Not enough weather to talk about.

The Memorial Day weekend is over. Here in Tampa it’s still raining, and it has been raining most of the weekend. And there  was plenty of weather to talk about among members of the same family here for the holiday.

If I mention this in a blog it’s because more and more the members of one family, together, say at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and most recently Memorial Day, find their being together, well somewhat… what, difficult. For they seem to have less and less in common, less to say to one another having for years gone their more and more separate ways.

What is making this happen right now? Having nothing to say to your brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts? In America, and probably also in no small degree Eastern and Weatern Europe there are those who find themselves deeply opposed to their often popular, anti-immigrant, and authoritarian presidents, as in Turkey, Hungary, and the USA, and who line up behind the last standing liberal, President Macron of France, and then there are those on the other hand, about as numerous, who seem to love the illiberal policies of their “new” authoritarian leaders. Witness the Evangelicals and the Republicans of the West of the United States.

While not putting up barbed wire fences as in the West of a century or two ago to keep the cows in too many countries are putting up fences, or would like to put up fences, to keep the people out. And when they get together for the holidays, to avoid shouting matches or even coming to blows if not getting up and running away, they talk more and more about safe subjects, such as the weather. Although even that if it touches upon global warming may lead to more shouting and often turns out not to have been safe.

I came to thinking about all this as I read MARTA FIGLEROWICZ‘s piece in the Boston Review, in which she wrote of her own family, of the different directions she and her siblings, cousins, parents, uncles, aunts…  had taken since the end of the Soviet Union’s strangle hold on Eastern Europe, and since Western Europe’s own turning away from the democratic values of their own Enlightenment of some two centuries earlier.

Marta  wrote, “my father tells me on the phone, that these family get togethers are hard these days, in her father’s words —— “There isn’t enough weather to talk about.” Although here in Tampa for Memorial Day where I am at present there is plenty of that.

The Disillusionment of Post-Soviet Europe

MARTA FIGLEROWICZ, Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature and English at Yale.  

Originally published in the Boston Review of 5/2018marta_figlerowicz

“One of my earliest memories is of being carried on my father’s back into an anti-government protest. I am three, and my father teaches me a rhyming slogan that compares our Soviet-imposed president to a dragon from a local folk tale. It is my first time in a large crowd, and we are in front of town hall, all chanting the same refrain. My father and I are there with his two brothers and a cousin they are close to. Now, more than twenty-five years later, one would not see the four of them at the same rally. Part of the reason is geographical distance: my father’s cousin is a bus driver in Dublin, and rarely calls; one of his brothers spends much of his time, including major holidays, in Italy. But a great part of this new divide is also ideological: after years of defining themselves simply as anti-communists, the brothers have cast their bets on very different emergent political programs. My father has become a centrist liberal and his two siblings have swerved rightward. His Italy-based brother is a technocrat libertarian; the other one supports the fascist-leaning populist movement that won our most recent election. Christmases, my father tells me on the phone, are hard these days. “There isn’t enough weather to talk about.”

After 1989, in the long years of political and economic reconstruction, Eastern Europeans lost many illusions about themselves. One of these illusions was that the West was going to pull us up to its own economic level with the equivalent of a Marshall Plan. Another was that we had all agreed on what we wanted to obtain and learn from capitalist democracies in the first place. A third, and most basic one, was that we understood the Western systems about whose adoption we came vehemently to quarrel.

Most Eastern European families, like mine, have their own micro-histories of the social fractures that ensued from these unexpected and not fully planned transformations. In Aftershock, the novelist, journalist, and political scholar John Feffer attempts to view these stories from a middle distance: a point of view broader than a participant’s, if also less aerial than a professional historian’s. Through interviews with Eastern Europeans from all walks of life—politicians, activists, academics, blue-collar workers, clerks, and Ikea managers—he pieces together an affective and cultural history of post-communism. Aftershock gives its reader a panoramic view of the fantasies and hopes through which recently post-communist societies interpreted their ongoing transformations to themselves. Terms such as “neoliberalism,” “the West,” and even “the transformation” entered Eastern European public discourse without being properly clarified and debated. The “Big Lie,” one of Feffer’s interviewees calls his countrymen’s views about market reform; “I knew nothing about economy, about shock therapy,” confesses another. In such unclarities, and in the misplaced hopes they fueled, Feffer finds seeds of Eastern Europe’s current economic inequalities and its ongoing rightward political turn.

