31 October 2016

We went out for a quick evening adventure in the car again.  This time we drove around Wadi Hanifa a bit and decided that there's a lot more exploring to do there. Here's an article about it. http://archive.aramcoworld.com/issue/201201/a.wadi.runs.through.it.htm

On the way home we stopped at a couple of bakeries I'd been curious about near Takhassousi Street.  One turned out to be a tandoor bakery! They said it was Pakistani, but it's probably really Afghani tamis.  Anyway, it was so nice to eat hot tandoor bread again.  You cannot recreate the smell and flavor of tandoor bread any other way.  I need to do more research to find out about the word origin.  The baker had a rolling bread stamp that he zipped over the dough really quickly and the bread baked quickly too.

Also, I'm getting a lot quicker at the grocery store and sometimes I have time to wander around a bit while I'm waiting for the other people in the car.  Today I found the bakery cookies.  There were lots of tasty-looking ones that we'll have to try.  I got some cashew cookies and some Indian salted cumin cookies.  They were amazing.  http://www.cookwithmanali.com/cumin-cookies-jeera-biscuits/

Refugee Blog and Facebook Page

I've created a blog and Facebook page to help get information out about specific things people can do to help refugees.



If you are interested, I'd appreciate it if you could like the page on Facebook and share it with people who also might benefit from it.  The focus will be on how to help.

30 October 2016

Why I Could Never Vote for Trump

First, a bit more about the emails since they're back in the news after I wrote my last post.  This does not change my vote for Hillary.  We apparently won't even know what is in them before the election and I think it's mostly likely that Hillary will still win. I certainly very much hope so. Even if the worst hopes of House Republicans come true after she wins and these emails describe all the bribes and murders Hillary is supposed to have done, I could live quite happily with the consequence of a Tim Kaine presidency, thank you very much.

Anyway, I've already voted and it was and still is the very easiest election decision I've ever made.  Not because Hillary Clinton is my favorite nominee ever (although I love some of the things she advocates for), but because Trump is the worst major-party nominee I have ever had a choice of voting for. In my mind, Hillary Clinton is so much better than Trump that I cannot not vote for him.  I would vote for almost anyone else over him (and if the other nominee were as bad? I.would.not.vote.) Here's why I think that. 

Announcement.  Hillary Clinton's first campaign speech in June of 2015 talked about her life-long advocacy for children and the many different people she wants to help in the US. Trump announced in June and called Mexicans horrible things (except for some that he "assume[s] are good people.") I was in Mexico when he said those things.  I knew I'd never vote for him, but I also though he'd never get through the primaries because of all of the junk he kept saying.  

Primary debates. Trump has never, in any debate, shown any sort of grasp on policy or an understanding of how the presidency works.  He'd run out the clock without saying anything.  He didn't seem to listen if the topic didn't interest him or specifically involve him.  He'd say he'd do things that the president can't do.  He'd make personal attacks that had nothing to do with anything. He didn't seem to understand terms that presidents should understand.

Interviews. As in the debates, Trump has also shown very little interest in or knowledge about a great many topics that presidents need to know about during interviews.  He says even less than your typical politicians when he's trying to avoid a question.  He managed to completely bungle a question about punishing a woman for getting an abortion and spout a view that no one, not even the most ardent pro-life groups, agree with.  Had he never thought about the topic?   When he was asked about Ukraine, it appeared that he either didn't realize that Crimea is part of Ukraine or that he didn't think Russia was involved there.  Either one is highly concerning in a presidential candidate.  His comments about nuclear proliferation, if they can be taken literally, are terrifying. And if he didn't really mean them, why in the world did he say that he thinks more countries should have nuclear weapons?

That takes me on to two related points - the idea that presidential candidates don't need to know everything and that Trump doesn't seem to be trying to educate himself.  Trump supporters often say that Trump will surround himself with smart people who fill in his gaps in knowledge.  That's great- even Hillary Clinton who is one of the most experienced presidential nominees ever can't know everything and needs good advisers.  But throughout the campaign, Trump has shown very little inclination both hire capable people and take their advice.  His first two campaign managers were not great choices and ended up leaving.  Kellyanne Conway, his current campaign manager is brilliant but she has made it clear that he hasn't taken her advice.  I think Trump could have won this thing if he had listened to her for the last two months of campaigning, but he has proven that he is unwilling to consistently listen when there is a smart person advising him.

