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The Fourth of July [rerun]

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[I've re-posted this many times, because it's fundamental to what it means to me to be an American.]

In the hot summer of 1992, I was working for Judge Ronald S.W. Lew, a federal judge in Los Angeles. One July morning he abruptly walked into my office and said without preamble "Get your coat." Somewhat concerned that I was about to be shown the door, I grabbed my blazer and followed him out of chambers into the hallway. I saw he had already assembled his two law clerks and his other summer extern there. Exchanging puzzled glances, we followed him into the art-deco judge's elevator of the old Spring Street courthouse, then into the cavernous judicial parking garage. He piled us into his spotless Cadillac and drove out of the garage without another word.

Within ten awkward, quiet minutes we arrived at one of the largest VFW posts in Los Angeles. Great throngs of people, dressed in Sunday best, were filing into the building. It was clear that they were families — babes in arms, small children running about, young and middle-aged parents. And in each family group there was a man — an elderly man, dressed in a military uniform, many stooped with age but all with the bearing of men who belonged in that VFW hall. They were all, I would learn later, Filipinos. Their children and grandchildren were Filipino-American; they were not. Yet.

Judge Lew — the first Chinese-American district court judge in the continental United States — grabbed his robe from the trunk and walked briskly into the VFW hall with his externs and clerks trailing behind him. We paused in the foyer and he introduced us to some of the VFW officers, who greeted him warmly. He donned his robe and peered through a window in a door to see hundreds of people sitting in the main hall, talking excitedly, the children waving small American flags and streamers about. One of the VFW officers whispered in his ear, and he nodded and said "I'll see them first." The clerks and my fellow extern were chatting to some INS officials, and so he beckoned me. I followed him through a doorway to a small anteroom.

There, in a dark and baroquely decorated room, we found eight elderly men. These were too infirm to stand. Three were on stretchers, several were in wheelchairs, two had oxygen tanks. One had an empty sleeve instead of a right arm. A few relatives, beaming, stood near each one. One by one, Judge Lew administered the naturalization oath to them — closely, sometimes touching their hands, speaking loudly so they could hear him, like a priest administering extreme unction. They smiled, grasped his hand, spoke the oath as loudly as they could with evident pride. Some wept. I may have as well. One said, not with anger but with the tone of a dream finally realized, "We've waited so long for this."

And oh, how they had waited. These men, born Filipinos, answered America's call in World War II and fought for us. President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked the men of the Philippines to fight, promising them United States citizenship and veterans benefits in return. 200,000 fought. Tens of thousands died. They weathered the brutal conditions under Japanese occupation, fought a valiant guerrilla war, and in some cases survived the Bataan death march.

In 1946, Congress reneged on FDR's promise. Filipino solders who fought for us and their families were not given their promised citizenship, let alone benefits. Many came here anyway, had children who were born U.S. citizens, and some even became citizens through the process available to any immigrant. But many others, remembering the promise, asked that it be kept. And they waited.

They waited 44 years, until after most of them were dead. It was not until 1990 that Congress finally addressed this particular stain on our honor and granted them citizenship. (Their promised benefits were not even brought to a vote until 2008, when most of the happy men I saw that day were dead.)

Hence this July naturalization ceremony. After Judge Lew naturalized the veterans who were too ill or infirm to stand in the main ceremony, he quickly took the stage in the main room. A frantic, joyous hush descended, and the dozens of veterans stood up and took the oath. Many wept. I kept getting something in my goddamned eye. And when Judge Lew declared them citizens, the families whooped and hugged their fathers and grandfathers and the children waved the little flags like maniacs.

I had the opportunity to congratulate a number of families and hear them greet Judge Lew. I heard expressions of great satisfaction. I heard more comments about how long they had waited. But I did not hear bitterness on this day. These men and their children had good cause to be bitter, and perhaps on other days they indulged in it. On this day they were proud to be Americans at last. Without forgetting the wrongs that had been done to them, they believed in an America that was more of the sum of its wrongs. Without forgetting more than 40 years of injustice, they believed in an America that had the potential to transcend its injustices. I don't know if these men forgave the Congress that betrayed them and dishonored their service in 1946, or the subsequent Congresses and administrations to weak or indifferent to remedy that wrong. I don't think that I could expect them to do so. But whether or not they forgave the sins of America, they loved the sinner, and were obviously enormously proud to become her citizens.

