Wednesday, November 26, 2008

In My Day Television Was Called Books!

I'm loaning my DVD set of Babylon 5 to my sister, so I've been hurrying through the last few episodes, watching most of them on the double-speed setting my player allows. Last night I watched "Sleeping in Light", the series finale, but not in double-speed. Even though it hurts to watch, it's just not an episode you want to push though quickly.

It's also not an episode to watch with anyone who doesn't understand the series, or without a big box of Kleenex. To call it a tear-jerker is an understatement. Straczynski rips your heart out, not once, not twice, but three or four times! And still leaves you saying "Wow, that was good!"

I stand by my assessment that Babylon 5 transcends its genre. It's not just sci-fi, it's not just television. It is art. It is Literature. It is a masterwork, and not even Straczynski has tried to top it. He feels he did everything he wanted to do, and said everything he wanted to say.

Some people might feel it a shame that he peaked so early in his career. But what a peak! Sometimes it's wise to plant your flag and walk away.

I almost didn't discover Babylon 5. My sister and I stumbled across it late at night when it was in its third season. We nearly changed the channel, and if we hadn't been so tired we might have. I've never particularly enjoyed coming into a show part-way into its run, especially when the show is so character driven. But for some reason we stopped and watched. We were hooked. We watched it faithfully through the end of season four when it moved to a cable channel.

It was several more years before I got the chance to see the entire series. I moved across the state, got married, and settled into a new house. Then I happened to meet a man at church who had video taped nearly the entire series. He let me watch them. Somehow, though, I think he missed taping the finale. It was a few more years before my brother got the series on DVD and I watched them again while staying up late with our second newborn who didn't like sleeping. Over the last couple of years I've bought my own set and watched them again.

Anyway, I'm glad I managed to connect with a wonderful, powerful, uplifting story. My life is better for it. I wish I could produce something so moving. But, as with nearly everything in my life, I don't seem to get past the wishing stage.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Chicago Way? Not Today.

President-elect Obama has supposedly told his friends in Illinois not to expect any favors:
"Part of the charge [of the budget team] is to make sure that we are proceeding on projects and investments based on national priorities and not based on politics. Now you mentioned, sort of, my friends. I want to be clear friendship doesn't come into this. That's part of the old way of doing business.

"The new way of doing business is, let's figure out what projects, what investments are going to give the American economy the most bang for the buck. How can we protect taxpayer dollars so this money is not wasted; restore a sense of confidence among taxpayers that when we spend their money, it's on things that are actually gonna improve their quality of life; create the jobs that are so desperately needed; help to spur on economic growth and business creation in the private sector? That's all part of the new way of doing business."

Good for him.

Watching as he has rolled out his administration picks, and listening to the media report it (and the lefties scream), it appears that he really does plan to be more moderate than anyone would have suspected. While I'm not terribly fond of Hillary Clinton, foreign policy is one area she's more acceptable to me than many others he might have picked. In the election she was one of the more hawkish Democrats on national defense.

I also think that ignoring the media calls for him to unveil a team and a plan immediately to stabilize the economy was a good move. He only took a week longer than they wanted, and it's obvious to me at this point that one week is not going to make a real difference. Any gains he might have made by announcing earlier would have been psychological, and would have evaporated quickly if they hadn't been backed up with real substance. What he's showing so far is caution, but not indecisiveness.

I'm still holding judgment until he gets into office, but so far I'm not frightened by anything he's doing. I even find some of what he's doing encouraging.

The (not so) Dreaded Call

Today I was just getting up from my desk when the phone rang. The lady announced herself as from the School District. Panic arose. No one from my children's school calls me. I'm the emergency number.

Yet the woman didn't sound concerned. In fact she seemed downright pleased with something. It turns out she is over the testing for the district's "gifted children" program, which Emma tested for recently. She evidently tested very well, as in "nearly as well as the fourth grader I tested after her." Emma's in second grade.

But there was a problem, of the good kind. The next unit in their program begins next week, and she wanted to accelerate some remaining tests to see if Emma could be cleared to join in. She needed my permission to have Emma take another test this afternoon. I had to think on that. Okay, no I didn't.

They also have to have her take an IQ test. I'm almost afraid to find out what she gets on that. The girl is smart--sometimes almost too smart for her own good. For example, last night she was acting up, so I told she would have to go to bed early. It didn't faze her at all. She even told her mother than she's glad, as she gets bored sometimes waiting for her bed time to come.

I'm pretty sure she's figured out somewhere that we judge the effectiveness of our disciplinary choices by the amount of protest we get. If she acts like it's no big deal then it'll take the wind out of our sails and we'll try to find something else. Or give up trying to discipline her.

Except I know she likes going to bed later. A few weeks ago she was practically falling asleep on the couch waiting for bed time, but she absolutely refused to go to bed one minute earlier than she had to.

I think she's also learned from watching her younger brother what NOT to do. I'm pretty sure she's figured out that resistance just makes it worse.

Mostly I think I feel sorry for her younger brother. He's been living in his sister's shadow all his life, and this is not going to help. I'm going to have to work overtime trying to convince him he doesn't have to compete with her or try to be like her. I don't want him to make the same mistakes I made growing up.

Ah, the ironies of life. Even when good things happen there is still cause for worry.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Freeman Dyson on Global Warming

From Town
Saying that on a recent trip he and his wife found Greenlanders to be delighted with their warmer climate and increased tourism, Mr. Dyson suggested that representing “local warming by a global average is misleading.” In his comments at both the Nassau Club and Labyrinth, he decried the use of computer modeling to make “tremendously dogmatic” predictions about worldwide trends, without acknowledging the “messy, muddy real world” and the non-climatic effects of increased carbon dioxide. “There is no substitute for widely-conducted field operations over a long time,” he told the Nassau Club audience, citing the “enormous gaps in knowledge and sparseness of observation” that characterize the work of global warming experts.

