Saturday, December 27, 2008

Seasons Greetings from the Cultural and Commercial One-Party State!!

(In which I determine that Christopher Hitchens' hates Christmas solely on the basis that the newspapers print more crap in December, including his own.)

Christopher Hitchens hates Christmas. What a shock. Let's find out why . . .
Isn't Christmas a moral and aesthetic nightmare[?]

A moral nightmare? I'll reserve judgment on that. But I suspect that the aesthetic nightmare is a substantial part of it. [LATER: Having read the piece, he makes no case for Christmas/Christianity as a moral nightmare, merely an irrelvancy. He does go on about the aesthetics of it. Thank goodness for the cultural elite.] Those plastic heat-molded nativities have given rise to the unabashedly tacky ten-foot tall inflatable penguin snowglobes on every other lawn down the street. Oh yes, those are an aesthetic nightmare, along with the ugly criss-cross of wires across roofs and lawns you see in the afternoon when you drive down our street, with odd sun-bleached creche trotted out by the less fortunate (those without Costco memberships). It's hideous, even. Luckily the sun isn't up long enough most days to get the full ugly effect. But the nights, the nights! The whole street blazes.

The core objection, which I restate every December at about this time, is that for almost a whole month, the United States—a country constitutionally based on a separation between church and state—turns itself into the cultural and commercial equivalent of a one-party state.

Actually, the way I read it, the Constitution in both intent and as enacted was meant to ensure the full freedom to celebrate religion without restriction by the government. Presumably, the free exercise clause would extent to celebrating in both the cultural and commercial realms. The US was never meant by the vast majority of the framers to be a secular nation, the Constitution doesn't (and shouldn't) protect you from the free exercise of others' religion. People were simply meant to follow their religion without the dictates of the state. So the state doesn't get to decide that things are "too Christian" and prohibit the practice. It's not the state's fault that most of the roots of our culture are firmly Christian. God love the Constitution for it.

Hitch goes on to whine about "Dear Leader" propaganda (although I'm guessing he sees a bit more Santa than Jesus). But first he talks about seeing decorations in "train stations and airports" and then "to a more private place, such as a doctor's office or a store or a restaurant." All, though, are private property (if the first two aren't, they should be). So the Constitution isn't really something we're talking about anymore. The Constitution respects the rights of private actors to celebrate and take part in the celebration. Why would you object to the fact that so many private actors happen to agree! Unless you can tell me what your substantive objection is to the holiday observances, I call BS on your process argument.

He goes on to make the universal conservative fallback argument - "think of the children!!" (gasp/chest clutch).
you cannot bar your own private door to the hectoring, incessant noise,
Um, what is he talking about here?
but must have it literally brought home to you by your offspring.
Is he talking about the mention of Christmas in the public schools? At least that would tie his non sequitur about the Constitution into the piece. But of course, the most conservative and more observant Christians would probably tend to favor privatization of the school system. I wonder, though, how much the fact that government is so heavily involved in the nation's schools operates to promote, rather than dampen, widespread religious impulses and practices. I was fortunate enough to go to a private Catholic high school where we got to sing the religious carols in the liturgical choir instead of the Frosty/Rudolph pap. Maybe infusing more religion into the celebration would help to alleviate the aesthetic objection to December's decor. But if we're talking about indoctrinating the offspring, I don't think you can make the argument that it's the fault of the public school system for the celebration without recognizing that the existence of public schools may be suppressing religious indoctrination, which seems to be a more serious affront to the spirit of the Constitution's protection of religion (although admittedly not a violation of its letter).
Time that is supposed to be devoted to education is devoted instead to the celebration of mythical events.
Most of the kids around here are on month-long winter break. Should the kids not get vacations? At any rate, no celebration of mythology should be permitted. No wonder here - stamp that out. What poor beasts would Hitchens raise, I wonder. And Hitch? You're not going to win many people over by claiming that what they believe to be fact is mere myth. You may not believe that to be true, but guess what. We can agree to disagree. Why? The great United States doesn't impose one belief system on us all.

Then he whines for awhile about Christmas kitch in the media. Eh. The newspapers print garbage all year long. Literally. The unsolicited local rag is clogging up the recycling bin, still in its wrapper.
Imagine that conclusive archaeological and textual evidence emerged to prove that the whole story of the birth, life, and death of Jesus of Nazareth was either a delusion or a fabrication?
And then, after that, suppose we imagine that man walked the Earth with the Satan-lizards, who died in Noah's flood because they didn't fit on the big boat, and that there is a grand conspiracy to forge australopithicene remnants to fling into the Great Rift Valley when you secularists are all looking to other way. Wait, I can't do that. The vast weight of evidence is against that position. As does the vast weight of extant evidence exist on the side of the actual life and death of a person named Jesus of Nazareth. As for the divinity of Christ, the vast weight of evidence I've seen is on the side of the Church as well. Jesus told us what we are for and how we should live. I see the collective efforts of humanity to adhere to his message and what happens when they adhere to the message or deviate from it. I don't believe a mere mortal could have given such a perfect set of instructions, irregardless of how imperfectly we all follow them. That builds up credibility with me. As others have noted, Jesus claimed to be God. Therefore, he is either God, or he is a liar, or he is insane. I believe he is the former for a number of reasons. But I also believe his teachings on the meaning and purpose of humanity are too perfect for him to be either of the latter.
Serious Christians, of the sort I have been debating lately, would have no choice but to consider such news as absolutely calamitous.
Certainly, but what an argument to make! Imagine that every believer in history was either a liar or misguided. Imagine that all the evidence you've ever relied on was either a fabrication or delusion. Imagine you've been living in a Matrix-like fantasy programmed along the internal logic of Christian teaching, when the real world outside the mainframe follows no such moral logic. In short, imagine that you lack the capacity for reason. Then try to debate the point, and you will lose! Well, yes. But I am unsure of what that exercise proves.

Then, a bold claim:
If monotheism . . . were to be utterly and finally discredited, we would be exactly where we are now.
Most Christians will tell you that the monotheism part is more incidental to the central message of Christianity, which is the essential goodness of God's creation. It's not self-evident that we would be where we are culturally or morally if we were to discredit the idea that existence is good.
All the agonizing questions that we face, from the idea of the good life and our duties to each other to the concept of justice and the enigma of existence itself, would be just as difficult and also just as fascinating.
Would they really? If you posit the nonexistence of any benevolent creator god, then you must be open to the question that mankind was not created. You admit the possibility that creation is not good. That man is not good. It seems to me that that would make the "agonizing questions" all the more difficult. It's not going to help us actually determine what our duties are to each other if we must first stop and debate whether we are, as a threshhold matter, worth anything at all. .
If the totalitarians cannot bear to abandon their adoration of their various Dear Leaders, can they not at least arrange to hold their ceremonies in private?
During the homily at midnight mass on Christmas eve/morning, the priest bade us to give thanks for our freedom. I do. I am very thankful that the Constitution protects me from people like Christopher Hitchens, who would have me celebrate the goodness of mankind and the hope for salvation in private, in secret, in the dark.

Pardon me?

(In which sweeping generalizations about character cause me to make a political prediction)

Megan McCardle writes:

Can we hold off excusing Clinton's egregious pardons on the grounds of Bush's pardoning all of his subordinates for horrible crimes until Bush, y'know, actually pardons some subordinates for horrible crimes?
Which leads me to wonder if perhaps she misread the post in question. But sure enough:
I wonder if the media will point out the comparative significance of the use (and abuse) of the power of the pardon in the context of Holder's hearings and the pardons that Bush will inevitably hand down to his inner circle.

I think the likelihood of Bush pardoning his inner circle is exceedingly low for a number of reasons: Bush's idealism and optimism, Obama's thoughtful rationality, and because it will create a wedge between Obama and the far left.

Bush seems to be a pretty principled guy - he decides what the right thing is then, everything else be damned, he goes for it. It's not conservative principle, and I disagree with what he's decided are the "right" things to pursue, but I have no doubt that he sincerely believes he's doing the right thing. (The extreme range of disagreement on this point is the most obvious dividing line between the mainstream Democrats and far-left netroots). But pardoning his inner circle will seem like an admission by Bush that he knows his administration has been in the wrong morally and legally (instead of just politically) throughout. That Bush would "inevitably" issue pardons would make sense for leftists whose worldview envisions Bush and Cheney as cynical cigar-toting fatcats laughing as they waterboard their subordinates. It doesn't seem that inevitable to those who think that Bush sincerely believes that he's doing the right thing, however misguided he seems to be at times. And I don't think Bush would want to give satisfaction or credence to those who've screamed the whole time that he's been acting with criminal intent.

