COVID-19 and The Case for State Capacity

As the emails go out from the school district where I live that schools are closing, I can’t help but wonder if there is, or ever will be, a stronger case for state capacity as a base necessity for the protection of liberty than what we have going on right now.

While the classic view of American liberty wonders into the room from over the prairies on horseback with a Second Amendment guaranteed arsenal and a support the troops ball cap, the last few days has to make Americans ask ourselves if we’re really thanking the right things for our freedoms. Moreover, whether we’re fearing the wrong things as potential culprits to infringe upon our way of life.

It’s undeniable. My liberty has NEVER been infringed upon the way it has, in a literal sense, during this outbreak. I cannot go where I want. I cannot buy what I need. I cannot work the way I want. And my children don’t have access to education.

I am not free.

Amazingly, I actually don’t feel coerced by the government at all. Most of these limitations were things I wanted to happen. If they didn’t I might have self imposed them anyway. The scary culprit against my liberty is not government overreach or censorship or cancel culture that won’t let me speak my mind.

It’s something else. It’s a disease. And the extent that my liberty is to be infringed upon depends heavily on one thing; my government’s ability to respond effectively to an event for which only government has the resources to respond.

At present, I’m sitting in my house with my three sons, whose Little League games have all been canceled, who have no school on Monday and who cannot go to a place that holds more than 250 people. How long this lasts is the dependent variable. That variable depends mostly on my government’s capacity to respond effectively.

What’s the diagnostic plan to enable the appropriate direction of resources to the right areas?

What’s the plan to increase capacity for what is a relatively low capacity healthcare infrastructure?

These are things only the Federal Government can do. And not because we’ve surrendered our rights to something we ought to be able to do ourselves. These are focused, highly specialize, high cost, high collaboration activities. A small government plan that lets state and local authorities work the problem, with reactive support from the Federal Government is a great strategy for many things. For a viral pandemic, it’s not.

Without decisive, proactive measures, we’re all forced to move on to a fall back plan of rolling cancelations and extreme limitations of travel and social distancing that would be less sweeping and less enduring if we had more diagnostic data to confirm certain areas weren’t at risk and confidence that our healthcare system could mobilize effectively in advance of the demand of full outbreak.

These intervention activities require proactive increased investment in state capacity. The stated policy of reducing resources of federal institutions is counter to this. On a platform of increasing liberty through “draining the swamp”, the result is the opposite of the promise of more freedom. It results in everyone I know not being able to do anything; a wholesale loss of liberty.

Expanding on this idea, carefully, we can find analogs.

Nothing reduces liberty like a hurricane flattening your town with no plan to build it back. Few things reduce liberty at the source like insufficient public education. Having to depend on an employer for healthcare makes us more dependent on our current employer, less mobile and less likely to start our own business and follow the American dream.

Less liberty.

We’ve had the luxury of a debate where some could reasonably believe that draining the swamp without rebuilding something in it’s place would be a good strategy. It’s possible this shock, like the Great Depression did for the requirements of a social safety net as a foundation for an industrial economy, will drive home an important point.

There are things only our government can really help with. The conservative Reagan mantra that government IS the problem is a great bumper sticker. But it’s a deeply harmful ideology if applied too broadly. Focusing resources and insisting on excellence for certain things should be possible with $4 trillion of American budget. And insisting on leaders we can trust to be the stewards of those resources, in service to our freedom, is a zero defect requirement.

I applaud the efforts the administration has rapidly put in place in the last 48 hours. But we should take note that the current administration rode into the White House on the fervor of a 40 year myth that liberty depended on a small, ineffective government.

A few press conferences of a different tone won’t do much to change the opinion of the people who’ve heard that message their whole lives and are now deeply concerned for the future.

It’s Still Their Party

Bernie Sanders doesn’t have the support of the Democratic Party.

If that wasn’t clear before, yesterday’s thorough beating at the poles by Joe Biden has made it clear. Crystal. The vision of sweeping change rolling through the Democratic ranks that Donald Trump accomplished within the GOP in 2016 and in his three years in office since won’t be realized for the Democrats.

The reason?

Those pesky Democratic voters.

While counterfactualistas wax on about the possibilities in 2016 had all candidates consolidated in support of Jeb or Cruz or Kasich, they forget a pretty important fact. Trump rolled over the competition in every contested primary. He owned the vote.

