Monday, December 15, 2008

Health care: a subtext

I saw a billboard the other day, here in the sometimes-chilly western suburbs of Philadelphia, concerning PA CHIP - the Pennsylvania Children's Health Insurance Program. The ad proclaimed that now no uninsured child, no matter how much the family's income, can be denied CHIP coverage. My immediate thought was along lines of "misaligned incentives": taken at face value, this program would seem to disincent parents from insuring their children privately. I emphasize that I had no knowledge of premium costs, requirements that parents who had private insurance available actually use it, or any other details - just this ad, which says in essence, "Don't insure your child; Pennsylvania will take care of it for you."

So today I googled "Pennsylvania children's health insurance" - the search I performed is here. The first item that came up (and Google being what it is, it may not be the same one now) was this - the website the billboard sent people to, to learn more. Reasonable.

But the text accompanying the link on Google? That was interesting. I quote:
All wealthy uninsured children and teens not eligible for Medical Assistance have access to health insurance. It doesn't matter how much money your family...

I goggled. (At Google.) Surely they couldn't really have said "all wealthy uninsured children...", could they? I clicked the link. Here's what I read:
Don't assume that you earn too much to qualify.

All uninsured children and teens not eligible for Medical Assistance have access to health insurance.

In other words, somebody at CHIP had the same thought I did, and had access to the metatags. Interesting indeed.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Well, it's "change" at any rate...

The whole Blagojevich thing, I mean. Such as here.
Because so far as even the most rabid of Bush-haters has been able to tell, W.'s gubernatorial seat was not on the auction block once he was president-elect.


You'd think that after this long, politicians on both sides of the aisle would be wary of speaking in absolutes. They have so much faith in our short attention span, though, that the never-to-be-fulfilled promises just keep coming (cf. "Most Ethical Congress Ever"...)

I don't fault a politician for making promises to try things that ultimately fail as long as he or she actually does try them; as everybody knows, the President does not control the pursestrings and so has limited influence over the budget (although in this case even less-rabid Bush-haters seem to believe W. is, again, both blindingly stupid and a malevolent genius), for instance. But when a politician promises to deliver on something that's in his or her basic control, such as how, ethically speaking, he or she will govern if elected, I do expect results.

Bush promised "compassionate conservatism." It's not an approach I think makes much sense, but he did indeed deliver on it. Obama promises "hope and change" (again, what kind of stupid idea is that? But it's what got him where he is); we'll see how well he does. So far the scandals and the Clinton-era appointees and so forth don't bode all that well. I'm willing to cut him a good bit of slack because he has to actually govern, not just pander to the nuttiest among those who voted for him, but I do expect to see something different. Bring it on, Mr. President-Elect.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Notice how I'm off politics?

Yeah, me too. Burnout.

Things I Like, Pt. Deux

But wait, there's more! Song lyrics. I like song lyrics.

Back in high school, I remember laughing over the lyrics of some song or other - "let's take a shower together," something like that. My sister, who I don't believe liked the actual song any better than I did, nevertheless thoughtfully noted that songs of that genre had more heart than the rock songs that were the staples of my social circle. At the time I had to agree. It's hard to argue that "If You See Kay" (that was April Wine) or "The Number of the Beast" (that was Iron Maiden) were as - for lack of a better term - makeout-worthy as, say, "Let's take a shower together," the name of which I can't remember if indeed I ever knew it.

And then I fell for and eventually married (and somewhat more eventually divorced) a young man for whom song lyrics were almost his preferred mode of communication, and I discovered a world to which I'd been blind and deaf before. After this long and a second marriage that's everything the unfortunate first one wasn't for either of us, I still thank him for giving me ears to hear:
  • I thought I loved you - it was just how you looked in the light. ("Hum Hallelujah," Fall Out Boy)
  • I feel the way you would. ("Afterimage," Rush)
  • I need to feel your heartbeat, so close it feels like mine - all mine. ("Heartbeat," King Crimson)
  • (Here's a whole verse from one of my favorite songs ever:)
    I saw teenage girls like gaudy moths,
    A classroom's shabby butterflies,
    Flirt in the glow of stranded telephone boxes;
    Planning white lace weddings from smeared hearts and token proclamations,
    Rolled from stolen lipsticks across the razored webs of glass.
    Sharing cigarettes with experience
    With her giggling jealous confidantes,
    She faithfully traces his name
    With quick bitten fingernails
    Through the tears of condensation
    Thatll cry through the night
    As the glancing headlights of the last bus
    Kiss adolescence goodbye. ("Warm Wet Circles," Marillion)
  • I am the ticket, you the prize; when begins the winning? ("Girl With Grey Eyes," Big Country)
  • If I only could
    I'd make a deal with God
    And get Him to swap our places;
    Be running up that road,
    Be running up that hill,
    With no problems. ("Running Up That Hill," Kate Bush)
  • (Another whole verse, and an uncharacteristic choice:)
    Well I don't give a dang about nothing
    When I'm singing and bling-blinging
    While the girls are drinking
    Long necks down!
    And I wouldn't trade ol' Leroy
    Or my Chevrolet for your Escalade
    Or your freak parade
    'Cause I'm the only John Wayne left in this town. ("Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy," Big & Rich - and it's a laff riot! I love this song)
  • And the man from the magazine wants another shot of you all curled up,
    'Cause you look like an actor in a movie shot, but you're feeling like a wino in a parking lot. ("Heart of Lothian," Marillion)
  • (Another whole verse:)
    The sky was Bible black in Lyon,
    when I met the Magdalene.
    She was paralyzed in a streetlight.
    She refused to give her name.
    And a ring of violet bruises,
    They were pinned upon her arm.
    Two hundred francs for sanctuary and she led me by the hand,
    to a room of dancing shadows where all the heartache disappears
    And from glowing tongues of candles I heard her whisper in my ear.
    'J'entend ton coeur,'
    'J'entend ton coeur':
    I can hear your heart. ("Bitter Suite," Marillion - I think Marillion's former vocalist and lyricist, Fish, was one of the great prog poets)
  • (One more Marillion. The setting is children running through a sprinkler:)
    Then I heard the children singing;
    They were running through the rainbows.
    They were singing a song for you -
    Well, it seemed to be a song for you,
    The one I wanted to write for you. ("Lavender," Marillion)
  • Show a little faith: there's magic in the night.
    You ain't a beauty, but hey, you're all right. ("Thunder Road," Springsteen)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Things I like

It's been brought to my attention by this and that person that my Twilight/Mrs. Robinson thing is kind of creeping them out. So I thought to myself, "Self, perhaps it's time - rather than withdrawing - to put a little more out there." Because, well, why not? So the following is some of the mishmash that constitutes my essence.