When The Atlantic endorsed Clinton a few weeks ago, one of the most damning statements against Trump was "he appears not to read."  Now, reading is not the only way to educate oneself, but Trump has shown no evidence that he is any better versed now on important topics than he was a year ago.  If you don't know what the nuclear triad is in a debate, you find out and make sure you can talk about it competently later.  You learn about the conflict in Ukraine.  You figure out what the limits on the president are. And so many other things.

He does seem to have learned to not talk about things he doesn't know about, which made the real debates a little tricky for him, but earlier he spouted a lot of ideas that simply aren't acceptable.

I'm still horrified that he proposed banning Muslims from entering the US.  Yes, he has apparently softened his position, but the statement is still on his website and he refuses to give details about which countries would be affected by his proposed ban and whether everyone from that country would be banned or just Muslims (which would still make it a religious test).

I'm still horrified that he proposed killing the families of terrorists.

I'm still horrified that he would even consider bringing back waterboarding, much less anything else.

And even when he does seem to have a position that appears to have been thought through, he's still really short on detail or understanding how the details would work in the real world.  His plan to get Mexico to pay for the wall would have a seriously negative impact on Mexico-US relations.  We know he's supposed to be pro-life, but his only suggestion is stacking the Supreme Court and that hasn't worked for 40 years.  I have no idea how he's going to make things better for veterans.  And he'll renegotiate trade deals, but what does that mean?  All of them?  Will he  be personally involved in the negotiations?  And what about tariffs?  Does he fully recognize the negative impacts those can have? I'm not at all convinced that he does.  And how in the world can you propose spending increases based on your projections that the economy will have "tremendous growth"?

He tells us we must vote for him because only he can fix the problems he sees in the US even though he cannot tell us how he would fix those problems.  It's the typical strongman appeal.  He also almost never appeals to our better selves, but demonizes people who aren't like him to stoke fears in his supporters.  Immigrants, especially Mexicans and refugees, are the problem.  Muslims are making us less safe.  America used to be great, apparently when it was whiter.  The media is corrupt and out to get him and his supporters.  China is the enemy because it's all about money.  There is almost no altruistic reason to vote for him.

And then I just plain old don't like a lot of the things he says.  Black lives do matter.  Guns are not my thing and I want schools to remain gun-free zones.  Immigration is what has made this country great and I am very opposed to deportation.  I am not a populist or anything like unto it. Cutting taxes for the wealthy is not my thing either.  Climate change is real and it will have serious impacts on all of our lives, but especially people in other countries with few resources to mitigate those consequences and we need to prepare for that. I think the EPA should stay. Stop-and-frisk is wrong, wrong, wrong. What would Putin do is not a wise guiding principle.  A free press is vital in our country.  Eminent domain should be used carefully.

How about temperament?  Yeah, right.

The very few times we've seen him try to do something presidential or altruistic haven't been very encouraging either.  When he raised money for veterans, he illegally used his own foundation to accept the donations and didn't donate his promised million until he was hounded by the press.  Then when he finally made the donation, he admonished the press for hounding him rather than praising him.  His trip to Mexico was not handled well, but he said it was successful because someone in Mexico was kicked out of the government afterward.  Trump, that is not a sign of a stellar diplomatic mission.

And he's continued to attack people in rather awful ways and say things I think are appalling.

I'm still horrified that he even talked about the Khan family after the convention, much less attacked them in any way.  There was absolutely no point in doing so and it was just plain mean.

I'm still horrified that he said a judge who ruled against him didn't like him because the judge was Mexican-American.  Like Paul Ryan said, that's the textbook definition of racism.

I'm still horrified that he threatened to sue all of the women who had accused him of sexual assault after he bragged about sexually assaulting people.

I'm still horrified that he would dismiss bragging about sexual assault as "locker room talk."

And my final reason?  He has lied about the refugee vetting process throughout the campaign.  Straight out lied.  And he is using those lies to make people in the US scared of refugees.  The president does have the power to set the number of refugees entering the country.  Last month he even threatened to deport Syrian refugees. 

I can *only* vote for the person who will keep him from being the President of the United States.  For me, anything else would be immoral.

28 October 2016

Hillary's Negatives

I wrote a bit ago about why I'm supporting Hillary Clinton instead of just voting against Donald Trump.  I mentioned at the end that you have to be able to live with the negatives of whatever candidate you choose and that includes my vote for Hillary Clinton.  This is going to be about why I can live with her negatives, especially when so many people see her has being even worse that Trump.  This will be a very long post because people dislike so many things about her.