Bush also seems to be an idealist and an optimist (see, "We'll be greeted as liberators"). I don't think he actually thinks that there will actually be any criminal prosecutions of members of his administration. I think he's expecting Obama not to play politics on this one. Obama, for all his shortcomings, is a pretty thoughtful guy. He's also a lawyer and law professor. I'm certain that he's spent huge portions of his adult life thinking about the theory of government: why it exists, what it should do, how it can be improved. Not just the policy, but the very nature and purpose, and how the structure of government itself helps to facilitate or impede its effects. And he's got to know, as Bush does, that the strength of the United States is its flexibility. Left-leaning "Living Constitutionalists" like Obama probably have an easier time wrapping their minds around the idea that the people should always be able to have a say to change the effects and the structure of government. After all, the Constitution, they tell us, is not a suicide pact. Obama knows better than to try to enact his agenda and then set it in stone. For one thing, he won't be able to accomplish everything he wants to and will need room for future "progress." The single greatest feature of the United States government is the free election. There is no flexibility in government without an orderly transition of power. There's no more need for the guillotine and attendant rivers of blood in the streets when you can vote a revolution every four years. But you're going to lose the "orderly" part of the transition when you raise the stakes of losing for the deposed party. Even though politicians are generally crooks, the increasing tendency to criminalize political conduct is concerning. Jailing your political opponents when they fall out of power is for banana republics. The United States is or ought to be better than that. It's a half-step removed from killing the sons of the conquered king. It's tribal. It's animalistic. It's an impulse we should resist. I think Obama will. I'm positive that it's something he's thought about quite a bit. And Obama hasn't ever, as far as I've been able to tell, made any representations about wanting to prosecute Bush officials. I don't know why Bush would expect him to. Without prosecution, there is no need for a pardon.

Finally, and this may be the most significant, refusing to pardon administration officials will cause Obama to stay closer to the political center and not to stray to the far left. Obama's already started to indicate that he's not going to marginalize the right. (See, Rick Warren). The far-leftists are screaming for the heads of Dick Cheney and John Yoo. I don't think Obama will want to prosecute for the reasons above and because I don't think he wants to get mired in the muck of the last eight years. Why would the "Change" president want to spend his political capital on fruitless prosecutions when he's got an extremely ambitious domestic agenda to enact? But by letting the far left scream about prosecutions, as I've no doubt they'll continue to do, Bush can help drive a wedge between Obama and the far left. Risky? Maybe, but it's not like Obama actually owes anything to the far left. Their support has been so enthusiastic and so unconditional that he hasn't had to make any promises or concessions for their support. If Bush takes the prosecutions off the table by issuing pardons, maybe he'll pave the way for a less fraught relationship between Obama and the leftists. Let them keep screaming for something they'll never get, and the far left will only marginalize itself.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

"Gays = blacks" is a bad political analogy.

(In which the Rick Warren outcry proves that pro-gay marriage forces really are engaged in a culture war against Christians.)

Let me get this straight: No one who isn't gay can oppose gay marriage because it's not going to affect your marriage. Ergo - it's not going to affect you at all.

Your concerns about the social, political, and governmental effects of such a profound legal shift are unfounded, because your slippery slope arguments are paranoid and after all, gays don't want to impose anything on you, they just want to be left in peace to quietly enjoy the rights that they have.

So you don't need to worry that people like Andrew Sullivan declare war on the "Christianists" and Mormons and the violent Prop-8 protestors because you started it, and they're going to back right off when they get what they want. You're not supposed to care that state bar organizations are considering requiring all new attorneys to swear fealty to the idea of gay behavoir as morally neutral as a condition of practicing law in the state. And you're not supposed to worry about the lefty outrage at Rick Warren's participation in the Obama inauguration, even though he's just there to say a prayer.

Except: Shouldn't we worry about that? Shouldn't we worry that political activists are trying to drum believers out of any participation in public life?

I support civil unions, but not marriage. It's a hard position, because all someone needs to do is throw out the phrase "Separate But Equal" to end the argument. We all know about "Separate But Equal" is evil. No more discussion. And I can certainly see the appeal in trying to analogize the gay-marriage activists of today with civil rights-era crusaders of the past. We can look back and identify in stark moral terms that one side of that issue was good, and the other was evil.

But that analogy backfires. There is no place anywhere near the mainstream of modern society for members of the KKK. Gay-marriage activists, when appealing to that argument, relegate most traditional Christians to the status of Klansmen. They are saying if this is your belief, then get out of society. We don't want you anywhere close to society. And if you give your kid some wackadoo name, we won't put "Happy Birthday, Jesus" on his birthday cake either.

Besides, if anything, the Christians will identify with the persecuted minority in the analogy anyway. The gay marriage activists act as though religious belief is something that can or should be changed. Strong believers might say that that religious belief is more like having a different skin color. It's not something you can change.

If it's just civil rights that gays are after (ie: "the 147billion government benefits conferred by marriage" that we're always hearing about), then perhaps the gay rights movement would be better served by finding a way to attain the rights themselves in a way that allows others to recognize and respect their rights without having to actually change their minds about the morality.

A good way to do that would be to push for marriage equivalent unions that the government labels as something other than "marriage," which has a distinct doctrinal meaning and special significance within many of the Christian faith.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sarcasm Rebound

I find it hilarious that in an article calling people stupid for their band names, the authors tell the band Def Leppard to "save people the energy of mocking you," but then illustrate the post with a shot from the made-for-VH1-so-bad-it's-good "Hysteria, the Def Leppard Story" and not the actual band. Hey Cracked guys: This is the band.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The "civil rights" fallacy.

There's an internal contradiction in position of gay marriage supporters who insist that marriage is a civil right, but claim that civil unions not called marriage but affording full marriage benefits are not sufficient. Is it the "rights" you want, then the rights you should get - why should you care what they're called? The answer, of course, is that what they want is to be considered "normal," so they want to their relationships called the same thing that "normal" relationships are called. By insisting on the name, you're changing from a negative right to a positive right - you want to force others to have to call you married, no matter what their consciences tell them to do.

Neither am I convinced by the argument that two gay people married doesn't affect whether my husband and I get divorced. It's my kid that I'm worried about, the culture she's going to grow up in. I want her to grow up and get married to a husband she loves so that she can experience having children of her own. I want to have the legal right to teach her morality and to express a preference for heterosexual marriage within the strictures of my conscience and faith without having her public school teachers undermining me. I want children in need of adopting to have the opportunity to be placed in a home with a mother and a father. I want religious-based adoption services to be able to express a preference for heterosexual married couples without being shut down (see: Catholic charities in Massachusetts).

Definitionally, marriage cannot be between two people of the same gender. Marriage is between a man, a woman, and God. Homosexual behavior is forbidden by God. So that's where the religious people are coming from. Calling a state-sanctioned homosexual union a "marriage" is an affront to their beliefs. That's not negotiable for people of faith. But I think they do a disservice to the cause of religion in general by stopping there, because the fact is, a lot of people hear you say "God" and go, "that doesn't apply to me." I think religious people should do better explaining why marriage should be between a man and a woman in secular terms when appealing to secular people. Otherwise, they are going to think that your statement of faith is merely arbitrary bigotry and they're going to become even more prejudiced against believers.

I think there are purely secular reasons for allowing the state to define marriage as between a man and a woman. The state has a HUGELY compelling interest, I would say primary interest, in its own self-preservation. Procreative unions are necessary both for the continuation of the state and the continuation of the state-as-we-know-it. Husband/wife led families can raise children who are knowledgable and comfortable with the idea of procreative unions of their own. Can gay people raise heterosexual children? Of course, but if you're talking about incentives, pushes, that could make the next generation engage in reproductive unions occur earlier and more frequently. With birth rates falling to below replacement rates in industrialized nations around the world, I think the governmental differentiation between hetero- and homo-sexual unions passes legal muster. It makes a hell of a lot more sense to me than other government social engineering plans (see: mortgage interest deduction).

I also see danger in expanding the definition of marriage because it is susceptible to being defined out of existence. I don't have a problem with the state recognizing heterosexual marriages that will not result in children because of the enforcement problem - bad enough for the state to interfere with one's uterus, but God help us when it starts burrowing up into the ovaries to take a peek before issuing licenses. But if definitionally non-reproductive unions are permitted that are called "marriage," protected by law from having people express any preferenecs contrary to those unions, but conferring all the same benefits, that 1) dilutes the benefit to the state that accrues by favoring heterosexual marriage and 2) in doing so, places a higher calculus on legal reasons, as opposed to procreative reasons, when determining whether to bond. I don't think even the gay marriage activists can deny that allowing two people of the same gender to "marry" requires a radical cultural shift from any kind of understanding of "marriage" that has existed in the past. The nonmarried will feel like suckers for not marrying, for example, their college roommates to get in-state tuition as a married spouse, because everyone knows that you just sign a piece of paper and get benefits. Unlike heterosexual marriages, there is no accompanying risk of children to offset that legal benefit.

I see the defining out of existence thing happening with "human" rights. Animal rights people who want to grant some limited rights to chimpanzees as our nearest human relatives (see: France), and then how it's a violation of animal rights to eat meat at all, even though humans have been doing so since the dinosaurs (that's a Sarah Palin joke), but purportedly serious people think that robots and plants should have rights too (see: "flowers shouldn't be decapitated needlessly" people - which, flowers don't have heads, those are really their reproductive organs you're cutting off when you pick a bloom, but that's not somewhere you really want to go, do you?). And then human rights mean nothing, people wonder why we treat chimps any different than babies, and actual human fetuses aren't entitled to everything because we're all the same and we eat meat, so why should that matter. Ditto animal-human hybrids geneticists work to create in the name of medical research. WTF? Conclusion: You start defining things away from their essential meanings, and then your definition no longer means anything and the meaning itself is devalued.