  • I like cloth napkins. We don't have paper napkins in my house; we have old and increasingly ratty cloth ones. (Sometimes we do use paper towels, but usually only because all the ratty cloth ones are waiting to be ironed.) We use napkin rings in their old sense: to mark the family's already-once-used napkins. I'd never use them for company.
  • I like tiny cute things, like really tricked-out dollhouses and those bitty glass animal figurines. I've never had these things; I just like them.
  • I like old-school Heinleinian science fiction. I do not like new-school "crystal singer" (which, yes, I know is already old) "science fiction." I like Card, Herbert (up through the third, MAYBE the fourth Dune book), Foster, some Asimov, some Niven, some Clarke, (in an odd departure) some Brin, a few others, in addition to Heinlein; but really my repertoire is limited. I'm actually not that fond of the genre, except for these folks. Not a woman in the mix. Women's science fiction has always disappointed me - the little I've made it through.
  • I like to read Shakespeare; I sometimes like seeing Shakespeare performed.
  • I like the men of my romantic fantasies to be young, not because they're at any sort of physical peak, but because they're at a certain kind of emotional peak: wherein they are idealistic, passionate about everything, sometimes thoughtlessly cruel in their black-and-whiteness, but when they realize the cruelty they're profoundly sorry. Probably I could chalk up this preference to the fact that a whole lot of me remains young in this sense.
  • I like good grammar. I also like messing around with grammar, knowing that I know what's good grammar.
  • I like Scotch, the dirtier-tasting the better. And lately I like Irish whiskey too; I drink both straight up. I don't care for bourbon, at least not to drink on its own. In other libations, I like Guinness very much indeed, most beers that are darker than (ahem) p*ss, most dry wines - though I steer clear of Merlot generally, because it's too wishy-washy, in my price range at any rate. I like very strong coffee, which I then turn into girly coffee with flavored creamer. I like Diet Coke and will stomach Diet Pepsi if I must. I do not like sugared sodas.
  • I like making things, usually the hardest way possible. My sister has commented on this fact. If equally tasty tomato sauce can be made by opening a jar or by peeling, seeding, and cooking tomatoes from my laboriously organic garden, mincing (garden) garlic by hand, sweetening with sauteed minced (garden) onion (not sugar), picking (garden) herbs and mincing them too, well, I'd be happiest if I also had an olive tree out back from which I could make my own olive oil. I don't actually have time for what I want to do.
  • I like knowing how to do lots of things, even if there's no conceivable way I'll ever need that knowledge. I know how to make a dovetail joint; at no time in my life will I ever make one. I know how to find water in the desert; I plan never to get into that kind of pickle.
  • I like reading on vacation. My idea of a perfect day in Paris has nothing to do with the Louvre or the Rive Gauche or anything like that; it'd be any obscure cafe´ with my well-stocked and charged-up Kindle in hand, weather irrelevant. My perfect day at the beach actively avoids being at the beach, but rather lounging around at the hotel with the Kindle. Actually, I like reading, and re-reading, more than just about anything.
  • I like being poorly paid. Don't ask me why. If you do ask, I'll probably have to say it's because that way (a) I don't have to feel too guilty about whatever level of effort I make, and (b) people are astonished at how committed I am, considering how poorly I'm paid. Contradictory but true.
  • I like winning games but I don't like people to know that.
  • I like confession. Does it show?
  • I like making lists. Sometimes I even use them as tools to help organize my overly committed life. It seldom works very well, because I make too many of them.

That's some of it. The great wonder of it all is that my dear husband married me knowing my "bag of crazies," as some nearly-as-dear friends call it, and has stayed married to me for going on fifteen years so far, and assures me he'd do it all again. What a fella.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Happy V-I Day!

Zombietime hath declared it so: Today is Victory in Iraq Day!

The nature of this conflict is such that there's no meeting where one general surrenders to another; all violence does not pass from the region; civil liberties do not blossom unchecked in the heart of the Middle East. But what we have is this:

  • No more Saddam Hussein, no more sons of Saddam Hussein, no more terror tactics aimed at Iraqi citizens by their own government.
  • A democratically elected government, we must add.
  • Constrained, we must add, by a constitution ratified by an overwhelming majority of Iraqis.
  • Civil society rises; illiberalism diminishes.
  • Violence falls to the point where it can no longer be considered a concerted effort on the part of Iraq's enemies, internal or external; they have been soundly defeated.
  • Trust in government's monopoly on the use of force - which means not only a sense that government should have that monopoly, but also that government will not abuse that monopoly, is now a majority opinion - and not a bare majority but a commanding one.

There is more. There's much more. But I have something to do - so go celebrate!

Friday, November 21, 2008

I saw the mooo-vee, I really liiiiked it...

So I went to the midnight showing of Twilight last night with a non-Twilight-fan friend - loved it! It was pure lovely escape. I'm not blind to its flaws (not enough time spent on developing the relationship that's central to the story - to all four books' stories, in fact, special effects reveal the film's low budget, the detail of the book's plot doesn't come out in every instance in the movie), but boy, did I have a good time!

***************** SPOILER ALERT for anyone planning to see it ******************

Notes, faves, and observations:

1. I was fascinated by audience reaction to several scenes: nervous laughter. I'll have to see it again to pinpoint all of the scenes, but my middle-of-the-night recollection is that it was during the moments of greatest intensity, where we're supposed really to sense Edward's difference - his deadliness, the fact that, "vegetarian" or not, he's a vampire. The one I can recall for certain is the first scene in biology, when he first catches Bella's scent and is nearly overcome by a desire to kill her. The scene does a series of short cuts throughout biology class, in each one Edward glaring murderously at Bella as Bella, bewildered, surreptitiously sniffs her hair and clothes and otherwise tries to figure out how he could hate or be disgusted by her on sight. Edward... never... moves. You have the sense that if he were to move, it would be - well, terrible.

There were giggles from this corner, then that row, then a little ripple from over there, at each short cut - as if the audience was trying to defuse the horror of the scene. I say "nervous laughter" with confidence, because (a) I know what I was feeling during that scene - "don't move, Bella - don't move, Edward," (b) it didn't have that "OK, this is kind of funny, I guess..." sort of weariness to it, and (c) it never grew. It cropped up - it fizzled; over and over, in a number of scenes like that one. Veddy interesting.

2. The movie had one major drawback: given the constraints of the medium, it couldn't show enough relationship development for either the non-Twilight person (who might be left, as my friend was, a little puzzled as to what these two saw in one another) or the Twihard (who wanted EVERY LAST LINE of dialogue represented). As such, it had to rely very heavily on the much-discussed chemistry between Bella and Edward. And I thought they did a very workmanlike job: the wordless scene when they're lying in the meadow, just looking at one another, not even touching, is tender indeed. The scene in the treetop, where they circle around and around the trunk, clambering up and twisting between branches, was like watching them make out (no nervous laughter in the theater there, only utter silence) - the tree limbs were like surrogates for their own limbs, their motions around and through them like an awkward physical exploration they could not actually have with one another. They had, I thought, a next-to-impossible task in trying to portray their growing love, but at the very least they managed to portray their growing desire!

3. Favorite scenes: First kiss. The final trailer before the movie came out showed about half of it, and that was good enough - two fraught seconds of almost-contact, two seconds of kiss. But there's more: maybe three seconds of Bella losing her grip on the fact that she's supposed to be holding perfectly still, grabbing Edward's face and smooching him, and then the critical one second of Edward throwing her backwards and diving on her with something between groan and whimper, then rocketing away from her as he realizes how close to the edge he is. Tasty.

Prom kiss. Even knowing that Edward will not be biting Bella at this time (which is a paraphrase from The Princess Bride - "He doesn't kill Westley at this time. I say this because you looked nervous"), the moment when he bends over her neck, asking her if she's ready right now to be turned into a vampire, is - whew!