I changed my mind about Hillary in 2007 and 2008.  I grew up in a very conservative area where the Clintons were hated in the 90s.  I certainly did not vote for Bill Clinton in 1996 - that would have been unthinkable.  But in 2007 I knew I was beyond finished with the Republican Party so I needed to look at Hillary and Obama and I was surprised to discover that I actually liked a lot of things about Hillary Clinton and that many of my previous assumptions about her were wrong.

She was pilloried early on in Utah in 1992 when she said that she didn't want to stay home to bake cookies and have teas.  Everyone reported this as an anti-SAHM thing, but she wasn't asked about being a mother, she was asked about being a political wife.  Wives of male politicians and other government officials have very often been expected to fulfill certain unpaid traditionally female roles like baking cookies and having teas.  Why should a wife host teas because her husband is a governor?  Why is it okay to require a SAHM political wife to take time from her children to do these things?Why should she quit her job because her husband is a governor (especially since being a governor isn't necessarily stable or lucrative employment?)? We need wives in these positions to challenge these assumptions instead of everyone hating wives who do that.

And then the investigations began.  So many investigations.  Millions of dollars in investigations.  Either Hillary Clinton is the most brilliant criminal ever who has been able to cover her tracks for a long list of crimes, including bribing and murdering people who get too close to the truth, or she's really hasn't done all of the things she's been accused of.  I think she's smart, but I don't think anyone is that smart.  I'll go with the exonerations for all the different investigations.

Then there are the more recent anti-woman accusations, including her defense of a child rapist and allegations that she threatened women accusing her husband of assault.  First, it is a good thing that even people accused of the most horrible crimes get decent legal representation.  That isn't a job attorneys enjoy, but it must be done and it's part of being an attorney.  I think it's undemocratic to criticize her for doing that.  For the second, I looked up how she threatened these women.  While I believe that the women accusing Bill are likely not making up their stories and that they did feel threatened, I haven't been able to find any credible evidence that Hillary Clinton threatened them in any way.  Did she enable Bill Clinton?  Maybe, as much as any other woman victimized by her cheating husband.  (For this one, you also have to compare her to Trump.  His threatening to sue all the women who've accused him of assault makes his attacks on Hillary quite inappropriate.)

Next, Benghazi.  This one happened after 2008, obviously, but it's another example of how an intense investigation didn't turn up anything.  I am especially bothered by this one because the State Department often does not have the budget it needs to carry out its mission and blaming that on the Secretary of State is ludicrous when Congress appropriates funds.  Also, I know a woman whose husband is a Benghazi survivor.  It was a horrible event and many things were mishandled up and down the line, but she in no way feels that the blame can or should be placed on Hillary as squarely as Congressional Republicans seem to want to.  She is a Hillary supporter and that says something to me. I am not willing to blame Hillary for Benghazi any more than I am willing to blame Powell or Rice or Albright for deaths of diplomats and US government employees under their watch.

The Clinton Foundation.  If anyone can show me actual evidence that she did something wrong here instead of insinuations, I would be happy to listen.  

And then the emails.  I think she made a serious mistake using one email address through a private server.  But I also believe the FBI is a credible organization that investigated her properly and concluded that even though she was incredibly stupid, and she was, that she certainly was not doing anything criminal.  I also appreciate that she has apologized.  This is her biggest negative in my mind and it might have been enough for me to not vote for her if she had been running against a competent opponent. But she's not, and I cannot figure out why Republicans nominated Trump when they hate Hillary so much.

Anyway, those are a lot of the biggest negatives people see in Hillary Clinton.  There's also the fact that she's been around forever and that she's old and that she's part of the political elite.  She is unwilling to explain a lot of her sketchy-looking actions in a clear and reasonable way to the media which would help resolve issues more quickly.  And she's a politician through and through.  I'm not sure we could have had the first woman major-party nominee not be a lifelong politician with all the baggage that entails.  No woman could be taken seriously as a candidate with Trump's credentials, for example.  Hillary has to be eminently qualified and completely politified (new word) to get where she is.

Another set of negatives for some people are her policies.  Obviously, if you've always voted Republican, you're not going to like a lot of her policies.  That's why we have parties.  But let me talk about the main issue that people use to try to make it sound like Trump is the only option for conservatives: Abortion.

