All a man needs out of life is a place to sit ‘n’ spit in the fire.

Author: Jim (Page 5 of 50)

Father of 4, Engineer, Social Worker, longtime blogger, #linux user. Opining on the internet? What else is it for?

Walls Don’t Actually Work

Walls don’t actually work was the first lesson in my Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) class at my university many many years ago. I don’t remember why it was the first lesson, perhaps it was an easy to explain concept, disabusing us of poorly conceived defensive strategies, or trying to set a paradigm for future problem solving based not on defensive but rather offensive strategies. Gen. Patton’s pithy “Go forward” expresses the foundation of US Military strategy and tactics. In any case, our instructor launched into a brief and simplified explanation of why the Maginot Line was not an effective war strategy despite its costly and well engineered construction.

Simply put, undefended or underdefended obstacles aren’t effective. Walls aren’t substitutes for boots on the ground. The Marginot Line was insufficiently defended and provided a false sense of security. Although part of its purpose was to redirect any attacking forces, the mindset that a passive barrier could be effective undermined the goals and objectives of actually defeating the enemy. In short, a wall or obstacle whether of concrete, steel, mines, barbed wire, or whatever without an effective operational plan isn’t going to solve your problem.

You can slow down or redirect the advance of your opposition with obstacles, but you ain’t gonna stop them.

This was the point that was hammered home over and over again throughout my military education. You have to have a plan to win, and you must advance. Use obstacles to redirect your opposition and as part of your overall offensive plan, but don’t think they by themselves will stop the enemy or win you the day.

If you believe that a wall built along 2000 miles of undefended border with Mexico is sufficient to stop immigrants from crossing, I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell  you. I’ll take it further; if you think it makes economic sense to first build a wall then place the military or Homeland Security along the entire border to stop a few thousand people who want to come work, something in the basic educational process has failed.

That’s why nobody wants the wall. As it’s being sold, it’s an expensive proposition that will do nothing. Exactly nothing. It would be nothing more than miles and miles of undefended ineffective wall no matter how big, no matter how tall, no matter how thick. If it were to be properly implemented with appropriate levels of vigilance, it’s now an even more expensive solution to a problem that doesn’t actually exist in the first place.

If Capt. Bone Spurs had spent any time in the military perhaps he would have learned this.

Atlas Is a Myth

This is a scene from the book Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I have taken the liberty of inserting myself into it in order to argue with Francisco d’Anconia’s stupidity. I’m not sure yet if he’s meant to be an ironic character or what, but whatever. In the scene I am taller, more eloquent, and better looking than in real life. Hah! James Taggart is the brother of the main female protagonist Dagny Taggart, and a jealous moron. Not only does he seem to be stupid, but tries to sabotage his sister at every turn. He’s also a strawman for what Ayn Rand seems to think is the best of the socialist idealist. Francisco d’Anconia is from an Argentinian mining family and is a former lover of Dagny. In this scene he has returned from a disastrous mining venture in Mexico where the entirety of his and the Taggart’s operations have been seized by the state. We currently find James and Francisco mingling at a party thrown by the wife of another industrialist.

James Taggart had approached the group and was waiting to be noticed.

“Hello, Francisco.”

“Good evening, James.”

“What a wonderful coincidence, seeing you here! I’ve been very anxious to speak to you.”

“That’s new. You haven’t always been.”

“Now you’re joking, just like in the old days.” Taggart was moving slowly, as if casually, away from the group, hoping to draw Francisco after him. “You know that there’s not a person in this room who wouldn’t love to talk to you.”

“Really? I’d be inclined to suspect the opposite.” Francisco had followed obediently, but stopped within hearing distance of the others.

“I have tried in every possible way to get in touch with you,” said Taggart, “but . . . but circumstances didn’t permit me to succeed.”

“Are you trying to hide from me the fact that I refused to see you?”

“Well . . . that is … I mean, why did you refuse?”

“I couldn’t imagine what you wanted to speak to me about.”

“The San Sebastián Mines, of course!” Taggart’s voice rose a little.

“Why, what about them?”

One of the group edged closer to James and Francisco, drawn by Taggart’s rising agitation. He was tall and heavy and barrel chested. In contrast to the angular high cheekbones of the lot of them, his face was smooth, rounded, and punctuated by an ample chin. He looked more at home bailing hay than holding a drink.