I am tremendously grateful to Judge Lew for taking me to that ceremony, and count myself privileged to have seen it. I think about it every Fourth of July, and more often than that. It reminds me that people have experienced far greater injustice than I ever will at this country's hands, and yet are proud of it and determined to be part of it. They are moved by what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature to believe in the shared idea of what America should be without abandoning the struggle to right its wrongs. I want to be one of them.

Copyright 2017 by the named Popehat author.
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donkeyrock
3 hours ago
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America Goes Soviet

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America Goes Soviet
Izabella Tabarovsky writes at Tablet about collective demonization:

Collective demonizations of prominent cultural figures were an integral part of the Soviet culture of denunciation that pervaded every workplace and apartment building.

...Twitter has been used as a platform for exercises in unanimous condemnation for as long as it has existed. Countless careers and lives have been ruined as outraged mobs have descended on people whose social media gaffes or old teenage behavior were held up to public scorn and judged to be deplorable and unforgivable. But it wasn't until the past couple of weeks that the similarity of our current culture with the Soviet practice of collective hounding presented itself to me with such stark clarity. Perhaps it was the specific professions and the cultural institutions involved--and the specific acts of writers banding together to abuse and cancel their colleagues--that brought that sordid history back.

On June 3, The New York Times published an opinion piece that much of its progressive staff found offensive and dangerous. (The author, Republican Sen. Tom Cotton, had called to send in the military to curb the violence and looting that accompanied the nationwide protests against the killing of George Floyd.) The targets of their unanimous condemnation, which was gleefully joined by the Twitter proletariat, which took pleasure in helping the once-august newspaper shred itself to pieces in public, were New York Times' opinion section editor James Bennet, who had ultimate authority for publishing the piece, though he hadn't supervised its editing, and op-ed staff editor and writer Bari Weiss (a former Tablet staffer).

Weiss had nothing to do with editing or publishing the piece. On June 4, however, she posted a Twitter thread characterizing the internal turmoil at the Times as a "civil war" between the "(mostly young) wokes" who "call themselves liberals and progressives" and the "(mostly 40+) liberals" who adhere to "the principles of civil libertarianism." She attributed the behavior of the "wokes" to their "safetyism" worldview, in which "the right of people to feel emotionally and psychologically safe trumps what were previously considered core liberal values, like free speech."

It was just one journalist's opinion, but to Weiss' colleagues her semi-unflattering description of the split felt like an intolerable attack against the collective. Although Weiss did not name anyone in either the "woke" or the older "liberal" camp, her younger colleagues felt collectively attacked and slandered. They lashed out. Pretty soon, Weiss was trending on Twitter.

As the mob's fury kicked into high gear, the language of collective outrage grew increasingly strident, even violent. Goldie Taylor, writer and editor-at-large at The Daily Beast, queried in a since-deleted tweet why Weiss "still got her teeth." With heads rolling at the Times--James Bennet resigned, and deputy editorial page editor James Dao was reassigned to the newsroom--one member of the staff asked for Weiss to be fired for having bad-mouthed "her younger newsroom colleagues" and insulted "all of our foreign correspondents who have actually reported from civil wars." (It was unclear how she did that, other than having used the phrase "civil war" as a metaphor.)

Mehdi Hasan, a columnist with the Intercept, opined to his 880,000 Twitter followers that it would be strange if Weiss retained her job now that Bennet had been removed. He suggested that her thread had "mocked" her nonwhite colleagues. (It did not.) In a follow-up tweet Hasan went further, suggesting that to defend Weiss would make one a bad anti-racist--a threat based on a deeply manipulated interpretation of Weiss' post, yet powerful enough to stop his followers from making the mistake.