I, like pretty much all Americans, do not like abortion. I think it's immoral. There's really not a pro-abortion lobby and Hillary Clinton isn't pro abortion.  She doesn't say it now, but the best statement I've ever heard about abortion is to make it legal, safe, and rare and that's what I look for when I'm deciding what candidate to support.

First, the legal and safe part. We can't ban abortion outright.  It is a necessary procedure in some cases.  I personally know a woman who had to terminate a pregnancy just a week before her baby was viable because neither she nor her baby would have survived until then.  It was the most terrible decision of her life, but I am so grateful she had the choice.  Even though it wasn't a moral decision because her baby died, I think it was the right decision and that it would have been immoral to have her die too.

As much as I dislike abortion, I do not think it is moral to force a woman to create life.  It is a process that has an major impact on her for the rest of her life and is not something any woman should be forced to do without her consent.  While I cannot envision any situation where I would ever terminate a pregnancy, I would be furious to not be able to make my own choice to continue the pregnancy if I had been raped.  I think it is immoral to not allow abortion in the case of rape or non-consent to sex. One of the main argument that the pro-life movement makes is that the women did have a choice about whether she got pregnant, but in too many cases for a lot more reasons than the way most people think of rape, women are not truly consenting to sex and all its consequences.

And no matter whether I agree with the reason a woman gets an abortion or not, I never want her to undergo an unsafe procedure.  Never.

Now for the rare part.  This is what really matters. I want to vote for a candidate who proposes concrete ideas unrelated to overturning Roe v Wade (which is the *only* thing Trump has proposed) to reduce the number of abortions.

I think the two most important questions here are why abortion rates have been dropping steadily for 25 years and why women choose to have an abortion.

There is a lot of good evidence that the main reason abortion rates have dropped is because access to affordable birth control has been constantly improving over the last 25 years.  There is no doubt that contraception is the best way to avoid abortion.  If you believe that birth control isn't moral then that doesn't help you, but in my mind there is no doubt that birth control is muchly much much better than abortion. I want to vote for a candidate who wants to make it easier to access birth control.

Looking at the reasons why women do have abortions is also very important to reducing them.  We can't tackle the problem until we know why people are having abortions. The numbers I'm using here are taken from this study done between 2008 and 2010.  Most women listed more than one reason why she got an abortion, but these are the major influences.

40% cited finances
36% cited timing (usually that she didn't feel ready or the pregnancy wasn't planned)
31% cited concerns related to her partner
29% cited a need to focus on her other children
20% cited future plans
19% said they weren't emotionally prepared to have a baby (which is obviously tied in with timing above)
12% cited health reasons, either for the mother or baby
12% didn't think they could provide a good life for their baby

First off, it's easy to see how birth control could continue to lower abortion rates because so many women said the timing was bad or something related to that.  Next, I will vote for people who want better financial support for mothers so they feel they can afford to have a baby.  I think it is appalling that the pro-life movement has spent so much money and energy on legal solutions rather than legislation that helps women become more financially stable.  There are so many benefits to that, not just reducing abortions.  I believe it is immoral that there is so much income inequality in the US that any woman feels she cannot afford to continue a pregnancy.  Women need to feel they have access to decent and affordable health care, to affordable child care, and to education so they can get a job that will support her family.

The majority of abortions would never happen if women felt financially secure and had better access to birth control.  These are two real things we can fix.  Republicans have been promising for decades that they'll overturn Roe and it has not happened.  I don't think it's likely to happen anytime soon even if Trump were elected, and like I said above, that's his only idea for reducing abortion.

Reducing abortion is an issue I think about when deciding who to vote for and I believe a Hillary Clinton presidency would reduce abortions more than a Trump presidency.

24 October 2016

After three months, including six weeks with the car sitting in the garage, we finally have our Saudi license plates so we can drive. Well, so my husband can drive me around.  Last night we went out after dinner to poke around a bit.

My number one reason for loving to live outside the US is exploring a new place, but that is so hard to do here.  Transportation obviously makes things dicey, but I also stick out and there is nothing I can do about it.  Even if I wore a niqab, it would look very strange for me to be with an American man.  Any other headcovering, or not using one at all, is also very noticeable but at least I can walk with my husband that way. However, sticking out here just means you're stared at which is saying a lot.