“Pardon me,” he smiled reaching his hand out. “I couldn’t help but overhear this talk of the mines. Do go on, and pay no attention to me. Pretend I am but a fly on the wall. We can all hear you anyway, but I’d prefer to just be up front about it.”

James shot him a sideways glance and reluctantly returned the handshake. Francisco straightened up to match the height of the interloper, and greeted him. “Pleased to meet your acquaintance. Didn’t catch you name.”

“Oh, my name is unimportant. Fly on the wall an’ all that. I must hear about these mines.”

Taggart turned himself to Francisco giving the interloper his back the best he could. “But . . . Now, look, Francisco, this is serious. It’s a disaster, an unprecedented disaster—and nobody can make any sense out of it. I don’t know what to think. I don’t understand it at all. I have a right to know.”

“A right? Aren’t you being old-fashioned, James? But what is it you want to know?”

“Well, first of all, that nationalization—what are you going to do about it?”



The interloper smiled and sipped his drink, his eyes twinkling.

“But surely you don’t want me to do anything about it. My mines and your railroad were seized by the will of the people. You wouldn’t want me to oppose the will of the people, would you?”

“Francisco, this is not a laughing matter!”

“I never thought it was.”

“I’m entitled to an explanation! You owe your stockholders an account of the whole disgraceful affair! Why did you pick a worthless mine? Why did you waste all those millions? What sort of rotten swindle was it?”

Francisco stood looking at him in polite astonishment. “Why, James,” he said, “I thought you would approve of it.”


The interloper spat his drink, unable to contain his laughter. “Sorry about that,” he said wiping liquid from his lips. “I didn’t get any on you, Mr. Taggart, did I?”


“Sorry, I know I said I was going to be a fly on the wall, but I really must know, Francisco. Who would approve of a worthless mine? Comeon, my man, you mustn’t play so, toying with James like that. He’s asked a valid question, and he deserves an earnest response.”

Francisco smirked. So it was to be two on one, eh? He was the great Francisco d‘Anconia. This should get good.

“I thought you would consider the San Sebastián Mines as the practical realization of an ideal of the highest moral order. Remembering that you and I have disagreed so often in the past, I thought you would be gratified to see me acting in accordance with your principles.”

“What are you talking about?”

Francisco shook his head regretfully. “I don’t know why you should call my behavior rotten. I thought you would recognize it as an honest effort to practice what the whole world is preaching. Doesn’t everyone believe that it is evil to be selfish? I was totally selfless in regard to the San Sebastian project. Isn’t it evil to pursue a personal interest? I had no personal interest in it whatever. Isn’t it evil to work for profit? I did not work for profit—I took a loss. Doesn’t everyone agree that the purpose and justification of an industrial enterprise are not production, but the livelihood of its employees? The San Sebastián Mines were the most eminently successful venture in industrial history: they produced no copper, but they provided a livelihood for thousands of men who could not have achieved, in a lifetime, the equivalent of what they got for one day’s work, which they could not do.

Isn’t it generally agreed that an owner is a parasite and an exploiter, that it is the employees who do all the work and make the product possible? I did not exploit anyone. I did not burden the San Sebastián Mines with my useless presence; I left them in the hands of the men who count. I did not pass judgment on the value of that property. I turned it over to a mining specialist. He was not a very good specialist, but he needed the job very badly. Isn’t it generally conceded that when you hire a man for a job, it is his need that counts, not his ability? Doesn’t everyone believe that in order to get the goods, all you have to do is need them? I have carried out every moral precept of our age. I expected gratitude and a citation of honor. I do not understand why I am being damned.”

The interloper’s belly laugh filled the room. So loud, it was, that all turned to him. “Oh, I’m so sorry,” he said wiping a tear from his eye, “I sometimes forget myself. Francisco, you can’t possibly believe all that vomit that just came out of your mouth? Tell me, man, is your hyperbole meant to be ironic? If it is, bravo for painting the most deliciously ridiculous portrait of a Socialist that I have ever seen. If not, then -” and he chuckled loudly, “then may God have mercy on your soul.”