I hate the way these gay "rights" debates have created and calcified divisions in our society. These debates always seem to presuppose that, for example, I am a heterosexual because I am wholly fulfilled in a relationship with a man, notwithstanding that there are extremely few men and probably a very few women with whom that could be the case. There are so many ways for human beings to be intimate with each other, sexually, emotionally, psychically. But if one kind of intimacy is stimulated by one kind of situation, you have to jump into the gay box or the straight box or the bi-box. If you enjoy/need emotionally intimate relationships with girlfriends, even physically affectionate relationships, then you're a lesbian, even though you may not want those same girlfriends touching you certain places (I'm thinking of Anne Shirley's "bosom friends" - people don't touch each other the way they used to). And because I don't get out much, I'm thinking of Dumbledore and Grindelwald - here we've read about this faceted, intense, tumultuous, and meaningful relationship between the two men, but then here comes J.K. Rowling months later saying "Dumbledore is gay" and now we're not thinking about the relationship in its uniquely fascinating ways, we're thinking (I'm thinking) oh, Dumbledore likes male members in a certain portion of his own anatomy, throw him in the queer box, now we know where to put him.

Everything about today's debate reduces human relationships to orifices and appendages. I think it's sad.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The end of bigotry? Um, no.

I'm interested to see how the newly dominant leftists will disclaim their bigoted fringe. Expressions of racism on the left (for example, the Clarence Thomas hearings) haven't been seen as part of the Democratic mainstream because of the Democrats explicit focus on promotion of minority issues. Pro-border enforcement Republicans get unfairly tarred as racists because there are some racists that support enforcement and there is no real focus on minority issues in the Republican platform (because the focus is on equality of opportunity for all people, not particular groups). What will the Democrats do if the American mainstream starts to believe that the Democratic agenda is a mere pretext for anti-Christian bigotry?

The Christianist popular front began with the Romney strategy. Then it morphed into Prop 8, funded by $20 million of Mormon money. The leadership of the LDS church has every right to do this; but equally gay people and their families now have every right to highlight the Mormon church as an enemy of civil rights and of gay people everywhere. This will be decried as bigotry. But gays are not fighting to remove the civil rights of Mormons; but Mormons have successfuly campaigned to remove the civil rights of gays.

. . .

Gay people have every right to regard the Mormon church hierarchy as a mortal enemy.

This today from everyone's favorite anti-Israel gay gossip conspiracy blogger at the Atlantic, to whom I will not link. Note how he admits his own bigotry and then doubles down, justifing bigotry as a political counter-tactic and proclaiming that the faith leaders of millions of Americans are his mortal enemies.

There are undoubtedly anti-Christian bigots. There are, in all likelihood, Democrats, the party most overtly concerned about the separation of church and state. Their platform provides no cover for this particular expression of bigotry. But does the Democratic mainstream want us to believe they're all engaged in a battle against "The Christianist Front"? I'm very interested to see how the mainstream left deals with its bigoted fringe.

87% of Americans self-identify as Christians. Letting Andrew Sullivan set the tone of Democratic governance is not, I'm guessing, going to serve the Democratic party well electorally.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes Yes Yes!

Obama-voting Althouse asks the exact right question:

So who are the frontrunners for 2012?

That's the wrong question. The right question is: What can Republicans do to make us want them again?

And I'm going to put the "lameness" tag on this post in anticipation of the answer: Sit back and wait for the Democrats to screw up.

We need to make the case for our candidates and our message and start doing it now. Human beings aren't perfect, politicians especially, but we need to not only keep the supporters we had, but convince MORE people.

Sarah Palin, I'm looking at you. She's one of our most promising up-and-comers, but after her public filleting we're going to find a way to get more people on her/our side. This is going to take discipline.

It feels like morning in July.

It's going to be a very long day. The Republican party needs to rebuild the brand, making the most of the current retreat to build its strength back up and get ready for our next moment of opportunity. We're going to have to be smart about it.

Knives out for Obama is not going to work, not for awhile. The fact is, Obama doesn't need us. He's got the votes, the House and Senate, and the "mandate." For right now, let's let him have it. We believe in conservative principles because we know that's what leads to the best results for Americans. Let's let America see the full effect of the policies of the left now that the Obama/Reid/Pelosi Democrats don't have the political cover of "ooh the nasty Republicans wouldn't let us HELP you." It will be easier to take power from the Dems if we let them self-destruct.

We know so little about Obama, but there's one thing we know for a fact: Obama wants to be popular, but he'll always take the path of least resistance. Obama wants us right now, to prove his bipartisan unity credentials, but he doesn't need us. If we send the message that he cannot win us over, he will not try. We won't help ourselves by undermining what little power over public opinion we may still have. And ultimately, being seen as not trying to tear him down will add to our credibility and hasten the day when power will shift back to us.

In shaping the new party, we need to get past ideology and back to values. Ideology is too flimsy a tentpole for the big one we need. We can't all agree on the best way to achieve a good, safe, prosperous country, but we need to make sure that American knows that those are our goals. We don't believe in, for example, free trade or free markets for their own sakes, we believe in them because as a practical matter, these policies work to actually help people. America doubts our motives.

We need better candidates. Drumming the non-ideologically "pure" out of the party isn't going to help us. We're better off with Peggy Noonan with us than against us. Intra-party wars aren't going to help. I don't want to see the hinted-at Romney vs. Palin bloodbath. Let's not let the Democrats win this war through attrition.

Finally, we need to build a better grassroots, with the aim of getting our message out no matter what the media does. The MSM knows its got egg on its face for its campaign coverage, and it's going to try to regain credibility by picking at its newly annointed. There are those on the left who believe that the media is biased against them, and the media's newfound "integrity" is going to add fuel to that fire. We need to build a culture that marginalizes and dissipates the power of the old media. Turning off the TV seems like a good place to start. Any kind of information monopoly needs to be busted. The more channels of information everyone has, the better it is for us because our message is better.

I'm relieved that the election is over. We know where we stand. We don't need to lose anymore soliders fighting this one. We lost. All of our resources need to be put into making ourselves better, because America is going to need us, and probably sooner than it thinks.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Things are not fine for the middle class as I know it.

I listen to right-wing radio and for the most part agree with what I hear, but I can't help getting annoyed at the pundits who keep insisting that the Obama tax refund plan is meaningless to the middle class. Twice today I had to stifle the urge to call in (Gallagher and Hewitt) to tell them that I don’t care anymore that we’re not technically in a recession yet. It’s coming. It will hurt. And it’s going to hurt families making on less than $150,000, all of whom are, we are told, getting a refund. But when a man promises my family $1,800, that’s not nothing.

I could use that money for the great Democratic boogey-man, those “unexpected health care expenses” used to justify every ill-advised expansion of welfare boondoggles. Oddly enough, I have some of those. My toddler started day care eight weeks ago and has been ill for the last seven. We have world-class health insurance through my employer, even though it takes a big chunk of out of my take-home pay. Still, ER copays aren't cheap. At least competition in healthcare is alive for now -- we’ve gotten to to try the sparkling new local ER, where a child-phobic respiratory therapist accidentally hurt our toddler with a too-large suction catheter, and then last week we got to visit the run-down dump of a downtown children’s hospital where the cheerful effociency of the pediatric nurses nearly distracted us from the holes in the drywall. End result, we’re down hundreds of dollars this month in copays. But finally, we pray, she is safe and well. Our family is happy. Our fundamentals are strong.

Our finances are not.

According to the Interactive Class-Finder on New York Times website (how British!), I’m high-upper-middle because of my “prestigious” attorney job, but Obama just thinks I’m middle-class. I make less than $100,000 per year, but I’m likely to hit that number in the next 2-3 years. We live in a decent older house in a nice city just 30 minutes commute from downtown. Our daughter goes to a lovely church-run daycare while my husband goes to graduate school. We’re the American dream family: just starting out, working hard, and stretching, stretching to reach something better.

But there’s a pretty good chance we won't make it. We gambled by buying a high-priced house at what turned out to be the market peak. We hedged out bets by paying extra to fix the rate, which apparently makes us suckers - no balloon-payment holiday for us!. The mortgage is hefty. Both of them are, actually. They eat 80% of what I take home. In the meantime, the family eats well enough, because I now cook everything from scratch. Even though we’re poorer now than ever, I actually feel more connected to traditionally conservative values – it’s hard not to identify with my foremothers while I’m baking bread, soaking beans, boiling sugar for desserts and jams. But some of the fun leaves my one-time hobby when I have to calculate the cost-per-head of everything that goes into the dish.

But we get along ok as we dance right along the line, generally spinning just this side of solvency but occasionally skipping over it. We still buy books and lunches and basic cable TV, and if our kid wears clearance Garanimals then at least she always has the expensive best-quality diapers next to her skin. Scrimping is our new normal; our definition of "splurge" has changed radically. We’re lucky enough to have student loans and credit cards get us down the home stretch, just 24 months until my husband gets his professional degree and starts working. We've bought the American dream, and are leveraging into it everything we can grasp. The expectation of riches doesn't make the rags anymore fun to wear.

$1,800. That's a lot of money to buy nice things with, things that would make a difference in our daily lives. It's a smaller dream, to be sure. But it's the bigger Christmas celebration with more people I've been wishing for. A trip to the overseas military base to see my brother's new baby. New suits for a new body instead of wedging into the industrial Spanx (generic-brand, of course) to fit into pre-pregnancy clothes. Hell, it’s three pairs of earrings! Or it’s one little thing every month with the money freed up by paying down a credit card.