The biggest problem is that there are so few acceptable things for women to do here. Malls and shopping are always an option, but neither of us much like malls or shopping.  You can go to a restaurant, but we're street food people, not restaurant people.  The street food/fast Arabic food places here don't usually allow women in them (although they often have a window in the glass front of the building where women can order without going inside but then you need to find a place to eat).  Or you can go to private events.

So last night we drove around a bit in Yemeni neighborhood and then parked and walked down the street for a while.  There were carpentry places and upholstery shops and little grocery stores and places with couches inside whose purpose I know not and lots of places to eat.  My husband went in one to get a grilled meat kebab and we found a couple of places where we want to try getting kabsa to bring home for lunch or dinner.  There were falafel and ful places but I didn't see any shawarma last night.  And there was a mutabbaq place too.  I'd had plenty for dinner since it was pancit canton so I didn't want to eat anything, but at the very least I think we can try eating different things around the city even if we have to sit in the car to eat.  Maybe I'll try to rope my husband into a street food of Riyadh project.  I'd have to have his complete cooperation to do that since he'd have to drive the car and deal with the food in most places but it literally is all I can think of to do in the evenings that doesn't involving shopping or socializing with other people.

It was really nice to get out.

14 October 2016

Syrian Refugees and Why We Must Welcome Them (and not be scared)

As the election season is finally winding down, I’ve been very concerned about the amount of misinformation about Syrian refugees that has been said during the campaigns. After a number of different online discussions about this, I had to sit down and type this whole thing out.  

What is a refugee?

The term “refugee” can be used in a couple of different ways.  Its broadest meaning is someone who has been forced to flee their home because of persecution, war, natural disaster, etc.  However, it also has a narrower definition when talking about refugees entering the US.  A person is considered a refugee if they have fled their country for similar reasons listed above and have been formally recognized as a refugee by the UN.  They are defined and protected in international law and have very specific rules regarding their movement.  Most refugees return home when the conflict ends, and most of the rest stay in their host country permanently.  Fewer than one percent of refugees apply for resettlement in a third country. http://www.unrefugees.org/what-is-a-refugee/

What is an asylee?

While asylees might sound a lot like refugees when the word is used informally, they actually have a very different legal status.  UN-defined refugees cannot enter the US as asylees and must go through the regular refugee process. An asylee is someone who arrives in another country and asks for asylum.  Asylees have a very different entry process than refugees. https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/refugees-asylum/asylum/affirmative-asylum-process

What is the process for entering the US as a refugee?  

Basically, a refugee who cannot return home and whose host country cannot accommodate her permanently can apply for resettlement.  The UN chooses which country would be the best fit for her based on the requirements of the country and begins the process of gathering data and documents.  The UN has extensive experience working with refugees since the end of WWII and is used to processing people who have little documentation, something that is common to many refugees, although Syrian refugees generally have more documentation than most refugee populations. If the US is selected as a place for the refugee to resettle, the vetting and screening begins. Syrian refugees get additional review from DHS that other refugees don’t have to go through after Congress voted to increase the vetting at the end of 2015.  Background checks, fingerprinting, medical screening, and interviews all happen over the course of many months.  https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2015/11/20/infographic-screening-process-refugee-entry-united-states

How many Syrian refugees are in the US?

Up until fiscal year 2016, very few Syrians had gone through the entire process and entered the US. President Obama raised the quota of Syrian refugees that we would accept to 10,000 for FY 2016.  That goal was met and Obama is setting FY 2017’s quota at 110,000. The president has unilateral control over the number of refugees allowed into the US from any given country.

How many Syrian refugees does Hillary Clinton want to allow into the US?  How many does Trump want to allow in?

At the end of 2015 Hillary Clinton proposed raising the number to 65,000. However, as mentioned above, Obama’s current FY 2017 proposal is 110,000.  Hillary Clinton hasn’t updated her proposal to my knowledge.  In the VP debate, Mike Pence stated “Donald Trump and I are committed to suspending the Syrian refugee program...” so we can assume that Trump would allow zero Syrian refugees into the US.

Why shouldn’t we require more vetting for Syrian refugees?  Wouldn’t that keep us safer?