For those who may not know who Freeman Dyson is, he's a renowned physicist, known for questioning prevalent theories (which used to be the role of all scientists). A quick summary of his resume:
Mr. Dyson’s credentials are venerable: the British-born scholar received a BA from the University of Cambridge in 1945, and was, from 1953 until his retirement in 1994, a physics professor at the Institute for Advanced Study. The absence of a PhD in his resume has been more than compensated for by the 21 honorary degrees he has received over the years.
The Institute for Advanced Study is where Einstein worked.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Can't Argue With That

From Yahoo Finance:
Congressional officials say Democratic leaders have decided to put off a bailout vote for the auto industry until December and will insist that the Big 3 first come up with a plan showing how the money would help transform their industry.
Good for them! If I were to go to a bank for a small business loan they'd want to see my business plan. It's the least these clowns can do if they want money.

Uh Huh, SURE You Wont...

For those who think granting Gay Marriage won't lead to churches being forced to perform those marriages against their will and doctrine really are delusional. Case in point:
( Online dating service eHarmony said Wednesday it will launch a new Web site which caters to same-sex singles as part of a discrimination settlement with New Jersey's Civil Rights Division.

The settlement is the result of a complaint New Jersey resident Eric McKinley filed against the online matchmaker in 2005. McKinley, 46, said he was shocked when he tried to sign up for the dating site but couldn't get past the first screen because there was no option for men seeking men.

"It's very frustrating and it's very humiliating to think that other people can do it and I can't," he said. "And the only reason I can't is because I'm a gay man. That's very hurtful."
So now we've got precedence where businesses are being forced to service clientele they have no interest in serving. They are a business. If they want to leave money on the table that's their problem. Next you'll tell me that I should be legally allowed to walk into McDonalds, order a Whopper, and they have to sell me one?

Other sites cater to gays. Why can't he go there? Why does he have to force a company to sell to him? Do I go around forcing beer companies to create a line of non-alcoholic beers?

Anyone who believes that churches will be able to hold out against performing gay marriages is kidding themselves. So please stop blaming us for every ill in the world if we choose to fight for our own rights.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It's NOT the Economy, Stupid!

Orson Scott Card writes extensively and circuitously about why he's not reviewed any new movies lately. The bottom line: You don't pay me enough to watch this dreck.
Hollywood is convinced that box office is down because of the economic meltdown that Barney Frank and Christopher Dodd brought us this fall.

Economic worries might be a complete explanation of why candy and popcorn sales are down in the movie theaters.

But I already wasn't going to the movies.
I've got a lot of DVDs I can stay home and watch. Maybe Hollywood can stop trying to preach their ignorant groupthink dogmas at us and start earning our entertainment dollars again. They certainly know how -- make good movies, and we'll be back in the theaters. The movie business did just fine during the Great Depression; it isn't tight money that empties the theaters.
I haven't seen a new movie in the theater since "Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith", which was...2005. Three and a half years.

It's simply easier to rent them later and watch them in the comfort of our own home with our own snacks and goodies. Sure, it's not the same as in the theater, and it's not the same as getting out of the house and leaving the kids, but it's sure a lot cheaper. That can be important when you find out a movie is a big disappointment. It's easier to accept wasting one dollar than twenty-plus.

It used to be that you'd want to see a movie in the theater to appreciate the special effects. Well, that's getting increasingly difficult to do. Lord of the Rings did it well, but Star Wars I,II,III pushed the envelope into overload territory. I simply could not watch everything that was crammed into the screen so I nearly stopped watching any of it. In the end I was unable to appreciate the effects because I mostly tuned them out.

Star Wars IV,V,VI were "primitive" by comparision, but in this case I think it helped. Lucas was forced by technology to focus on presenting only the basic ideas to get the story across. And that's all we needed. There comes a point when three spacefighters convey the idea as well as (if not better than) 50.

It is said that Lucas got his inspiration from Japanese movies. If so, while for the original three he drew from Kirosawa, the new three he drew from Pokemon.

But I digress. There are good movies out there. It's just that they're not the ones that get all the attention. At least I don't recall much hype over "Elizabethtown", but I thoroughly enjoyed it. And, in watching it at home, I don't have to worry so much about getting teary-eyed in front of total strangers. Forgetting tissues is not a concern, either.

Occasionally a mega-hyped movie lives up to its hype ("Cars" comes to mind), but it's rare. Far too many movies tend to be either formulaic action/gore/sex-fest cash machines or "Important Movies" (aka propaganda) that would never have been made if they didn't match the Hollywood political group-think. As we say in the South, "Leave the preachin' for Sunday, son!" Okay, I live in the North, and we never say that, but dang it, someone should. Not that Hollywood's listening.

That's it in a nutshell. Hollywood has stopped listening. And they keep looking for excuses to explain the drop in the box office. It's always "it's just too fresh in people's minds" or "people have too many entertainment options" or "people just can't afford to go to movies as much now." It's never "we've gotten lazy and preachy, and forgot how to make good movies".

Until they finally "get it", I'm more than happy to support my friend's video store. I'd rather he get my dollar than Hollywood get my ten.

Obama-mania vs. Non-Critical Thought

Howard Kurtz takes a somewhat bemused, somewhat cautionary look at the excitement swirling around Obama:
"Here we are," writes Salon's Rebecca Traister, "oohing and aahing over what they'll be wearing, and what they'll be eating, what kind of dog they'll be getting, what bedrooms they'll be living in, and what schools they'll be attending. It feels better than good to sniff and snurfle through the Obamas' tastes and habits. . . . Who knew we had in us the capacity to fall for this kind of idealized Americana again?"

But aren't media people supposed to resist this kind of hyperventilating?
I've been one of those convinced that the media has lost their objectivity. But in reading this article it occurred to me. It's not necessarily that media has lost their neutrality. It's that they've lost their focus on news. Somewhere along the road they decided that the public wanted commentary along with the news. The result is that you can read a newspaper from cover to cover and not find a page without an editorial, whether official or not. Online news especially thrives on the "reporter-as-personality" model.