Aftershock is a sequel to Shock Waves, which Feffer published twenty-five years earlier. In 1988, Feffer traveled to Warsaw as a young journalist to write about communist repression in Eastern Europe. A few months after his arrival, that plan fell through. Following a wave of political upheavals to which the Soviet Union put up little resistance, Eastern European states began to regain political independence. Feffer was blindsided by the political revolutions surging around him. Perhaps because of this, he found himself to be finely attuned to the similar astonishments and confusions evinced by those around him.

disillusionment

Eastern Europe was forced to contend with an intense self-hatred while also learning how to inhabit newly won political autonomy.

Continue reading The Disillusionment of Post-Soviet Europe

How much might a book shape the world, if at all?

 

The BBC has just printed yet another list of the 100 stories (not books, but stories) that have shaped our world. Well maybe so, but they’re certainly not doing it anymore. Whatever shaping they may have done in the past is no more.

Well I looked over the list (see below, at least for the first 15 or 20 or so on the list). There were a good number that I didn’t know, and of course hadn’t even tried to read. There were some that I would not have put on a list of my own, such as the Harry Potter Series, and the three, yes that’s right, three twenties novels of Virginia Woolf. But overall the list was proper, correct, in the same class as the Great Books of the Western World, a series that I’ve never been without on my own book shelves.

But I most of all wondered how might books, even one hundred of them “shape the world”? I suppose you could say that the Bible, not on the list (why? because there are many stories and many authors within the one) has shaped our world, or did shape our world, certainly the Western world. Also I would say that in order to shape the world the books have to be read (the Bible being a good example of this), and these books, for the most part are no longer read by most people.

And furthermore I might add, give me a list of the books that people are reading, in millions and millions of copies first in paper back, and now digitalized, and that are being read  not only in our country but world wide, the detective and adventure stories, the romances, and the how to books and on and on, and yes, so many of these books, yes, these books are probably shaping the world and mostly not in the way we would like. Although it could happen, say in some school humanities classes, that the book first on the list, and on my list, the Odyssey, could shape the lives of those in that class. What if the Odyssey were to be required reading for all of humanity?!

Well here I am again. Here it comes up again. The power and the necessity of a liberal arts education, as symbolized here by the BBC book list, necessary in respect to instilling in our young people the proper and yes, liberal and progressive values that these books for the most part contain. But shaping our world?? Clearly the values contained in these books are no longer within our people, whose lives are no longer being shaped by reading them.

Instead today we have a Donald Trump, falling into the presidency of the most powerful nation on the earth with the tragic (or comic) result that the people are no longer being “shaped,” rather being unshaped, loosened from a more liberal and progressive past, one that many of them were at least familiar with if not a part of. Now people, people everywhere not just in our country, are being led away by their leaders from the values of the Enlightenment. And instead are adopting Trumpian “values.” Although values is probably not the right word. What is Trump doing to his base? Because he is shaping them.

Image result for philip Roth

In the words of Philip Roth (March 19, 1933 – May 22, 2018) “Trump himself is  humanly terribly impoverished, ignorant of government, of history, of science, of philosophy, of art, incapable of expressing or recognizing subtlety or nuance and destitute of all decency.”
Alas! Cry the Beloved Country.