And venom-sucking-out. Bella is losing blood; Carlisle has tourniqueted her thigh, the femoral artery of which has been severed. So she's in and out, and her eyes are crossing both with the in-and-out-ness and with the pain of the venom and, though I didn't see the shot administered, with the morphine Carlisle is supposed to have given her. Because Carlisle is dealing with her injuries (and they should've made him have to do more, because my recollection is that he's just kind of sitting there watching as he tells Edward he has to be the one, though he, Carlisle, has the greatest control of any of them), Edward has to suck the venom out of the inside of her wrist (which is WAY hotter than her being bitten on the hand, as the book says). He spends precious seconds telling her he'll "make it go away" as he gathers his courage, shoots a desperate glance at Carlisle, and yanks her arm to his mouth. And drinks. And drinks, moaning. Bella, still in and out, eyes rolling back in her head - is she losing consciousness, or is she overcome (if you know what I mean)? Edward's eyes, vacillating between wide-open horror at what he's doing and half-closed pure ecstasy. The fire of James's destruction in the background. If the treetop scene was surrogate makeout, this is proxy sex. And it's so intense it was almost painful to watch. And I want to watch it over, and over, and over, because voyeurism is fun.

4. How did my non-Twilight friend like it? And why did I like it so much? Hmm. She enjoyed it and came out of it thinking she'd read the books, so even though some references were lost on her and some short scenes - obviously included for the Twihards and for the sequels - didn't make a lot of sense to her, that's a win for Stephenie Meyers. As for me... well, as previously discussed, I never actually got older than seventeen, so the books and now the movie enable me to relive, in safe vicarious fashion, the wild torments and unearthly joys of that age. An age, I should add, when I was very horribly in love with the wrong person, convinced that I would literally (and I almost do mean "literally" - not just in the teenage figurative sense of "literally") die if he left. Which, of course, he did, and I didn't die, so I was in good shape for meeting my husband eventually and being able to fall hard for him without fearing I was shortening my life. So in addition to my proclivity for peopling the landscape of my mind with younger men like the very pretty and rather scary Rob Pattinson, I loved all that intensity.

Funny. There's way more in my life today for me to feel intensely about; I wonder why I don't feel as intensely about all of it as I did about what, in the end, was a one-year hardly-worthy-of-the-name "relationship"?

Because seventeen, that's why.

Friday, November 07, 2008

The good won't be interred with his bones

I Think Therefore I Err is having "I Love George W. Bush Day." I've taken a lot of heat even from my own husband about the fact that my support of President Bush has never wavered; I think it's high time the crosshairs moved off this man and onto someone who actually deserves the epithets, insults, sneering, and scorn he has received. (Maybe the news media. Wait - some members of the news media, like perhaps Chris "Tingles" Matthews.)

During Bush's eight years, the boom crashed into the basement (not his doing, as we all know); 9/11 was perpetrated on us (not his doing, ditto); Katrina tried to destroy New Orleans (not his doing, and the much-less-horrible-than-anticipated aftermath was largely the fault of the Mayor and Governor, but who took the fall? Uh-huh); and now the credit crisis has begun to ripple through the world's economy (the original bad idea was emphatically not his, and when his administration and Republicans in Congress tried repeatedly to make Fannie and Freddie behave as private lenders have to, they were stymied at every turn by Democrats with some foolish Republican help - but who'll be blamed? Uh-huh).

He's been called a chimp, a Hitler, a hick, a cowboy, a frat boy, a coward, a drunk, a criminal, a war criminal, the worst President ever, the stupidest President ever, a puppet of Halliburton or Big Oil, a puppet of Karl Rove, a puppet of the Religious Right.

And he's been gracious to those who have abused him, optimistic in the face of terrors and troubles, reasoned and reasonable in foreign policy (somebody out there is screaming, "No blood for oil!" or something; but if Bush were the bigoted trigger-happy whacko the Left would have us believe he is, we would've preemptively gone to war with the entire Muslim world, not just the country that was constantly violating its truce and apparently threatening our safety, while costing us lots of money keeping it ineffectively "contained"), compassionate in foreign aid, determined in pursuing and upholding America's interests overseas, steadfast to our old allies and our new ones. Has he made the correct decision every single time? No, but which President ever has?

Please. Give this man the credit he deserves. As I have and do.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A metaphor for the day after the election

So today I was the mom who signed up to bring a "healthy snack" to my child's pre-K class. I brought clementines - juicy, sweet, no seeds, easy to peel (and I pre-peeled them because the rule is that the "healthy snack" should be entirely ready to eat, saving time at snacktime), child-sized, and above all, healthful. And the biggest Obama booster I know, who told me on the day before Election Day that "tomorrow is going to be the happiest day of my life!" (I glanced doubtfully at her daughter; she rolled her eyes and said, "Well, besides the day she was born, of course"), brought Election Cupcakes. Yummy, sweeter than the clementines, messy, not at all healthful.

I just suggested to the teacher that the children be offered the clementines first, so they wouldn't think they were sour if they tried them after the cupcakes. Nonetheless, more than half the clementines came home with my son. Sigh.

So as I see it, I offered the choice that was good for the children, and it was rejected by half the class. She offered the choice that was yummy but bad for them; it was, of course, embraced. And sigh, again.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Which One?

And again I ask: Which Obama will show up on inauguration day: The One who's on the side of the poor, or the One who leaves his aunt in a slum and his half-brother in a hut in Kenya?

Update: Let me add that I don't advocate yanking people from their homes even "for their own good." But like Bob Krumm, whose post was the first I referenced, I think Obama's Auntie Zeituni was known to Obama's campaign and told not to talk until after the election... and that's shameful. Her freedom of speech ought not to be curtailed, or her silence coerced, no matter who she is.

So far I've seen nothing that is explicit about this woman and any contact Obama's campaign may have had with her. It's certainly possible that she's so fond of her nephew that she's muzzled herself until after the election; who wouldn't at least consider keeping quiet to avoid harming a loved one? So let me present another way to look at this story, that downplays the character attack aspect:

If Obama has however-many poor relatives who aren't benefiting from his good fortune, that points to two things in my mind: 1. A certain amount of hypocrisy, since he's running on compassion and family values as surely as on "Change" and "Hope"; and 2. A reliance on government programs first, family charity somewhere down the list, to care for loved ones. And while #1 is ugly enough, it's #2 that, policy-wise, should give us pause.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Having eaten my weight in potato chips...

...I thought I'd comment briefly on that ridiculous hack Terry Gross. First let me say it ticks me off to no end that that station sees fit to call itself National Public Radio, while never giving so much as lip service to my side's points of view.

Second... Terry. When she sticks to pop culture, she's only annoying in her transparent desire to be the hippest hipster around; when she dips into politics, which she manages with disheartening regularity, I feel I need to cut caffeine out of my diet altogether. Today she had Seth Meyer from SNL on, talking at some length about the really funny Sarah Palin stuff last week. She tried and she tried to get him to say something bad about Palin, Republicans, the McCain campaign; Seth gave her a little assist toward the end of that piece of the interview, but overall her frustration was almost tangible as he had to admit that Sarah Palin was there to play, a great sport, and really nice.

Recreating one question from memory: "Were there a lot of ground rules, going in, about topics you had to stay away from?" Seth's response: "No, not really; the campaign was... pretty game. Actually we've found that Republicans tend to be more game than Democrats."

Terry: "Huh. Why do you think that is?"

Here's the assist, from Seth: "Well, I think it's because Democrats are afraid if they do certain things in a segment, Republicans will use them against them in a campaign, and Republicans know Democrats won't." End of segment - Terry got her soundbyte.

Excuse me? Have these people no self-awareness whatsoever?

Don't mind me; it's just the chips talking. Six days. Six days. Six days. I can hope that the wild variability in polling will enable a squeaker victory for McCain, but now is the time to keep my powder dry, I'd say - my taxes are about to go up-up-up. And my freedom to express myself in the public sphere, down-down-down. Thanks again, O.