To be sure, even when media tries to report straight news they still have the potential for bias in what stories they choose to report. Consider how long media sat on the John Edwards affair compared with the rumor of a Sarah Palin affair. One was surpressed for half a year until a tabloid broke the story, the other was plastered coast to coast before any real verification had taken place. There is media bias.

But there is also a serious lack of critical reading. Far too few readers (myself included sometimes) pay attention to whether what they're reading is true news or commentary. And even in straight news stories, how many of us take the time to ask critical-thinking questions about what we've read?

There is media bias, to be sure. There has always been media bias (in "State of the Union" (see below) our hero was practically hand-picked for candidacy by a media mogul), and there always will be. Certainly the degree and direction of bias changes from source to source and over time. But we do need to take at least a little responsibility for what we read and how we read it.

Non-Representational Government

I never realized the EU required that all directives, alterations, or amendments approved by the EU had to be adopted as law by the member nations.
From Brussels Journal:
Hence, there are no debates about the directives and no alterations or amendments are proposed to the texts. Occasionally my party abstains from voting or we press the red button – a position we can take since we are not part of the Belgian establishment and are considered “extremists” anyway. But even we, I must admit, usually vote “yea”. The EU treaties demand it. The European Court punishes countries that do not oblige with hefty fines.

Inspired by Mr. Herzog’s calculations, I submitted a question to the Belgian authorities. They informed me that between 2000 and 2005, 1,395 laws were passed in Belgium, of which 551 were bills that incorporate EU directives into Belgian legislation. That is 39.5 percent. The ratio is increasing, however. While the figure was 31.3% in 2000, it had increased to 51.8% by 2005.

This means that a majority of Belgian laws emanates from the EU. It also means that only one single Belgian, namely Louis Michel, the Belgian member of the European Commission, has had a say over the majority of the laws imposed on all his compatriots. How democratic is this?
I watched a Tracy/Hepburn movie over the weekend titled "State of the Union". In it Spencer Tracy's character espouses a world government to which all nations cede their sovereignty. The movie was released in 1948 when U.N. fever was in full bloom. After sixty years of the UN and nearly twenty years since the Maastricht Treaty (creating the modern form of the EU) I can't help but think we're still not ready for world government.

The U.N. seems to be the very model of ineffectiveness, while the E.U. seems to be overdoing it in the opposite direction. One seeks consensus or unanimity, the other forces compliance. There's plenty of criticism to go around for the United States' federal system, but it at least seems to present a happier medium than these other two.

Perhaps I Can Retire Already

It would appear I was not the only one inspired to start a political blog during the election. The Purple Center looks quite similar in beginnings and intent--and is probably doing it better than I am. Certainly "Publius" seems to be more a true "centrist" than I am.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Conjuncture Juncture, What's Your Functure

This video on MSNBC shows a new idea in telecommuting: Telecommuting from an office!

You see, many telecommuters found they miss interacting with and being around people. So they started going to coffee shops and hanging out while they work. Evidently not all coffee shops like this, and may have implemented limits where you could only do that once a week.

Then someone got an idea. He opened his own "telecommuting club" in a house. He added wi-fi and upscale coffee machines, and charge people a monthly fee to come there and work. He's got twelve clients so far. They enjoy having people to interact with, brainstorm with, and be around--even if they all work for different companies (do I smell intellectual property rights problems on the horizon?). And they get free coffee.

It's actually not a bad idea. I've worked from home from time to time, and I can handle it for one day. If I were to do that on a regular basis I'd loose touch with the rest of the team and miss out on lots of the little conversations and interactions that make work more enjoyable.

Monday Roundup

Real incentives for real people: Why pay your mortgage payment?
Should you keep paying your mortgage?

If you have significant equity in your home, absolutely.

If you don't, it's getting harder to answer that question, especially when our government keeps giving people who owe more than their homes are worth so many reasons not to pay.

Global Warming caused by statisticians: October hottest on record because it was September!
The reason for the freak figures was that scores of temperature records from Russia and elsewhere were not based on October readings at all. Figures from the previous month had simply been carried over and repeated two months running.

Deal Reached on Iraq
The final draft of the agreement, reached after months of negotiations, is designed to meet Iraqi concerns over its sovereignty and its security needs as it continues to grapple with a diminished but persistent insurgency.

It provides for the departure of U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of 2011 and gives Iraq the right to try U.S. soldiers and defense contractors in the case of serious crimes committed off-duty and off-base. It also prohibits the U.S. from using Iraqi territory to attack Iraq's neighbors, like Syria and Iran.

Proponents of the security pact with the Americans, including al-Maliki's interior and defense ministers, say a continued U.S. military presence is needed until Iraq's nascent security forces are capable of taking charge of security in the war-devastated nation.

Washington Post: We're not baised, we just lack diversity:
It pains me to see lost subscribers and revenue, especially when newspapers are shrinking. Conservative complaints can be wrong: The mainstream media were not to blame for John McCain's loss; Barack Obama's more effective campaign and the financial crisis were.

But some of the conservatives' complaints about a liberal tilt are valid. Journalism naturally draws liberals; we like to change the world. I'll bet that most Post journalists voted for Obama. I did. There are centrists at The Post as well. But the conservatives I know here feel so outnumbered that they don't even want to be quoted by name in a memo.
Lacking diversity and creating a hostile work environment! We're the Liberals! Let us do for the country what we can't even manage to do where we work!

Remember Iceland? What a REAL economic crisis looks like.

Friday, November 14, 2008

India Lands Probe On Moon: NASA Considers Outsourcing?

Seriously, this is cool news. I wish them continued success with their space program.


Obama is considering Hillary for Secretary of State? Well, to be honest, it would be a much more important role than vice president. I'm neutral-to-slightly-positive about the idea. I think of the Democratic candidates she was most likely to get it right on diplomacy.

First female four-star general takes command. Just remember who appointed her. While Democrats talk about equality for women, the Republicans have been quietly achieving it.

Now for something really important: America abuzz about the Obamas' choice in dogs. He promised his daughters a dog if he won. Now they have to pick one.