1. The Odyssey (Homer, 8th Century BC)
2. Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1852)
3. Frankenstein (Mary Shelley, 1818)
4. Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell, 1949)
5. Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe, 1958)
6. One Thousand and One Nights (various authors, 8th-18th Centuries)
7. Don Quixote (Miguel de Cervantes, 1605-1615)
8. Hamlet (William Shakespeare, 1603)
9. One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel García Márquez, 1967)
10. The Iliad (Homer, 8th Century BC)
11. Beloved (Toni Morrison, 1987)
12. The Divine Comedy (Dante Alighieri, 1308-1320)
13. Romeo and Juliet (William Shakespeare, 1597)
14. The Epic of Gilgamesh (author unknown, circa 22nd-10th Centuries BC)
15. Harry Potter Series (JK Rowling, 1997-2007)
16. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood, 1985)
17. Ulysses (James Joyce, 1922)
18. Animal Farm (George Orwell, 1945)
19. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë, 1847)
20. Madame Bovary (Gustave Flaubert, 1856)
….

GOOD ANSWER

 The question went something like this: what would it take to make an atheist believe, or what argument would send an atheist back to God? What would it take to destroy atheism forever?

I don’t remember the exact question but I do have below the exact answer, although without the author’s name.  (When I find his name I’ll add it to this post.

Atheist here. Looking from the inside of the vast atheist conspiracy, I am prepared this moment, to give you the very key that will destroy atheism forever!

If you do this—you can crush atheism, and shut us down cold. Turns out, we are far more vulnerable than most Christians realize. It’s really simple—there’s one thing you need to do—and only one thing. Do this, and atheism is destroyed.

Do I have your attention? Are you ready?

EVIDENCE.

Provide some hard, verifiable evidence for your God and the other supernatural claims of your religion. Do that—and you will crush atheism everywhere, and save millions of people’s souls.

The evidence must be objective, reliable, observable in some way, even if indirectly. It must hold up under scrutiny by multiple independent observers who would love to prove you wrong, but are forced by the weight of the evidence to agree with your conclusions. And the evidence must point to your religious conclusions as the only, or at least the best/simplest explanation, and there must not be a competing explanation that is better, and there must not be contradictory evidence of similar or better quality. As a bonus, I’ll even throw in a list of things that won’t do it. This will help you to avoid wasting your time and mine!

  • Faith. Sorry—”faith” is just shorthand for “I have no evidence or rational justification for believing, but I’m going to do so anyway and I demand you do also.”
  • The Bible. Sorry—anyone can write anything, that doesn’t mean it’s true. Other religions have their holy texts too—yet they don’t convince you of those other religions, do they?
  • Subjective reasons, personal convictions, experience, etc. Sorry—you’re making an objective claim (that your religious claims are true for everyone, not just you)—so I want objective evidence. Other religions have their subjective evidence too.
  • Arguments from existence or ignorance. Sorry—but “how else do you explain…” is a lousy argument—at one time, people used that to justify that the sun was a god. Our ignorance is no excuse for inserting the supernatural as an excuse to believe.
  • Threats of Hell or wagers. Do the threats from other religions move you to believe in them? Threats of Hell are a sign you’re playing with an empty hand.
  • Vague philosophical arguments. When was the last time a believer said “The Ontological Argument—that’s the one that blew me away!” Such arguments are used by apologists in professional debates to provide a thin veneer of intellectual and philosophical respectability to theistic arguments, but they are fallacious and convince no one.
  • The Argument from Design. Sorry—the universe is clearly not designed, but I don’t have the time and patience to explain this now. I’ll go into more detail if this point becomes a focus of replies.

So there you go. Your task is clear, and it should be simple to provide such evidence if an actual god really existed as described by believers. The evidence would be overwhelming. But after thousands of years of the very best and brightest theist minds striving mightily to do so, no one has ever been able to provide evidence of the sort I described above. I wonder why?

 

Was his feeling ever a widespread ambition, or belief among the millennials?

