Sunday, January 20, 2013

Four More Years.

On this week's Left, Right and Center show on KCRW, the panelists looked ahead to the second term of President Obama and what they expected from it. The question of a President's legacy is a complicated one. Does one piece of legislation define a President? Or a larger narrative (such as FDR's push for a New Deal, or Reagan's anti-government verbiage)?

Let's look at the most recent Presidents. For George W. Bush, the legacy seems easy... a runaway national security state and a country in a permanent state of war. Bill Clinton? For all his lingering popularity, I doubt many can satisfactorily answer this question. Sadly, in the long run, his legacy may be a financial sector freed from the protections in place since the New Deal. In terms of impact on the nation, I can't think of anything bigger. So, not a great past 20 years so far.

Now, for President Obama. Legislatively, for the first term, there's nothing bigger than the Affordable Care Act (whose ultimate legacy can't yet be known). Narratively, unfortunately, he has been obsessed with chasing the bipartisanship dragon and the idea of "fixing Washington", not by achieving some specific policy agenda, but by making everyone more polite.

To guess at his real legacy, it's important to remember what he inherited-- an economy teetering on the edge of depression, on top of an existing trend of growing economic inequality. Yes, technically speaking, the economy has recovered... albeit in a way that has only exacerbated and exposed that growing economic gap for many. In the end, I fear that is what the Obama legacy will be judged on. Did we turn back the tide on what many people see as the dissolving of the American dream? Or were we satisfied just to keep the ship afloat a little while longer?

Four years ago, on the eve of his first inauguration, I wrote about my cautious optimism for the Obama presidency, given his seeming unwillingness to make any radical changes to the nation. Four years later, with mostly a series of budget fights with Congress on the horizon, my caution remains, with slightly less of the optimism.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Militia America

After recent (endless) tragedies, the issue of gun control went front-and-center in the American political dialogue... before being buried in an avalanche of fiscal cliff puff pieces and general holiday rest. But advocates should not wait until the next mass murder to reawaken the debate. The dialogue must continue now.

A good friend of mine recently posted online his anger at the notion that the government might come and "disarm" him, and steal his property. I focus on this because this general type of statement is the predominant sentiment you hear from gun rights people. This blog post was my rebuttal.

Firstly, regarding the notion that hypothetical gun control laws could be equated with a neighbor stealing another's property, it must be stated that the relationship between the citizens and their government versus the one between citizens and their neighbors isn't really comparable. I don't expect my neighbor to repair roads, fight wars, and send my Nana her Social Security checks, but I do expect the government to.

More importantly, the government is constitutionally allowed to regulate commerce. We accept-- and even want-- this all the time because we are a first-world society (requiring food/drinks to be tested and free of poisons, pollution laws, automobile safety standards, workplace safety, consumer & banking protections, etc)... but we think of guns as different because of the culture around them. What type of guns/ammo can be sold, and how, is well within the regulatory authority of legislatures. Even constitutional literalist Supreme Court Justice Scalia, while upholding gun rights overall, defended this concept, even noting that the Founders themselves imposed limitations as was seen fit.

It is no more unconstitutional to regulate guns than it is for the government to tell a car company they can't sell cars with faulty brakes. And if gun control laws were passed-- which, really, there is little chance of, given the cowards in the Capitol-- no one is coming for anyone's guns. Let's use my car example. If you bought/own a car that is later made illegal and it's in your garage, is someone "coming" for it? No. If you are seen using that illegal item out in public, then yes, you are subject to legal action.

Of course, all gun control proposals on the table are about banning assault weapons, automatics/semis, high-capacity magazines, etc... weapons whose only design is mass murder. No one is talking about banning self-defense handguns or hunting rifles. This is the huge misnomer here.

(For instance, here is what we know about the guns the Newtown killer had in his possession. I can't see any justification for why someone needs this weapon for self-defense or hunting or any rational reason. What scenario do people fear where they need such an arsenal? Zombie apocalypse?)

We also already have have gun regulations in place-- background check rules, things like that-- that even most gun owners in polls agree with. So there is zero disagreement on whether legislatures have constitutional authority to regulate guns... just a general and fair debate on what regulations we as a society want.

That's my substantive retort.