Speaking of his daughters, I suspect they're the real losers of this campaign. Perhaps, being younger, cuter, and...let's face it, Obama's daughters, perhaps they'll fare better in the media than Chelsea Clinton or Amy Carter. Those poor girls got utterly savaged at an age when such things can leave lasting scars. Bush managed to keep his daughters out of the spotlight--when they weren't pushing themselves into it. No matter what Obama may or may not do, let's leave his daughters alone, okay?

Obama may want to curtail the effect of Lobbyists, but he's probably alone in his party on this.

Obama to meet with McCain on Monday. I wouldn't expect anything significant to come from this. After all, Obama will meet with anyone, without preconditions.

Newsweek makes the case for bailing out the auto industry. I'm inclined to favor the "let them hang" crowd, but the reality is the economy really can't stand that big a shock right now. The auto industry food chain is much larger than most people appreciate, I think. It might not be a bad thing to postpone the inevitable for a few years.

Stephen Green evaluates the president-elect's administration thus far and is less than thrilled.

Jules Crittenden believes Bush didn't get the memo that he's a lame duck.

Indeed, if anything it appears he'll live on indefinitely as a useful bogeyman.

More on the "plot to demonize Bill Ayers". Frankly, is there anything they can do he hasn't already done to himself? The man is a demon, even if he's retired, toothless, and trying to indoctrinate the next generation. How can a former bomber who feels he didn't kill enough people be anything other than a demon? We're hunting Osama Bin Laden, but we're giving Ayers free air time to pump his book. Where is the justice in that?

...and that's enough for one day.

Veterans Day

I didn't post about it this year, though I intended to. But, ultimately, everything I thought about saying has been summed up pretty well by a series of cartoons over at User Friendly:


God bless our veterans past, present, and future.

We have an Air National Guard base in town, and living near the flight path we regularly get flybys from the A-10 squadron based there. Every time I see one I give a mental salute. It's not just for them, but for all veterans, and for one in particular.

I miss you, Dad.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Human Interest Story

James Lileks, one of my favorite bloggers, also works for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. He has an online blog there, too, in which each Thursday he presents a set of cartoon mysteries that were originally printed in the paper in the late 1940's. He withholds the solution, of course, until the regular commenters have a chance to guess the solution.

Today's cartoon came from an idea sent in by a reader to the comic's creator. He checked on the name and the woman is still alive. So he called her up. She's likely about 75, but she remembers it well.
Like most such interviews, I felt a bit stupid and rude – interrupting someone’s day to ask questions about a sixty-year old cartoon strip seemed a bit forward, and I expected “oh, my, no, I don’t remember that.” But she knew exactly what I was talking about, and told me the tale in that cheerful and familiar voice of small-town Minnesota ladies.

Kinda cool story, however brief. This is one of the reasons I like James Lileks so much. He isn't just infatuated with the past, he respects it. Even when he mocks elements of the popular culture you can tell he does so with a bit of wistful reverence. And when he runs across actual participants, like Bernice, he gets down-right fan-boyish.

In short, I'd be perfectly comfortable sending him to hang out with my mother. I know she'd be in good hands.

Not-So-Good Economic Predictions

Don't count on the economy improving very quickly. According to
The recession will continue until at least the end of 2009 for a cumulative gross domestic product drop of over 4%; the unemployment rate will likely reach 9%. The U.S. consumer is shopped-out, saving less and debt-burdened: This will be the worst consumer recession in decades.

They summarize a series of articles, all pointing to things getting worse before they get better.

Have a nice day!

Climate Change Vs. Global Warming

Scientists have released a study that suggests that Global Warming may be reducing the effects of regular shift in Earth's orbit that would normally result in an ice age.
Scheduled shifts in Earth's orbit should plunge the planet into an enduring Ice Age thousands of years from now but the event will probably be averted because of man-made greenhouse gases, scientists said Wednesday.

They cautioned, though, that this news is not an argument in favour of global warming, which is driving imminent and potentially far-reaching damage to the climate system.

So we should fight Global Warming, but not too hard too soon? They're very careful not to say.

Your Actions Shout So Loudly I Can't Hear What You Say

The Anti-Prop 8 Tantrum continues, this time at the LDS temple in New York City. What cracks me up is not the fact that they're demonstrating, but the sheer level of ignorance shown by the protestors.

For example, one demonstrator is holding a sign that reads "If you can have three wives, why can't I have one husband." Uh....we can't have three wives, doofus. The government outlawed that a long time ago and stripped anyone who refused to comply with voting rights and property.

People claim that opposition to gay causes stems from ignorance at best, so perhaps they might try NOT being ignorant themselves?

Another sign: "Did you cast a ballot or a rock?" I'm willing to bet that none of the LDS members in New York voted on California's Prop 8, for or against. It's like...illegal or something.

Another sign: "Church of Mormon", with the second M crossed out. Again, your ignorance is showing. We're The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But then it's only imperative that everyone else be fully informed on gay issues, not the other way around. I get it. Try "Book of Mormon" next time and you'll be closer.

These people are not helping their cause. But, to quote Levar Burton, you don't have to take MY word for it. How about GayPatriot, referring to a recent video of the protests:
Here, they try to prevent a reporter from interviewing an elderly supporter of the proposition. They don’t just harass this old lady; they pull the cross out of her hands and stomp on it.

Yeah, I get why people are upset. But, what explains this childish behavior? Didn’t their mothers teach them to be kind to old people? Why this refusal to understand their opponents? Why this insistence on silencing them? Do such people deserve the privilege of state sanction of their unions?

Where are the gay organizations condemning such conduct?

The gay movement needs some adult supervision right now.

As Instapundit points out, "At least it wasn't a Koran" they stomped on.

A common criticism about the amount of money donated to the Pro-Prop 8 groups is that the money should have been used to help the poor. Well, I'm sure the anti side spent a lot of money, too. I don't begrudge them that, frankly. But if all the money and time being funneled into these protests were donated to the poor it would not only significantly help the poor, but probably do much more to help their cause than these protests.