But his early life had been geared to ambition, and he felt he must accomplish something, do something, make himself a better man, and his country a better place. This he had been taught as a child, this he still believed.  (Louis L’Amour, Chap. 1, Matagorda)

The schools have always made it their business to bring this about (make the country a better place), but have they ever done so? What we witness in Washington today would say emphatically that no, they haven’t, and they are perhaps further away from doing so than ever before (BT, before Trump).

Also for what it’s worth, in regard to those thousands who go on writing about the schools, those who for the nth time would reform them, all those perennials who would make them, if they could, what they were meant to be, ——they are still repeating ad nauseum the same old (tired phrases). See this month’s, What Is Education For? By Danielle Allen et al. in the Boston Review.

 

Michael Shermer’s writing on Moral Laws

What is the origin of a people’s morality?

A high percentage of a people, of Americans, would place the source of their moral truths in religion. And perhaps most numerous among these are the Evangelicals, those 100 thousands who make up the largest portion of President Trump’s electoral base, still active now as the President begins to campaign for a second term.

The evangelicals’ reading of the Bible places them by and large  against abortion, same sex marriage,  LGBTQ people, government and private programs protecting a woman’s right to choose,  the backing of religious conservative candidates for judgeships, and much else of the same or similar nature. (How did his happen, the rise of the Evangelicals, in a country founded not so much by the born agains as by deists, agnostics, and probably even non- believers?)

The-School-of-Athens-1509-Raphael
Raphael, The School of Athens, 1509

But there are others of us who would place the source of our morality in ourselves as we attempt to know ourselves, whether through religion, or science, of just through our own life experiences. This morality is based on who we are and hence it behooves us to follow the example of the Greeks and to learn and know all we can about ourselves. If something is good or bad it should not be  because someone or some organization, or even some sacred book, says it is. Rather it should be because we have found it to be good or bad ourselves. It is our nature to be constantly making moral judgements based on our own experiences.

In the article that follows Michael Shermer argues that to some extent morality, our moral judgements, ought to follow from what we have found to be the truth about people, just as the laws of science follow from what we have determined to be true about nature. I would differ from Shermer only to the extent that Hume’s difference between “ought” and “is” (that the two should never meet, see note below) does hold and that the moral truths of what ought to be, of what we ought to do, while a kind of truth, are not the same as the truths of science.

If they are in some respects the same it’s only to the extent that the truths proceed from what we learn, in the one case about nature, and in the other about ourselves, about who and what we are.

In the text that follows, and without permission from the author, I’ve borrowed from and considerably edited, without changing the meaning I trust,  the piece by Michael Shermer on Moral Laws, –Mr. Hume: Tear. Down. This. Wall.

How might a social scientist “discover” moral laws in human nature as a physical scientist might discover natural laws in laboratory experiments. It’s a good question. Is it possible to say in some absolute sense that specific acts, such as the large scale massacres of the Holocaust, are evil in an absolute sense?

Pace Abraham Lincoln, who famously said, “If slavery is not wrong, then nothing is wrong.” I hereby declare in an unequivocal defense of moral realism:  If the Holocaust is not wrong, then nothing is wrong.

Let me approach this defense of moral realism from the perspective of a physical scientist. It is my hypothesis that in the same way that Galileo and Newton discovered physical laws and principles about the natural world that really are out there, so too have social scientists discovered moral laws and principles about human nature and society that really do exist. Just as it was inevitable that the astronomer Johannes Kepler would discover that planets have elliptical orbits—given that he was making accurate astronomical measurements, and given that planets really do travel in elliptical orbits, he could hardly have discovered anything else.

Similarly “scientists” studying political, economic, social, and moral subjects will discover certain things that are true in these fields of inquiry. For example, that democracies are better than autocracies, that market economies are superior to command economies, that torture and the death penalty do not curb crime, that burning women as witches is a fallacious idea, that women are not too weak and emotional to run companies or countries, that blacks do not like being enslaved and that the Jews do not want to be exterminated.