As an aside, though, I reject this culture around people feeling they need to have major arsenals (like the Lanzas had) in their home to protect their family. Why is it that the supposed tough guys are more afraid of the world around us than us supposed cowards? The heroic tale where someone kills a madman or home invader is exceedingly rare. Not as rare? Situations where someone kills themself, a loved one, or bystander by accident.

Just doing a quick search right now for stories in the past several weeks, I found the following: a man who killed his 7-year-old when his gun accidentally went off in his hands; a woman who killed her brother while posing with a gun for photos; a dad accidentally killed his 8yo son while cleaning his gun; two young kids injured when a gun was brandished about during a domestic dispute between two adults; a 16yo girl shot by her grandpa who mistook her for an intruder; a 3yo who found his dad's gun and shot himself to death; an elderly man who shot himself in the chest at a shooting range; a man who shot himself & a friend while trying to load a gun at a gun show; a man in VT who accidentally killed himself with his gun; a man who shot/killed his brother when he mistook him for an intruder; a man accidently kills a 15yo while showing him a gun, and a woman killed by her brother who was playing with his gun while drunk. That was a quick search of stories from the past month!

Not as many stories about heroes using their guns to save the day.

Now, let me just say that I support peoples rights to own guns, while also supporting the government's right to regulate (the word "regulated", of course being in the 2nd Amendment) that area of our commerce no different from any other.

And I really get frightened when the main pro-gun arguments I come across on Twitter or blogs are from people who seem to want American homes to become a series of self-made militias preparing for some fantasy revolution.... and then think the only reason their fellow citizens might object is because we are freedom-hating Nazis. Maybe we're just more afraid of the unstable people who think they are protecting everyone than we are of the phantom boogeymen hiding behind every corner.

In the end, that is the problem: this boils down to a difference in how people see the world. And the people who see it that way are in control of the debate.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Fantasy Debate

It's the debate period of election season, and people are asking... who won? Was that a gaffe? What did the focus groups say? Less asked is whether these debates are really a helpful exercise for the average American. In last night's VP debate, ABC's Martha Raddatz got a lot of praise for her moderating skills (which, while excellent, benefited greatly from the low bar Jim Lehrer set the week before). But, while she did facilitate a good dialogue between the two candidates, the scope of her questions was rather limited (and Lehrer even moreso). As Grist's David Roberts lamented on Twitter, "They got asked about God, civility, and their souls, but not immigration, education, energy, or climate change. Travesty."

If you only watched these debates, you would think the top economic priorities for Americans are the top marginal tax rates for millionaires, and the budget deficit. Foreign policy? The hypothetical state of Iran's nuclear ambitions, and the state of security at U.S. embassies abroad. Seems rather narrow for a country as famously diverse of opinion as ours.

So I will attempt to do better. If I were hosting a debate, what are the top 10 questions I would want answered? While I come at this from the left, I believe these questions would elicit answers most conservatives would find helpful as well. I did my best to word them as neutral and academic as possible. Feedback is welcome.

1. Four years ago, we had a global economic crash brought on by a housing bubble and risky bets by large banks and the financial sector. This crisis is not only being felt by Americans, but has wrecked havoc across Europe and beyond. Why have there been no prosecutions in the financial sector for this? And with Too-Big-To-Fail still intact, how can we ensure this won't happen again?

[Potential follow-up: If we reject regulation in a free market society, are potential economic crashes and recessions a natural consequence we must accept?]

2. While many actions have been taken to heal the wounds of the crisis, unemployment remains high, with many having to settle for part-time or temporary jobs. Given additionally how much the economy is changing globally, what new ideas can we turn to to reverse these trends? Or, with many large companies choosing to keep their payrolls low (even with so many needing work) to boost profits, is 5-8% unemployment going to become a new normal for the immediate future?

[Potential follow-up: If tax cuts are proposed, note growth of tax cuts & credits as job growth declined... ask what difference there would be this time.]

3. One other big trend in terms of the economy over the last few decades has been a sharp rise in income inequality. In 2010, for instance, 93 percent of income gains went to the top 1 percent... in addition to the larger trend of flat-lining wages for the average worker as CEO pay and tax breaks for investment earners grew. What policies do you see as accounting for this?

And how do we fix this, if you believe we should at all.

4. While partisan differences here remain sharp, the scientific consensus on climate change has never been stronger. With the potential to disrupt ecosystems, cause economic shockwaves, and global resource conflicts, why has this issue been ignored? Given the global scale of the problem, what needs to be done?