Last week Biden beat Sanders in South Carolina so badly and so uniformly in the African American vote that the opportunity that never opened up against Trump presented itself to the Democrats. As the evangelicals are to the GOP, so is the African American vote to the Democrats. If you want to win the primary, you need to win them. If you want to win the general, you need to not only win them, but you need them to show up in record numbers.

Losing by 40 points to Joe Biden in the African American vote in South Carolina was a clear sign to anyone who pays attention to these things that Bernie was weak within the party in a way that would have made him extremely vulnerable in the general. Moreover, it showed Biden was strong in a way the party hadn’t been strong since Obama. The ideologically similar understood it. So they made the call.

After one state, it was a gamble. But it worked.

Not only did the pattern continue into other states on Super Tuesday, it expanded beyond the African American vote to other states Bernie won big over Hillary in 2016. The hunch that Bernie did not have the support of Democratic voters was right. And though it was a gamble and it was the establishment making that gamble, this is distinctly different than rigging the election through big business money or through the silly undemocratic pledged delegate process. It was a bet that the voters would show up for Biden.

And they did.

Biden won states he didn’t even campaign in. He won every county in Oklahoma. He won Maine for God’s sake.

Joe Biden. 78-year-old Grampa Joe.

Which means a few things. Most importantly, it means that Democratic voters weren’t particularly excited about Bernie Sanders. And while they may believe that parts of his message need to be a part of the Democratic platform going forward, they didn’t believe the brand of Democratic Socialism was the horse to ride into the race against Trump.

If you step back from the day to day hysteria of politics, this makes sense. Sanders has only been a Democrat since he decided to run for President. He’s done remarkably little as a legislator. Nearly beating Hillary Clinton in a primary before she lost to Donald Trump is his only accomplishment; not exactly the thing to point to as reason for America to follow you down a different path.

The democratic party is still Obama’s party. The change we felt last time was that it wasn’t Clinton’s anymore and not that it was Bernie’s. The market missed that distinction on Biden. And now it’s clear. Biden is the party’s best chance to beat Trump.

As deep as the rabbit hole of electoral game theory is, it’s important that we come back up and address a few things though. The American people have real problems we need to solve that weren’t addressed by the Obama Democrats. The lesson of the modern-day GOP is that if you ignore your constituents problems for too long, someone else will end up promising to solve them for you. And it’s not always the right sort of someone promising the right sorts of things.

The good news for progressive democrats is that the solutions they seek, don’t require a departure from stated progressive Democratic platforms. They simply require a commitment to actually work to accomplish them.

Case in point: We may say Bernie is the champion for healthcare for all. But he spent a long time in congress without sponsoring a single piece of legislation to forward that outcome. Conversely, the only meaningful and enduring healthcare reform passed in recent memory, that expanded both medicaid and healthcare coverage for more than 20 million Americans was passed by the Obama/Biden administration during the first two years of their first term.

Moreover, while many Sanders supporters point to the distributive miracles of Denmark and Sweden as examples for America to strive to duplicate, those nations aren’t, contrary to popular belief, democratic socialist nations. They are free market systems with limited to no public ownership of corporations. They have higher tax rates to more effectively distribute wealth. They have strong unions. But that’s not Democratic Socialism.  Democratic Socialists advocate for public ownership of corporations. Sanders does this openly as part of his agenda.

It’s not required to solve the problem. It’s an unnecessary liability against a unified Trump base and a socialist wary middle.

At the core of progressive policy should be a push to mitigate the economic and environmental impacts of global free trade and technological automation through policies that redistribute, through taxes, the gains from those activities. The ultimate goal should be to strengthen the value of labor relative to the value of capital by subsidizing key industries and locations, providing easier access to education, decoupling healthcare as leverage employers hold over employees, and insisting corporations foot the bill for environmentally sustainable operations.

This can all be done in service to helping the newly marginalized workforce, the longstanding structurally excluded populations and the environment.

And while they’re at it, go ahead and make the social safety net way bigger than anyone thinks it needs to be. Because there will always be a Republican administration around the corner trying to make it smaller than it needs to be.

Carbon taxes. Subsidies for green energy. Strict regulation.

The goal shouldn’t be incremental change. The goal is transformational change on the scale of the New Deal.

None of this requires anything other than energetic, progressive, Democratic (capital D) policies. None of it requires the cartoonish expansion of state resources and destruction of private enterprise that the Sanders agenda calls for. But it does require something much much better than Joe Biden has been for his entire political life.

As was the case with Donald Trump.

