • More border patrolling nonsense legislation. Despite the fact that net migration between Mexico and the United States is such that more people are going towards Mexico, this bill wants 1500 more border patrol agents! Relatedly, a House Republican introduced a bill for that Wall the President-elect made as a cornerstone of his campaign.
  • A bill to repeal gun-free zones.
  • Some bill that appears almost certainly to be an abortion ban (given the version from last session). Reminder that abortion restriction laws at this point are about making it nearly impossible for people to get a legal, safe abortions by making it more complicated to get them and harder for providers to comply with the law. For example, the version from last session made an exception in the case of incest or rape, but only if reported to law enforcement. Remind me again how many people don’t report their rapes?
  • Relatedly, other Republicans are attempting to destroy organizations that provide health care for women, especially low income women, because a minority of their organization is devoted to providing abortion services. I have a long comment on that. These kinds of bills are attempts to end legal, safe abortion without having to take the political risk of advocating an outright and complete ban.
  • Some people are lucky and are born in the United States and other people are unlucky and are born in places and times that end up suffering war. Some Republican Congress people want to make it harder for unlucky people to come here (summary from last session’s version — for some reason there are two versions this session). Relatedly, some Republican Congress people want to punish> all residents of cities that chose not to demonize immigrants.
  • Speaking of unlucky people, other Republicans want to reduce foreign aid to countries based on how many refugee children from their countries end up in the United States.
  • Other Republicans want to cut the budgets of everything that isn’t related to the military or border protection by 1%, 2% or 5%. I assume Rep. Blackburn introduced all three versions hoping to get one passed. But if you needed proof that Republicans only care about fiscal conservatism when it means cutting spending on things they don’t like, here it is.
  • Some Republicans think energy conservation standards shouldn’t exist.
  • So you know how anyone lucky enough to be born in the United States is a citizen? Some Republicans want to change that. Gotta add more ways to punish those children whose parents came here the wrong way by making sure we can deport a kid whose only known the United States (and probably English) to some place they may never have even visited!
  • Some Republicans want to repeal the Johnson Amendment. That’s the tax rule that says organizations (often churches) that have tax-exempt status are not allowed to directly endorse or oppose specific candidates for public office.
  • Of course Republicans are going to try to pass repeals of the Affordable Care Act. The Senate is already fast-tracking legislation to repeal it. Republicans have offered no credible replacement legislation that would result in equivalent levels of health care. Relatedly, one Republican thinks he can dictate to the judicial branch which decisions they can cite and introduced legislation to ban judges from citing certain cases related to the ACA.
  • You know what would be good for international stability? Leaving the United Nations.

I realize that most of these bills won’t pass. Those that do will be significantly modified. But these are the legislative priorities of Republicans in Congress. The things the President-elect has advocated are not all that different than what the actual Republican party wants to pass.

Want to keep up with what is going on? You can browse all legislation for the current session or read the daily digests. They aren’t doing this in secret. If you have a Republican representative or Senator, call them when they support legislation you would not want. If yours are Democrats, then still call them on topics you care about. Get involved in state politics (do you know who represents you in your state legislature?)

(Note: this won’t necessarily be a regular feature despite the title.)