Compare these two conjectural headlines:
A) 10,000 Gays Converge on Mormon temple to Protest Prop-8
B) 10,000 Gays Converge in South Central LA to Help Clean Up Neighborhood

Just a thought.

Update: GayPatriot has more thoughts here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Life Imitates Art

A pair of artists in Pittsburgh have found a way to get their work into Google Maps Street View.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

No Vote For You!

I've been considering a series of posts outlining my various positions on issues surrounding same-sex marriage and the response to the California Proposition 8. I haven't gotten around to it yet, and may not at all. But there's one issue I can't ignore. Many protesting the results insist that religion should never play a role in politics.

What country do you live in?! Obviously not this one, as--if that were true--we'd still be a Royal Commonwealth. Your lack of historical knowledge is amazingly acute and you should be sent back to elementary school.

But all that aside, the notion is utterly ludicrous and dangerous. To imply that there should be any test to qualify for voting is fascist, not democratic. I may not like how people vote, I may not like why they vote a particular way, but to state that any particular way of reaching one's conclusions is wrong is anathema to the very principles this country was founded on.

This idea is forwarded by small-minded individuals who simply cannot endure the idea that anyone would disagree with them. The most common excuse I've heard to justify this idea is that "I come by my opinion based on logic and common sense, while religion is irrational at best, and hate-mongery at worst."

For one thing, that is only an opinion. You see the logic in your opinion, but it does not necessarily follow that your logic is irrefutable. Chances are you only refuse to hear counter-evidence.

For another, logic can be used to justify nearly anything. For example, I could (and do) present the following argument: Prove to me that there is no God. What responses might you give? You've never seen him? *Buzz* So? Borneo exists regardless of my lack of personal oggling thereof. And there are at least a few people who claim to have seen God.

How about many of the claims of the Bible being refuted by science? Does that disprove the existence of God, or just prove either the incompleteness of science or the failure of the Bible to state religious beliefs in scientifically verifiable terms? Either way, that fails to really address God's existence.

Please don't even bother raising the argument, "Well, if there was a God, why does he let so many bad things happen?" That's simply a ludicrous way of saying "If God were God he'd agree with me!" I would posit that if God is God he's got a totally different perspective on things that none of us are likely to grasp without a similar frame of reference.

You might get farther arguing "If God is God, why are there so many different religions, and why does he allow them to do such terrible things in his name?" But ultimately it's the same argument as above. You think you know how God should work, as if his perspective should somehow match yours. That only questions the nature of God, not his existence.

If someone has some really good, solid, verifiable proof that God does not exist I'm open to hearing it. Otherwise, I can logically argue that without proof that God does not exist, it's completely logical and acceptable to assume that He does. It is also logical to assume that God has a plan for what He is doing, because we have no proof to the contrary.

And if that is accepted, then it logically follows that God's plan includes an opinion on how we should behave. Prove otherwise. Now here you might have some rational ground for bringing up the multiplicity of religions and their contrary beliefs. However, for every argument here there is a counter-argument. Ultimately you can no more disprove the idea of "commandments" than I can prove their veracity--though there is evidence on my side. Eventually it all returns to the idea that God, for whatever reason, wants us to operate on faith, whether we like it or not.

So perhaps it is not incontrovertable for me to say that "X is a sin", but it is also not incontrovertable for you to argue "no X is not, because there is no sin, because there is no God." Logic insists that there is at least a chance that I am right. Therefore there is also a chance that you are wrong in claiming I am irrational.

Are you willing to bet your presumed eternal soul that I'm wrong? I'm already betting mine that I'm right. If you're right, then really, what does it matter how I behave? If there is no God, then man is the only moral authority. So who is to say that you are any more right than I am? Oh, sure, society has its conventions, but then on the question of gay marriage, who is the one overturning convention?

In fact, in the absence of God, the only moral authority--at least in America--is majority rule. And what has the majority been saying so far about same-sex marriage? Like it or not, until you convince a majority to support it, you at the very least cannot question my right to oppose it.

But to get back to my point, you cannot exclude religious people from the political process simply because you believe we are irrational. For one, you cannot irrefutably prove that we are. For another, the law of the land only insists that you be eighteen years of age and a U.S. citizen. Until it says otherwise, that is the only grounds on which you can refuse political franchise.

For my part, I don't care if a person flips a coin, listens to a rock, prays to satan, or numerologically calculates the ideal candidate based on his middle name in choosing how to vote. That's their business. I may not like the result, but I'll defend their right to do so until death. The minute we claim one method is superior to another and therefore grounds to disenfranchise anyone we are on very shaky ground.

For all the charges of hate and bigotry against "my side" of the issue, I would never attempt to deny anyone on "the other side" the right to vote on the issue. On any issue. Should someone seek to amend the Constitution to acknowledge satan as supreme lord of the universe I would still insist that every legal voter be allowed their vote.

I'm just funny that way.

Lobbyist Recant?

(From Obama administration may have changed their rules on lobbyists working for the White House.

During the campaign Obama said lobbyists would not work for his White House. Now they can work there if they haven't lobbied in the last 12 months and don't work on areas of policy where they lobbied.

I'm neutral on this. If the best people for the job are disqualified for having been lobbyists, then this is good. If not, it's just changing one's mind for no good reason.

Afghanistan: WWOD II

MSNBC reports on some early plans here.

If means what he says--and doesn't botch the victory in Iraq--I may be able to back him on this. I do think the focus on Bin Laden is misguided and could lead us into trouble with Pakistan, but we'll see.

Madeline Albright on the Diplomatic Environment

(via Huffington Post) Madeline Albright has posted her thoughts on the challenges Obama faces on the international scene. Interesting reading.

You Got a License For That?

Classical Values has some interesting thoughts on marriage and licenses that lends credence to the idea that government should get out of the marriage business in the first place:
Well, licensing is, after all, a government restriction. When people speak of marriage as a "right," they really are not speaking of a right to marriage, but a "right" to a marriage license. Yet true rights (such as freedom of speech and freedom of religion) are not -- and by their nature cannot be -- subject to licensing.