All of us who came out of the Soviet system bear scars of the practice of unanimous condemnation, whether we ourselves had been targets or participants in it or not. It is partly why Soviet immigrants are often so averse to any expressions of collectivism: We have seen its ugliest expressions in our own lives and our friends' and families' lives.

...In a collectivist culture, one hoped-for result of group condemnations is control--both over the target of abuse and the broader society. When sufficiently broad levels of society realize that the price of nonconformity is being publicly humiliated, expelled from the community of "people of goodwill" (another Soviet cliché) and cut off from sources of income, the powers that be need to work less hard to enforce the rules.

But while the policy in the USSR was by and large set by the authorities, it would be too simplistic to imagine that those below had no choices, and didn't often join in these rituals gladly, whether to obtain some real or imagined benefit for themselves, or to salve internal psychic wounds, or to take pleasure in the exercise of cruelty toward a person who had been declared to be a legitimate target of the collective.

...From my vantage point, this cultural moment in these United States feels incredibly precarious. The practice of collective condemnation feels like an assertion of a culture that ultimately tramples on the individual and creates an oppressive society. Whether that society looks like Soviet Russia, or Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, or Castro's Cuba, or today's China, or something uniquely 21st-century American, the failure of institutions and individuals to stand up to mob rule is no longer an option we can afford.


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donkeyrock
18 days ago
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Biden Having A Hard Time Squirming Out Of His Previously Stated Views

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Biden Having A Hard Time Squirming Out Of His Previously Stated Views
Robby Soave writes at Reason about Biden previously having advocated the "believe victims" standard. Biden denied that on Morning Joe to Mika Brzezinski:

Brzezinski wasn't having it. She repeatedly reminded Biden that he had advocated believing Christine Blasey Ford, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's accuser. She even read his own words back to him: "For a woman to come forward in the glaring lights of focus, nationally, you've got to start off with the presumption that at least the essence of what she's talking about is real, whether or not she forgets facts, whether or not it's been made worse or better over time." Brzezinski also called out several of Biden's high profile supports--Stacey Abrams, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)--for participating in the Kavanaugh double standard.

Caught in an obvious contradiction, Biden then tried to say that victims should be believed until contrary evidence emerges.

"Women are to be believed, given the benefit of the doubt," said Biden. "If they come forward and say something happened to them, they should start with the presumption they are telling the truth. Then you have to look at the facts.

"What I said during the Kavanaugh hearings was she had a right to be heard," Biden continued. "And she came forward, the presumption would be she's telling the truth unless it's proved she wasn't telling the truth, or unless it's clear from the facts surrounding it that it isn't the truth."

But under this standard, Biden would be presumed guilty. If the former vice president is taking the position that women should be believed unless their accusations are disproven, then the burden of evidence is on the accused. No evidence has emerged that explicitly contradicts Reade's story. Does that mean the public should default to believing her?

Biden seems to think the lack of evidence confirming Reade's story is the same thing as evidence disproving it. Indeed, Biden's campaign has circulated the talking point that The New York Times investigated the allegation and found that it wasn't credible. The Times rightly objected to this characterization of its reporting. The newspaper didn't find hard evidence supporting either finding; that is quite different than saying they disproved Reade.

This is why the presumption of innocence matters, in both a criminal and a cultural context. If there's no way to determine what happened, one solution would be to default toward not believing it--or at least, not punishing the accused. An extraordinary claim requires affirmative evidence to be accepted, and if the evidence does not materialize, it is rejected. That seems to be what Biden is saying now. It's definitely not what he said before.

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donkeyrock
58 days ago
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Targets of fake subpoenas can sue Louisiana D.A., underlings

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“A federal appellate court … ruled that a Louisiana district attorney and several prosecutors in his office violated the law by using fake ‘subpoenas’ to pressure the victims and witnesses of crimes to meet with them, finding that the attorneys were not entitled to “absolute immunity” from legal liability.” [Jerry Lambe, Law and Crime; earlier (“Even though the subpoenas were unlawful, he really did jail people who didn’t obey them.”)]