For the record, Senator Warren would have been a fine choice to lead most of this. But no one voted for her. Y’all can probably figure out why. If anyone should be chapped about results it’s the Warren camp.

Democracy…warts and all….

Which takes us to the crossroads we’re at. The Sanders campaign has every right and even an obligation to continue to drive its message to the Democratic party establishment in service to moving the needle to the left of where it is. But they don’t have the votes to claim that this is their party. And they’re getting less this go around than the did last. So I would assume they shouldn’t lose sight of that end for which anyone claiming to be a Democrat would prioritize first.

Making Donald Trump a one term president.

A Bridge to Nowhere

My family has been in America a long time.

My first descendant was a Dutch immigrant to New Amsterdam in the 1630’s named Wyckoff. He was an indentured servant who rose to become a colonial judge after the Dutch lost the territory to the English. His immigration marked the start of an American family line that can be tracked nearly four centuries to my children. The original family house in Flatbush is still standing. It’s the oldest structure in New York City.

My wife’s American family is older. They were at Jamestown. Her earliest American descendant was a woman whose first husband was killed in a Native American raid. She later married a ship captain that brought supplies to the colony from England. His name was Bennett, my wife’s maiden name. My oldest son’s first name.

Those two old American lines married into recently arriving Irish Catholic and Mexican families in late 20th century in unions that, for most of history, would have been unimaginable. Centuries of war and bloodshed had to solve the conflict of Catholic and Protestant and Mexican and American so that one day our parents might have an uneventful ceremony at city hall.

In my house, the Age of Religious Wars was reenacted and anticlimactically decided by the local Catholic school and its choice to have the only all-day kindergarten in the city. That was the tie breaker. I was raised Catholic.

2800 miles away, on the opposite coast, my wife was half Mexican with an English last name. She didn’t speak Spanish. And so she was raised white as far as anyone knew. Including her.

Today, my wife and I are two mostly white 40 somethings with three mostly white children in the Southern California suburbs. Hundreds of years of English and Dutch and German and French and Irish and Native American and Spanish cultures and religions have mostly been paved over. Until we did DNA tests and logged onto Ancestry.com to do some research, my wife had no idea she was a quarter native American. And I had no idea that I was entirely Northwestern European. Neither of us had any idea our American roots went back four centuries.

I was raised with no pride in my genetic heritage. Nor any shame. I identified as American; an identity that I was told in school and by my parents was a mixture of immigrants. I was a melting pot. And I drew pride in my identity from that distinction.

This is a common American pattern. Hundreds of years of cultural differences assimilated into a common, contemporary American one. This is how cultural assimilation works.

If one is allowed to assimilate, that is. 

For most of American history, what has been allowed to assimilate into American mainstream culture are white people. And so that seamless transition that my family and my wife’s family, from one local or religious culture to another, was reserved for white people. And so, until recently, American mainstream culture has had an over-representative white identity.

African American history dates back to 1619. Latin American history is rooted in the 16th century. They are deep and rich cultures. But they were kept undeniably separate from white American culture for centuries, with great care and effort.

Two weeks ago a white supremacist drove ten hours to the border town of El Paso in Texas to murder 20 people in a mass shooting at a Walmart. Prior to the shooting, he published a manifesto railing against the “great replacement” and drawing on references from and language used in recent white supremacist mass shootings in Pittsburgh and Christchurch, New Zealand.

In his speech condemning the shooting, President Trump called for unity. “In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy. These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America.”

I applaud the President’s condemnation. But I struggle to dive deeply into the cognitive dissonance it takes to be moved by it. The hard reality Americans are struggling to reconcile in the modern identity politics environment is that hate does have a place in America. And our history is riddled with white supremacy.

Our founding documents originally reserved voting rights for “white persons of good character.” It took four scores and seven years and thirteen amendments before the 14th granted citizenship to black Americans. Asian immigrants weren’t granted citizenship until the 1940s. Interracial marriage was illegal when my parents married. Candidates who ran on segregationist platforms served in the Senate until the Obama administration. And from 1920s to the 1960s, immigration quotas were designed to allow mostly English, German and Irish immigrants into the country.

Policies that forwarded white American interest at the expense of other races are undeniably ingrained in our history.

This history is important to remember. Not because white people like me should walk around with heads hung low in shame. Like all histories, America’s has both shame and triumph. And though the sins of the father shouldn’t be visited on the child, we can’t ignore the past. And we have to understand where America came from. And where we are going. And where we are on the arc of that journey.