If marriage were treated as a right, it would not be subject to licensing.

In the normal scope of things, activities that are licensed -- cutting hair, flying planes, driving 18 wheelers, practicing law, medicine, etc. -- are not rights at all, but occupational choices that require training, which are regulated by the state.
I'd hate to think all this fuss is over a desire for official state imprimatur, but I worry that it is. Like almost everything else (soon including the auto industry), marriage is seen as something you get from the government. Maybe it would be better to see it as something that the government cannot interfere with, the way genuine rights are.

Afghanistan: WWOD?

(as in What Will Obama Do?)

Michael Yon has some advice for the president elect. If he meant at all what he said about Afghanistan, he would do well to heed it. Yon was right on Iraq, and knows that part of the world better than most, except maybe Michael Totten.

Obama and Gun Laws

It appears that Obama's administration will immediately seek to pass gun restrictions.

I think this would be a bad idea. Far too many people still remember his remark about bitter people clinging to God and guns. Can he attack the latter without people assuming he also plans to attack the former?

Or is this all just a ploy to help stimulate the economy?

Recycling Mythology

Have a spare Zeus laying around? Recycle him!

But seriously, Popular Mechanics has an article detailing five myths about recycling in America. There's both good and bad, so read the whole thing.

Monday, November 10, 2008

It's Not Even History Yet...

...and yet the revisionists are already at it.

From MSNBC news:
President-elect Obama and his wife, Michelle, arrived at the White House for a visit, his first since last week's landslide election victory.

Perhaps an Electoral College landslide, but the popular vote was close enough to make "landslide" a difficult case to make. Or are we no longer paying attention to the popular vote now that it's no longer convenient.

Furthermore, what does that little bit of info, even if true, have to do with the story at hand. Obama was elected president. We know what. The news is that he's meeting with Bush today for the first time. Period. Editorializing in the first paragraph of the article is just plain bad journalism.

At least the Washington Post can admit they're doing a poor job...if after the fact.

Friday, November 07, 2008


President-elect Obama has a transition site:

I have little idea what's on it yet, but it at least looks like he's off to a good start on his promise to make more information available.

One thing that Instapundit, Overlawyered, and Coyote found is that he is calling for teenagers and college students to perform mandatory community service:
Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by developing a plan to require 50 hours of community service in middle school and high school and 100 hours of community service in college every year.

Same-Sex Marriage

One not-entirely-overlooked aspect of this election was the number of initiatives to block same-sex marriage in several states, including California.

For the record, I do oppose it on religious grounds, just like our President-elect. I don't necessarily view it as any worse a sin than adultery, for example, but it is a sin none-the-less. And until someone can prove to me that there is no God, I intend to continue viewing it that way. And therefore I'm opposed to anything that would encourage and normalize sin.

That said, I also oppose it on political grounds. While many proponents may not intend such consequences, the "progress" on that front so far has not just opened up marriage to gay couples, but has also resulted in the government telling religions what they can and can't do. Such laws have already resulted in religious-oriented adoption agencies closing down rather than be forced to adopt children to same-sex couples. It's only a matter of time before similar efforts result in churches being forced to accept and even perform same-sex marriages.

That is completely wrong, if not unconstitutional. If someone sued an adoption agency that only dealt in Asian children to force them to accept children of other ethnicity I'm sure it would raise an uproar. So why can't an agency have control over which parents are suitable for the children they are helping?

Why can a woman choose to end the life of her baby but not have control over what kind of upbringing her child will receive if she gives it up for adoption? That doesn't make any sense.

And how can you force a church to recognize or perform an act it views as sinful, especially when there are other options available? I'm sure they could find a church that would perform the marriage. Why force one particular one to do it?

How is allowing prayer in school unacceptable while forcing same-sex marriages on a church acceptable? Where does freedom of religion end and freedom from religion begin? And vice versa?

From a strictly sectarian, political view I could accept gay marriage so long as it was never used as a lever to force churches into accepting something they view as unacceptable. But since not only can no one guarantee that it would not be used in that way, but actually IS being used that way, I have to say no. They're forcing me to say "not one inch" when I normally might have been willing to grant an inch or two.

Glenn Greenwald feels that the recent defeats are wrong, and that the new administration needs to respond by overturning the Defense of Marriage Act. That's his perogative, I suppose. I wouldn't hold my breath if I were him, though. The democrats are perfectly fine using the individual desires of special interest groups like the gays to get into office, but not so good about actually delivering on their promises once there.

After all, once you've lost your lever for controlling that particular group, then what are you going to do? You might very well lose them to your opposition. Instead, if they can keep putting them off indefinitely while acting sympathetic, they can sew up that voting block for years to come.

One last point. California was an interesting case. The people of California already voted against same-sex marriage once--and quite strongly. That vote was overturned by legal challenge. So Californians expressed their will again. No same-sex marriage.

The homosexuals of California do not seem to understand that when you live in a democracy you sometimes have to accept that the majority do not want something you want. Live with it. The majority elected Obama. I'm living with it. I'm not looking around for a judge to overturn the election.

What if the situation were reversed? What if the first time California had approved gay marriage? And what if the judiciary then overturned that decision? Would you accept the ruling then? You can't have it both ways. Either the voice of the people trumps all or it does not.

Based on the lower margin of approval this time around, I suspect it's only a matter of time before California accepts gay marriage. I'm sure its proponents will view it as some grand, wonderful evidence of right prevailing over prejudice and hate. But you know what? Someday the shoe will be on the other foot. Something they believe is immoral and a threat to their way of life will be imposed on them in the same manner.

Whatever mechanism you use for getting your way can and will be used by someone else to get theirs. If you believe that people of religion should sit down, shut up, and stay out of your way, then why didn't you sit down, shut up, and stay out of the way when we went to war in Iraq? Or banned government funding of stem cell research? Or re-elected George Bush?

You can't have it both ways. Our system of government allows for opposition on any and every issue. Sometimes you'll get what you want. Sometimes the answer is no. It's not perfect, but it's the best we've got. If you don't support that system it will be replaced by something else. You may find you like that one even less.