Why? My answer is that it is in human nature to struggle to survive and flourish in the teeth of nature’s entropy while having the freedom, autonomy, and prosperity available in free societies, built as they were on the foundation of Enlightenment philosophers and scientists seeking to discover the best way for humans to live, best meaning enabling individual sentient beings, that is you and I, to live out your and our evolved destinies.

From here we can derive the purpose of life: it is to push back against the entropy of nature, entropy being a fundamental physical rule or law that closed systems (those not taking in energy, those in a box six feet under) move from order to disorder, from organization to disorganization, from structured to unstructured, and from warm to cold. Although entropy can be temporarily reversed in an open system with an outside source of energy, such as heating cold food in a microwave, isolated systems decay as entropy increases.

The law that entropy always increases holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. This law, the Second Law of Thermodynamics, is the First Law of life. If your idea or theory is found to go against this law there is no salvation. And evolution or natural selection is the only known natural process that seems to resist this law, by pushing populations of organisms thermodynamically as it were uphill to higher degrees of functional order, offsetting the inevitable increase in disorder that would otherwise take place.

This what we might call “extropy” only happens in an open system with an energy source, such as our planet receiving the rays of the sun and thereby providing the energy that temporarily reverses entropy, or own molecules of RNA and DNA replicating themselves and thereby sending near-duplicates of themselves out into the world that providing for the continuation of further natural selection, for further life forms. However, if we do nothing, entropy will take its course and we will move toward a higher state of disorder (ultimately causing our demise). So the most basic purpose in life is to combat entropy by supporting systems open to other energy sources enabling us not only to survive but to reproduce, and flourish.

From the Paleolithic to the present, human groups have evolved from bands of hundreds, to tribes of thousands, to chiefdoms of tens of thousands, to states of hundreds of thousands, to nations of millions. This could not have happened through zero-sum exchanges alone. The hallmarks of humanity ——language, tools, hunting, gathering, farming, writing, art, music, science, and technology—– could not have come about through the actions of isolated zero-sum gamers. Thus, reasoning moral agents would eventually conclude that both should cooperate toward mutual benefit rather than compete to either a zero-sum outcome in which one gains and the other loses, or both lose in a defection cascade.

The moral progress we have witnessed over the centuries—the abolition of slavery, torture, and the death penalty; the expansion of rights to blacks, women, children, workers, and now even animals—has as its origin the scientific and reason-based concept that the world is governed by laws and principles that we can understand and apply, whether it is solar systems, eco systems, political systems, economic systems, or social and moral systems.

Whether or not you consider “ought” to be a scientific category for centuries we have been treating the is of the world—the way things really are that we can discover—as a basis for determining what we ought to do morally. Thus science per se does not in any recognizable sense imply that survival and flourishing is either good or bad, because there is no scientific test for good or bad and no scientific proof that they are positive or negative in moral terms, i.e. that this is the way things ought to be.

Excuse me? We have, in fact, been running such experiments for centuries—the natural experiments of societies and their social, political, and economic systems. Every state or national constitution is an experiment in social and moral living, and we can compare them through the comparative method social scientists and policy makers routinely use. Different laws and systems produce different outcomes. We can study and learn from them, with our evaluative criteria grounded in human nature and our desire to survive and flourish.

Sure, future scientists may one day discover that humans do not have an instinct to survive and flourish, that most people do not want freedom, autonomy, and prosperity, that women want to be lorded over by men, that animals enjoy being tortured, killed, and eaten, that some people like being enslaved, and that large populations of people don’t object to being liquidated in gas chambers. But I doubt it. Through science and reason we have followed a path of discovery that has led more people in more places to lead better lives and enjoy more moral rights, respect and consideration. The is-ought fallacy is a red herring. Mr. Hume: Tear. Down. This. Wall.**

Dr. Michael Shermer is the Publisher of Skeptic magazine, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, and a Presidential Fellow at Chapman University. He is the author of The Moral Arc, The Believing Brain, Why People Believe Weird Things, Why Darwin Matters, and The Science of Good and Evil.