America will lose its majority white demographic in my lifetime. This is reasonably certain. Most of the people that will be alive then are alive today. And most of the people that are alive today that won’t be then are already known. Demography is easy to predict.

If we closed the doors to immigrants tomorrow, it wouldn’t change the fate of the white American majority. If we left immigration open only to white people from developed nations, it wouldn’t change it either as they don’t come here in large enough numbers anymore. At current inter-marriage and birth rates, over time, 25 years or so, there will be fewer white only Americans than non-white only Americans. The shift has already happened. It is inevitable.

The only questions we need answered are who are the right leaders with the right policies and the right new American ideas to lead us through it.

Four years ago, when then candidate Trump launched his campaign for president, railing against Mexican immigration and riding a wave of anti-immigration sentiment towards a wire to wire victory in the Republican Primary and a general election in which he won every contested state, I was concerned. My concern was that we’d unlocked an undercurrent of populous anger that was motivated by an impossible aim; to keep America frozen in the cultural and demographic glory of the past.

We danced around issues like the economy and  manufacturing jobs. We played lip service to trade and an America first policy. But what both research and a cursory view of any Trump rally will tell you is that what binds the most vigorous Trump supporters together the most are two characteristics. 1-Views on immigration. 2- Views on politically correctness.

The new GOP led by President Trump isn’t content with simple indifference towards the plight of minority populations in America. They’ve given voice to the anxieties of a majority population living through demographic shift in real time. President Trump has taken aim at the institutions of the media, academia and the liberal leaning tech sector who have worked to anchored American cultural norms of intolerance towards racism. And he’s made impossible promises to try to hold together a strong political base, at all costs.

Ethnic majorities that live through demographic shift behave predictably. They are susceptible to populous demagoguery. Fringe ideology of racial purity escalates. Violence against minority populations escalates. Negative attitudes towards immigration and immigrants become more salient.

In the past, when America hit 13% foreign born population, as we are today, the nativist Know Nothing party swept state and local elections in the 1850s. In the 1920s when it did again, emergency immigration quotas were passed to ensure an ethnic majority. Today we have both relatively high immigration, a changing ethnic demographic and an information and social media age that breaks down regional separation.

As the pattern shows, President Trump was right on schedule.

His message though, is a loser. And the fear it runs on, is unfounded. There is no replacement of people. Only some mix of assimilation and diversity that makes for a richer, no less American, America.

I live in a minority white region. And it looks mostly like the majority white one I came from with more food choices and more reasons to throw a party. We still drink beer and watch football and baseball. And there’s plenty of conservative non-white folks here. Because when you make conservative views about something other than maintaining a past white culture, you’ll find that conservative views are universal across peoples.

Faith. Family. Tradition. Personal liberties.

We’re living through change. And we need strong civic leadership to bring us through it. The Trump message is a bridge to nowhere trying to stop a shift that can only be stopped through coercion or violence.

What’s the 20-year plan in that direction? Be 20 years angrier? Be 20 years more afraid? That way lies pogroms. There are strong indications that they’re already here.

It’s time to change course.

Life on The Border

I can see Mexico from my backyard. It shows up as a bright band of twinkling lights on a hill to the south a few miles away.

I live on the east side of a suburb on the southern side of San Diego called Chula Vista. I’ve lived here about twenty years; my entire adult life. San Diego was my first duty station in the Navy. I met my wife here and stayed, like thousands of veterans do every year.

On the border.

There’s a wall between those twinkling lights on that hill and my home. But like any border town on any border in the world, the wall divides the material much more than it does the cultural. On the other side of that wall is Tijuana, one of the most dangerous cities on the planet. There’s a drug war raging there right now. Murder rates are soaring. Poverty and the drug and sex trade paint a picture of life very differently than where I live as outcomes on the two sides of that wall diverge. There is not much of a sense that the people are different there. Just the opportunity. And the outcomes.

About 60 percent of the people where I live are Latino. My wife is one of them. I’m just as likely to hear the cashier at the Target down the street from my house speaking Spanish to a customer as I am English. They switch back and forth seamlessly.

The food here is amazing. I grew up in a place where there was a family owned pizza place on every corner. Here it’s burrito shops. The restaurants serve beer in the morning and have raucous crowds for soccer games more often than they fill for Monday night football. But make no mistake, they love their Chargers, even if they did move 100 miles up the I-5 to LA.