If this isn't a problem, what did the scientific community get wrong?

5. Between existing programs (Medicare, Medicaid, private plans) and new (the 2010 Obama law), more Americans are getting access to healthcare. However, the costs of healthcare across America continue to rise, affecting all Americans, in these programs or not. Medical bills are now the #1 cause of personal bankruptcy in America. What can be done to resolve this?

[Potential follow-up: If candidate proposes to repeal or change one of these existing programs, ask how what replaces it will be more cost-effective for the gov't and taxpayers.]

6. Money and politics have always been bed-fellows. But critics insist the recent Citizens United decision has opened the flood-gates of secret money from special interests in elections. How does this spending affect the legislative process?

What controls or limits would you support on this spending? Be specific.

7. Issues of minority rights are a growing concern across America. Women are seeing a growing effort to roll back previous victories on reproductive freedom issues. Minority groups are seeing new attacks on the Voting Rights Act, and affirmative action is now being reviewed by the Supreme Court. Latino groups feel they are unfairly targeted by new laws, and that documented and undocumented immigrants are being conflated and scapegoated.

Can you comment on each of these issues? Where will your administration stand on pending (and/or new) legislation related to these groups?

8. There has been a growing, though not yet majority, consensus that the drug war, as we know it, has been a failure... wasting police resources, and ballooning our prison systems with small, one-time offenders. Is it time to re-think the laws and policies that make up the drug war?

If yes, what is the new direction? If no, what costs can we allow in maintaining this status quo?

9. Moving on to foreign policy, the United States has been at war now for over 11 years. How has a decade+ of non-stop war affected the country?

Furthermore, what would constitute a victory in the war on terror? If it, by definition, cannot end, how do we factor the ever-increasing costs when evaluating other priorities? What sacrifices is your administration willing to make in service of this?

10. Finally, a growing concern for Americans across the left-right spectrum has been the rise in the use of drones... both overseas and here at home.

For use in foreign policy, does the use of drones (which eliminate the pain of asking Americans to sacrifice ground troops, or notify us at all) make it too easy for a President to engage in military action? What about the costs of civilian deaths in the countries we engage in?

For use at home, what assurances can your administration give about Americans' privacy and civil liberty concerns?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Job Creators.

Rolling Stone has a piece in their new issue taking on Mitt Romney's bane... well, Bain Capital. The subtitle of the article is not subtle: "How the GOP presidential candidate and his private equity firm staged an epic wealth grab, destroyed jobs – and stuck others with the bill".

This got me thinking about one of the Republican Party's great lies of the Obama era... the myth of the mighty, god-like "job creator". This is the #1 (of many) buzzword to protect the rich from any of the "shared sacrifice" we are told that we all have to endure.

The economy is issue #1 for Americans and, while Republicans don't really have any honest plans to fix it, they have mastered how to talk about it (as seen by their cynical 'We Build It' convention this week).

The GOP has been complaining since President Obama took office (but not before) about high unemployment, which is a real issue that I'm not dismissing. So why haven't the mighty 'job creators' been, well, creating jobs? We get a litany of excuses... they need their taxes lowered endlessly, vague 'uncertainty', environmental laws are mean to them, Obamacare, etc (No one was more ridiculous on the latter than the CEO of Papa John's).

We hear the "job creator" line particularly in regards to the coming expiration of the Bush tax cuts (note: Bush & the GOP passed those cuts with the expiration in the law... now they're whining). But those tax cuts aren't a new proposal... they've been in place for over a decade. They're in place now. So where are the jobs? Hidden under the excuses.

The inconvenient truth is that the "job creators"-- or, at the least, the wealthy ones that Congress caters to-- don't want to create jobs. It's just simply not to their benefit... creating jobs cuts into their profits. Fact #1: As both Romney and Obama have acknowledged, Big Business is doing just fine (alt link). Fact #2: although companies have shed jobs, worker productivity is at an all-time high in America. So companies have learned that they can make greater profits with less (but harder-working) workers. Why would they mess with that success? They won't, but if they can blackmail more tax cuts & deregulation out of Congress with false promises of 'job creation', they certainly will.

