Archive for January 2015

Still Haven’t Seen It

Still have not seen American Sniper (She who must not be mentioned here is not interested so I will probably not see it before it comes out on the small screen). I do have some thoughts on the controversy I have heard aired so far. That would be whether the movie depicted the contradictions of war and its effects on the combatants as too simplistic. As described by viewers, Kyle is unconflicted about the war, its rationale, or really the damage being done to Iraq and Iraqis (“savages)”. His comment about his 160 kills being fully justified represents an attitude that many think the movie should have examined. When you shoot a child, no matter how justified, it does something to your soul.

I try to keep in mind that it is a movie, telling a story, and that story has its own focus. Should the movie have been more explicit about the contradictions of the war, the fact that the justification for it shattered, or that sometimes the killing kills innocent people? Kyle, in his statesments, seems unfazed by it. That was the mission to protect his fellow soldiers and according to many critics, the movie never presented those contradictions because maybe he did not have them. Where others wavered, he did not. I guess the major complaint is that the movie favored Chris Kyle’s view of the war and never presented and alternate narrative that might have captured the reality of the Iraq war, thus glorifying and simplifying war.

The camps have divided into the sniper is a coward and war is morally reprehensible, and war is a noble effort and a true hero is undaunted by the conflicts. I am reminded of Col Jessup in A Few Good Men who ordered two Marines to carry out a beating of another Marine (Santiago) for the discipline of the mission:

Jessup: Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.

Col Jessup (played by Jack Nicholson) has that uncluttered view of the mission and what it takes. Lt. Kafee (played by Tom Cruise) is questioning the cost. Is the mission noble or Is the collateral damage in pursuing the mission soul damaging to the point of losing our values and anchor in life? The complaints, as I understand them about this movie, are Kyle’s unwavering belief in the mission and no moral collateral damage presenting a war divorced from reality. It presents war as only overcoming our fears, not the moral choices that must be made that forever change us, and in many cases damage us.

Maybe Kyle wasn’t conflicted by it, yet his readjusted to normal life was a work in progress. He was a hero in many ways in that he went out there and did his job as his country asked him to do. I saw that in many instances in the war I fought that was another foolish military adventure. You had to take the politics out of it and do your duty as your country asked you. It got you through. From that prospective I saw best of our military and human beings. When I look at what the country asked us to do, I saw the worst in human beings. And in the end, it is soldier/airman/seaman (or woman) who has to live with carrying out that mission.

According to some, the movie presented one approach which painted the world very black and white. There were good guys and bad guys and the choices were clear. But considering the suicide rate among veterans (22/day), while this may be Kyle’s perspective of the war, it is not what most experience. Having an unwavering belief in the mission may be one way to handle the reality of the choices we make, but it may be a very warped one given what that war has wrought.

And the lesson here as we discuss this movie and this man, is that for most of us who have fought in a war, it is a life changing experience, and maybe not for the better. And before we do that to people, we need to really understand what war is and be sure it is worth the cost. With only 1% of the population living today having experience in war, it might be important to present it as it really is so we understand it is not a western where the Lone Ranger is going to bring justice to the wild West. When you make the choice (mostly by chicken hawks) to send us into combat, some of us are going to have to make some very hard choices and then come home and live with them. Some are choosing not to live with them at all.

Belief in Climate Change?

A new poll out shows that almost 47% of Republicans now think we should do something about climate change. But that something isn’t much. If you look at the actual poll results what you find is resistance to anything that might cause some discomfort to the voters. No on a gas tax increase, no on an increase in taxes on carbon, but tax breaks yes. We have a trend here. People want painless ways to deal with global warming.

And when we get done with what people believe and want, it has little to do with what needs to be done. You know, the pesky little facts as opposed to wishful thinking. What needs to be done, and what is the most effective way to do it? Well we already have the answers from science, but this was a poll about how people feel, which quite frankly I could get a flying … about.