It’s not obvious to me that I’m close with anyone that’s here illegally. In fact, the way one normally finds out that someone was, is that they get deported. The fallout is brutal. They have kids that go to school with my children and spouses left behind. The negative outcomes are more obvious when they leave than when they were here. That’s not a political statement. It’s a material reality. The pastor of the Tijuana branch of my church is one of them. After he was deported and spent time in prison, he found faith. And planted a church on the other side of the border where he lives now. It serves in some of the poorest parts of one of the poorest cities in the world.

People have homes and families and businesses on both sides of the wall. To them the wall marks a boundary of expenses. And institutions. And laws. Something to be crossed for their benefit.

The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol is present the way normal police and first responders are in other places. People generally don’t view them with fear. Most of the border patrol where I live are from where I live. I once watched the coverage of the caravan “crisis” on the TV in a burrito shop with my friend Jose who had just finished his shift near the wall.

There isn’t much unique border political tension. Some people are conservative. Some are liberal. Here, though, where most identify ethnically as Latino, the lines are less clearly divided along culture. There are progressive Latinos. And there are conservative ones. And they think the same way about immigration that conservative and progressive folks do. It’s not about race here. It’s about control of who enters or doesn’t enter where you live.

Some want strict. Others want liberal.

Few here think much about the wall that divides the two economies and legal systems in philosophical terms. I’ve never heard anyone say it was immoral. I’ve never heard anyone say it needs to come down. I’ve never heard anyone say it needs to be higher. It’s a geographic function that defines parts of the culture and economy here, the way the beach or the mountains do in other places.

The main concern is that the border crossing stays open. The economy here depends on it. I have friends whose livelihoods depend on the orderly passing of people and goods through the port of entry.

There is crime and there are gangs here. Less than where I grew up, 2800 miles to the northeast. Some of it comes from Tijuana. Most does not. It’s safer now on our side of the wall than it has been for decades from a crime perspective. The contrast across the border is clear though. Things are murderous down there right now. They are not here. And in that regard, the physical border matters.

Last night the President addressed Americans in a live address from the Oval Office. He expressed that there was a humanitarian and national security crisis at the southern border. He delivered a list of statistics. And read a list of crimes that “illegal aliens” had committed and then he asked me to”imagine if it was your child, your husband, or your wife whose life was so cruelly shattered and totally broken.”

There’s volumes to be written about the state of political decay in America. And how two sides are fighting for two outcomes–to build a wall or to not build a wall–that matter far less in the grand scheme of things than the choice to shut down the government or signal to the world that we’re the type of democracy that simply doesn’t work any more. Many others will take that to task. For me, down here on the border, it’s sufficient to say that the crisis isn’t obvious. And that it’s not much different now than it has been for 20 years.

And as for the question of how I would feel if it were my child or my wife so cruelly shattered? It’s not obvious how much more broken my heart would be if whatever happened to them involved someone who was not here in America legally. It’s a bit of an odd question. The type asked by someone unfamiliar to personal hardship and loss. I find no comfort in the horrors committed every day in America being committed only by Americans.

Presently the American government has been partially shut down. And our leaders are reserving prime air time to address America they way it does when we go to war. Or when we take emergency government measures to avoid economic crisis.

And it’s not obvious to me why. And for the reasons stated, it should be.

 

Thoughts on the Helsinki Summit

Political opinions, like most opinions, aren’t sound evaluations of puts and takes on any given societal issue. They’re personal preferences that require some form of matching to an ideal. Psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman did great work on how we decide things.

Two good books if interested: LINK , LINK

As someone not raised in a politically minded household who served in the military and was therefore limited in my ability to engage and express political views well into my 30’s,  I was relatively late to the game in paying much mind space to politics. I didn’t form a “world view” at a young age for which I sought to match my perspectives to. There wasn’t an ideal state that was in question that needed to be defended. What political awakening I’ve experienced over the last three years has been a realization that’s simply not the.

For many finding themselves now caring more than they did before, their reason may be explained similar to mine. By virtue of being born when I was and growing up in America during the latter third of the 20th century, post Civil Rights movement and concurrent with the end of the cold war, I’d grown to rely on the ideals of western liberal democracy.

Equality of opportunity. Fair and open elections. Global community. Rule of law. Free press. Free Speech. Due Process. Free markets

These were stated, shared goals for which we evaluated performance against. We didn’t achieve them uniformly. And yes, I’m aware that not everyone believed in them. But they were American platforms for which we would at least try to lead the world towards.