So what’s the problem? I pay taxes. I wish I paid fewer taxes. I’m not going to have to pay more, if I can take Obama at his word. I’ll get what I want and others will pay. I ought to be happy that Robama Hood wants to steal from the rich and give it to me.

But I'm not. Why?

Obvious knee-jerk lefty response: I’m too stupid to know what’s good for me. But that’s not it, precisely the opposite. I’m against this stupid “tax cut” for pure self-interest. If I let him soak the rich now, I’ll never be rich. Debts must be paid, books balanced. If he taxes the rich and the corporations, there will be fewer jobs. When my husband graduates, his student loans will come due, job or no job. There is no way we can pay them on my salary alone. If we default, we’re just contributing to the financial downward spiral. That’s not going to help the large financial instutitions. Any more bad investments and the insurance investors are going to feel the squeeze, giving them less to spend on . . . cha-ching . . . lawyers like me! As the maxim goes, good attorneys are easier to replace than good secretaries, so let’s see where that leaves us. . . ah yes, not able to make the mortgage payments we were making previously. Thus continueth the circle of failure. And that presumes that everything that Obama is saying is true: that there will be a tax cut, and that I will get it. Already one of my state's U.S. Representative had the brilliant idea of having the federal government cut tax cut checks directly to the states, not the people. Federalism, indeed.

The country needs economic growth. I need economic growth. I’m not selling my future for 1,800 pieces of silver, even if it comes from “the rich” or corporations or robber-barons or even those making just a little bit more than me. I don’t give a rat’s ass about fairness in the tax code or “helping” the middle class at the expense of anyone else. Obama is right that things are not fine. They’re not fine for me. But there’s not-fine for right now and there’s looming disaster, and I’m ok with sucking along at not-fine for awhile while we regroup and beat it together, instead of whining about who should be hardest hit.

So when I hear right-wing pundits claim that no one needs any of Obama’s tax-refunds, I get frustrated. That argument doesn’t persuade me, and I’m on your side. But in the meantime, there are people suffering as there always are. We don't need to belittle the plight of those desperate for some relief who reach for the dreamlet Obama dangles. We need to tell them about the better dream they’re selling out.

I am middle class. I am struggling. And I am voting against Obama so that one day I won't have to struggle.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Defending the indefensible - with nice gory personal details at the end.

It's funny that the conservative blogosphere seems to have largely ignored the debate quotation that has the liberal bloggers going out of their minds. Make that air quotation - McCain's reference to the "health of the mother" justification for abortion.

While fully recognizing that most Americans would disagree with me, I think that McCain's position is insufficiently pro-life. But that doesn't stop this HuffPo guy from deciding that McCain is the devil for using scare quotes around the term "women's health" when used as a justification for abortion. I think McCain deserves to be defended.

HuffPo guy ignores the fact that "health of the mother" has been used to justify abortions, even late-term abortions, for problems most people don't consider health problems. According to the LA Times:
The official position of NARAL Pro-Choice America, an abortion rights group that endorsed Obama in May, states: “A health exception must also account for the mental health problems that may occur in pregnancy."
It's not a far leap to get from there to purely emotional distress. Which, don't get me wrong, I don't want pregnant women to be upset. Even when it occurs, however, it's never fetus intentionally trying to make your life miserable. Why should the fetus be the one to pay the ultimate price? But in today's world, if you dare to believe that emotional stress doesn't have the same moral weight as killing someone, that makes YOU evil. Question the morality of the pro-abortion folks, and watch the liberal villagers come charging with their pitchforks.

Which is appropriate, because they can't resist using them on straw men.

Arguments in this area always seem to assume that any questioning of the "health" exception as most broadly applied means that you would rather women just die. Actually, though, Senator McCain doesn't think your concern for your health is extreme. He thinks your concern for your "health" is extreme ("health" defined as mental stress, emotional turmoil, or inconvenience). His air quotes are appropriate because actual health as traditionally defined is not what he's talking about. McCain supports the health of the mother exception for abortion when it's talking about physical health. Obama distanced himself from the overly broad NARAL "health" exception also.

Tellingly, Ms. Jezebel's real-world example has nothing to do with actual health either:

[G]o read Gretchen Voss's story about hers [second trimester abortion]— why she had one, how it wasn't avoidable and how ridding the world of such procedures would have made her life much harder.
So I read it. What did I find? Ms. Voss's fetus was diagnosed with a severe neural defect that made it likely to die in utero or shortly after birth in gruesome fashion. That is enough to cause no end of mental distress to Ms. Voss and her husband. That would have happened either way. But how much emotional distress was saved by not letting nature take its course? How much emotional distress was saved in not letting the pregnancy miscarry a few weeks down the line, a few months, a few years of short birth? Is that distress more or less than the distress caused by this:

Unlike a simple first-trimester abortion, which can be completed in one quick office visit, a second-trimester termination is much more complicated, a two-day minimum process. He started it that day by inserting four laminaria sticks made of dried seaweed into my cervix. It was excruciating, and he apologized over and over as I cried out in pain. When I left the examining room, my mom and my husband were shocked -- I was shaking and ghostly white. The pain lasted throughout the night as the sticks collected my body's fluids and expanded, dilating my cervix just like the beginning stages of labor.
That's horrifying. To be asked to kill your child is horrifying too. Is it more or less distressing to have to hold the power of life and death over your child? Is it more or less distressing to do it when family and friends are trying to help you, the person they know and love, by advising you to terminate the life that you're making and that you love? Even if you don't love your fetus, how much stress is enough to justify killing someone?

Ms. Voss's experience colored her experience of her second pregnancy:
As the rest of our prenatal testing results started to pile up, all of them completely normal, we began to let hope back into our hearts. Of course, we know that anything can happen at any time. We'll never forget that. There will be many more months of worry -- and then, I guess, a lifetime more.
Anything can happen at any time. Why kill the fetus? What chance of futile mental distress is worth what chance that doctors may have gotten it wrong? How much distress is worth a life?

The ready availability of abortion detrimentally impacts women's and babies' health. Why spend resources pushing difficult and expensive in utero surgeries when you can just start over with a new pregnancy? But if there's no one pushing the envelope with this treatment, medical science will never progress. The hospital nearest my house has a policy that if you come in with a miscarriage at less than 20 weeks, they will not try to save the pregnancy. Start over. Let it die. Death doesn't matter when you're spared the gory details.

I believe that death does matter. Or better stated: Life matters. The lives of babies born and unborn, and the lives of the men and women they grow up to be. All of these statements presuppose that the "tissue" growing inside a woman is a human and a life, and that human life is worth protecting.

Because let's not play games about where life begins. We know a fetus is alive. It's alive just the same as I'm alive and our betta fish is alive. My hamsters used to be alive, and rumor has it that the brown plant on my patio may be alive even yet. A fetus, or embryo, or blastocyst is alive the way tasty cows and corn plants are alive, until they're butchered and harvested to make my dinner. The question isn't when a fetus is alive. The question is "should we care."

We don't care when some things are killed. I'm happy when roaches are killed. My only regret when celery plants get killed is that I might have to eat them too. But are human cells at the earliest stages more like celery plants or more like babies? If anything, right at the outset, they probably look a lot like bacteria, single-celled organisms. But I'm an educated person, so I know that two things can share similar characteristics, but still be very different. Bacteria and blastocysts are freakin' tiny. But so are hydrogen and helium atoms. Only one explodes. Terminating the life of a fetus isn't quite like cutting off a pinky toe either, even though that's living human tissue. Limbs don't have a separate chromosomal identity. Fertilized eggs carry human DNA, a complete set of unique chromosomes. Obliterating a fetus obliterates all of the descendants that won't be created from itself - preemptive tribal genocide. Fetuses are human, and they are alive.

If that sounds overly academic, that's because it is. By six weeks, that living human has an eye spot, upper and lower jaws coming in, buds for arms and legs. How many women even know they're pregnant then, especially if it's unexpected? Click through the graphics, watch it grow. It's got these weird nubbly arms and legs, but it's still a living human. God help us if the standard is that it's ok to kill the weird-looking humans. (I, for one, would be screwed.)

Analytically, life begins at conception. Human life. A separate human life. Should we care? Only if we care about human life at all. If we don't care about human life in general, we wouldn't care about protecting a mother's health, comfort, and dignity either. How much should we care? After all, the pre-viable fetus needs the mother to live, and that is not without cost.

I recognize that the interests of mother and fetus may not always be in accord. But protecting human life has to be the highest moral value. When you weigh the competing interests of mother and child, life trumps all. If the mother is going to be inconvenienced, the fetus wins. Mental distress versus life? Life is more important. If the pregnancy risks the mother's life? Whoa, there. That's different. Pro-life doesn't say that the fetus is more important than the mother. Life = life. Arguing against a pro-life position by saying you are anti-woman makes no sense in this moral framework and certainly isn't persuasive. Couching the question in mom versus baby begs the question of how to compare the moral weight of the interests at issue. The emotional toll brought on by a difficult, unwanted, and or seemingly-futile pregnancy can be devastating and profound. Preventing that emotional and mental distress would be worth great cost. But not the cost of taking someone else's life.