You moderate Dems out there - exactly who do you think will show up to be inaugurated if Obama wins next week: the Obama you want, or the Obama who is? The One who says he's "post-racial," or the One who sat in Wright's church for two decades? The One who is measured in his responses, or the One whose campaign threw a hissy fit every time he was questioned with anything like vigor or determination? The One who will restore America's good name worldwide (because we've had that throughout our history, except since Bush took over - oh, and Reagan before him), or the One who has said he's willing to invade Pakistan, give Russia a pass over its aggression toward former SSRs, negotiate with state supporters of terror, and listen in that measured way of his to arguments about the legitimacy of Israel? The One who will "cut taxes for 95% of Americans," or the One who knows that the strikingly large percentage of Americans who don't pay the kinds of taxes he implies in that statement are counted in this number - and therefore the One whose little slip about "sharing the wealth" is a portrait-in-miniature?

Use your franchise wisely, and not after taking cold medicine or drinking that great new O!-flavored Kool-Aid.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Why conservatism doesn't just die, already

This is really simple. Conservatism, frequently declared dead or dying by "progressives," is the equivalent of Darwinism in the natural world, functionalism ("Do that which works," in essence) in the world of psychology, and trial and error in the world we all inhabit day-to-day. It's the tautology "Survivors survive." It's the preferential preservation of that which has shown itself to be effective, versus the preferential throwing out of baby with bathwater in a sometimes inchoate desire for "change."

And this is also the source of that bit about "If you're not a liberal in your twenties, you have no heart; if you're not a conservative in your forties, you have no brain," that's variously attributed to Disraeli, Churchill, and probably others. What smart and humane young person doesn't believe that she could arrange the world better than it is right now? What person in her forties doesn't have a clearer picture of both her and the world's limitations than she did twenty years earlier?

And thus my hard-won relative conservatism, not "in spite of" but because of my desire to see people's prospects improve as continually as possible: radical change is revolution, revolution is by its nature a gamble, and even when it does succeed (cf. the American Revolution, the Russian Revolution), it takes on a life of its own. It has consequences beyond its planners' and supporters' intent, and not all of those consequences are a net positive to those the revolution was supposed to benefit.

But wait - we're not talking about revolution this November...

True. But we are talking about a candidate whose platform is based on "change," without much regard to which direction the change should take - or, more accurately, without much regard to what the American people believe about which direction change should take, since Obama's plans are for more confiscatory and redistributionist government policy, both of which fail miserably in the court of public opinion. And the other candidate, whose version of "change" involves a return to "that which works," particularly in hard economic times: tax minimally, regulate minimally, read the Constitution in an originalist fashion, respect States' rights by not arrogating to the Federal government powers not explicitly granted to it. The old guy is for the (former, or as I prefer to think of it, once-and-future) status quo; no surprises there. The young guy is for the long-discredited approach of the New Deal and the Great Society - which would come as a surprise to his most fervent followers if they knew anything about those eras; sadly, the best-funded education system in the world, as Shieffer pointed out in the final Presidential debate a few days ago, somehow fails to teach very well.

It's a great disappointment to me (I'm trying not to let it be more than that - I'll certainly keep my wits about me in a way Bush-enemies have not, but it is a little scary to consider what the next several years will bring, economically) that Obama may well end up as our next President, since I think his fiscal policy, especially now, will be a disaster. It's been almost a hundred years since the last Great Depression, but the market certainly seems to be anticipating that this is our moment. Thanks, O.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Check this out!

Commenter SarahB has a cool site featuring lots of clothes and merchandise bearing my name! (Lipstick Republican, not Jamie.) (And naturally they're about Gov. Palin, not me, but still...) Check it out. For Lipstick Republican stuff particularly, go here:

But look, there's more at CafePress's GOPGirls.

Here's to beautiful conservative women! We know what we're about.

(And lest anyone wonder, there's no cognitive dissonance between this post and the Twilight one... really. Bella might be a seventeen-year-old in love with love, but she does what she believes is right and lets the chips fall where they may, she always pays the price for her decisions, and she doesn't press too hard to get into hanky-panky-ish trouble with Edward. Sounds like a conservative-in-training to me...)


My book club has been reading Twilight, heaven help me. If you don't know it, you may not have a teenage girl either in your life or in your head. It's the first in a four- (possibly one day five-, which has me all excited) book saga, which I shall try to summarize herein. Okay. Here we go.

We have Bella, a high school girl recently moved from Phoenix to Forks, Washington, a town so obscure that in our seven years in Seattle, even my geography-obsessed husband never made it there. Forks has the distinction of being one of the rainiest places in the country, which is intrinsic to the plot for reasons that will become clear.

We have Edward, a high school boy of strange and compelling mien - or so we think. (Dum-dum-daaaaaahhhh....)

Cutting to the chase, he's a vampire, she's not. He and his "family" of vampires, however, call themselves "vegetarians," having chosen to live more humanely than most of their kind, slaking their thirst with the blood of animals rather than humans. Edward likens it to tofu and soy milk, and throughout the whole series we're left with no doubt that animal blood is not NEARLY so tasty or satisfying as human - which I think is really funny, since when I was a vegetarian long ago, I tried hard to convince both myself and everyone around me that vegetarian fare was just as yummy as my formerly (and again, now) omnivorous diet. Back to our story: Bella's blood, for some reason, is terribly appealing to Edward; he can barely restrain himself from killing her when he's near her.

But he falls in love with her, and she with him. Trouble, and a lot of very G-rated yet heart-pounding non-sex, ensues. Lather, rinse, repeat, for four (maybe five!) books.

This is the real deal in the line of teenage-girl romance. There's minimal physical contact, but what there is is described in terms that conjure "seventeen" pretty much flawlessly - at least, my seventeen. There's loads of talk, loads of soul-baring. There's courage on both sides, and a commitment to one another that adults would call "obsession" but that seventeen-year-olds understand perfectly is just the hallmark of "true love." It's FABulous, if you (a) are seventeen, or (b) remember seventeen with any kind of fondness.

Why I remember seventeen with fondness is beyond me. My seventeenth year spanned two horrible "true loves": the year of my long-distance relationship with the very devout Catholic boy who said he loved me, took me to the brink of all kinds of sin (but never beyond), and then said he thought he wanted to be a priest; and the turbulent beginning of the ultimately monotonous hurricane whose passing marked the end of my brief first marriage. (Ultimately monotomous monotonous (sorry): a hurricane is a lot of wind and rain for a long time, right? Dangerous, destructive, but ultimately monotonous. That was my six years there.) Yet I read Twilight and its sequels in the space of about nine days, and have been rereading them ever since. Why?

Because I never got older than seventeen, of course. And I never stopped looking for the fairy tale of Edward, though I didn't know his name yet: the boy, or man, who couldn't resist me but never stopped trying, because he knew that being with him could destroy me. And this is Twilight's flaw, if you want to look at it that way: Bella says, and acts as if, she's in love with Edward, but what comes through most clearly is that she's overcome by his love for her. He really does love her, though his love is a little inexplicable (the fifth book, a retelling of Twilight itself from Edward's point of view - its draft first third or so was leaked, and now the author has released that manuscript because the cat's out of the bag - attempts to right this shortcoming). But Bella? She's just this girl, you know?