It follows suit then that my exposed bias is towards views that further the values of western liberal democracy. That those views are now only one side of an American political debate is what troubles me and therefore moves me to act when once I was more comfortable spending time on other things.

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin are meeting today in Helsinki. One reasonable question to ask may be which side of the ledger in the new American political debate to put the Helsinki summit on.

In government, a belief that the ends justifies the means can be problematic. Not understanding the ends nor trusting the means more so. It’s not obvious what’s on the table nor is it likely that we can have open and productive discussions with Russia while more and more evidence that Russia is meddling in American elections comes out. It’s also not obvious when China is the clear check on America for the next century, what role Russia plays in America’s future.

I’d settle for Russia losing a cyber-war with us and staying out of our elections. I’d also settle for the eroding global community ring fencing Russia into poor outcomes if they keep up the shenanigans.

I’m not sure that’s on the agenda for today.

Thomas Weber’s Becoming Hitler

I finished reading historian Thomas Weber’s Becoming Hitler: the Making of a Nazi last night. I thought I’d share a few thoughts.

Weber is a German historian, Hitler scholar and professor at Aberdeen University in Scotland. The book, his latest, covers Hitler’s life from the end of WWI in 1918 through his publishing of Mein Kampf in 1925.

Though there is almost no mention of contemporary global politics, and the book was originally written in German in 2016, it’s hard to imagine that Brexit and the rise of Trump in America weren’t an input to the tone.

Here are my take aways:

– All politics are local. From the outside how German regional politics played out isn’t obvious to the casual observer. In reality Bavaria, Berlin, and Prussia were and still are very different places in which Hitler’s message played very differently.

-It struck me as unusual how old Hitler was, 30, before he even considered positions of leadership or even taking an interest in politics. Weber also makes it clear how that blank slate was capitalized by Hitler himself through clear and intentional dishonesty in how he chose to portray his political awakening.

-What I found particularly troubling was that the language Hitler used towards Jews is very present in the language some contemporary conservative voices use in how they refer to liberals as a whole. The tainting of the media. The cosmopolitan elite status. The globalization of resources etc.

-At the risk of stating the obvious, Hitler mattered. There’s been an appropriate movement in Germany towards owning the outcomes of WWII and the Holocaust as a people over the last few decades. But Weber is clear. The socioeconomic and geopolitical situation may have been ripe for demagoguery, not just in Germany but throughout Europe. But only Hitler led to the outcome of Nazi Germany. Hitler’s political views, temperament and goals for Germany were what drove the direction of Nazi Germany. In Weber’s view, it matters what kind of demagogue one gets. Some are worse than others.

-Hitler’s core motivating principal was creating a unified Germany that would stand up to any future attacks by world powers. By 1925, he believed the two things that stood in the way of that vision: 1-The presence of Jews in both in Germany and the global capitalist system. 2-Lack of territory, or “space to live” .

-Hitler, from the beginning believed violence was the preferred path to political  outcomes and he attempted violence, multiple times unsuccessfully, before appealing more broadly in a political sense.

-As early as 1924, Hitler’s strategy required genocide of Europe’s Jews, Poles, Slavs and Russians. It wasn’t something that developed over time through necessity. It was core to the message a decade before the message caught on.

-Though tempting because of the current American socio-political environment and the authoritarian bend of the Trump administration on immigration policy, drawing parallels from Trump America to Nazi Germany require a few leaps not easily taken. One thing Weber would likely say is that it matters how similar Trump the man and Trump the strategy is to Hitler. Whether or not violence is his preferred method for resolving issues. Whether or not genocide is a key tenet of his strategies. After 40 years of Trump the man in the public eye, there’s not much evidence of either of those things. But it is critically important to remain hyper-sensitive to signs of them if they show up.

American Ragnarok

I started writing this post last year the night I took my boys to see Thor Ragnarok. As has happened too often over the last two years though, a mass shooting, this time at a Sutherland Springs Church in Texas that killed 26, knocked me off my post.

Feeling a bit silly about a social commentary on a norse demi-god superhero movie in the face of such genuine tragedy, I shelved it.

Continue reading

God and Politics

January 4th, 2010.

That was my hardest day. It’s not close.

In a parking lot behind SEAL Team One I said goodbye to my wife.

It had been a month since my 3-year old son Aidan had been diagnosed with Autism. He stopped talking when I left for Iraq that summer. The Team sent me home to be with my family for Christmas. That had passed. And it was time to go back. Continue reading