Francisco, turned toward the man, nudging Taggart from orbit. “Pray tell, sir, what do you mean? I was being honest. Sincere.”

“Oh. Well then. Then you have taken careful pains to depict your adversary’s argument in the worst possible light, haven’t you, Señor d‘Anconia? Perhaps Taggart is a charity case to your wit. I mean, we all know it’s his sister that’s the smart one in the family, but you can’t possibly ascribe to him and his ilk such a dreadfully idiotic and logically fallacious position. No offense, Mr. Taggart,” he said touching his shoulder.

If James Taggart had any inclination that the stranger would have been a sympathetic associate in the face of Francisco, that pretense had been destroyed.

In the silence of those who had listened, the sole comment was the shrill, sudden giggle of Betty Pope: she had understood nothing, but she saw the look of helpless fury on James Taggart’s face.

People were looking at Taggart, expecting an answer. They were indifferent to the issue, they were merely amused by the spectacle of someone’s embarrassment. Taggart achieved a patronizing smile and walked away.

“Hah!” bellowed the stranger. “I’ll give you your answer, Francisco. It’s down to you. And it is down to me. Let me first help you understand why your mines failed, my man. They failed because you didn’t give a lick of care to them or the workers, for the geological survey, for the operations, and for the investment. How could you even make such a statement as to having given to them all livelihoods? You and I both know that is ridiculous. It’s the kind of point that a college freshman makes after his first semester of microeconomics. Take for example the case of a state-mandated minimum wage – ”

“Yes, let’s.” said Francisco.

“Yes, minimum wage. So one would say in a free society that labor should seek its own value and that business should be free to pay for it what the market will bear. In our society we have established a minimum that one should be able to accept and what one should be able to pay. The buffoon, the ignorant, the ill-educated might ask, where does it all end? If such and such quantity is good, why not make the minimum a thousand dollars an hour or a million? Where will it end? You would say that it would end with the rumination of society, where everybody is converted into a moocher or a looter. You have educated us, Señor d‘Anconia, and thank you for it. Thank you for revealing our silly suppositions and saving us from ourselves.

“Let me give you a better scenario. Let me give some respect to the argument and introduce a key concept that seems to have gone missing in the mix.”

“And what would that be?”

“Sustainability, my friend. Sustainability. Your little educative adventure in San Sebastián was an exercise in useless motion, lots of sound and fury but signifying nothing. Keep the same altruism. Keep the same tenants of providing good jobs. Keep the same principles of happy well paid workers, but put a dash of sustainability into the batter. You’ve got to find some copper, don’t you? Without producing anything in the mine, you may as well have put your money in a pile and lit it on fire. You benefited no one, save  your immense ego.

“You cannot simply take the idea that an individual should be free to do exactly what he wants in the way he wants to do it and extend it to all things in all ways. If a drink of water is good for you, an ocean dumped upon your head must be better. Moderation, my man, moderation. You can’t simply take a little of something and double it, thinking that it will be all the better. Is the needle moving too far into government control? Perhaps. But that’s a discussion that good people can have. If government meddles too much perhaps it distorts markets, creating unintended outcomes. If the government meddles too little, the greedy will exploit – well everything and they too will distort the market. You know this is true, because history has shown it, or was the French Revolution a response to nothing? Were the kings and royals the only true makers? They had palaces and riches while the third estate had their famine and filth. Did they deserve it? Is the vast majority of humanity simply defective in some way, Señor d‘Anconia? Do they deserve the lot they were born into?

“Let me ask you a question. How much of what you have did you start with? You might have doubled it, because you’re a hard worker, impassioned, smart, driven – but there’s this trouble of being born on third base and believing you’ve hit a triple. You grew up with the best schools, global travel, opportunities for leisure, learning, all of it with the safety net of your family’s fortune and reputation.

“Are not those who toil in your mines and ventures worthy of human dignity, to not simply be some sort of social experiment for you to toy with? Should they have had the schools that you had? Should they have had the same opportunities that you’ve had? Are you inherently superior? Do you cry for their children whom you have crushed with your useless operation?

“Did you deserve those things you were born into, Francisco? Even if you were to tear it all asunder, as you seem to be doing, I am convinced that you could rebuild even from zero, because no one can take away your inheritance of self – your mind as it was expanded, nurtured, tested, and filled.” The stranger paused. Francisco had gone quiet, chewing his lip and looking restless.