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donkeyrock
66 days ago
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COVID Update – Focus on Vitamin D

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28th April 2020

I have found, I suspect like almost everyone else, that it is almost impossible to keep track of what is going on with COVID. Stories swirl and multiply, and almost everyone seems to be trying to get something out of it. People are claiming miracle cures and success – but it is difficult to verify any such claims.

The normal rules of research (flawed though they often are) have completely flown out of the window. It is like the wild west, with snake oil salesmen announcing wonderful products that not only cure COVID, but every other disease… I mean every other disease, known to man.

You sir, you look like an intelligent man, a man who understands science. A man who can see that my wonderful potion can cure almost every ailment that befalls man. Baldness, wrinkled skin, impotence, COVID…

‘A vaccine you say sir, of course, I shall have one ready and done in four months, start to finish … safety sir, did you mention safety? No need for such things, vaccines are always safe, never caused anyone any harm. Never a single case of any problems.’

‘Narcolepsy sir… sounds like nonsense, never heard it. Guillain-Barré sir. My, we have been at the medical dictionary haven’t we? In my opinion, if you can’t spell it, you don’t need to worry about it. Sounds French to me anyway – and you can’t trust the French, can you?

‘The WHO sir… what’s that you say? It may be that you can get infected twice. So how is any vaccine going to work. Well, I must say sir that vaccines are far more effective at creating immunity than getting the actual infection. Everyone knows that sir… what do you mean utter bollocks. I can tell you that a vaccine will always work, every time, guaranteed one hundred per cent effective, or your money back.’

‘Bill Gates is behind it all sir you say, pushing for mandatory vaccines for all diseases. You think it’s like something out of 1984. Well, Mr Gates is an expert in viruses sir, is he not…His operating system did allow a massive attack on IT systems in the NHS in 2017 sir. Now, if you will excuse me, I have more snake oil to sell… tatty bye sir, and good luck to you.’

‘Roll up, roll up.

Which takes me to vitamin D. Which is my miracle cure for COVID.

I know that, in the West, the medical profession, hates vitamins with a passion. Those who promote vitamins are the very personification of woo, woo medicine. They have no proven beneficial effects they rant and on, and on. Insult and attack.

However, as I have been known to point out, the ‘vit’ in vitamin, stands for vital. As in, if you don’t take them, you die. So, they do kind of have important beneficial effects on the human body. Of course, I know the counter argument, which is not that vitamins are not necessary, of course they are, even doctors agree with that. The battle is about the optimal level for health.

We are told that almost everyone has sufficient vitamin intake from the food they eat, and that anything above that intake just creates expensive urine. In addition, some vitamins can be dangerous in excess. We have seen up to one death a year, in some cases.

Leaving the battles about vitamins to one side, what are the optimal levels of various vitamins? The answer is no-one really knows … for sure. The central problem here is that, when vitamins were first isolated, their deficiencies were creating major and obvious health problems. A lack of vitamin C caused scurvy – leading to death.

A lack of vitamin B1 a.k.a. thiamine led to Beriberi, with nerve and muscle damage and wasting and death. A severe lack of vitamin B12 lead to nerve damage, anaemia, weakness and death.

So, the focus was very much on finding the dose of vitamins required to prevent these serious health problems. However, no-one was particularly interested in looking beyond this bare minimum, to try and establish what level of a vitamin is associated with optimal health. For example, what are long term effects on cancer and heart disease – for example. Or prevention of infections.

Looking specifically at vitamin D, the major and immediate health problem caused by a lack of vitamin D is on bones. Without vitamin D, calcium is not absorbed properly and the bones become thin and brittle. Children with low vitamin D develop rickets, bent bones that do not grow properly.

Once the level of vitamin D required to protect the bones was established, that was pretty much seen as job done. However, is it better for health to have higher levels. Can we be optimally healthy with, what many believe, to be a low vitamin D level?

More importantly right now, does a higher level of vitamin D enable you to fight off infections such as influenza and COVID? Of course, as I stated at the beginning, in the middle of the COVID maelstrom, people are claiming everything about everything.