So what do you do with polls in this country? You craft your message of leadership to what people want, not what they need. Then you craft your policies to what they want so you can stay in office while you watch the ship sink. Here is an example of the type of thinking this poll engenders:

Political analysts say the problem for many Republicans is how to carve out a position on climate change that does not turn off voters like Mr. Becker, but that also does not alienate powerful conservative campaign donors. In particular, advocacy groups funded by the billionaire brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch have vowed to ensure that Republican candidates who support climate change action will lose in primary elections.

You know there was a time in America when we faced a real crisis and we crafted policies to best deal with it and then went out to sell it to the public. It was called leadership. Now-a-days we just see what they want regardless of its effectiveness and package that up in our best messaging. After all reality is now shaped by what people think, not what really is, right? Mother Nature might not cooperate however. Isn’t it wonderful to be in the greatest country in the world? Hey, did you see that Super Bowl commercial about …

It’s Empathy Stupid

The usual refrain is, it’s the economy stupid, and that is without a doubt the driver in who wins an election, at least at the presidential level. If the economy is doing well, the incumbent or the incumbent’s party is going to stay in office. That is why if the economy is still sort of humming in 2016, the Republicans will probably get shellacked at the polls for President. Not so with congressional races. While there are certainly coat tail effects and getting out the vote in presidential elections, people vote more on specific issues in local elections (my opinion).

And that is where the empathy effect takes place. Republicans reliably do not have empathy. It is easy to further cut benefits to the poor because the poor “earned” their station in life. If you work hard and play by the rules you would not be poor. Food stamps, Medicaid, and welfare is a hammock that allows the poor to slack off. It’s that 47% thing. It’s wrong of course, and although you can certainly find the anecdotal case, most of the poor work hard for their meager life.

You see this lack of empathy in their policies which are based upon holding everyone accountable even though they fail to recognize they apply different rules to different segments of our society. Such things as being against the minimum wage, equal pay for equal work, cutting Social Security, deporting all undocumented workers, against single payer health care, denying a woman’s right to choose, or even the attempt to limit access to the polls is really a reflection of a lack of empathy. These are lessor citizens because they fail to work hard and follow the rules like I did, so disenfranchising them is a good thing.

So we get elections that elect totally mindless morons like Steve King, Louie Gohmert, or Michele Bachmann because the nonsense they spew is to a crowd that has no empathy to walk in someone else’s shoes. It’s about blaming, not solving problems. As Nicholas Kristof has written this morning, empathy is hard wired and many experiments indicate that as you gain wealth, you lose empathy. Is it the wealth or the social segregation that engenders it is an open question, but it is clear that a lack of empathy allows our conservative friends and neighbors to ignore a lot of data that counters their beliefs.

My favorite example is when a Republican sees the light on gay marriage, usually when a son or daughter turns out to be gay. They can no longer deny the reality of the humanity of gay people when it is their kids and it opens up a whole new way of seeing the issue. Yesterday I wrote about two Iraq war snipers. One had 160 kills and for him “It was no big deal”. The other saw the war from the Iraqi point of view, the failure of the war to be justified, and the collateral damage done, “and questions every day whether I will be going to heaven or hell.” One has empathy and one does not.

But to connect the dots this morning, I thought I would give you this example from the news from a Democrat:

Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan has officially changed his stance on abortion—from pro-life to pro-choice. … But the Ohio representative wrote in an op-ed published by the Akron Beacon Journal on Wednesday that his conversations with women across Ohio and the country about the myriad reasons that lead them to have an abortion led him to change his mind.

“These women gave me a better understanding of how complex and difficult certain situations can become. And while there are people of good conscience on both sides of this argument, one thing has become abundantly clear to me: the heavy hand of government must not make this decision for women and families,” Ryan writes.

Empathy and understanding can in fact be learned, but it takes facing real life people and their hurtles and challenges. It is easy to hold on to conservative ideas when you wall yourself off from the reality of life, but not so easy when you walk in their shoes. Or as President Obama so eloquently put it on the minimum wage issue, “You try to live with a family of four on $15,000 a year.” If they had to, the minimum wage raise bill would quickly pass. But see, all those people are loafers.