I sympathize with Ms. Voss more than I can properly explain. But I wonder too about her family, her "Catholic father and Republican father-in-law." They seem so hopeless. "Anything can happen," she says, while acting as though death is certain. I can't help but wonder how much of the residual sadness she feels could have been avoided or relieved by taking solace in the fact that she did all she could do. Physically and emotionally, she wasn't ready to go. She admits fighting the anesthesia to hold on to being pregnant just a few minutes longer. How can we know what would have happened had she let things go on? How can we know what damage was done to her soul (or psyche, if you prefer) in deciding to kill the child she so desperately wanted. By having the abortion, we'll never know. We can never know, in this world, how it would have been different if all the people who were killed had been allowed to live.

I used to be pro-choice, rabidly so. I hate government, and I don't want it fiddling in my uterus. I was fiscal conservative/social liberal because I thought people were almost always better off being left alone. Life disabused me of this misguided notion. The culture we live in matters. There are people who are vulnerable, who are sick, and who need help in any society. If the culture doesn't care about them or their problems, humanity suffers.

In our culture, abortion is legal. It is, to be blunt, less messy than other ways of having a pregnancy terminate. Pregnancy is awful in ways you cannot possibly imagine, and I could not possibly explain. And other women have much worse pregnancies than I did. Add this to tremendous social and institutional pressure in favor of abortion for poor women, black women, school-age girls and women, women with "imperfect" or disabled fetuses. Pregnant women are treated with contempt and loathing in many parts of society, especially the workplace. I don't think people like to be reminded so viscerally of the fact that we're so animal. Birthrates decline as countries prosper.

So much as I hate to admit it, the culture matters. If our culture truly valued human life in all its forms, women wouldn't walk into hospitals while having a miscarriage and wait in the waiting room as a low priority because triage determines that there's not really anything they can do for you. A medical system that valued human life in all its forms wouldn't send you a doctor who just shakes his head while you try and fail to get the words out, to explain through your tears that you've read articles about 21-week old fetuses that lived and you're at 19-and-a-half so please, please take a chance on me. A life-loving culture wouldn't tell you it was hospital policy not to even try and as a matter of fact, there's a separate wing of the hospital you have to check in to if you want to save your baby but you haven't hit the "right" gestational age to qualify.

Abortion is the easy way to get out of the messy facts of life, like neural tube defects and downs syndrome and otherwise unexplained miscarraige. It's the easy answer we let doctors give when they don't know what to do, and trust me, when you're pregnant, you discover how frighteningly little anyone knows about the awesome act of creating life.

* * * * *

The emergency room doctor gave us some privacy while he left to go schedule the D&C. I didn't want to face delivering the remains of my dead child at home. They'll just take it out, he said. A friend in the same position only took one day off work when her first fetus was determined to be "growing too slow" and removed. It was New Years Day. I wouldn't even need to take vacation.

My ob-gyn came in a few hours later to do the pre-op. Yet another pelvic exam left me so sore I could hardly move. Hospital policy required a Foley catheter for an ultrasound that hurt every second it was in. Insult to injury - the ultrasound showed that my body was having severe contractions. I don't know what it showed the baby's body as doing. All they told me was "dead."

"Schedule the procedure," I demanded. I know my rights.

I was angry when my doctor told me it was better not to do any medical intervention if at all possible. What were we supposed to tell our families? "Oh hey, my dead baby is going to fall out of me any minute. And Happy Holidays, by the way." Ever tactful, we told them exactly that.

And then we waited.

How many days are you supposed to wait for your dead baby to fall out of you?

We waited 22 more weeks.

There is such relief in not having to be God.

She is so beautiful it will make your heart stop.

I nearly killed her.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

controlled burn

A good post here called "The Case for Letting it Burn" makes me think of forestry policy in relation to the financial mess. I'm opposed to the pie-in-the-sky policies that caused the volatility and extent of the crisis. Each day that the sky doesn't fall makes me wonder if the bailout is necessary and solidifies my opposition to it. I always think of leftist policies as feel-good short-term things, from their economics to their environmental (Free houses for poor people! Trees are good!). The illusion of a poorly managed forest is nice, controlled burns can be ugly, but the result is a healthier forest overall and in the future.

So I say no bailout. Let this be a controlled burn to destroy the waste of the economy so that good big new economic trees can grow.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Relevance of Personal Sacrifice

Count me among those who believed McCain was "the least repulsive Democrat running." But the last few weeks have really solidified for me that McCain is actually going to be a better president than I would have expected and a clearly superior choice to Obama.

I recognize that not everyone is going to read into this the same way that I did, but I thought McCain's temporary suspension of his campaign was admirable. I don't believe that there was nothing McCain could have done. The man is powerful enough that he's got quite a bit of political capital. If he's willing to spend it to get a bailout done, that's good. If he's willing to do it at the expense of his campaign, that's precisely the person I want to lead us through the crisis.

I also thought that he was being attacked unfairly by the post-debate pundits. I think that most informed people understand by now that the bank and insurance company failures can be traced to the subprime housing crisis, a Democrat idea become law through a sometimes complicit Republican minority. Many attacked McCain for failing to point this out or assign blame, but think about that. Had he done so, he would have undermined his credibility in the Senate as a bipartisan negotiator. Again, he passed up the political points he could have made during a debate - a format and topic that was supposed to favor him! - in service of a greater goal.

I don't know if my impression is just confirmation bias, since I was always going to vote for Obama's opponent. Other people aren't going to draw the same conclusions from these actions. But I see the man, and I know his history of personal sacrifice for the public good, and even though I disagree with him on so much, I can't help but trust him.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Despicable lies? Does he really want to play that game?

Here's the transcript of Obama's new ad responding to the Gianna Jessen ad with some fact-checking interspersed: (transcript via Michelle)
[V]otes taken out of context accusing Obama of letting infants die. . .
Out of context? This isn't some last-minute amendment tacked on to an omnibus budget bill. The sole reason for the bill was to close the loophole in existing Illinois state law that permitted doctors to withhold lifesaving or comfort care from infants born alive during an abortion procedure. And only 9 people voted against it . . . including Obama. Looks like the other legislators understood the context all right.
It’s a despicable lie.

So what you're saying, Senator, is that lying as bad? Interesting. . .

Even the bill’s Republican sponsor said it’s untrue. Obama’s always supported medical care to protect infants.

Except, of course, Obama doesn't define "infant" as "born-alive fetus" but "wanted born-alive fetus."

Oh, so we're talking about McCain now? That's interesting, because that's not actually a McCain ad you're talking about, is it?

He’s running on a platform to ban abortion, even in cases of rape and incest.

No he isn't. McCain supports abortion for rape and incest. You're thinking of Palin here, who is not actually at the top of the ticket. I know you get confused about that sometimes.

Sleazy ads.

Oh yes. (Yours.)

Anti-the choice to let "born-alive fetuses" die!

That’s John McCain.
From the beginning of the ad.

I’m Barack Obama and I approve this message

John McCain’s Attacks: “the sleaziest ads ever”, “truly vile”

That's right kids! Lying is bad, John McCain is sleazy, and Barack can prove it by countering an attack McCain didn't make.

Come to think of it, John, maybe you should!

Colorado . . . hmmm.

If Colorado is the new Florida (and God help us if we end up with another Florida-2000 situation), then isn't this bad news for Republicans?

By the time Western voters get out of work and head to the polls, the race usually seems decided. I see a lot more potential for media interference with Western voter turnout when calling the Eastern races. If the battleground is Colorado, then what happens if one side has 3 hours to prepare the battleground before the other side arrives for the fight?

The method of delivery.

At the Corner this morning:
Alaska’s Bridge to Nowhere remains a hot topic in the presidential campaign. Fans and foes of Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin continue to debate whether or not she supported the much-lampooned proposal for a link between Ketchikan and Gravina Island — population 50. This PowerPoint presentation offers relevant facts on this issue.
I'm thrilled with Palin, but I have questions about the maneuvering behind the Bridge to Nowhere. Even so, I can't think of anything I'd rather click LESS than a powerpoint show.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

This was pretty gross.

I know, redundant title for a post re: Alan Colmes.

You don't shoot rapid fire questions at a woman with cerebral palsy who is trying to take a half second to gather her thoughts.

Alan tries to claim that the bills Obama voted against wouldn't apply to Jessen because infants were protected if they had a "reasonable likelihood of sustained survival." I know what Jessen was going to say - because of the cerebral palsy, SHE did not have a reasonable likelihood of sustained survival. She very unreasonably lived (here in the states where life is a miracle, we call that "beating the odds"). As such, she is right, Alan is wrong - the laws Obama refused to amend would have allowed her to be legally killed.

Obviously Alan is in an untenable position here. He can disagree as a matter of policy, but isn't rude enough to tell the girl to her face that she should have died. But isn't that the basis for the left's support of abortion? That the loss of unwanted fetuses is acceptable for the greater good of protecting a woman's bodily integrity?

My life got a lot easier when I realized that shame didn't indicate a difficult position, it indicated an incorrect position.

But look at what Alan actually said and apparently believes: It should be ok to refrain from giving care to babies (that's what we call fetuses that are born alive) without:

Reasonable likelihood of sustained survival.


That's civil case standard. Failure to use "reasonable care" gets you civilly sued. It's not enough for criminal liability anywhere, ever.