So, I am going to take you back to 2008 to look at Virology Journal – yes, this is about as mainstream as you can possibly get in the world of virus research. The article was called ‘On the epidemiology of influenza.’ If you want to get your mind blown, read it 1.

It set out to answer seven questions:

    1. Why is influenza both seasonal and ubiquitous and where is the virus between epidemics?
    2. Why are the epidemics so explosive?
    3. Why do epidemics end so abruptly?
    4. What explains the frequent coincidental timing of epidemics in countries of similar latitudes?
    5. Why is the serial interval obscure?
    6. Why is the secondary attack rate so low?
    7. Why did epidemics in previous ages spread so rapidly, despite the lack of modern transport?

Yes, I realise COVID is not Influenza, but past research on influenza is about as close as you can get. Cutting to the chase, of a very long article, the authors concluded the reason why flu was far more common in winter, is because people have much lower levels of Vitamin D.

Below is their graph of vitamin D levels in the UK, at different times of the year.

VitD1

These researchers then looked at what happened to people who took vitamin D supplements all year round. One group took placebo, one group took 800 international units (IU) a day – and one group took 800 IU per day but 2000 IU a day in the final year of the trial. Below is a graph of what they found.

VitD2

To put this another way, of those 104 subjects who took 2,000 IU of vitamin D every day, only one got a cold or influenza in the entire year.

Perhaps more importantly, if you do get infected with influenza, vitamin D (especially D3) has a potent effect on protecting endothelial cells. And damage to endothelial cells appears to be a key mechanism by which COVID creates the most severe, and potentially fatal, symptoms. Here is a section from the paper ‘Dietary Vitamin D and Its Metabolites Non-Genomically Stabilize the Endothelium.

‘Vitamin D is a known modulator of inflammation. Native dietary vitamin D3 is thought to be bio-inactive, and beneficial vitamin D3 effects are thought to be largely mediated by the metabolite 1,25(OH)2D3…

Our data suggests the presence of an alternative signaling modality by which D3 acts directly on endothelial cells to prevent vascular leak. The finding that D3 and its metabolites modulate endothelial stability may help explain the clinical correlations between low serum vitamin D levels and the many human diseases with well-described vascular dysfunction phenotypes.’ 2

In short, it seems Vitamin D stops you getting infected with viruses and, even if you do get infected, it helps to mitigate the worst effects. This could explain results from a, not yet published study, looking at the severity of COVID infections vs. the level of Vitamin D in the blood 3.

VitD3

On the face of it, remarkable benefits. However, they fit with what is already known about the benefits of vitamin D on influenza.

Further supporting the role of vitamin D in COVID, it has been recognised in many countries that those with dark skin are more likely to get infected, and die, from COVID. Here from the Guardian (UK newspaper).

I am not alone in being alarmed at the preponderance of deaths from COVID-19 among those with dark skin (UK government urged to investigate coronavirus deaths of BAME doctors, 10 April). While COVID-19 is likely to magnify the effect of social deprivation, I don’t think this is the whole story.

Vitamin D is needed for many reasons, including correct functioning of the immune system. It is converted to its active form by the action of sunlight on the skin. This is impeded by having dark skin and leads to low levels of vitamin D. Supplementing with vitamin D3 at 5000iu daily corrects this deficiency, and it is now an urgent need for all people with dark skin (and most with white). There is a reasonable chance that vitamin D replacement could help reduce the risk we are seeing playing out so tragically in the BAME community 4.

So, what do we know?

  1. Dark skinned people are more likely to die from COVID
  2. Dark skinned people are more likely to have low vitamin D levels 5
  3. Vitamin D supplements protect against colds and flu – and hopefully COVID
  4. Higher levels of Vitamin D should be able to mitigate the damage caused by COVID

The increased risks of low vitamin D levels on COVID seem dramatic, and the benefits of supplementation with vitamin D could be just as dramatic. I have been going out into the sun wherever possible in the last month. I take Vitamin D3 supplements 4,000 units a day. I strongly advise everyone else to do the same.  It is snake oil, and it is free (if provided by the sun).