The American Sniper Debate

The debate is raging on whether the movie American Sniper is pro or anti-war, and whether the movie paints a false morality play.  Of course the usual suspects are lining up on both sides and I have written a little about this in Movie Time and Trash Talk.  But to tell you the truth this debate is one of the most important debates we can have as a people.

Did you know that less than 1% of our population have ever fought a war?  We make these difficult decisions and we ask so much from those who do, and most of us haven’t the foggiest what we are asking. The complaint about this movie is that it paints war as black and white and sides on the man character’s justification of his actions in this good guy, bad guy morality play.  It never really questions his assumptions and in doing so simplifies our view of war, getting into one, and the character himself.  My major complaint about this discussion is that we needed to hear from those who fought this war or understood war the way most of our nation only fantasizes about it.

Well I got my wish when Lawrence O’Donnell on Last Word had former American sniper Garrett Reppenhagen on his show to discuss just these issues.  I was riveted by Mr. Reppenhagen’s experiences and comments because in a very humbling and thoughtful way, he brought the issues of this war into focus without the decisive politics.  Below is the interview which I think is one of the best ever.  His answers and thoughtful opinions rang so true to this veteran of a war nobody even thinks about anymore.

For those who won’t watch it, I have tried to capture Mr Reppenhagen’s final response to a question that I thought framed the whole argument:

Lawrence reading from Chris Kyle’s (ghost written) book American Sniper: “Growing up, I wanted to be military. But I wondered how would I feel about killing someone? Now I know. It’s no big deal. I did it a lot more than I’d ever thought I would, or for that matter, more than any American sniper before me. But I also witnessed the evil my targets committed and wanted to commit, and by killing them, I protected the lives of many fellow soldiers.”

Garrett, I would like to get to get your reaction to that line in there where he says I know what it is to kill people, it is no big deal.

Garrett Reppenhagen: Yeah, it is certainly a big deal to me. Um, You know when you take another person’s life whether in combat or not, it would have to be a really introspective thing. I question every day whether I will be going to heaven or hell.

I have been working to repent ever since. One of the reasons I work so heavily to help other veterans is to bring a little good back into the world because of life I have taken away. Um, and you know, it is something that has really affected me in my whole personality and how I have been ever since.

You know, I think that that is pretty crazy. I know as a sniper doing counter IDs, counter mortar, overwatch missions, countless nights, 180 combat missions without the use of a military vehicle on sniper missions, I know, you know, they were planting EIDs to kill my friends, but you know it is not always like I said, a black and white world, and the real enemies are not the ones who always die in combat. There is a lot of collateral damage and there is a lot of really getting your target identification wrong and killing innocent people and so um, you know, it is hard. I can’t compare my self with Chris Kyle or any other service member out there. But for me, uh, for me personally it is a very difficult thing.

No, war is a very grey thing and we had better understand that because those we send into combat will have to cross a line that there is no going back from. And we had better be sure about why we are doing this or we are going to hurt the very people we depend upon.


More Movies

For those of us who are “retired” (sorta, kinda), mid-week is great time to go to the movies and she who must not be mentioned her and I are trying to see all the Oscar nominated best pictures. We saw Selma which I will comment on in a minute, but half the fun is seeing the upcoming attractions. They are making some really bad movies these days or at least not aimed at anyone with an IQ over about 80 or without a game box which the movie can spin off to or was spun off from.

The first coming attraction was some sort of a sci-fi thing with robots attacking everything. What I couldn’t figure out was why the robot had scary teeth. What would a robot need teeth for? Not scary enough so lets put some scary teeth on them so they can bite people? Wouldn’t a laser guided weapon be more effective?

The next was another in the series of the Jurassic Park movies. Really? Has not theme park gone awry been done? Apparently none of the staff at the theme park had seen any of the early versions of the movie to recognize what could go wrong. But I am guessing better special effects and that’s what makes a movie right? Messing around with nature was pretty well covered in Frankenstein.

Speaking of robots, did you know that Arnold has made another Terminator movie? No really, and the amazing thing is in the new improved robot models, robots age. Mr. Schwarzenegger plays his original character (the good guy version), but he looks like his own grandfather. I don’t know about you, but I would not buy a machine that ages as I do.