Except that the author, Stephenie Meyer, really really likes her. In this book, in this series, Bella is a giant Mary Sue. (I'm not linking to anything in this post because it's kind of embarrassing that I'm writing it at all, but I recommend to any reader unfamiliar with the term the enlightening Wikipedia entry on Mary Sues.) But here's the thing: I like Mary Sues, as long as they're sympathetic. So I don't mind. Bella's falling in love with either (a) Edward or (b) Edward's love for her (did you follow that?) makes perfect sense to me, and I've thoroughly enjoyed my foray into my own past.

Next question: how do I get back to my present? Final question: Why would I? Sigh.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The ONLY explanation?

Ever since the "Palin effect" began to be measurable (which is to say about three hours after the announcement that Gov. Palin would be McCain's running mate), I've perceived an effort to frame a possible Obama loss. An effort, that is, on the part of the news media. We have NPR, in a piece entitled Does Race Matter in '08? The View From York, PA":

Most voters say they won't decide between Barack Obama and John McCain on the basis of race. But, in a question that is more subtle than the standard questions in a poll, can a decision be based on the racial experience of the voter?

There's Harvard's Randall Kennedy writing in the Washington Post:

If Obama loses, I personally will feel disappointed, frustrated, hurt. I'll conclude that a fabulous opportunity has been lost. I'll believe that American voters have made a huge mistake. And I'll think that an important ingredient of their error is racial prejudice -- not the hateful, snarling, open bigotry that terrorized my parents in their youth, but rather a vague, sophisticated, low-key prejudice that is chameleonlike in its ability to adapt to new surroundings and to hide even from those firmly in its grip.

There's Gov. Kathleen Sebelius's claim in an AP article initially entitled "Sebelius says GOP using racial code language" - self-evident, that claim. But an excerpt anyway:

"Have any of you noticed that Barack Obama is part African-American?" Sebelius asked with sarcasm. "(Republicans) are not going to go lightly into the darkness."

And overall, a widespread sense that, with Pres. Bush's approval rating in the 30s, if Obama isn't up in the polls by at least a dozen points nationwide, something fishy must be going on, and by "fishy," I'm using GOP "code language" for "racist." (They give you a code book when you register Republican. Really. You know motor-voter registration at the DMV? If you register Republican, the person who takes down your information gives you a little wink and a head-jerk toward the restrooms. You go into the stall on the right - of course! - and a little door opens up in the back wall and there's a little book inside. Now that I've squealed, you can expect never to hear from me again.) I wish I could find the cite for an op-ed - I think it was an op-ed - I just heard quoted on the Limbaugh radio show, in which the writer, or the person being interviewed if it wasn't an op-ed, said again that the Democrat ticket ought to have taken this election in a walk; that it's a dead heat can only be explained, he said, by racism.

Really? ONLY by racism?

One question: why are the Democrats so sure that Bush's approval rating is "historically low" because he hasn't been acting left enough?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Yay! My moniker has meaning!

So there I was, just letting this blog languish and perhaps quietly die so I don't have one more thing to feel guilty about not keeping up with, when Barack Obama decided to try his hand at stand-up. You've heard it by now:

"You know, you can put lipstick on a pig but it’s still a pig.” Followed by the wrapping-old-fish-in-newspaper comment, which pretty much makes mincemeat of the "argument" that Obama just "spoke hastily" or "was using folksy language." If it'd been just the pig-lipstick bit, it would've been technically possible that Obama didn't mean to reference Palin's Republican convention joke about hockey moms and pitbulls being identical except for the lipstick. But juxtapose it with a comment about an old (smelly) thing - and you've got the Republican ticket, presented in unsavory metaphor.

And now, the calls for response or lack of it. My favorite possible response, and I'm sorry that I can't recall where I read it this morning, was for the McCain campaign to release a statement along these lines: "We're pleased to note Sen. Obama's developing sense of humor, and we hope to see more of it over the next two months." Second choice: the entire McCain-Palin side rolls its collective eyes and gives that weak grin that parents give when their child announces loudly at a party or in a shop (as indeed our oldest did, on the named occasion), "I just went poopy in the potty!"

Dismissive. Indulgently dismissive. That's the tone this silliness calls for, and I trust that if Gov. Palin is allowed to play it her way, that'll be the tone that's taken. That there's been no demand for an apology from the McCain-Palin folks so far suggests to me that either Gov. Palin is being allowed to play it her way, or that her way and McCain's way are the same - and both are what I'd do, which is both personally gratifying and suggestive that maybe McCain won't be as nose-holding a President for me as I'd feared.

But the whole point (the blog world being as inwardly focused as it is) is this: a commenter to Roger Kimball's excellent piece of advice to the M-P campaign suggests:

I think the female constituents might do something subtly funny like t-shirts that say “lipstick republicans” or “read my lipstick” and just kind of own it.

(The commenter blogs at Argghhh!.)

Yippee! I knew it'd catch on... eventually.

Update: The McCain liptick ad? I thought it was funny, not affronted. Katie Couric commenting on sexism in politics, whether with regard to the Clinton-Obama contest or the Democrats' response to Palin's candidacy? Hahahahahahaha! Hoist on their own petard!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

False equivalencies

A good two weeks ago now, a friend with whom we were dining drew an analogy. I, unfortunately, was not in good shape to respond to it at the time (we were coming off an intense week of Disney and I'd been consuming wine at roughly the rate and volume I'd been hitting the water bottles for the past seven days), but since then I've been haunted, haunted I tell you, by a need to deconstruct it.

We were talking about the foreign policy platforms of the presidential hopefuls. (Read that as "Iraq," of course.) I maintained, as I always do, that "We shouldn't have gone into Iraq in the first place," is not a meaningful foreign policy position; we are in Iraq, and the question for these candidates and near-candidates is what we do there from this point forward. I should note that the original act is a settled question in both my mind and my friend's: I've never wavered from my belief that deposing Saddam Hussein made absolute good sense, and he's never accepted that it made any sense at all. But here's where the analogy came in: he countered that what I was saying - that the important statement from these hopefuls should focus on what next rather than on whether in the first place, and furthermore that a continual focus on the past paralyzed us from acting as wisely and decisively as possible now - was like telling an abused wife that she should discount all her husband's abuses because they happened in the past, after all - it'd all be different in the future, honey, or at any rate the future would render the past irrelevant.

This is a grotesque equivalency, and a fundamentally flawed one. Oh, I understand its root: as I said, the "whether" question is settled for my friend as "absolutely not," so I suppose it's natural, if that's the right word, for him to equate the U.S./coalition invasion of Iraq with domestic violence. And for what it's worth, I do believe that revisiting that question helps voters evaluate the presidential hopefuls' judgment and reasoning. (He and I reach different conclusions from that evaluation, of course.) But when the question being asked is "What would you do next?" a response of, "We shouldn't be there in the first place, so we should get out," is not a response at all. Or, at best, it's shallow and blind.

Moving on to the deconstruction part. First: the marital relationship in the analogy appears to marry the U.S. government to the people of the United States, with government as abuser and people as abused wife. All metaphors break down, but this one never even stands up. The U.S. government is in fact the people of the United States; the fact that not all the people agree with all the actions of the government doesn't reflect either an unequal marital partnership or (more close to reality, though sulkily put) "disenfranchisement" of some portion of the electorate; it reflects the compromise we call our republic, that's all. I've "suffered" through many years of government action against my preferences and will; it's not "abuse," but simply my side's inability to popularize its policies. The lack of government support for my point of view on this or that issue might be a result of its being wrong, or it might be a result of its being hard to sell or difficult to maintain; it certainly does not constitute an "abuse."