The only problem I see is that I cannot make any money out of this at all. Oh well. Perhaps I should claim to be making a vaccine, that could earn me billions.

1: https://virologyj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1743-422X-5-29

2: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0140370

3: https://www.grassrootshealth.net/blog/first-data-published-COVID-19-severity-vitamin-d-levels/

4: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/apr/10/uk-coronavirus-deaths-bame-doctors-bma

5: https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/136/4/1126/4664238



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donkeyrock
69 days ago
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A builder manifesto

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Marc Andreessen says we were unprepared for the covid pandemic because: “We chose not to build.”

The problem isn’t money, or capitalism, or technical competence:

The problem is desire. We need to want these things. The problem is inertia. We need to want these things more than we want to prevent these things. The problem is regulatory capture. We need to want new companies to build these things, even if incumbents don’t like it, even if only to force the incumbents to build these things. And the problem is will. We need to build these things.

Amen. And I’ll add:

The problem is ignorance. We don’t know how far we’ve come, and we don’t teach our children.

The problem is complacency. We take progress for granted, as if it were automatic or inevitable. It isn’t: for most of human history we moved forward only weakly and sporadically. Progress only happens when we resolve to make it happen.

The problem is fear. Every harm, large or small, actual or potential, real or imagined, becomes a rule, a regulation, a thread in a ribbon of red tape that has brought sclerosis to our institutions, public and private. We’ve bought safety at the price of speed, without debating or deciding it.

The problem is guilt. We worry that what we build is “unsustainable”, or that it increases inequality, when we should be proud that what we build drives growth and moves humanity forward.

The problem is hatred. Hatred of technology, of industry, of money, of capitalism—hatred that blinds people to the immense good these forces do in the world for all humanity.

The problem is entitlement. Not knowing what it takes to put food on the table, the roof over their heads, or the shirts on their backs, too many people see these things and much more as birthrights. Not knowing that wealth is created, they see the rich as thieves and scorn even their gifts.

The problem is tribalism. We don’t teach our children to think, and so they learn only to feel. Without a commitment to truth, without confidence in their own judgment, they fall back on age-old patterns of ingroup vs. outgroup—witness a world where even the efficacy of a drug becomes a partisan issue.

What is the solution?

We need to learn to appreciate progress—both what we’ve already done, and why we can’t stop now. We need to tell the amazing story of progress: how comfort, safety, health, and luxury have become commonplace, and what a dramatic achievement that has been. We need to learn where progress comes from, to understand its causes. And we need to pass all that knowledge on to the next generation.

We need to glorify the inventor, the creator, the maker—the builder. The independent mind who defies tradition and authority. The scientists, technologists and industrialists who pursue a creative vision, against the crowd and against the odds, facing risk with courage and setbacks with resilience, working relentlessly over years and decades to bring about a better world.

We need to inspire young people to take part in this story, to step up in their turn and to one day lead the way, knowing that it is up to each generation to pick up the torch of progress and carry it forward.

We need to invest. We need to fund science and research, both basic and applied. We need to bring back the great corporate invention labs that helped create the modern world.

And then we need to get out of the way. Unwind the regulatory state. No matter where you fall on any political spectrum, acknowledge that the creeping bureaucracy has crept too far, and that it’s time to start untangling the thicket of regulations. We can maintain a reasonable and even continually increasing standard of safety, while at the same time valuing speed, efficiency, and cost, and most fundamentally, allowing for individual judgment.

Andreessen concludes:

Our nation and our civilization were built on production, on building. Our forefathers and foremothers built roads and trains, farms and factories, then the computer, the microchip, the smartphone, and uncounted thousands of other things that we now take for granted, that are all around us, that define our lives and provide for our well-being. There is only one way to honor their legacy and to create the future we want for our own children and grandchildren, and that’s to build.

Amen. Let’s make building and progress into a philosophy, a religion, a movement.

Build!

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donkeyrock
78 days ago
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