And speaking of time travel (remember Arnold comes from the future), there is a movie about some high school kids who find some stuff related to time travel, rejigger it, and boom, they can time travel back in time and perfect their moves. Really? Teenagers who can out think Einstein? Here is the thing about time travel, if it were even remotely possible somebody would have gone back in time and never would have let this movie get off the cutting room floor.

Okay, main attraction, Selma. I was actually planning to see Unbroken, but it started later so we settled for Selma. I have this aversion to seeing important movies that point out the bigotry and stupidity of the human race as I watch the news every day. But this is an important movie and a very important subject. It was well done, and the acting certainly deserved an Oscar nomination.

Sadly people who need to see it won’t, and people like me who know how precious and how hard fought are our voting rights won’t. Right now Republicans are trying to limit access to the polls and we are asleep while many people don’t bother to vote at all. This movie was a reminder that this battle never ends and that very brave men and women, black and white, have given so much so we can exercise this right. With the Supreme Court gutting the Voting Rights Act, this movie could not be more timely. Oh, and on the prejudice thing, it is clearly alive and well when you consider police violence on black men.

Finally, on the historical controversy, depicting President Johnson as more of a road block than part of the critical players that got the voting rights law passed, I guess I am okay with it. I am okay with it because the movie was about the people on the ground who risked their lives for this and the fact that getting politicians to do anything meaningful is really hard. Depicting Johnson as the center of the resistance (which he wasn’t) got the point across about what these people on the ground really accomplished. That is evidenced by the Supreme Court gutting the Voting Rights Act and Congress can’t be bothered to repair the damage they did.

I have now seen four of the eight pictures nominated for the Oscar. So far I am afraid my pick will be The Grand Budapest Hotel. This was a movie made so well that it is more than the sum of its parts. What will probably win is The Birdman, even though I think Michael Keaton was playing himself, and the movie will appeal more to Hollywood voters than the rest of us, because it it is a movie about self-absorption, and if anything, Hollywood is self-absorbed.

What Headscarf and Failure to see the Forest for the Trees

There has been an interesting dust up about Mrs. Obama not wearing a headscarf on the Saudi trip. Some see it as an affront to Saudi traditions (which technically it is not, she was not in a mosque), others as standing up for women. I found an interview on MSNBC interesting.

A young Muslim-American in a full Hijab explained that it was nothing since foreigners do not have to wear headscarfs (tell that to the AF Captain (female) who was ordered to wear one off base in Saudi Arabia) and she proudly wears hers and choses to do so. In the Muslim faith it is a symbol of modesty, privacy and morality. Sorry not buying it.

In America, she is correct, although and maybe wrongly, many of us see it as a woman who must suppress her femininity because of the views of the males who control her religion. But in Saudi Arabia, and note, by the Arab complaints on twitter, it will be seen as a symbol that a woman has full rights and is proud of who she is without being subservient to the demands of males. It is a strong symbol that being female can take many other forms and norms in civilized society. That is a powerful symbol for change.

I hate to break it to the young woman, but the wearing of something that diminishes or hides who you are, demeans you and makes you a lessor person. If it is truly a free choice, then so be it, but for most, their culture demands it, and it demands that they are lessor human beings because they have to hide who they are. You, carrying that tradition into the modern world makes me wonder just how blind you are to the symbols around us.

Oh, and did you see how most of the Saudi Arabs would not shake her hand. Oh, but we shouldn’t judge a culture that thinks half the human race are second class citizens. Explain to me again why we can’t have normal relations with Cuba because they suppress human rights, but we kiss the Saudi’s asses?

Movie Time and Trash Talk

Well its Oscar time so let the trash talk begin. Every notice how the Oscars is starting to look a lot like a political campaign? It tells you that beauty is in eye of the beholder, and the eye of the beholder can be carefully directed using clever PR. I read this morning that the Golden Globe winner for best foreign picture Leviathan, is being dissed in Russia and they want it banned. Just the fact that the issues raised makes some people that uncomfortable tells you it is probably on target.