Note on “Ought/Is” difference. Hume discusses the problem in book III, part I, section I of his book, A Treatise of Human Nature (1739):

“In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remarked, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary way of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when of a sudden I am surprised to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is, however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, ’tis necessary that it should be observed and explained; and at the same time that a reason should be given, for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it. But as authors do not commonly use this precaution, I shall presume to recommend it to the readers; and am persuaded, that this small attention would subvert all the vulgar systems of morality, and let us see, that the distinction of vice and virtue is not founded merely on the relations of objects, nor is perceived by reason.”

Hume asks, given knowledge of the way the universe is, in what sense can we say it ought to be different? Hume calls for caution against such inferences in the absence of any explanation of how the ought-statements follow from the is-statements. But how exactly can an “ought” be derived from an “is”? The question, prompted by Hume’s small paragraph, has become one of the central questions of ethical theory, and Hume is usually assigned the position that such a derivation is impossible. This complete severing of “is” from “ought” has been given the graphic designation of Hume’s Guillotine. (Michael Shermer)

Freude, Schöner Götterfunken, or one man’s way of dying

 in the Washington Post, of May 10, 2018, as well as from the Review and website of  Exit International, of May 8.
At 104 years David Goodall  chose himself when and where he would die.  He said that he  had traveled from Australia to Switzerland for the purpose, because euthanasia wasn’t legal in his Australian homeland.

When there and asked, Did he want to eat anything in particular for his last meal? He replied he didn’t know. Did he want any special song played at his bedside? He wasn’t sure — but if he had to choose one, it would be the final movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, the Ode to Joy. And as he said that in response to his questioner, he burst spontaneously into song, singing in German:

 

Freude, schöner Götterfunken
Tochter aus Elysium,
Wir betreten feuertrunken,
Himmlische, dein Heiligtum!

I can understand that. And as my family and friends know well whenever I listen to the Ode to Joy, especially in the  Banco Sabadell’s Flashmob performance,  I find myself also bursting into the Götterfunken (divine spark) song, at least when no-one is watching or listening.

Anyway, and in accordance with Goodall’s own plan for ending his life around midday on Thursday, an IV was placed into his arm allowing him to turn a wheel to allow the lethal drugs to flow into his bloodstream. Then, in the presence of his family Goodall fell asleep, and  within a few minutes, while Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” was sounding in German, and just as the joyful music concluded, he died.

The organization, Exit International, in charge of his assisted suicide, said  that Goodall had requested that his body be donated to medicine and, if not, that his ashes be sprinkled locally, and also that he wanted to have no funeral, no remembrance service or ceremony of any kind, that he had no belief in an afterlife.

Goodall was a long time botanist and ecologist and was thought to be Australia’s oldest living scientist. On his 104th birthday last month he said simply that he had lived too long.

“I greatly regret having reached my age and I would much prefer now to be 20 or 30 years younger.”  When asked whether he had had a good 104th birthday, he replied: “No, I’m not happy. I want to die. … It’s not sad, particularly. What is sad is when one is prevented from dying. My feeling is that an old person like myself should have full citizenship rights, including the right of assisted suicide.”

Because assisted suicide is banned in Australia, Goodall had to board a plane  and travel more than 8,000 miles to Basel, a Swiss city near the French and German borders. Switzerland, like many other countries, has not passed legislation legalizing assisted suicide; but under some circumstances, its laws do not forbid it.

“I didn’t want particularly to go to Switzerland, though it’s a nice country,” Goodall said, “but I had to do that in order to do to myself what  Australia does not permit. I would have preferred to be able to die in my own country, for  Australia is my home. I’m sorry to have to go such a long way away in order to end my life. At my age, and even younger, one wants to be free to choose when is the most appropriate time to die.”