Finally, regarding Bain specifically, Romney tries to paint this picture of himself investing in, and rescuing, struggling companies. Bain very rarely did this, though. Why would they? They're a profit-driven company; not a charity. For the most part, Bain invested in, and bought up, already healthy and profitable companies. Then they proceeded to load that company up with debt, suck out all the $$$ they could, lay off workers to squeeze out a little more $$, watch as the company falls into bankruptcy, and throws the husk to the taxpayer. In one view, this certainly made Romney a success. In another view, it did what the "job creators" have really been doing... destroyed the economic well-being of middle-class workers so that America's economic elite can further grow and consolidate their wealth. Then the poor and working-class get blamed for their own failures.

Will voters fall for this? The GOP is certainly worried, which is why so much of their rhetoric is aimed at dividing the middle-class against itself (hard workers vs. the lazy poor; private sector vs. public, etc). But a unified, and angry, middle-class is what they-- especially the 'job creators-- fear most.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

The Tea Party, and Know-Nothing Politics

Once again I find myself cobbling together a blog post out of something I wrote on Facebook. In this case, a response to this article: "Reminder: 44 Percent of Tea Partiers Are on Medicare". It (partly) attacks the hypocrisy of this movement, specifically wondering at the end, "Cutting government spending is all well and good when it's happening in the ghettos; what happens when austerity comes to their door?"

Someone responded to the posting of that link, first saying that it is wrong to paint the Tea Party as one homogeneous movement (point taken... after all, that's how they view everything), but also adding that "in this instance, if they've paid into Medicare over their lifetime there certainly is some significant rationale for wanting to see that returned in some fashion."

Absolutely. But that proves the hypocrisy rather than disproves it.

The underlying hypocrisy(*) is this idea that the Tea Party believe in that the government is some vague, shapeless boogeyman... and this leads them to believe even the most mundane things (ie. the census) are conspiracies to rob them of freedom.

Yes, Medicare is a service that they (and we) have paid in to our entire working lives... and they want it. Why? Because it's a much better deal, and much more efficient system, than private insurance.

And that is the point. This is what government does- it provides services to us that we want (whether police, firefighters, roads, schools, libraries etc on a local level... or entitlements, the EPA, military, FDA, Pell Grants, etc on a federal level), and we pay for those services in the form of taxes (which are at a post-WWII low). This is not oppression, or some Orwellian conspiracy. It's just basic governance in a modern, first-world nation.

Part of people's aversion to government is not taking into account the many things it does for them-- that we take for granted-- believing instead in the boogeyman version that the GOP has manufactured through top-rate spin ("job creators" is my new favorite buzzword). See this chart to see how big that disconnect is:

Of course, government-- like any entity, public or private-- is not perfect. Ours has made some very bad choices in the last decade. The answer to that, though, is to fight to make government better and more responsive to the needs of the many... not to try and kill it by attrition, which has been the Tea Party governing philosophy. Moreover, a movement that fights to elect people who privatize/corporatize vital public services and continue America's upward redistribution of wealth can hardly be called "populist" by any honest definition of that word.

To me, the Tea Party is simply a mix of misdirected populist anger, and a rebranding of old Birch Society or Know-Nothing right-wing politics. That it has gained such a strangle-hold on our national politics is as much a failure of the left (to form its own populist movement) as it is a success of the right.

[*And that's ignoring the hypocrisy of a Republican Party which ran to the left of Democrats on Medicare in 2010 (by misrepresenting, once again, the healthcare reform bill) and then voted en masse in 2011 to support turning it in a privatized voucher system. Spoiler alert: They're planning the same trick again for 2012.]

Sunday, September 19, 2010

"Who the hell wants higher texes?"

Hey, look! I'm updating this again!

The looming expiration of the Bush tax credits is the hot topic right now, and I feel I should weigh in, to some degree. It's funny... much like his pledge to close the Guantanamo prison and some other things, simply letting the Bush tax cuts expire is one of those things that President Obama took for granted when he won the election, and assumed would be a political breeze (because he was naive enough to believe that, just because he won by a landslide, that the GOP would allow him to govern). And-- now faced with actual political fights over these things-- the Democrats are freaking out.

(As an aside, it is one of the more frustrating different standards between the two parties. Watching all these crazy GOP candidates surge higher this year with each progressively wingnutty utterance, one is reminded that-- among other examples-- Obama's nominee to head the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department was torpedoed simply because she was non-apologetic in her opposition to the torture and civil liberty abuses of the Bush years. Etc.)