I have seen three of the nominated best picture shows, and hope to see a fourth today. I have commented before about the discussion of “historical accuracy”, when it really is important and when it is secondary to the plot. I really don’t think portraying Lincoln as a vampire hunter hurt him at all. But the one that has my attention right now is American Sniper. I have not seen it yet, so I cannot really offer an opinion on either side of the argument of whether the movie is pro-war or anti-war. But I can offer some insight into some of the arguments.

Michael Moore apparently did not like it as he tweeted that his Uncle was killed by a sniper and it was a cowardly act. Hmm. I find the logic here strange. Does he think war is some kind of honorable undertaking. It is about killing pure and simple. Are bombs, mortars, rockets, and artillery fire cowardly? I mean after all, you can’t even see your victims in most cases. I guess by his definition they are. Maybe a dual at high noon for the right to control the Holy Lands?

Sarah Palin is defending the movie and thinks all leftists in Hollywood should shut up. I will try not to judge the movie by associating Sarah Palin’s opinions to anything. I do find it somewhat interesting that the defender of the constitution and people’s rights wants other people who do not agree with her to not have opinions. What a world it would be if Sarah were in charge and to think she almost was.

I listened to a discussion on Chris Mathews on MSNBC on the topic and of course Chris had interesting guests on which he never let them finish a thought as he would interrupt and talk over them as though his opinions, mainly stuck in the 1990’s have any meaning to us today at all. But what I did get from the discussion was that it could be seen either way. That to me says the movie may be on target.

Here is how I will come at this one. First, most of the people criticizing it never fought in a war. They haven’t a clue about the devastation both psychological and physical, that war is really about. I also know that war by its very nature is indiscriminate. It is not black and white. You have to make choices and then live with the fact that some of those choices were not the right ones other than you live another day. Right gets to be a very fluid thing. If the movie turns the sniper into a white knight, it probably missed the mark, but I am getting ahead of myself.

All in all, the fact that we are having this discussion says American Sniper, like Leviathan, hit a nerve and is what great art is about. Your politics should not be on display to appreciate the story telling and the fact that it then makes you think about your politics. For me, it is a movie I will go to see, but I am not rushing out to see it and will probably wait until I can see it on the small screen. I already think our whole effort in the Middle East was a giant travesty where we accomplished nothing but pain and suffering. Winning was irrelevant. Right now I could use a movie that makes me laugh. Then again, Congress is back in session.

Tipping Points, Oil Leases, and Dollars

I was having a moment this morning reading the paper about our environmental President limiting oil and gas exploration in an Alaskan Wilderness and allowing more drilling off the Atlantic coasts. So, which is it? Is he an environmental president or a drill baby drill president. It turns out both and that is what gave me a schizophrenic spin.  What is the priority?  What is the biggest threat?  What is the real threat (tipping point) and how are we managing that?

So I did some research on the net. Note to conservative lunatics: You have to carefully select your sites.  Searching for drilling oil. climate change, and Obama is the devil is probably not going to result in balanced or factual data.  I used Economic, scientific (not pseudo science) and other reliable journals.  Anything with FOX News on it is suspect.  So here is what I found:

U.S. oil consumption is on an upward trajectory, climbing by 400,000 barrels per day in 2013 alone — and, if current trends persist, it should rise again both this year and next.  Fuel consumption is the number 1 contributor to carbon emissions. It turns out that President Obama is the drill baby drill crowd’s super hero.  According to a White House Factsheet:

  • An increase in the sales of leases for oil and gas drilling on federal lands.  In 2013, the Bureau of Land Management held 30 such sales — the most in a decade — offering 5.7 million acres for lease by industry.
  • An increase in the speed with which permits are being issued for actual drilling on federal lands.  What’s called “processing time” has, the White House boasts, been cut from 228 days in 2012 to 194 days in 2013.
  • The opening up of an additional 59 million acres for oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, the site of a disastrous BP oil spill in April 2010.