The main reason is that it would make it more difficult for people who need help to enter the US without any proven national security benefit. Congress already mandated extra screening for Syrian refugees at the end of last year. People in the US have not been in danger because of refugees in the past, even when there were less restrictive vetting processes in place.  When those less restrictive rules were in place, we accepted Afghan, Somali, Palestinian, and Iraqi refugees and Americans were not put in danger as a result.  The system has worked and is working.  Nearly 785,000 refugees have been admitted to the US since 2001 and only about about 12 “have been arrested or removed from the US due to terrorism concerns that existed prior to their resettlement in the US.” That is a very acceptable level of risk. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2015/11/19/the-viral-claim-that-not-one-refugee-resettled-since-911-has-been-arrested-on-domestic-terrorism-charges/

Weren’t the Tsarnaev brothers refugees?  And Ahmad Khan Rahami?

The Tsarnaev brothers were asylees, not refugees.  I cannot find out whether Rahami was a refugee.  In both cases, the boys/men were radicalized in the US and were US citizens. Vetting obviously cannot predict future risk, especially in small children.

Haven’t some Syrian refugees been admitted without all the vetting they’re supposed to get?

No.  Because of the delays that the Congress-mandated additional vetting for Syrian refugees caused, in early summer of 2016 more refugee officers were sent to interview applicants to help speed up the process so that all 10,000 refugees would be processed before the end of September 2016.  The refugees still had their required screening, including the extra screening.

Didn’t FBI Director James Comey say that the US cannot vet Syrian refugees?

There has been a lot of reporting that Comey doesn’t think the vetting process is safe, but that is not true.  While Comey obviously stated that he personally cannot ensure that there is no risk associated with any given refugee, he has stated that the vetting process has improved dramatically and that he believes it is adequate.  Also, several other agencies besides the FBI vet all Syrian refugees, including extra vetting only applied to Syrians.  There are no guarantees but there are many, many safeguards.

Isn’t it Barack Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s fault that we have this Syrian refugee crisis?

This is a misrepresentation of the situation in Syria.  While President Obama may have been able to do more to end the conflict in Syria, it is impossible to know what the results of any foreign intervention might have been.  Also, there are many actors in the Middle East and all might share in the blame in different ways, including George W. Bush.  But the bulk of the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of the Assad regime and trying to blame this on Obama and Hillary Clinton is not reasonable.

Why don’t we create safe zones for refugees inside Syria?

It would be very difficult to ensure the safety of the millions of people living in the safe zones, plus provide food, shelter, clothing, and employment for all of those people.  It would require a significant military and financial commitment. Our efforts would be better spent on resolving the conflict in Syria so people can return home and on welcoming those who cannot return home.  

Why don’t Arab/Muslim countries take in the refugees?

This is a common charge that completely misrepresents the refugee population in the Middle East.  Nearly all Syrian refugees are currently living in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Turkey. All except Turkey are Arab countries (Turkey is Turkish with an unrelated language) and all are Muslim-majority, although Lebanon has a significant Christian minority.  It is simply incorrect to state that Muslim and Arab countries aren’t doing their part.  However, it is very true that some Muslim countries aren’t allowing Syrian refugees to be resettled in their countries, including the wealthy Gulf countries.  But there are enough Syrian refugees who need resettlement that the US would still need to accept refugees even if every wealthy Muslim country accepted refugees.

Why should we take in these people?

The most important reason is because they are human beings who need help.  The US also has a moral obligation to help Syrian refugees because of our historical involvement in the Middle East. From a national security perspective, it is very important that we do all we can to relieve the pressure on Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey as they host millions of Syrian refugees.  These four countries are all in somewhat precarious political and financial situations and the influx of so many refugees has contributed to their instability.  Resettling refugees might help make neighboring countries’ situations less difficult.

Why should we spend our limited resources on refugees?

Besides our moral obligation, the US is among the wealthiest countries in the world.  We do have the resources to help refugees.  It is also very important to remember that 56 percent of the world’s refugees are hosted in 10 countries with a combined GDP of less than 2.5 percent of global GDP.  If these countries are doing so much with so little, we can certainly share some of our resources. http://www.amnestyusa.org/research/reports/tackling-the-global-refugee-crisis-from-shirking-to-sharing-responsibility

There are no absolute promises that any person in the US or applying to enter the US will never commit an act of terrorism, no matter their race, religion, or nationality. Welcoming refugees obviously does involve some level of risk. However, the actual risk has been proven to be so low as to be almost non-existent. Instead of directing our energy toward shutting down the Syrian refugee program, we should make it possible to welcome more refugees.

11 October 2016

Can we have a civics lesson here?

The American Mormon Republican world doesn't like Trump.  It never did, but it finally got disgusted enough to do something about it (better late than never, I guess). But it also really, really doesn't like Hillary Clinton.  So what's an American Mormon Republican supposed to do?