More Emanuel Speculation

One thing is certain: Rahm Emanuel is a controversial pick:

Rick Moran - Emanuel Posting Could Mean War with GOP
You could probably write a book using all the stories and myths about Emanuel’s ferociousness, but some who know him best say he has mellowed a bit on the Hill and that he is an excellent choice for Obama’s chief of staff. For all his partisanship, he has successfully worked with Republicans when he was in the Clinton White House, most notably on the North American Free Trade Agreement. One Democrat said of him, “He’s got a deeply held set of views, but he also understands to get things done you have to compromise.”

Glenn Reynolds, however, thinks Emanuel is more to shield Obama from his own party:
Emanuel will serve as Obama's hatchet-man and Dr. No, but the main targets will be Congressional Democrats and Democratic interest groups. Obama realizes that he's promised a lot more than he can deliver, and Emanuel's job will be to stave off all the claimants who -- as they realize that too -- will try to get to him before it's too late. Obama can stay the good cop, while Emanuel will be the bad. Republicans flatter themselves if they think they'll be the focus of Emanuel's attentions; they'll be an afterthought.

Timothy P. Carney is concerned with Emanuel's ties to Wall Street:
Four elections later, after getting rich in a brief stint in finance, Emanuel is the favorite congressman of Wall Street, measuring by campaign contributions. In the midst of a financial crisis that President-elect Barack Obama blames on Wall Street’s greed and excessive influence in Washington, Emanuel is once again headed to a perch of power in a Democratic White House, this time as chief of staff.

As for me, perhaps I don't know enough about what the Chief of Staff does, but it seems to me that he controls more how the White House runs, not what it works on. And for that I suppose Obama should have whomever he wants. They're supposedly good friends, and Obama trusts him. And in Washington it probably doesn't hurt to have a strong, trusted fighter watching your back.

Hopefully this doesn't indicate the start of a trend, though.

Update: Over on HuffingtonPost, Emanuel is essentially getting the nod from former chiefs of staff on both sides.
"He was just very well organized," said Leon Panetta, Bill Clinton's former chief of staff and Emanuel's ex-boss. "He knows the White House inside and out and now, obviously knows Capitol Hill. So he has all the qualities you basically need to be a great chief of staff. Part of the job description is you have to be an SOB to be a chief of staff, you have to have somebody who makes the tough decisions... There are decisions the president ought not to make that the chief of staff has to. My sense is Rahm will do that."
Fellow speaker Ken Duberstein, who served as chief of staff for Ronald Reagan, echoed many of Panetta's points. ..."He will run a White House staff that is very disciplined," said Duberstein, "but his challenge will be with the president's outreach and building coalitions on the Hill, saying no to the president elect's most important constituencies and keeping the White House on a schedule."

Believing in Change Goes The Other Way

It seems more than a few people are convinced President Obama will change the gun laws:

Mr. Nelson said sales at his store had risen about 30 percent since Mr. Obama declared his candidacy. “People are concerned about overreaching legislation from Washington,” he said. “They are educating themselves on the Internet.”

“Clinton was the best gun salesman the gun manufacturers ever had,” said Rick Gray, owner of the Accuracy Gun Shop in Las Vegas. “Obama’s going to be right up there with him.”

- New York Times

I personally plan to wait until an actual move is made, but I have considered buying a few guns if it looks like that choice may be taken away.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Knowing His Limits, or More of the Same?

President-Elect Obama has picked Rahm Emmanuel as his Chief of Staff. The general consensus is that he's a tough-minded operative and a major partisan. First Biden, now Emmanuel. So far it's looking like more of the same, not major change.

But the Obama campaign is not oblivious to how this looks. From the New York Times:

“They’re torn,” a prominent Democrat close to the campaign said of Mr. Obama’s advisers. “There’s half of them that think, ‘We’re in the midst of a huge economic crisis; let’s get the most experienced people out there.’ The other half think, ‘Hey, we’re the change candidate.’ ”
There are probably some fresh faces out there who are experienced enough, but they may not have enough time to find them and bring them on board at this point. And heaven knows the Right would have jumped all over Obama had he been caught vetting his administration team before the election. To be fair, it may be that proven, experienced insiders may be all he has time to get right now.

Hopefully they can unlearn "politics as usual" and let their experience carry the day.

Axelrod the New Rove?

Extreme Mortman discusses an analysis from Ad Age by Pete Snyder:

The Obama camp recognized that something very different was going on here. It threw out many of the old political adages and assumptions, including the granddaddy of them all, Americans don’t tune into elections until after Labor Day. Obama’s campaign geared its online and off-line engagement and advertising to build on this unprecedented early interest and mobilized it into an effective ground game to get out their vote.

In short, someone noticed that the world has changed. Read the whole thing.

Can't Tell the Players Without A Program!

Daniel Gallington has proposed a great idea for keeping media honest:

Now, hold on to your hats, because when the networks adopt my idea, we will no longer care about the bias or point of view in what their anchors, reporters, correspondents or commentators say. And liberals will rejoice because conservatives will have to stop complaining about the so-called "liberal bias in media".

My proposal:

Let's have the FCC require that the networks designate their news people with either a "D" or a little "R". Some examples: "Katie Couric (D-CBS)", Wolf Blitzer "D-CNN", "Keith Olbermann (D-MSNBC), "Chris Mathhews (D-MSNBC), Bill Moyers and Gwen Ifful (D-PBS) and yes, Joe Scarborough (R-MSNBC). Get the idea?

If FOX News is really "fair and balanced" - like they say they are - let's make them put a "D" or "R" under the person's picture as he/she talks. I want to know for sure if that feisty Irish guy on the "No Spin Zone" is a Democrat or a Republican – and not, as he alleges, an "independent."

A caveat: I'm afraid if we let FOX use an "I", then all the networks would want to use it and we would end up exactly where we are now. So, to keep the system brutally honest – absolutely no "I's" would be permitted. After all, that's what they all say they are now.

You Keep Using That Word....