In practical terms, the "abuse" to which my friend referred might be the cost of the war rather than the "mental abuse" of having to slog through two terms' worth of presidential policies with which one disagrees. I hear a lot about this cost lately, all of which seems to begin from the assumption that whatever we're spending on the war (a) would have been spent elsewhere (that is, that we've lost an opportunity cost of some kind) and (b) would have been better spent elsewhere (that is, that government spending is an unreserved good, unless it's on a military venture). I can't accept either premise. Is this war worth its cost in money? Time will tell, and we're not yet to the point where time can tell. But taking down Saddam Hussein was, in my opinion, absolutely worth everything it cost at the time. What we've been doing since then is that uniquely American post-war activity called "reconstruction." It's our obligation to some extent, but beyond that extent it's just what we do: we try to rebuild and reform the damaged and destroyed so that it can join us in fruitful commerce (not just the financial kind) in time. This principle, which we've been doing for many years under many presidents, has become codified as the "Bush Doctrine," thanks to the now-explicit hypothesis that liberal transformation in the Middle East will be superior to realpolitik in stabilizing that volatile region. And the potential benefits of the action, if it works, are not being valued opposite the costs both real and hypothetical. There is an incremental cost associated with achieving those benefits - what is it? And can the benefits be monetized, and if so, what's their value? That's how you make a foreign policy decision about a war, if money is the main criterion. But was money the main criterion in our entering WWII?

Next: history is indeed a guide to future behavior when you're dealing with individuals, but the more appropriate analog would have been the "abused wife" who remarried every few years. Here my friend might say that the party affiliation of the "husband" was an important datum in gauging his likelihood to "abuse" her; I'd point to history as a refutation of that view, since it's been Democrats who tended to get the U.S. into foreign entanglements over the last century or so, since no party remains the same for more than a (political) generation, and since a party's leader can have a strong, if often temporary, effect on that party's philosophy.

Finally, the analogy was intended to illustrate something about the presidential candidates. But all it did was to restate the flawed premise - that the right question to ask and answer is, "Since we shouldn't be in Iraq at all, how do you propose we leave?" Drawing the question in terms of domestic abuse is a trick, like the one my side used against the other during the 2004 and 2006 election cycles, when Osama bin Laden's various taped statements seemed to be drawing on Democrat talking points. Remember it? We (not specifically I, that I recall, but my side) called our political opponents "objectively pro-terrorist." (My point of view was that if your country's enemy seemed to be echoing your own position, you might want to consider that position carefully.)

It's too obvious a trick, too, since it's just about identical to "Have you stopped beating your wife?" Point is, rhetorical tricks can sometimes "win" debates, but they do not answer questions. (I've used plenty of tricks, won plenty of debates, and skirted plenty of questions in my time.) If the object of this year's election is to choose a leader for what is still THE world hyperpower, our focus needs to be on hearing and evaluating the substance, rather than the rhetoric, of our candidates. (In other words, after lo these many paragraphs, I wearily acknowledge that I won't un-settle the question of "whether" for my friend, just as he won't un-settle it for me; I'm looking for the candidate who will commit to staying in Iraq until circumstances clearly show one outcome or another - recalling that inadequate reconstruction after WWI spawned WWII, and reconstruction after WWII took decades. This is the long war, and the "hard work," Bush is vilified and ridiculed for talking about.)

Friday, February 15, 2008

My capacity for shock is taking a hit

So Instapundit steered me to this:

Well, a Smith College professor found a way around that ["the gender gap in math and science" - I urge the reader to follow the link above for futher background links, because I'm a glass and a half of wine into this post] for getting women into engineering: Ignore the math. From the Chronicle:

[The curriculum] emphasizes context, ethics, and communication as much as formulas and equations.

Smith, the first women’s college to offer an engineering degree, graduated its first class of engineers in 2004, and since the program’s creation, in 1999, has attained a 90-percent retention rate[.]

Does this mean I have to ask for resumes and transcripts - with DNA testing to confirm gender - every time I step onto an airliner? Good gravy.

This is the problem, people, with setting different standards in order to bolster the self-esteem of the terminally sensitive. If the firefighter responsible for hefting my husband, overcome by smoke, out of my house is a 5'5" woman who can bench seventy pounds, well heck, leave my husband to me - I'm bigger and stronger. If the engineer designing my car studied "context, ethics, and communication" at the expense of loading and metal fatigue and tensile strength and so forth (not being an engineer, I'm just naming off some things I know matter), thankyouverymuch, I'll put my kids in the Amish wagon in the garage; my own lack of speed makes up for its lack of seat belts.

I was a geologist. I was pretty good at parts of it; I really stank at other parts. Upper-body strength wasn't an issue in my jobs, nor was geophysics (one of the things I stank at, along with optical mineralogy, like everyone in my class - thank goodness for the grading curve, but I never deceived myself that I understood the material despite the passing grade - and structural geology - so it's best that I stay far from faults), so I could perform as well as any man in the same job. Often better. But I would not have been hired to perform an assessment of the geologic conditions underlying a hospital site, because I didn't have the math - and that's absolutely correct. The stakes are generally higher than self-esteem, darn it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Rrrrripped from the headlines

Or somewhere in the body of the piece, anyway. From the front page of yesterday's WSJ:
...Barack Obama brainstormed with his top advisers on the fine points of his positions. Michelle Obama had dialed in to listen, but finally couldn't stay silent any longer.

"Barack," she interjected, "Feel - don't think!"

Holy cow. Really?

All right, the final point of her exhortation is that he use his heart and his head rather than "overthinking." And I'm sympathetic to the plight of a wife who must continually build up her husband, show tremendous confidence in him, lest he start to doubt himself in the midst of a grueling campaign (or project of any kind - I can think of times when my literal words in support of my husband might not have been exactly what I was thinking, but chosen in order to bolster his confidence instead). But. How utterly pathetic that the newspaper quote ended up as, "Feel - don't think!" rather than simply, "Barack, decide!" which is, I certainly hope, what she meant.

Of course, I give both of them the benefit of the doubt: that Michelle Obama purposely misspoke because my formulation could be confidence-shaking at a critical time, and that Barack Obama actually has the ability to decide. Sigh.

And then, same page:
[Clinton's campaign manager] was replaced by Maggie Williams... who served as her chief of staff when she was First Lady. ... Ms. Williams... is viewed by staffers as a long-time, loyal defender of Mrs. Clinton.

This sounds sadly like Bush's attempt to put Miers on the Supreme Court, the differences being (1) Bush (and Miers, I imagine), wisely, listened to the outcry that she was too lightweight for the job and the unfortunate plan went away, and (2) Bush's reasoning was to put a loyalist in a position of influence over something else, something that affected more than just his own administration, such that loyalty to his administration might have an effect - versus Clinton's putting a "loyal defender" of her own self in charge of - what? her own campaign. How many non-loyalists does she have working on her campaign, for heaven's sake?

Again I say, I'm just sick about the fact that the Democrats have punted the Presidency altogether by facing these two off against one another (there's no strong Democrat governor, or even a Democrat Senator or Rep with years of federal experience, available?), yet they may actually win. Social conservatives and other ideological purists, beware: if you decide to punish McCain for not being perfect for you, you (and your children, and mine) could be cleaning up the unholy mess for a generation. More. Be a purist in your own heart, mind, and life - certainly! But don't rejoice in your own purity to the point where you're willing to punt the Presidency just as utterly, and leave the nation in the hands of the "close your eyes and throw money at it" socialists.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Problems with the premises

I was reading in Reason why Steve Chapman believes we should not worry about a potential nuclear strike from a terrorist organizations. In brief, it's really hard either to acquire or to build a nuclear device, and then delivery of said device is even harder. Okay, I grant all that. But there are several premises in this little op-ed that I can't get behind.