Anyway, a friend of mine posted a link on her Facebook to this video showing how Fox News purposely edited a clip from an Obama speech, making it seem as is he is desiring to raise everyone's taxes, when in fact he was discussing the facts of what the Bush tax cuts were designed to do. Someone commented to the link-
even in context this still sucks. Who the hell wants higher texes and even though it is not his fault, he is the president and should be able do do something about it. blaming it on the previous administration is just a cop-out.

Someone replied to that-
Frank, are you also outraged about the massive deficit?

He replied, in turn-
certainly. I am outraged by our government in it's entirety.

Damn you.... government!

I couldn't help myself. I had to respond. Here's what I wrote-
"blaming it on the previous administration is just a cop-out."

When Bush and the GOP Congress *wrote* the Bush tax cut law earlier this decade, the law was written *with* the 2011 expiration in it by design (because federal law does actually have certain guidelines for deficit-ballooning stuff like this). So "blaming" the previous administration for this isn't a "cop-out"... it's a fact.

Again, the Republicans designed the Bush tax cuts to expire in 2011 themselves. Now, because they want a cudgel to beat Democrats with, they are lying and making it seem as if that expiration is something the Democrats are doing. That is a lie, plain and simple.

It is also-- beyond all the lying-- hypocritical to be complaining about the deficit incessantly like the GOP is now doing, and then to also defend the Bush tax cuts, which were the single biggest contributor to the current deficit over the past decade (even more then the wars and bailouts, etc). To put it in a more current context, the GOP complains about the economic recovery package and the health insurance reform bill... well, a renewal of the Bush tax cuts will add more $$ to the deficit than those two bills *combined*. Either they care about deficits or not. Can't have it both ways.

Also, the only people who will be affected by this are those making $250,000 or above. Are they saying protecting their tax cuts is worth doubling the deficit? And the tax rate that would be reinstated with this expiration is that of the Clinton-era... an era of much greater economy than now, and a tax rate *lower* than Reagan instituted.

The other lie is pretending they want to keep these cuts to help jobs. Well, these cuts have been in place since 2003... and unemployment has steadily risen ever since.

The right-- if temporarily, politically hard-- thing to do is to let the Bush tax cuts expire, as they were designed to do. I hope, but am not optimistic, that the Democrats have the balls to let that happen.

These are the facts. And they are the only weapon that the Democrats really need to win this battle. But in an election year where the louder candidate gets to win, it seems the Democrats aren't willing to risk their fates with merely some facts on their side. Hope I'm wrong.

Monday, August 23, 2010

America Goes Insane

I have put this blog on indefinite hiatus-- too busy, got a life, etc-- but have still been posting some of my political thoughts on Twitter (@blueduck37). Still, I left this blog with a note that if there was a topic anyone wanted me to write about, to just ask. That stands.

Ahab asked the following: "What are your thoughts on the controversy surrounding Cordoba House (which right-wingers have christened 'the Ground Zero Mosque') in New York City?"

An excellent question, and I am happy to answer. First, some disclaimers. I live in New York City (Queens). I was at the Trade Center on 9/11. I am an atheist. I am a liberal Democrat. I am an ACLU member. I like freedom.

The controversy over a planned cultural center-- the Park 51 project, aka Cordoba House-- run by Muslims in downtown Manhattan is one of the most disgusting displays of jingoism we have seen in America in some time. It involves several horrible themes... general mob mentality, the idea that the First Amendment applies less when its specific execution makes people uncomfortable ("Everybody knows America's built on the rights of free expression, the rights to practice your faith, but come on", states GOP House bigshot Eric Cantor), and, of course, post-9/11 Islamaphobia (fueled by the idea that all Muslims bear some connection to, or responsibility for, those attacks). Americans believed/hoped that such sentiments would wash away with the end of the Bush-era, and that an Obama presidency would automatically mean improved relations between us and the Middle East, and this controversy is a reminder that nothing comes easy, and that we still have a way to go.

As an aside, kudos to the Republicans who have stood up against this faux-outrage-- Joe Scarborough, a few former Bush staffers, etc-- and a big thumbs down to the top Democrats too cowardly in an election year to say or do the right thing.