But "reasonable" is enough to let the baby die?

And note that it's reasonable in the eye of one paid abortion provider who is likely facing civil liability for "unreasonably" delivering a live infant during an abortion procedure. (Note: "Wrongful life" is an actionable claim in some states, just like "wrongful death"!!)

At least in a civil case, you get the community standard for reasonableness - twelve people decide. If you're a baby, your judge, jury, and executioner is a physician on the hook for substantial increase in malpractice premiums who can save himself by quietly snuffing out your life. And in a civil case, you have lawyers. The born-alive fetus (baby) has no advocate in the abortion clinic.

As a practical matter, I'd bet that this still occurs even with the laws in place. The stakes are too high for the physician and the way to save themselves too simple and easy. But that's why the law is important - you need big teeth to shift the incentives in the other direction.

Obama would let the doctor decide "reasonableness" on the spot. Then he would let the abortionist strangle the innocent, or cut her throat.

Do you trust him with your kid?

I read the SIECUS Guidelines so you don't have to!

Obama thinks it should have been legal for me to stab my baby girl in the head and kill her while I was giving birth to her, so long as she came out feet first.

He also thinks that her kindergarten teacher should tell her:
• A boy/man has nipples, a penis, a scrotum, and testicles.
• A girl/woman has breasts, nipples, a vulva, a clitoris, a vagina, a uterus, and ovaries.
• Both boys and girls have body parts that feel good when touched.
SIECUS guidelines, page 25 (NOTE: All quotes below are from the age 5-8 category)
• Men and women have specific cells in their bodies (sperm cells and egg cells) that enable them to reproduce.
• Vaginal intercourse – when a penis is placed inside a vagina – is the most common way for a sperm and egg to join.
• Babies usually come out of a woman’s body through an opening called a vagina.
page 26-27.
• Human beings can love people of the same gender and people of another gender.
• Some people are homosexual, which means they can be attracted to and fall in love with someone of the same gender.
page 29.
• Many people live in lifetime committed relationships, even though they may not be legally married.
• Two people of the same gender can live in loving, lifetime committed relationships.
page 38-39.

• Most children are curious about their bodies.
• Bodies can feel good when touched.
page 51.
• Touching and rubbing one’s own genitals to feel good is called masturbation.
• Some boys and girls masturbate and others do not.
• Masturbation should be done in a private place.
page 51-52.
• People often kiss, hug, touch, and engage in other sexual behaviors with one another to show caring and to feel good.
page 52.
• There are many types of sexually transmitted diseases.
• People who do not engage in certain behaviors do not get STDs.
• The most common ways for a person to get an STD is to participate in sexual behavior or share a needle with another person who is already infected with an STD.
page 63.

This is just for the real young kiddies. The material for the older ones is shocking. The SEICUS guys apparently have quite the hard-on (sorry) for masturbation in particular. In later grades they learn that masturbation, homosexuality, and unmarried cohabitation is ok, that they can decide that religious teachings aren't personally "relevant," and that the Internet can enhance your sex life (seriously).

This is the man who wants government involved full-time in your child's life through universal pre-K and a lack of ways for people (particularly poor people) to opt out of public schooling. These are not simply academic concerns.

So I honestly to pose the question - Do you trust him with your kid?

I need to know who not to trust with my kid.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

This is new to me.

Before Andrew Sullivan's Palin-induced freakout, I had never thought, nor had it ever occurred to me that certain (or ANY) parts of the gay male subculture had a deep-seated loathing for women and children. Since then, people online plus random non-political junkie coworkers (!) have told me that this is the case.

I have no idea whether that's true.

But I have to wonder every time I see Sullivan refer to Trig Palin as a prop. Whatever the circumstances, when you see a mother with her baby in her arms and that strikes you as odd, abnormal, improper, political, or calculating, there is something deeply wrong with you.

What else can explain it?

This (to me) is a HUGE BIG DEAL.

hence the use of CAPS.

I've seen, but opted out of the "I am Sarah Palin" meme because I'm not Sarah Palin. If anyone, I'm Barack Obama - someone who follows the rules, who seeks success by playing the game brilliantly, but definitely playing the game (see, e.g., "Chicago Machine Politics, law firm partnership track). I'm just sayin' - it takes a certain kind of person to go to a graduate school to learn nothing of use but to learn "how to think like." Perfecting the world comes through perfecting the self.

It trickles down, you see.

That's bad in a President though. You can't assume that the interests of the person are going to align with the interests of the country. Especially when:

Sen. Barack Obama has tried in private to persuade Iraqi leaders to delay an agreement on a draw-down of the American military presence.

. . .

"He asked why we were not prepared to delay an agreement until after the US elections and the formation of a new administration in Washington," Zebari said in an interview.

He's already proven himself willing to jeopardize the nation's foreign interests to political expediency! Forget whether you disagree with Bush's foreign policy. What about the interest America has in being able to trust its allies not to try to renegotiate everything every four years? Or in expecting other countries to be able to believe our promises?

If there is a good explanation for this, I would really like to know.

Pre-adolescent Worldview of the Obama following

Pretentious blog title aside, I'm just riffing here on a few things that occurred to me lately.

My mom's stock answer growing up was "life isn't fair," which for a kid so invested with the idea of her own brilliance was devastating. "Life isn't fair" isn't something you can reason your way around. At least not when you're 10.

When I was in middle school, my best friend was OBSESSED with the idea of becoming a Navy SEAL. Her dad, who passed away when she was very young, was in the Navy I think. Her sister was the brain, she was the tomboy (although both were brilliant), and I think she may have been trying to be the son her dad never left behind. She was desperately upset at the idea that women couldn't (can't) be SEALs. "First woman SEAL" is her "Where will they be?" caption in our eighth grade yearbook. We were practically faint with excitement when the ban on women in combat was partially lifted (I wanted to be a government assassin.) We read way too many Robert Ludlum novels.

But then we went to high school and she freaked out with hormones - slipping grades, dabbling in alcohol and drugs, boy after unsuitable boy. Lots of people, myself included, wondered how such a great girl would so willingly throw her prospects out the window. Six months later, mine hit. Catastrophically. And I wondered no more.

I think about her whenever I hear of the argument for gender segregation in the military, like this one at the Corner this morning.

When I look back at how fervently we believed, how much our own self-worth was tied up in the idea of life being fair, as in EQUAL, I almost can't recall the feeling of uncomplicated faith in our rightness and righteousness. There is such a beauty and wonder about the way children - even the girls - dream about their future.

But I think we were wrong then, because we don't live in the kind of world where an uncomplicated faith can be sustained. Children can look at the shining ideal of "equality" see it as more than a value, but as a means, end, and entire belief system unto itself. Only children can honestly believe that men and women are the same. When they become men and women, they know better.

There's been a lot written about the Democrats in politics or Hollywood that root for Obama because their children do. Their worshipful treatment, his Messiah-like image, all of it has a kind of childlike wonder, bright and full with their dreams. Should he lose, there are very, very many people who are going to be distraught in a way they would not for other political candidates or races.

What do they expect to achieve with him though? Other than "hope" and "change" and "a new political discourse"? This is the real world, and real life isn't fair. It won't let us choose the purest of candidates and follow wherever he may lead us and trust that he will not lead us astray. What does Obama stand for? The only real political record we can look to is his lockstep vote with Democratic Party leadership and 100% record of voting against the unborn. It isn't fair that these are choices we have to deal with. Life isn't fair. I have yet to have a conversation with an Obama supporter that can tell me anything about what concrete actions they expect Obama to take in office. Their obligation to the world stops at their support.

The Utopia children dream of is simple and pure and uncomplicated. It's also arbitrary and uninformed and rote. The world of adults is harder. It's dirty and unexpected and infinitely complicated. But it's better.

I hope my old friend is happy, even though she isn't a SEAL. And even though I'm more June Cleaver than La Femme Nikita, I'm happier this way too.

Monday, September 15, 2008

life intrudes

My kiddo had to go to the hospital over the weekend for some nasty creeping crud. Luckily, we're all on the mend.

Back in a few days . . .

Friday, September 12, 2008

Campaign Strategy Advice

Dear Mr. Axelrod:

You're probably wondering why, at the crucial time when America at large starts to pay attention to elections, everything McCain touches is turning to gold. And you're wondering why everything Obama touches explodes in his face. I can tell you why that is.

McCain is a good man.

Obama is not. He is losing because deserves to lose.

You're welcome. That will be $20 for .1 hour of my time.


Testing what's really important.

All of this to do about the so-called Bush Doctrine is telling us more about Charles Gibson than Sarah Palin. "How do you define the Bush Doctrine" isn't a foreign-policy pop-quiz gotcha, it's a media buzzword question. Bush hasn't come out and said "Here it is: My Doctrine!" The only people are defining it are columnists. No wonder Charlie (ha) was so affronted.

Implicit message: It's not enough to be familiar with and have opinions on your foreign policy positions. You have have to be familiar with and have opinions on the media's foreign policy positions.

And, of course, the fact that media doesn't know its own foreign policy position is immaterial.

Why should Charlie know what he's talking about? It's not like he's running for vice president!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

9/11: Why do they hate us?

In looking at Keith Olbermann's deranged "special comment," I just realized why the left hates us so much.