Goodall said he had a good life, but in recent years, his health had declined. He told the ABC that several months ago, he fell down in his apartment in Perth and, for two days, he lay on the floor until his housekeeper found him. “I called out,” he said, “but no one could hear me.” He told reporters that there were things he would miss, such as his “journeys into the Australian countryside.” And there were still many things he would have like to do but that it was too late. “I am content to leave them undone,” he said.

“We need to shut it down. We’re closed”

Why would our president want to close our border to immigrants?

Image result for closing the border to immigrants
Migrants ride on top of a northern bound train toward the US-Mexico border in Union Hidalgo in Oaxaca, Mexico. (AP)

After all our country is now made up almost entirely of immigrants, all of whose ancestors have come here during the past 500 years or so, including the ancestors of the President whose grandfather Frederick came here from Kallstadt in the Kingdom of Bavaria at age 16 in 1885, illegally.

So why would this President be now so against others coming here as his own family did, not even 200 years ago? Why does he refuse to accept that that’s who and what we are, a country of immigrants?  Why does he not accept that the greatness of our country, that which he would restore, or in his own words make great again, stems by and large from the accomplishments of immigrants most of whom were either brought here enslaved or came themselves illegally, probably without the proper permissions, much as those who are now crossing our southern border?

What’s happening today goes against the grain of what we are as a country. Now the President would remove the TPS or temporary protected status of hundreds of thousands of immigrants from  countries  close to our Southern border, from Honduras, El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, or from the chaotic Middle East, from Somalia, the Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Now these so-called TPS immigrants are mostly refugees from brutal authoritarian governments, from civil wars, from natural disasters, and such, and have come here in great need. Why would we not change the “temporary” to “permanent” status? What are we afraid of?  By helping themselves to have a better life they are going to help us all to have a better country. This has been proved over and over again.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who If he speaks at all is usually speaking for the President, had this to say in response to an NPR questioner:  “The TPS people are overwhelmingly rural people. They don’t speak English … They don’t integrate well. They don’t have skills. While they are not bad people they’re also not people that would easily assimilate into modern American society.”

Now John, and yes, Donald Trump, wouldn’t you agree that your own ancestors were probably rural people and would have faced daunting challenges to assimilation, to finding their own places in our country? Why do you, John, now refuse to accept these new immigrants, probably no different from those of the past, from those of your own past in Ireland?

(I take the following text from a New Yorker article — The  Battle inside the Trump Administration over TPS.)

The new Secretary of Homeland Security, DHS,  Kirstjen Nielsen, a protégée of Kelly’s, cancelled T.P.S. for the Hondurans…. Given Nielsen’s closeness to Kelly, there was little surprise when she decided to end the protections…. In the weeks before Nielsen cancelled T.P.S. for Hondurans, she had spoken out about a “crisis” at the border, involving a caravan of fifteen hundred Central American migrants travelling north, through Mexico, to seek asylum in the U.S. A Fox News broadcast brought the migrants—almost all of whom were Honduran—to the attention of the President, who immediately began fulminating against U.S. immigration laws. (They were “pathetic” and riddled with “loopholes,” he said.) …

The President, however, apparently didn’t think that his Administration was doing enough. On Thursday, the Times reported that Nielsen had considered resigning this week after Trump berated her in a Cabinet meeting. “Why don’t you have solutions?” he asked her, according to a subsequent article in the Post. He demanded to know why migrants were still streaming north, to the border, adding, “We need to shut it down. We’re closed.”

A storm’s a coming baby!

US porn star Stormy Daniels has made a surprise appearance on US TV show Saturday Night Live as her legal wrangle with President Trump over an alleged affair continues.

Ms Daniels called for Mr Trump to resign in the sketch.

Playing herself in the latest in the show’s series of sketches lampooning the president, she mocked him, saying:

“I know you don’t believe in climate change but a storm’s a coming baby.”

Ms Daniels was paid $130,000 by Mr Trump’s lawyer in 2016 to keep quiet.

Mr Trump denies the affair.

BBC News, May 6, 2018

Liberté, Égalité, et Fraternité