Ever since Sept. 11, 2001, Americans have had to live with the knowledge that the next time the terrorists strike, it could be not with airplanes capable of killing thousands but atomic bombs capable of killing hundreds of thousands.

What I glean from this paragraph is that we shouldn't worry about those airplanes any more. Hmm. Secondary is the implication (followed on in the next para) that American policy since 9/11 has been shaped predominantly by fear. It seems that the strawman of choice for a common variety of person-who-disagrees-with-me-and-my-ilk is the terrified right-winger, crouched in his walk-in closet with a roll of duct tape at the ready. But you don't (for instance) get your brakes checked because you live in terror that they'll fail and kill you; you don't even install an alarm system out of fear (television ads for alarm systems notwithstanding), except in a kind of abstract sense that it would be bad if your house were broken into with you and your sleeping children in it.

My husband's childhood home was, in fact, broken into with his single mom asleep therein; he, returning from a high school date, happened to drive around the block, passing his house (in which he saw a light on and a man inside and wondered why his mother was entertaining so late), because a favorite song was on the radio. When he finally pulled into the driveway and went inside, all lights were off, to his surprise, and his mom was fast asleep. The back door was ajar, though, and they later found Mom's purse out on the lawn. So if anyone would have had cause to fear such an event, it should've been this family. Yet Mom still lives in that house, and she sleeps soundly. She has an alarm system - no sense in ignoring reality - but she doesn't bite her nails wondering when the next intruder will defeat it and gain entry.

Prevention of the preventable has been the focus of American policy. Has it been effective? Well:

But remember: After Sept. 11, 2001, we all thought more attacks were a certainty. Yet Al Qaeda and its ideological kin have proved unable to mount a second strike.

So it would appear that for all its myriad faults, Homeland Security's efforts haven't been in vain. In fact, it's the victim of its own success, since we're now supposed to assume that since no attack has been successful, we should disable the alarm.

Moving on:

If terrorists were able to steal a Pakistani bomb...

I think I'll just let that stand, Pakistan being a nominal ally and all. And then:

Stealing some 100 pounds of bomb fuel would require help from rogue individuals inside some government who are prepared to jeopardize their own lives.

Which hundreds of terrorists have demonstrated their willingness to do. Could such a person reach high levels in some nuclear-enabled government? Are we prepared to claim that no such person ever could?

He does end with, "None of this means we should stop trying to minimize the risk by securing nuclear stockpiles, monitoring terrorist communications and improving port screening." Unfortunately, he follows that sentence with this one:

But it offers good reason to think that in this war, it appears, the worst eventuality is one that will never happen[,]

...which is the final premise with which I take issue. A nuclear strike by a terrorist organizations is not, in my opinion, the "worst eventuality." It might be the worst single casualty event, in the (I agree here) very unlikely case that it could be brought about, but it's hardly the worst thing. WWII: was the "worst eventuality" for Britons the possibility that Hitler could level London? He gave it a darn effective try - but no, the worst eventuality was that Britain could be defeated overall and that Germany could take over Britain. For Japan, was the worst eventuality that the Allies could drop A-bombs on two of their cities? It was horrible, it was unthinkably horrible for Japan - but what about the million Japanese casualties and the widespread destruction of infrastructure projected if the Allies had invaded Japan instead? And, for the Japanese at the time, what about the prospect of an Allied occupation following that invasion?

The "preventable" that American policy to date continues to try to prevent is not a terrorist strike per se. It's something much worse, but something that "multicultural awareness" dictates we can't talk about very clearly: it's Islamist aggression, whether by violence or by relentless use of our liberality against us, resulting in a loss of what makes liberal pluralist democracies the amazing force for good that they are. So (as always) I call for today's immigrants to follow the lead of yesterday's, including my own people, and embrace this place, not differentiate themselves from it. And furthermore, I call for those of us who have been here a while to continue to ask this level of assimilation from our newcomers, not facilitate their differentiation with patronizing observations about their Otherness.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Lileks, speaking for himself

And as well as always. I love James Lileks. Today his "Bleat" was more of a rant - he seems to have removed the curmudgeonly section of his absolutely addictive website, so the Bleat must now do double duty. He's talking about the great idea they had at the Freakonomics blog on the NYT to have a "six-word motto for the U.S." contest, which (being the NYT) had many predictable results. (Also, to my surprise, some good 'uns, including "That hot girl who ignores you," my personal favorite of the selection I read.) Let me give you a little of my man James:

It doesn’t matter that these fascists-in-fetal-form [he refers here to these people: "Someone somewhere is a practicing Baptist and someone somewhere else is eating a hamburger larger than you’d prefer, and other people are watching cars go around a track at high speed."] never quite seem to accomplish anything; it’s not like they drove the gay Teletubbies off the air or had Tony Kushner drawn and quartered in the public square. But they’re preventing something. Something wonderful. And they’re driving large cars to Wal-Mart and putting 18-roll packs of Charmin in the back and they have three kids. Earth has withstood a lot in its four billion years, but it cannot withstand them. And even if it does, who wants to live in a world where these people don’t care that they’re being mocked by small, underfunded theaters in honest, gritty neighborhoods? (Which are being gentrified by upwardly-mobile poseurs who have decided it’s a great place to live because the theater is good and the restaurants are cheap. F*#*$ing interlopers. But we’ll deal with them later.)

A slightly younger relative of mine, whom I adore for his great heart, his love of fun, his manner with the children in his life, and lots more, is a right git where it comes to economics; right now he lives in one of those honest, gritty neighborhoods, and he likes to visit honest, gritty countries where a hundred bucks a month is big money for the locals (and, in spite of his theoretical social-justice stance, he thinks that's terrific because it means cheap vacations for him and his buds), and the fashion lines he represents are both honest and gritty, and in addition far out of the reach of both those Wal-mart shoppers and the poor down-trodden pipples (sorry, that's a Zorro, the Gay Blade reference) for whom he feels so deeply. Now, he's not the snob that the elbow-patch crowd seems to be; he's sincerely egalitarian, but he just doesn't quite get what egalitarianism actually entails.

I have no time for the snobs.

Of Superbowls, underdogs, and politics

Man, did you see that game? That incredible escape from the sack? That catch?!

I haven't enjoyed a Superbowl that much in years, and given that my Superbowl munchies consisted of clear broth and dry toast (thank you very much, ugly G-I bug that knocked down my family one by one), that's saying something. But though I, like the whole football-fan world, give the heavy credit to that last 2:39-or-so drive (I was hyperventilating, and I've got no allegiance to either team), I was most impressed with (a) the Giants' absolutely unstoppable defensive line and (b) the Giants rookie Bradshaw. How tall is he? Five-nine or so? Yet the Patriots repeatedly had to pile three or four ginormous men onto him to bring him down. He was a little bitty freight train.

I do love an upset. And funnily enough, whenever I hear about the current Pats' formidableness (is that even a word?), I think only of the Superbowl back in the '80s, when I was first interested in Superbowls, when they were smushed into the turf by the then-awesome Bears. I was pulling so hard for the tiny Patriots - they looked like children opposite the Bears' line. So I came into this Superbowl, in spite of the Pats' season record, with a visceral indecision about who represented the underdogs. My subconscious was saying "little Patriots versus Giant... um, bears?" But of course my conscious mind knew the truth, and that first quarter, when Manning converted four times, was when I realized this was going to be a Game after all - even though the Giants couldn't actually capitalize very much on their relentless drive. I admit to losing interest in the middle a bit, but that fourth quarter was something to stay awake for, wasn't it?