They think the Republicans stole 9/11 from them, and they're mad because they think 9/11 is theirs.

Remember watching tv in the following weeks and seeing the abject pain in everyone's eyes. The news anchors were shell-shocked, as one would expect. They were right there when it happened. I remember bawling at Howard Ludnick of Cantor Fitzgerald telling about the loss of nearly 700 employees, and Jon Stewart's perfect tearful fuck-you to the terrorists.

And I was hurt too. I didn't move from my couch for over a week. I won't ever be the same, for better and for worse. We are all American, so it happened to me.

But not like it happened to them.

After 9/11, the whole world was American. But who bore the most direct losses? As much as those of us in flyover country decry how the left-wing media is concentrated in the coastal monopolies, the heart of the coastal elite was worst hit in the attack. From the uper-wealthy Democratic financial services guys to the overwhelmingly Democratic media to the Democratic leaning union fire, police, and port authority officers - their side of the political divide got hit worse than ours did.

And now it's eating Olbermann alive that the Republicans "hijacked" it and made it the foundation of their will to lead.

He thinks we're exploiting the event that belongs to him. Because how can anyone in the Midwest who didn't know anyone personally killed have any idea what Keith Olbermann or Anderson Cooper or their producers and camera people went through that day. Their whole lives must have been turned upside down - physical reminders greeted them at work, at home, at play. They have memories of friends they'll never see again.

He doesn't believe us when the red states say: "We are all American" yet use his pain to advance policies he disagrees with. We've taken something from him that didn't belong to us and used it against him. The way that the right suspects the left of using faux-environmentalism to kill business (because the left thinks business oppresses us), the left suspects the right of using faux-patriotism to kill civil liberties (because the right thinks that overly permissive society oppresses us). And there are enough wackos on both sides to confirm the worst suspicions of the other.

In the seven intervening years, the lines have been drawn. The two sides no longer listen to the others. So when I see Olbermann then:
I would never doubt the sincerity of your pain.
And Olbermann now:
You shed your phony crocodile opportunistic tears over 9/11.
I don't think simple hypocrisy can explain the extent of the sheer unhinged outrage. Because the 9/11 video was pretty innocuous. I went back and looked at what prompted his first statement, Fox's John Gibson mocking Jon Stewart's 9/11 response, and it's disgusting. I never thought I would say this, but Olbermann was right to bring it up. He's wrong now, but for too long he's been sitting and stewing and watching the right take his pain and use it against him. No wonder he accuses us of "hijacking" - he thinks we are doing what the terrorists did to him.

The right gets it wrong when they say the left is ignoring 9/11. I think they're consumed by it. Look how possessive Olbermann is and how angry that it's been stolen. Look how angry he is that the Republicans are trying to "terrify" him. How dare they, he says, when he was already more terrified than they can ever imagine. The right thinks that the left has abandoned 9/11 and tries to shoulder the responsibility alone. The left sees us stealing what is theirs, and it is driving them crazy.

I bet that quite a bit of the left feels this way. This hit them where they live. And I think the elites and media tastemakers had a big impact in causing this wingnuttery to reach critical mass. If the media can build a frenzy about Britney Spears, I doubt they would be any less effective in building frenzy when they are actually being sincere. Hence, Daily Kos, Democratic Underground, my crazy ex-friends, etc.

They doubt our sincerity. While it's certainly tempting to tell the left to fuck right off while we skip to the presidency with another 51% win, that's not the right course. Olbermann is probably beyond hope. But looking toward the future, I think the best option to help everyone is to expect better from the Republican party. If Republicans expect to be believed that the protection of America is our highest and most pure driving interest, we should act like we are pursuing a higher calling. We're not.

As much as we want conservative principles embodies in our laws and leaders, wouldn't it be better if we could do it without alienating 49% of our countrymen?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Thinking like a lawyer.

They always tell you that the purpose of law school is to "think like a lawyer." They do that to justify the fact that they generally don't teach you any laws, and even if they want to the legislature can just rewrite the rules any time they want to. But it's true, that you do think like a lawyer when you get out of law school.

Thinking like a lawyer entails: 1) being afraid to step outside the front door for fear of getting sued, 2) spending more time arguing about risk and cost rather than moving your tailfeather when, for example, a car is skidding toward you on an icy street, and 3) having uncomfortably intimate dreams about Supreme Court justices. You know you're thinking like a lawyer when the most disturbing parts of those dreams are that they focus on the judges who aren't on your side of the great ideological divide.

So I am going to take refuge in the fact that I "think like a lawyer" to justify that when I read this:
I have the most precious [tech support] case number now, and even though I only have four days of free phone support left, the case number ensures my case can grin on forever like Jarndyce and Jarndyce. It may even survive me. I may bequeath it to my heirs.
My gut reaction was: "Don't joke about that! The legal fees would eat up the cost of the messed up product!"
And upon realizing how ridiculous that is, reflexively thinking: "For reals - probate is complicated!!" And then going off on a mental trip about how one would actually go about probating a technical support case number. I couldn't stop myself from going there even while the nonlawyer chunk of brain was busy trying to revel in the Bleak House love.

The post-law school working world quickly disabuses you of the notion that you're any value to anyone when you think like a lawyer. It is, unfortunately, not as good at instructing you quite how . . .

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Just another example of the "New" politics

Obama thinks that the fact that he's running a campaign qualifies him for president. Since that's his argument, it's fair game to examine Obama's campaign-management skills a little more closely than might otherwise be warranted. We already know he can't control his employees. It's also been an open secret that he can't even control his own website. But as we devolve into the mudslinging characteristic of the pre-election frenzy, let's take a look at how "The One" polices his own:

Here we have one of Obama's supporters "GE" creating a community on Obama's official website: "Alaskans Against Palin." Hmm, that seems a little negative for the "new" politics, but fair is fair.

I wonder which part of Alaska "GE" is from?

Athens, GA. Is that near Wasilla?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The apology heard 'round the world. . .

. . . and yet. She says that Palin did a good job in her speech, but insists "you can't do it all." Obama, apparently, can. I look forward to a more detailed explanation.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Taranto is the highlight of my weekday.

From Best of the Web Today from, appropriately enough, today:
Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick of Detroit, a Democrat who supports Barack Obama, pleaded guilty to perjury yesterday, "ending an almost eight-month saga that will result in his expulsion from office," Bloomberg reports:
Kilpatrick, 38, a Democrat and in his second term as mayor, admitted to lying on the witness stand last year when he said he didn't have an extramarital affair. Admitting to a felony means the mayor will automatically be removed from his post.
"I lied under oath," Mayor Kilpatrick said in court in Detroit today. "I did so with the intent to mislead the court and jury."
Prosecutors said he has 14 days to leave office.

But Kilpatrick is not without his defenders:

"This has been a witch hunt from the start," said Byron Frazier, 34, wearing a T-shirt with Kilpatrick's image on it outside the courthouse. "I've supported the mayor from the start and will continue to support him."

What does this Byron Frazier do for a living? Wait for it:

Frazier is a community organizer in Detroit.


The Cro-magnon Energy Plan

Offshore windfarms on the Outer Contintental shelf? Um, that's not going to work. You might be able to imagine that you can see the shelf from Cape Cod. Outrageous!

In all seriousness, why can we put acres of windfarms out in the ocean but not oil rigs? Are there any objective studies that we can use to compare the enviromental impacts of both? Probably not, since the "environment" is such a squishy thing to measure (unless you want to divvy it up into carbon credits to parcel out for sale). But I can't imagine that there are no costs to sea-borne windpower - what about the migratory patterns of birds and sea life (do plants migrate)?

I was going to try making a joke about putting windmills on the oil derricks, but it was too lame to print. Like CFL levels of lame. Seriously though, how can one even fathom the idea that we'll be saved by a windmill, a windmill - the sad sickly descendant of this squat happy guy. Our future depends on a technology ninth century technology? It's like a steampunk nightmare, only without the steam.

And oil? We'll soon be coming up on 200 years since the 'modern' age of petroleum refining. Even with the advances in refining and energy production, it's still the same old factory stacks belching out energy and rancid smoke of the nineteenth century. And besides: oil, coal, natural gas - we're "making" energy by lighting shit on fire. That's neanderthal-level science. Come on humanity, we can do better than that!

Oil plants and windmills and clever turbines built into cleverer dams . . . I can imagine the actual facility, the gears and wheels. But I can't seem to draw the line between these ancient technologies and the future - the future! - and it's great shining promise to humanity. I can't.

The energy debates - the drill, baby, drill - it all bores me. I want to know about nuclear power, I want to know about what's happening at the edge of science. Forget wind, let's burn all the oil that's left, all of it in one big roaring blaze. Throw it in the Large Hadron Collider, if that's what it takes to advance humanity to the next big leap in human achievement.

In the meantime, I'm selling carbon credits. Drop me a line if you'd like to sponsor a patch of my inappropriately delicious desert lawn.

UPDATE: I guess some people's idea of a lame joke is someone else's good idea!

My letter to Sally Quinn

. . . or how I learned to stop using the spell check and love the legalese. (Sorry)

I found this post from Sally Quinn via the Anchoress. Her attacks seemed so grossly and outrageously unfair that I felt compelled to respond.