“I have taken too much of your time, I’m afraid. Don’t worry, Francisco, I’ll leave you with one final thought. If you had been born to nothing, having only inherited the poverty of your father, and your father’s father, do you think you would be where you are today? You may be, but would it be likely? Today, with your immense wealth you would attempt to throw off the shackles of oppression by the looters and the moochers, but is not poverty itself the greatest ball and chain?” The stranger took a breath, downed his drink and placed the empty glass upon a passing tray. “Be better, Francisco. You must be better. I am reminded of an African proverb – if you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go with others. Do you want to go far, Francisco?”

American Exceptionalism – Wealth as a Signal for Virtue

Recently I’ve been immersing myself in so-called right wing media and thought. It started with watching Fox News, and it’s culminated finally with reading Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. I must say, I have enjoyed the journey of discovery, of shedding pre-conceptions, erring on the side of the defense of conservatism, and seeking the Right’s best and purest argument. Forget the jingoistic, the dog whistle appeals to racism, isolationism, and misogyny. Forget name-calling. Forget caricature.  I sought out what were the noblest of their ideals among people of good faith. These people are not found on Fox News. Fox News is caricature.

What do earnest people on the Right seek for individuals? What do they seek for society? Well the short answer is purpose and productivity – noble aspirations to be sure, but it’s slightly more complex than that and leads us down the path of how American society has been constructed.

I bought the book, Atlas Shrugged, nearly twenty years ago on a whim. I had been hungry to go through the classic science fiction giants. I stocked up on Heinlein, Bradbury, Asimov, among others. I chose Atlas Shrugged because I had heard of it. I can’t recall exactly, but it and Fountainhead called my attention. I had no idea of its political or philosophical tone in its promotion of Rand’s Objectivism. In fact, I knew nothing about her or her philosophy.  The book was a multiple reprinted classic, featured prominently among others in the Science Fiction section. Atlas was also the thickest, so I intended to read it last.

By the time I got to Atlas, I probably had run out of steam, but I couldn’t get into it. Barely 25 pages into the novel, I put it down and didn’t touch it for twenty years.

Bringing us forward into the present, I have chosen to revisit Atlas Shrugged in part because I wanted to understand what all the hulabaloo was about and because Ayn Rand’s Wikipedia page seems unnecessarily personal and hateful, that is, the attacks against the book and against her personally seemed illogical. Here was a woman who published two acclaimed novels, with Atlas Shrugged featuring a woman as a classical heroic character in a time when women’s roles were on the sidelines. I’ve got to give this another chance, I thought. And look at how I’m equivocating about my choices. It’s embarrassing that I feel the need to explain why I read it. Don’t be afraid to read Atlas Shrugged. It’s a good book. You’ll enjoy it. Just don’t treat it like a guide for your life choices, okay?

And I am glad I did. I enjoyed the book. I don’t agree with objectivism, but I think I understand where it is coming from, and I now see why it makes so much sense in American culture.

That an individual’s highest aim in life is purpose, is to work, is to create, and to do so without malice, greed, or malfeasance, embodies the American Protestant ethos, the molecules of social DNA sown on the shores with the discarded Puritan refuse of foreign lands. Max Weber defined the confluence of the virtues of noble work in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, a series of essays latter bundled together, expressing economic output within a Protestant religious framework.

Ayn Rand, seems to draw unwittingly from Max Weber, but perhaps more deliberately from Benjamin Franklin who wrote of the virtues of industry and frugality, based upon his Puritan upbringing. Wealth is a byproduct of a moral life dedicated to purpose and productivity. Take your five shillings, he said in letter from An Old Trademan, and multiply it by working it. In short, wealth is never the point, but rather a measure of God’s favor upon you.

Wealth is a signal for virtue.