So we are becoming more oil independent by drilling and using more and ruining the environment. But let’s take that “ruining the environment” thing next.  What is the tipping point* that makes the melting of the ice caps irreversible?  Well the usual metric was 3.6º F in global temperatures.That would take the climate outside of the range of observations which have been made over the last several hundred thousand years.  But it is arbitrary and “To stay within 3.6 degrees, global carbon pollution would have to begin coming down in the next decade, … The world would have to reach zero net greenhouse gas emissions before the end of the century.”  “present emission trends put the world plausibly on a path toward” 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit (4°C) warming by the end of the century, according to a 2014 report from the World Bank.

So what would the world look like?  Well can you say massive relocation, both of population and growing regions, much more frequent and severe storms.  That is why our Department of Defense see this as the most destabilizing event occurring on the planet.  Can you say world wars for water and land?  And if you follow the projections, we are already there.  ” In the last month, four studies show these ice sheets may be more unstable than previous models, which would mean current projections of sea level rise, of up to 4 feet by the century’s end, are too conservative. One of these analyses, from NASA and the University of California at Irvine, shows that western Antarctica lost water that’s equivalent to the weight of Mt. Everest every two years for the past 21 years.”

So the question is not climate change and global warming, but how bad, and will we make the earth uninhabitable.  Well we are on that path and we are drilling more so we can continue the trend.  Why is that?  We are facing the greatest crisis mankind has ever faced and we are ignoring it.  Oh, those crazy scientists.  Well sadly we see the world with a very short term lens that is made out of money.  Alaska is horrified that President Obama would limit drilling in their pristine wilderness because they are addicted to oil income.  Alaska’s budget is made up of 85% oil revenue with 1/3 of its workforce dependent on the gas and oil industry.  In 2014 Alaska paid $1884 to each citizen in oil income royalties.  They are fully bought and paid for.  In the Atlantic states their government wants a piece of that pie and push for drilling leases.  They can’t see the upcoming debacle, so it must not be true.

What is truly sad is to see the alarm sounded by President Obama, and then his actions don’t reflect it as though we can negotiate with Mother Nature.  It is a global emergency of cataclysmic proportions and we do nothing.  We don’t even start investing in our infrastructure to deal with rising water levels and extreme storms.  Albert E. Neuman has a new home in the 21st century, and that century will be known by future historians as the “What Me Worry?” time, if there are any future historians.

*Note:  According to the research, synchronization of climate variability in the North Pacific and North Atlantic Oceans is that tipping point – where rapid melting of ice and further warming may become irreversible. This is what happened a few hundred years before the rapid warming that took place at the end of the last ice age about 15,000 years ago.  The study, published this week in the journal Science, suggests that this combined ocean warming may have forced the Earth’s climate past the point of no return.

“Synchronization of two major ocean systems can amplify the transport of heat toward the polar regions and cause larger fluctuations in northern hemisphere climate,” lead author Summer Praetorius, a doctoral student in marine geology at Oregon State, said in a press release. “This is consistent with theoretical predictions of what happens when Earth’s climate reaches a tipping point.”


Republicans and Economic Populism

Paul Waldman wrote an interesting piece on the Plum Line (Washington Post) about how the Republicans are trying to embrace economic populism.  So far the usual suspects (in Iowa) recognize it, so they are talking about it, but still have not produce any policies to deal with it.  If you will remember, Republicans have a BIG problem because their economic philosophy of low taxes and little regulations benefit the wealthy, not the middle class or as Mr. Waldman put it:

Republican arguments used to always be about growth, as though that were all that mattered: cut taxes and regulations, the economy will grow, and we’ll all live happily ever after. But with the economy growing steadily and economic anxiety persisting, they have to argue that growth is not enough.

In the past they were successful at using the fear card.  “Be afraid of immigrants, they are taking your jobs.”  But that is not going to float anymore.  The real question is, “…  it isn’t a bad start to say their focus has to shift to what people who aren’t wealthy or business owners (or both) care about. Now they just have to come up with an answer to this question: Okay, so what are you going to do about it?”  The trouble is they don’t have an answer to that question.  Since they are against “things like paid sick leave, boosting overtime pay, and other measures, which Republicans will inevitably oppose, it will leave them arguing against benefits for workers.”