[ETA: Welcome visitors from the Anchoress! Thanks for giving me a read. Even though I haven't been blogging here long, I intend to continue. So if you're interested in what I have to say, there will be much more to come.]

Ms. Quinn:

I'm a conservative Catholic, so you may regard me as someone even more strange and foreign to you as the the evangelicals and Southern Baptists you want to hear from. Goodness knows you've got issues enough with the Catholics these days.

Don't think we Catholics don't hear our own fair share of horrified "feminist" flutterings at our daring to have faith in an institution that has served mankind for thousands of years but fails to conform to the politically correct hegemony of the last thirty.

There are more parts of Catholic belief than the requirement that priests be men. In all facets of life in and out of the church, women have a distinct and valued relationship with God. Men and women are not "better" or "worse." My faith fulfills me. Why would I care about not being a priest? I have my own role.

I have never felt less-than as a Catholic woman. Every role has its own challenges, rewards, and sacrifices. We all face the challenges of sometimes not getting what we want for seemingly arbitrary reasons. Our job is to learn to accept the things we cannot change with good cheer and seek God's plan within whatever limitations exist. Not everything is a fight, and I certainly don't want to fight with God.

I have never felt the need to look at another's share in church life and compare it unfavorably with my own. I have no doubt that the majority women of evangelical and Southern Baptists faiths feel the same way. The purpose of a church is to worship together, not to one-up each other. It is not a competition between the sexes. It is not church leaders versus everyone else. Women in conservative churches are not slaves plotting to overthrow their masters. Everyone has his or her own role.

Christianity is a community, not a cult. Tell your friends!

So to answer to your questions, which I am assuming you've asked in good faith:

1) A woman has no right to be a Catholic priest. No one has the "right" to be a Catholic priest. That calling is not open to women. Many others, co-equal in dignity, are.

2) As a general proposition, Catholic husbands and Catholic wives have different roles within the marriage and different relationships with the children.

3) Sarah Palin has a responsibility to God and her family. She also has responsibilities to her country and to keep her promises. Fathers have responsibilities toward God and their families as well. Sarah Palin has accepted the task and given her word to serve as a public official. If she and her family feel that their needs can be met despite her decision to serve the public, then that is between her and her family. Many men are primary caregivers by choice or otherwise and they do just fine. If Todd Palin has agreed to do so in support of the larger goal, then he owes it to his family to live up to his own word.

This position could also benefit her family as well. Perhaps Ms. Palin feels that this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity can serve a much greater goal, to be an example to the world (and her daughters) of how to a woman of faith conducts herself on a world stage.

Presumably, the governorship has given the Palin family a test-run of the practical considerations. At any rate, I don't presume to have the knowledge to judge what the requirements of her family are. That's personal. Neither you, nor I, nor the public has any means with which to judge what the Palins, rightly or wrongly, have chosen to embark on. We simply don't have the information necessary to know. There's a reason for that: IT'S NOT OUR BUSINESS.

4) You ask what I think of Sarah Palin's priorities as a woman with five children, still breastfeeding, one pregnant, and who's made (what you have decided) is a "risky" decision to fly to Alaska to have a child and then go to work days later. What do I think of that? I think it's ADMIRABLE. I think it's INSPIRING. I think that her family is going to sacrifice mightily, but they see some purpose and perhaps reward in following this path. It's a high risk with a chance of great reward. Some people are more risk-averse. Others make history.

5) You ask whether I believe her first priority will be as a mother or as a governor or vice president. I think that her first priority is, obviously, to God. This is clearly a woman who feels that she's been blessed with an opportunity larger than herself. She has actually already proven herself willing to sacrifice a child on behalf of her country through her encouragement of her oldest son. Presumably, she thinks that the good is worth the risk. I would expect that the good she feels she can do as VP will outweigh the costs to her children and family.

6) You ask what I think about her judgment in accepting the role of vice-presidency while her family situation was chaotic. We don't have the information to judge whether her family can handle it or if they wanted to. We don't know the costs and we don't know the benefit that she is seeking. As to her judgment, time will tell, I suppose. It would obviously not be good judgment to think that there would be no costs to her family or her relationship to her children. I don't think there is any indication whatsoever that she hasn't considered that.

But this is a judgment question insofar as it presumes that she has improperly calculated the costs and benefits. It's a judgment question insofar as it presumes that family obligations are the immovable object that all else must accommodate. Her religion does not require that this be so. The fact that she has conservative beliefs does not mean that this is a judgment call she's made. If she has chosen her course in spite of the costs, then that is a values question. Should she value her children's comfort, privacy, and happiness less than her official duties, that would not disqualify her for office. This unstated implication in your questioning of her choices is what's causing the right to cry sexism. The value a parent places on their children ought not be part of the job interview.

As to the judgment aspect, I don't think there's any way for us to say that the older members of the family, including the eldest daughter, don't have their own opinions that they've made known. I can't imagine being a pregnant seventeen year old girl and having the weight of my parents' hopes and dreams and the potential course of history hinging on a moment of poor judgment. The guilt would eat me alive. I don't think we can say that her decision, on its face, is evidence of poor judgment. If she proves to be a bad mother, well, then that is between her and her family and God.

So those are your questions, but I don't think those are your concerns. I think you're wondering whether she's taken on too much. You're wondering whether she has any idea what she's getting into and what's going to happen to the country if she realizes that her do-it-all Supermom plan isn't going to work. From what I can tell from your last column, I'd bet that you and I both have had the experience of planning a tour-de-force return to the workplace after having our first and only babies, only to find that while our skills remained sharp our desires were gone? And it comes back, after awhile, and you get used to the new normal of being separated from your kid during the day and of trying to make the evening hours as "quality" as possible, (whatever that means). I work as an attorney in a major metropolitan area and I've got a baby at home. Most of my friends are female attorneys. Unlike the male attorneys we know, whose wives care for their new babies, the families of women attorneys seem to be more dependent on their incomes. So we're sad, but we go back to work, and yes, we cut corners in our jobs, especially during the first few years of our babies' lives, because it's really hard to bring yourself to care about work under the circumstances.

I think you're concerned about what's going to happen if Sarah Palin tries to cut corners in her job. After all, she has a baby at home, and one who's going to require a different kind of care than most parents have to deal with. Still, I'm not concerned about the choice she's made for the following reasons:

1) She's done this before and knows the demands of her family. She's a woman with five children, and anyone whose spent time around large families know that you can love your children equally, but where everything is strange and foreign with your first precious snowflake, by the time you hit kids number three and four you've got a better understanding of what to do and how rugged and adaptable kids really are. She's also got a good understanding of the way their family works and the extent to which her husband, parents, and extended family will be able to provide for her children in ways that her job prevents her from doing. The fact that her youngest has Downs suggests that he's going to need more care, but does not necessarily require that she personally be the one to give it. She's also had four months to get used to his care and learn about his condition - his need for additional care is not going to prove overly shocking while she's in office. She is going to have access to doctors, nurses, nannies, and tutors, not to mention cooks, maids, and drivers (yes, yes, leaving the speech aside). If she only sees Trig for a bedtime story most nights, it's not like he's going to starve to death.

2) I think your concerns also assume that if there came a time when she had to choose between her family and her job, that you believe she would choose her family. I think the reason you make that assumption is because of your own experience and your understanding of what's required of evangelical women in relation to their family. I don't think that is an assumption that can be made. For one thing, the assumption that the evangelical belief limits her to cooking and cleaning is too narrow. I'd bet that her family is viewing this as a shared family endeavor and that all are on board and willing to share her burdens. So long as someone is providing the love and care to her children, her duties to them can be discharged.

The main problem with this concern is that it presupposes an incredible amount of naivete about the burdens of the office. Sarah Palin is cute, but she's a political animal. She's been working to raise her national profile ever since she's been elected governor. I think everyone, including her, was surprised that she rose this far this fast. I do not believe she hasn't given serious clear-eyed thought to the burdens and costs. But given that she's been savvy enough to politic and sell herself to, at the very least, McCain, I have trouble believing she would be that naive.

3) We all have to worry about what happens if, after all, she can't reconcile her obligations to her family and her obligations to the job. There may come a point for Sarah Palin, that she just can't do both. You're concerned that she'll give the job short shrift. I don't think it's a given that the job is what she'll necessarily choose to sacrifice. But this isn't a concern limited to Palin. What if something happens to the Obama girls, or McCain's? What if the president or vice president commits a criminal act, or suffers mental health, or criminal [mean to say "addiction" -ed] issues? We can only hope that whoever is president or VP will have the integrity to step down if they ever reach that point. That's not something that's limited to Sarah Palin. As I've laid it out above, I don't think that situation is as likely as you seem to think. But moreover, I've seen no reason to doubt her integrity.

Sally - may I call you Sally now? We're practically friends now - after both conventions, it looks like this election is going to degenerate, as so many do, into an all-out culture war. It's fair for you to raise questions, but the vitriol coming your way stems from the assumptions underlying your concerns (the naivete, the lack of integrity, the simple-minded understanding of the role of formal religion). It's particularly galling to be called to account for one's faith to, of all people, the founder of "On Faith"! But I hope that you are able to get some answers to your questions and examine your own assumptions before making judgments about people. I've no doubt that I've misunderstood some critical point of yours, and hope that you'll let me know so I can examine mine.

Thanks for your time,
A. DePaul