America was founded on these principles, and they are deeply embedded in the social construct, for Left and Right alike, and this framework defines public policy as implemented in social programs, economic management, personal and corporate taxes, and in a myriad of ways that just “make sense” to Americans. That there are makers and takers, those with virtue and those without is unquestioned, and informs all expressions of socialist programs through stigmatizing those collecting disability, food, unemployment, etc.  At the same time, corporations are now people. I probably could just stop here. Just cut out the middleman, and wash away the individual failings, and put all our virtue signaling in the aggregate of corporate entities. People are generally good, right? So a corporation must be generally good and virtuous. We know it is so, because – look at the stock price. Forget the fact that malfeasance is still individual and now hides behind the cover of the Inc.

We fall victim to this virtue signaling by falsely identifying it when there is none but wealth, when virtue is bankrupt but dollars still flow. To have been in God’s grace, your path to wealth must have been virtuous, but it is so difficult to see it when some people won’t release their tax returns. So those of low virtue hide among the faithful, wolves in sheep’s clothing distorting, gaming, and manipulating for their own glorification and not the glorification of God.

But I get it, it’s tough to call them out, so entrenched is the signal of the almighty dollar. I also understand how decent Americans can vote Republican. It’s that hard to admit the brokenness of the signal.

America’s Protestant virtue social construct, I believe, creates resistance to recontextualizing achievements in the face of new information. Global Warming – How could our industrial development and progress have doomed us all? Those who achieved, the greats throughout American history, the railroad barons, the steel magnates, the developers – all of them were unquestionably virtuous because of their wealth. They were rewarded, and how could they have been rewarded if they weren’t virtuous. God bestows his blessings upon the just and the just are the makers not the looters and the moochers. What if those that extracted from the ground, mined wealth, laid track, build sky scrapers instead of the virtue they professed, were actually marching humanity toward an unmarked mass grave? Can you wonder why there might be resistance to such a concept?

Recontextualizing the achievers of a past age runs the risk of nullifying an American core value, perhaps THE core value, that wealth and production signal God’s grace. Manifest destiny’s final outcome signaled grace upon the nation – no matter how we got there, and if there be messiness, it would come to matter less and less as the generations passed, as textbooks excluded diverse viewpoints and left the dirtiness buried in a mass grave with wealth as the only artifact.

I’m Convinced it’s Personal

Here we are again. The carousel goes round and round. It’s starting to get boring. The right start chanting, “This is your religion of peace?!” The left’s reply, “They want you to be afraid of Muslims. And intermingled there is a chorus of, in no particular order: It’s part of their agenda. They want terror. They want a caliphate. They want to kill infidels. They are poor, disenfranchised, radicalized by individuals with their own agenda. It’s the oil sheikh in Saudi Arabia, desperate to hold onto their fragile claim to power. They hate our freedoms. They are avenging civilian casualties of the bombs of the West. They are protesting Israel. They want to establish an Islamic State. They want the West out of the Mideast.

And the list goes on, but I’m not convinced any of it is correct. In fact, I think it’s personal, deeply individually personal.

Is it any coincidence that more than a fair share of these nutjobs are reformed libertines? Osama Bin Laden was himself a hard partying, drinking, girl crazy young man. I don’t know whether his stash of porn in his compound in Pakistan is propaganda or not, but it fits the narrative of a self-hating, self professed sinner whose turn to Allah, “saved him.”

We’ve heard these stories from friends and relatives too, haven’t we? They went down the wrong path, drugs, sex, booze only to “find” Jesus and become born again. Now they want to push their particular theology down everyone’s throat. I was an evil sinner, corrupted by a world bent on my destruction, and slide toward the eternal abyss.

I have had these people around me my whole life. To them I am an infidel, unsaved, on my way to an eternal damnation, just because I can’t utter the same platitudes they do. Logic does not function with these people, nor does just the faintest of ideas that perhaps possibly there is just a smidgen of room for difference of interpretation of what “following Jesus” means. The Bible is inerrant. It is factual. Written by GOD himself. If you disagree, you have been tainted by evil.

They have similar stories, many of them. They slipped down a path that grew dark. They blamed the society around them. Easy access to drugs, alcohol, girls dressed suggestively, or boys looking so good, giving in to the temptations of the flesh. Shamed, their weaknesses exposed and raw, they sought to cover up in the trappings of religious fundamentalism.

It is also telling how many withdraw from society, homeschooling their children, turning off mass media, limiting contact with those that would corrupt them. Their worldview is limited to the fiery rhetoric from within their Christian 99% white church communities. They don’t want anything to do with society at large, because to them, it is a corrupting influence.