I think Mr. Waldman has discovered part of their strategy and the problem with it:

Many Republicans would probably prefer to stick to a populism without economics, one that uses issues like immigration or the latest culture war flare-up to convince voters that Democrats are part of a hostile “elite,” while the GOP is the party of the common man and woman. This has certainly worked before. But the problem for them is that they are now on the wrong side of majority opinion on many of those cultural issues. Which only means that, when it comes to their new-found economic populism, there will be, if anything, more pressure to get specific.

I think Republicans really believe their nonsense about flowdown because it works so well for their benefactors, the wealthy.  So I think what we will see is some way to repackage slowdown and blame Democratic policies for blocking the benefits to the middle class.  It’s a lie of course, but lies have worked in the past when they aren’t challenged aggressively enough.  The best way forward for Democrats is through executive actions and legislative proposals, continuing to push polices like a minimum wage increase, increased sick leave, maternity leave, jobs bills including an infrastructure bill that will improve the middle class’s lot.  The other thing is to prepare for the onslaught to convince the voting public that their policies of low taxes for the wealthy have never worked, even in the Bush years.  The Republicans will push tax reform and while we all want it, their proposals will be a hidden Trojan Horse for lower taxes for the wealthy and cutting social security and other benefits.  That will be the defining argument between now and 2016 and if Democrats do their homework and ready for these arguments with facts, they can eat the Republicans lunch.  Maybe this time they will actually get ready.  Progressives are taking control so just maybe …

Religious Thinking

The New York Times reported this morning that “A prominent Republican delivered a direct request to Mitt Romney not long ago: He should make a third run for the presidency, not for vanity or redemption, but to answer a higher calling from his faith.” For most this would say well, isn’t it good that your faith requires you to serve. But something makes me very uncomfortable about this. Here is that something:

Kirk Jowers, a Mormon family friend who lives in Utah and chaired Mr. Romney’s leadership PAC, said that Mr. Romney’s contemplation of a third bid is motivated by an “almost devout belief that he needs to do something for this country.” … But many close to him also point to the perseverance he learned as a missionary; the sense of American exceptionalism and public service central to the church’s teachings; and his belief — buttressed by his faith — that if he feels in his heart he has something to offer the country, he is compelled to pursue it, regardless of the obstacles.

Religious thinking is mostly antithetical to logical thinking. You believe something on faith and you don’t let anything shake that belief. I have often argued that we compartmentalize religious and logical thinking in our brains so we can stay faithful, because logic in many cases challenges religious belief. But this compartmentalization bleeds over and that is when we get political ideological thinking unshakeable by facts. I would argue that those most ideological in our political sphere today are also born again Christians, mostly in the Republican Party.

For Mitt Romney what worries me is that he has led a sheltered life not subject to the experiences of most of us. During the Vietnam War he was on a “mission” in France. He was always someone’s good old boy and his climb through the business world was focused on the dollars, not the social impact. So now he thinks he is on a mission, and dare I say it, a mission from God, to be President. And if he succeeds, isn’t that proof that he is God’s man and he doesn’t have to spend time questioning his policies because he has the faith and he was chosen?

That is what scares me and quite frankly America’s need for a religious man who keeps saying “God Bless America” at the end of every speech. While we like to believe in American exceptionalism, the last few years are proving we are anything but as we ignore our problems, and pretend we can get a free ride on making a few people rich. Oh, and as the environment is collapsing, well it is God’s will. No, I have no use for more religion in government. I want a man who has faith in science, logic, and facts so we can deal with our problems with things that work, not bleed overs from faith based thinking.

Oh and by the way, logic and facts can arrive at humanitarian philosophies just as well as a belief in God. The advantage is we keep evaluating our beliefs and improving upon them. Let’s not forget that those who don’t want to recognize gays as humans, or think women are second class citizens, or think divorce gets you kick out of the church, are supported by their religious faith. How do we hang on to these antiquated ideas? Religion. Now connect the dots.