To me, the key thing to this whole debate is how much of it is built on a series of lies and distortions. The so-called "Ground Zero" "mosque" is neither... merely a community center (with Jews and Christians on its board... how many Christian or Jewish groups can say similar?), several blocks away from the site, on the site of an old Burlington Coat Factory. It is no more a "mosque" than a YMCA would be a church if it had a prayer room. Not that it should matter if it were a mosque, of course. There is, of course, already a mosque within blocks of Ground Zero, which predates the World Trade Center-- as well as all of this, closer to the right-wing's favorite political prop 'hallowed ground'-- and one inside the Pentagon. And the Imam at the center of all this-- whom the right has tried to paint as a radical-- is an official ambassador in the effort to build better relations between the U.S. and the Middle East, and the effort to take on actual radicalism in those areas. But these facts don't fit the narrative, so away they go.

Moreover, there was no real, widespread controversy over the center until it was created in the same way that ACORN temporarily became America's greatest villain last year (and here's some facts on that). Last December, for instance, right-wing pundit Laura Ingraham-- no moderate-- interviewed the Imam's wife on Fox News. The two had a genuinely civil back and forth. "I can't find many people who really have a problem with it," Ingraham says of the Cordoba project, adding at the end of the interview, "I like what you're trying to do." That is, of course, until the crazies got their hand on the issue.

The credit for this whole hysteria largely can be traced back to one woman... Pam Geller. Who is Pam Geller? She is one of the right's biggest Islamaphobes and has been staging stunts like this for years. A conspiracy theorist and a racist (don't take my word on that... click the previous link, and make up your own mind), she sees creeping Sharia law in every shadow she comes across. She took her anger at the project and, over the course of 2010 turned it into a national issue, with help from outlets like the NY Post/Fox News and folks like Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin. Behold the birth of a scandal.

The right, of course, not only will not acknowledge that, but has tried to paint their opposition to the project as being merely rooted in respect for the memories of those killed at the Trade Center site on 9/11. It's not about Islam or mosques, they say, but merely about the location and its sacredness (how they get away even with that much without admitting that they equate all Muslims with 9/11 is beyond me). I came across an article by Pat Sajak (a far-right conservative in real life), for instance, defending the anti-Cordoba attacks, stating that he hasn't "heard any mainstream suggestions that mosques shouldn’t be allowed to be built. This... is a location-specific issue". That, of course, is total BS. A few outlets-- including NYC's own The Daily Show-- have compiled news reports from around the country, from Staten Island to Kentucky to California, of mosques being protested because of their... well, being mosques. This has nothing to do with location, other than the location here giving opposition to this particular building extra emotional punch to the protesters.

(Still think it's not about race/religion? Watch what happens a Puerto Rican, a worker at the Ground Zero site, gets mistaken for a Muslim at a protest this past weekend. Such odd behavior from a group of people supposedly concerned with sensitivity.)

This is not an abberation, of course. Even ignoring larger history, the GOP just in the recent past has a record of taking insane memes and going mainstream... freedom fries, Terri Schiavo, death panels, etc. American politics is often enslaved to whatever made-up emergency the right has zeroed in on.

The right, of course, will happily note that polls are on their side on this issue. That part, for the record, is true (ignoring, of course, the other polls showing people who actually live in Manhattan are overwhelmingly supportive of the project). But should that matter? Do we put freedom up to a vote in America? Anti-Prop 8 lawyer Ted Olson asked Fox News' Chris Wallace, who was citing the CA voters' opposition to gay marriage as being disrespected by that recent court ruling, "Would you like Fox’s right to free press put up to a vote and say well, if five states approved it, let’s wait till the other 45 states do?" No one at Fox, of course, would ever agree to that. These rights are called "inalienable" for a reason... no matter how angry or uncomfortable the execution of those rights make certain people (including, at times, myself).

So much of me wishes that I-- and everyone else-- could ignore this hysteria. After all, America right now faces real problems-- an economy ravaged by years of short-sighted activities, wars that don't want to end, climate change, outdated infrastructure, etc-- and it hurts all of us when our political system hits the pause button to debate a controversy that ultimately affects no one. But this issue is a test on freedom and tolerance in America in the 21st century, and that does matter. Right now, we are failing that test. And that's worth paying attention to, and worth standing up for.