So let’s walk it back a bit. What does a self-hating weak-fleshed young person do when he is confronted with “sin” all around him, an aberrant society that seems to take a special interest in him personally? This society seems, from his point of view, to delight in pushing a “gay agenda” upon him, of rubbing his nose in sexual images, easy booze, legal pot, gender perspectives, political correctness, abortion, war on Christmas, and the continued secularization of America. He falls a couple of times, but his cultural baggage catches up with him and weighs heavily upon his unworthy flesh.

What does this person’s path to redemption look like? Leave society, turn off TV, join a Christian church. If you are a man, you will provide. If you are a woman you will be subservient in all things. This is how you straighten yourself out. It works for some people, I guess.

So here is the final question: What happens when these routes to redemption seem to be blocked, when desperation for one’s eternal soul overwhelms all other concerns?

I am convinced that modern terrorists are each on very personal journeys of redemption made available to them by their faith, lubricated by their self-imposed distance and alienation from the mainstream, and culminating in one final horrific act. The fact that they don’t believe they can knee and pray, seeking peaceful strength in submission to Allah, or say an Our Father, and a couple of Hail Marys to redouble their efforts is a terrible shame.

His Domain is Chaos

I am terribly sorry that these entries continue to highlight our dear leader, President Trump. Uggh, even just typing those words gives me shudders. But whatever. It is what it is. I’m still trying to process how it came to be, how this bombastic spaz wormed his way into the White House. How did he pull the wool over so many eyes? How come so many didn’t see him for what he was?

And then it hit me. I think his domain is chaos. He thrives in chaos, where his certainty is an asset. Push and bully and throw down and insult and nickname and pick at insecurities and non-sequitur and lies and half truths and loudness and brashness. Rinse, lather, and repeat.

Trump’s skill seems to derive directly from his creation of chaos.

When I was a young engineer, I worked in construction management in Boston and California. In both places it was both super white and super racist, filled with big trash talking egos that seemed to not have the good of the project in their hearts. It was all about ego and what you could pull over on the other guy. Look for loop holes in the contract, lay blame for missed deadlines and failures at the feet of others, be aggressive, grandstand, bully, don’t back down. So many meetings ended in boisterous yelling matches, with the side wink in the car on the way back to the office. It was all an act and sickening in so many ways. I was an earnest engineer trying to follow the letter of the law, but I learned quickly that the letter was just the starting point. This is how we do things, Jimbo.

It makes sense to me that Trump’s biggest gun on his deck is his teams of lawyers. When what is written is only your starting point, your legal team is there to mash it up, twist it to your favor. Clinton’s famously small potatoes, “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is” seems laughably innocent at this point.

If Anne Frank believes at the end of the day, that most people are good, I am going to conclude that this is the default position for most people, that is, most people know most people are good, and they comport themselves in good faith, expecting the same from others.

When your super power is a lack of empathy and the ability to thrive in chaos, you know that most people will not call your bluff. Most people try to placate. Most people look at themselves and ask, “what did I do wrong?” And when confronted with a great angry beast, they try to pacify, acquiesce, and calm it. It knocks them off their game, and it is there that Trump seizes the upper hand.

It all boils down to the old adage, “I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.”

More Unsolicited Advice for our Dear Leader

Yes, of course border crossings should be controlled and documented. I don’t think anyone is really saying that borders should just be open. I know the radical right likes to paint the left as “for open borders,” but that’s not really the case, and you know it.

What do you do when a mass of people arrive at the border and may perhaps just overrun agents tasked with processing and documenting their entries? What happens when people won’t respect the queue? It can happen, I know, but what do you do? Do you use force? I’d say that if you use force, you’ve already lost.

For starters, you begin by setting the conditions for orderly behavior. You see, once a crisis has arrived at your doorstep, if you have not established a plan, you’re going to fail. By whipping up the rhetoric, dehumanizing, demonizing, and terrorizing these migrants for weeks preceding their arrival, you’ve established the conditions conducive to chaos and fear.

What did you expect to happen?