One suggestion that keeps getting presented as a realistic strategy is to vote third party.  And this is the first part of the civics lesson because this is tilting at windmills.*   The idea is that, somehow, both Trump and Hillary Clinton don't get to 270 and someone like Evan McMullin wins Utah.  In that case, the election would go to the House where each state would get one vote and they'd choose between Clinton, Trump, and whoever else got the most electoral college votes.  Then, for some unknown reason, the House chooses the person who came in third.

First, having any third-party candidate win a state is extremely difficult.  It hasn't happened in 48 years and there is no polling that indicates that it will happen this year.  But let's say it does and that Evan McMullin wins 6 electors in Utah.

The trouble is, that doesn't help because Hillary Clinton is well on her way to winning 270 electors.  Her losing a reliably red state is meaningless in her electoral count because she's certainly not expecting to win Utah no matter what.  To not get to 270, she would need to lose almost every single swing state to Trump (or someone else, but see the first point), but she's polling ahead in most of those states.  For this strategy to work, not only does someone like McMullin have to win Utah, he also needs to come up with a way to make sure Trump wins everything else in play.  But let's say that happens too (we're obviously entering an alternate reality at this point) and McMullin gets 6 votes, Hillary gets 269, and Trump gets 263.

The vote then goes to the House where they choose between the top three people to get electoral college votes.  Like I said above, each state gets one vote.  For the McMullin strategy to work, he would need to convince 26 states to vote for him, a person that almost no USian has ever heard of, who only won 6 votes out of 538, and who got a tiny percentage of the popular vote.  Sure, the one state/one vote rule greatly favors a Republican in that case, but why in the world would the House pick McMullin?  I honestly don't know what the House would do, but it's certainly not likely that they'd pick an entirely unknown person with absolutely no mandate behind him except their own.

I just had to say this once more so I quit saying it on Facebook because any Republican who votes for anyone besides Trump is smart in my book.  Friends don't let friends vote for Trump.

Finally, there is a reason why we have two major parties in the US and that is our constitutionally- mandated election system.  Since we only have one round of voting and since we have a first past the post system, it is nearly impossible to have more than two major parties.  Voting third party has worked less than a handful of times in over 200 years.  If you want that to change, we need to change the constitution. It's not the parties and it's not the primaries that cause this.  It's the constitution.

*To be clear, I do not think a third-party vote is wasted if the voter has thought about the issues and chosen a candidate they are satisfied with. Vote for someone whose policies you like and whose negatives you can live with. Just be prepared for disappointment if you don't choose one of the major party candidates.

02 October 2016

Why I Am Voting for Hillary Clinton and Not Just Against Trump

1.  Because I want a president who believes and supports this:

"The United States has made empowering women and girls a cornerstone of our foreign policy, because women's equality is not just a moral issue, it's not just a humanitarian issue, it is not just a fairness issue; it is a security issue. It is a prosperity issue and it is a peace issue. ... Give women equal rights, and entire nations are more stable and secure. Deny women equal rights, and the instability of nations is almost certain. The subjugation of women is, therefore, a threat to the common security of our world and to the national security of our country."

2. Because I want a president who will welcome refugees to this country.  I am not a single-issue voter, but if I were, this would be it.  Refugees must be welcome in this country.

3. Because I want a president who sees immigrants as a significant part of what has made this country great.

"Hillary has been committed to the immigrant rights community throughout her career. As president, she will work to fix our broken immigration system and stay true to our fundamental American values: that we are a nation of immigrants, and we treat those who come to our country with dignity and respect—and that we embrace immigrants, not denigrate them."

4. Because I want a president who has spent her life advocating for women and children.

5. Because I want a president who is capable, qualified, experienced, knowledgeable, and reasoned.  I agree with President Obama that there has never been a man or woman more qualified to serve as president. 

6. Because I want a president who supports common-sense gun control, who is concerned about climate change and the very real sociopolitical impacts it will have on all of our lives, and who knows that Black Lives Matter.

7. Because I want a president whose negatives I can live with.  In any election, you're voting for someone you don't agree with entirely (unless you're voting for yourself).  While there are always positions from any candidate that you don't support, I do think that you are ratifying the negative positions and characteristics of a candidate, or at least saying you can live with them. There are things I don't like about Hillary Clinton, but I can live with them.