And onward. Deep into primary season, I've lost my candidate, it looks as if I'll lose the one governor I'd support, and McCain will end up with the Republican nomination. Obama and Clinton continue to snipe at one another and to play with their various physical characteristics as differentiators (and/or their campaigns do the playing, which has the same effect); bleah, still. As a woman and a staunch meritocrat, I have no issue whatsoever with the principle of an otherly-than-male-gendered or otherly-than-Caucasian-toned President; but my goodness, could we have a candidate, please? The Republican slate, lily-white and male-appendaged as it is, at least represents experience in high-level governance, and the lily-white maleness of it has, weirdly, an effect similar to the candidates' all wearing the same suits and ties during debates (I'll be so interested to see how they handle this newish tradition if Clinton is the Dem nominee): it removes a distraction and allows easier focus on the actually relevant.

Which means, I believe, that the Democrats had best watch themselves; to make the Presidency a figurehead, where it doesn't matter who's in the big chair as long as that person "looks like America" or some such nonsense (it would've been fascinating to see an America that looked like Lincoln, I think - gives whole new meaning to the term "ugly American"), implies the exact opposite of the Democrat policy platform: that strong central government is not an effective means of actually governing, that the King Log approach is in fact the preferable one. Because if anybody can do it (which is the lesson of the two Dem front-runners' resumes), then nobody actually has to do it.

All right, I think I'm overstating the case. Possibly the Dems have decided to kibosh the strong-Executive thing and return to a stronger Legislative branch. I wish them luck with that too, considering what seems to catch the attention of our legislators in Washington.

But in any event, yup, if McCain gets the nomination I'll vote for him over either Dem front-runner, because as the Captain (a Romney man) says,

I want to emphasize
the point that I have no problem supporting John McCain in a general election against either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama if he wins the nomination. Elections are about choices and reality, not fantasy.

That's where we are now. The art of the possible, the necessity of opposing the party and/or candidate who disagrees with one's principles eighty percent of the time and supporting the party and/or candidate who agrees with one's principles seventy percent of the time. McCain-Feingold is bad; McCain selecting Supreme Court justices and acting as CinC is better than Clinton or Obama doing the same, by my lights. He is not perfect - oh so far from it - but he's also not socialist, nor a fool.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Not even February yet, and I'm already tired of it all

Yeah. The primaries and caucuses. Blech.

Turning first to the Democrats... for heaven's sake, are these the best they can field? Three Senators, one of whom hasn't even served a whole term yet and the other two of whom haven't served one and a half? What have they been doing for the past eight years? Not even a governor in the bunch - not a soul with executive experience. Sure, that's what I want: a President who's never presided over anything. (I have a very hard time voting for a Senator, regardless of party; the legislative skillset is entirely different from that required of an executive.)

And then the Republican side: I could get behind Thompson, from what I know of him, except that he doesn't seem to want the job very much. Now, personally I believe that's probably to his credit, a la Groucho Marx's not wanting to belong to any country club that'd have him as a member. But as for actually getting the job, it's not a help. Romney - here's a Republican (of sorts) governor of a militantly liberal State: that shows promise. But. Will he actually employ Republican principles unapologetically, like Reagan, or will he go all Schwartzeneggar and start by couching the right answers in the wrong terms ("We should make the Bush tax cuts permanent because, really, those primarily affected are no longer the richest Americans but the new middle class - and we don't want the embattled middle class to suffer disproportionately for their hard-won success" versus the right terms, "We should make the Bush tax cuts permanent because it's in the best interests of society and the American economy to allow Americans to keep as much of their earnings as possible"), then move toward embracing less and less Republican policy because his best friends are snubbing him at parties? I do believe Presidents are human, and subject to human folly; this is why they need hard-hearted handlers. (Think how much more dignified the Clinton Presidency would have been if Bill's handlers had been more effective.)

Moving on. McCain - again, there's the Senator near-disqualification, for me. There's McCain-Feingold - another blech. Mostly what he has going for him is that he understands the stakes in Iraq and, so far at any rate, seems unwilling to throw over our, and Iraq's, mounting successes for the sake of a demagogical point scored. Huckabee - honestly I know almost nothing about him; I don't like his name, so my visceral response is yet another blech. But besides that, I keep hearing that he's a government-interventionist, and that ain't Republican in my book. Giuliani - again, he's good on national security (which is sort of a proxy for foreign policy generally for me, at present, as fighting the ongoing battle against Islamism is my single-issue issue), but is being a mayor good enough? Maybe, if it's mayor of New York City... but as my husband points out, he's a New Yorker through and through; is he too regional? And of course there's this odd "going dark" strategy of his. We'll see what happens in Florida. Though that's problematic for me too, since I equate Florida with "New York al Sur": If he can appeal to Floridians, does that only mean there are a whole lot of New Yorkers in the sun?

Kathryn Lopez at National Review Online says The White House Is No House For a Woman - more pithily blurbed on NRO's front page as "I don't want a woman President." I predict that if this piece is noticed by anyone in the Leftosphere, it'll be taken as a sign - heck, it'll be trumpeted as proof - that Republican women are self-hating and that Republicans generally are sexist. (I don't doubt that Thomas Sowell's denouncement of the Clinton/Obama Populism Wars will similarly be cast as race treachery. Sigh.) But I completely agree with Ms. Lopez: I don't want a woman President either. Or a Mormon President. Or a differently abled President. Or any other kind of President.

I just want a President: a person who understands that the office is the important thing, not the person in it, and that any descriptor of "President" other than "dignified" detracts from the office. Bush, I believe, has done a great job of keeping himself out of the office: while there are those who might call him the "cowboy" President or worse, I've never heard "Bush, the Texan President," or "Bush, the Yalie President," or "Bush, the semi-evangelical Christian President." It's easy to see that he doesn't have a lot of identity-politics labels that could be applied to him, which makes it easier for him and his supporters to avoid imposing those labels on the office, and indeed this may be why we "get" yet another white male in November: because it shouldn't be about identity politics, it should be about convincing the voters that you have the experience, character, and determination to do the hardest job in the world. Which brings me again to Clinton and Obama: what are they offering? Is either the best candidate for this incredibly hard job, or is she just the woman with the most recognizable face and name, and he the African American with the greatest across-the-board appeal? (I actually commented on his DNC speech in 2004, saying with a story like his, I didn't understand why he wasn't a Republican - but besides one great speech, why him?)

I'm reminded (again) of an old Bloom County strip in which Binkley's dad has to have an intervention. He calls Oliver Wendell Jones's dad in tears to confess that, all his liberal bona fides notwithstanding, he "just doesn't like Jesse" (Jackson, of course). Mr. Jones pats him on the shoulder, tells him it's OK not to like Jesse, it doesn't actually affect his liberal status, and that the "first black president will be a conservative." Now, I don't necessarily agree with that cartoon assessment; the first "whatever" president doesn't have to be conservative. But he or she would have to be well qualified, I'd hope - at least as well qualified as every other candidate in the field.

Which, depressingly, does not serve to disqualify either Clinton or Obama, since they're pretty much right up there with Edwards. And that, friends, is called "damning with faint praise."