I fully admit, perhaps this tough and horrifying scene, tear gas, desperate people trying to breach walls, etc, may have played directly into the strategy of our dear leader to further his aims with his base. Again, I know I am probably naive.

What should have been done, though? What would you do if you knew this large group of people was coming en masse, and you probably didn’t have the facilities to process them in a timely or orderly manner? Here is my three step plan:

First, you need to work with the Mexican government to coordinate healthcare, food, and housing for them on the Mexican side while they await processing. Receive them with compassion. Treat them as humanely as possible. These are human beings. I know it’s easy to forget, so I’m reminding you, dear leader.

Second, the US needed to have put out the word, through NGOs in contact with the migrants that their asylum petitions WILL be processed. Tamp down the rhetoric. Calm their fears. When they get to the border, they will be accommodated in their immediate needs (it would certainly be a LOT cheaper than deploying troops to the border, d’uh).

Third, augment capacity to process them fairly on the US side of the border. It’d still be cheaper than troops. Just make sure you ramp up the numbers of bureaucrats, judges, and lawyers taking petitions. Expedite the process. Keep it fair. If the Trump administration’s inclination is to deny deny deny, so be it. But keep it fair. Do not separate parents from children. Do not unnecessarily inflict cruelty upon them. If you’re going to deny their application, have a sound and fair reason for doing so.

So you admit a few asylum seekers, and leave the bulk on the Mexican side of the border. Now what?

The next step would be to provide assistance to the Mexican government for temporary placement. I’m not saying that you have to do it all, but work with the Mexican government to resolve the matter of these people without homes. Jobs programs? Education? Healthcare? Good neighbors care about what happens to each other. Good neighbors have productive dialog. If you really do not want Mexicans or other Latin American folks coming to the US, work harder to foment stable conditions in their home countries instead of CIA backed right wing coups.

You Have the House, Now What Do You Do?

My advice – pursue the business of the people of the United States and don’t waste your time parrying and counter punching with Trump. You do you.

Set an agenda and pursue it. If it doesn’t pass the Senate or if it does, isn’t signed by the President, don’t sweat it. Remember Newt’s “Contract with America?” Maybe you should propose something similar.

Whatever the case, just keep on. Be faithful, steady, consistent. You’ll win nothing, no dignity, no respect, no results, none by simply investigating and blocking anything Trump wants to do. And worse, you’ll lose legitimacy by simply being obstructionist. Nobody likes that.

Got it?

Blessed are the Peacemakers

“Oh, I don’t know about today’s youth, they just don’t have values,” an elderly woman confided to me. “The world just isn’t what it used to be.”

She was scared. She sounded worried, not angry, not judgemental, not self-righteous. She was in her late 80s, and clearly worried about what was to become of the world she helped construct. Even so, I couldn’t let the comment pass unchallenged. I never do.

“I don’t agree. By any objective measure, crime is down, teen pregnancy is down, divorce is down. There are fewer wars. Less starvation. Higher standards of living, not just here, but around the world. I think this generation is more accepting of difference. And just look at how active the youth were when Hurricane Maria hit us. They didn’t turn inward. They looked to help. Such energy, they have. I know for a fact that they are better than the generation that preceded them.

“You really think so?” She said, clasping her hands together. “Oh, that’s good to hear.”

I could have indulged her fears. I could have been quiet. I could have started complaining, mirroring her preoccupations and fear mongering, but how easy it was to change the entire dynamic with an profession of faith in the future, that we’re going to be okay, that things aren’t as dire as they seem.

How the future appears to be is a byproduct of how we talk about it.

So blessed are the peacemakers, who respond to our better selves, and help to foment the conditions where anxious people don’t become more fearful and lose themselves to despair.

Why the Story of Your Food is Important

Food isn’t just sustenance. Food is experience. Food is sharing. Food is community and culture. Without the story, your dish is just a powerbar slammed to get you from point A to point B with no appreciation for the deep connections we share as human beings. And if I may, perhaps there is a cultural component to “food as means to an end” vs “food as an end in itself.”

In many places in the world, people share a deep special bond with the histories and stories around their shared dishes, secret recipes passed down through the generations, peculiar rituals surrounding the preparation of the ingredients, etc.

We don’t come together merely to stuff our faces and satiate our bellies. We’re really filling our souls.

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