It is expected that the two candidates and their parties bury the hatchet after each election. Each victory or concession speech must contain some sort of call for unity, lest the candidate be considered a poor sport. The congressional leaders and the outgoing president must also give a nod to bipartisanship.

And we keep hoping that this time they'll get it right. As Americans, we take it seriously. We would really like to see each side work together to find some sort of common ground, some moderate approach that will provide some sort of change we can all believe in, to borrow a phrase. We're running out of hope, but I think we have one more try left in us.

What I believe we the people are asking for is cooperation and respect. That means considering the other viewpoint enough to not propose something that you know the other side is going to automatically disagree with. It's at least showing that you DID consider their principles in coming up with a proposal. It's putting your idea forward and saying "here's the beginning of a collaborative effort to find something we can all agree on eventually".

What we get, however, is something entirely different. It seems as if what the various parties are really saying when they call for "Bipartisanship" is "make it easy for everyone and see things my way." It's veiled code for "surrender now or we'll beat you black and blue from now 'til Judgment Day."

And we're tired of it. A few weeks ago I was watching the PBS documentary on Ronald Reagan. They were covering Reagan's first big fight to pass his economic plans. In the end Reagan won. Then Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill called Reagan to congratulate him on a good fight. You could see that there was genuine respect between the two. One of them didn't get his way, but they both felt they'd done their duty and were willing to leave the rest up to history.

Perhaps I glamorize the days of my youth, but it really seemed like a different atmosphere then. I'm sure there was animosity and maneuverings, but at the very least the volume was softer. Today the partisan rancor has reached the level of shrieking. The fighting has become more important than what they're fighting over. It's scorched-earth politics, and I believe one facet of the Obama victory is America saying "Enough is enough!"

In a move that practically gave me whiplash from doing a double-take, Sen. Harry Reid--one of the chief shriekers in my book--spelled it out. "This is a mandate to get along, to get something done in a bipartisan way," he said. "This is not a mandate for a political party or an ideology."

I have to look at Sen. Reid in a whole new light right now. While many on the Left are lining up to claim this election cycle as America clearly embracing Liberalism, he took the moderate view. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, too, seems to be interpreting events in a similar way.

I'm enough of an optimist to hope this time will be different. I believe the Democrats have realized that it's "their show" now. If they don't do better with their chance than the Republicans have done with theirs they could very well find the situation reversed yet again. I hope they're feeling just a little embaraced at their treatment of the previous administration now that they realize they're about to be exposed to the same harsh light themselves. And I hope the Right choose to take the high road and forego "giving them a taste of their own medicine".

The pessimist in me says give it a week and they'll all be back to their regular, "cuddly" selves. But that's not what this nation needs. We've never needed that, actually, but hopefully now we ALL see it.

It's been a long time since Americans have been able to feel good about voting for a candidate. For far too long voting has been more about damage control than support; which candidate will take us to the bottom the slowest. In Obama many Americans found a candidate that they could feel good voting for. I envy them that. And I do at least feel good that he was a candidate in the first place. It DOES mean something about this country that three of the major players in this election were "non-traditional"(that would be Obama, Palin, and Hillary, in case I was too vague).

I know I didn't feel good about my choice. I didn't see in Obama what many people saw, and I wasn't thrilled about McCain, either. I do hope in a few years I can gladly admit that I was wrong. I'd love to see Obama be the change we've all been hoping for. I sincerely mean that. If America is better off in four years I'll be happy to give him credit.

Of course just what is meant by "better off" is not universal for all Americans. I realize that. Perhaps one day I'll write up a post on how I would define it. But for now, I just want to say this to our leaders:

You've all pledged to do your part to make this time different. I'm going to hold you all to that. I think we all will.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

New (Political) Year's Resolution

I've decided to stop writing so much about politics in this weblog. I'd like this to be about...well, other things. And lately it seems as though everything I write has been about politics. Much more of that and I'll have to rename the blog "Vox Politica". Instead I'll be returning this blog to its original schizophrenic format. There may be some politics, but hopefully less often.

I don't plan to stop writing about politics, though. If anything, I'm going to write more. I'm undertaking a project to produce a focused blog with a deliberate approach. It's not quite pulling a "Locke & Demosthenes", but it won't be entirely candid, either. It's an experiment in developing a voice and gaining a following outside of my own family.

So, if you're interested, check out Body Polytick. And if you're not, that's perfectly okay.

What Does This Mean: Two Views

In taking on this blog I have decided to stretch myself a bit and do some things I wouldn't normally do. Like go out of my way to present alternate views. So for my first attempt, here are two views of what the Obama victory means.

First, from Arthur Chrenkoff, via PajamasMedia:
  • America will continue to be a terrorist target
  • Those who pretended that anti-Americanism was all about Bush will be proven wrong
  • Disappointments will start on the day one
  • Things will get worse for the Republicans before they get better
  • Deification of the Anointed One will only get more sickening

Next, from Gary Kamiya, via Salon:

  • We have taken our country back from demagogues, the greedy, the warmongers, incompetants, and reactionaries
  • The Reagan Revolution is over
  • The nation is rejecting the conservative "each man for himself" morality
  • The nation wants to take America back to what it once was
  • No one is expecting miracles from Obama

Reality Check?

Stocks are down today, and the AP is attributing it to unease over Obama's presidency. (hat tip Instapundit)

I realize people don't like the economy as is, and it did get better under Clinton, but as a general rule, liberal policies are not business friendly. This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. Obama should spell out his economic plan in detail soon or we won't see much recovery until after his inauguration.

Michael Crichton...

...has died of cancer. He was a very entertaining author who did his best to make us think along the way. Sometimes he got a bit carried away with the preaching, but his books didn't suffer that much for it.

I'm not sure if there's anyone out there to take up the mantle. He really put the Science in science fiction. And there were quite a few years in which E.R. was my favorite show.

So long, sir.

First Test - Russia?

Vice President Elect Biden evidently predicted that within the first six months of an Obama presidency the world would test what his is made of.

And so it begins. Russia is parking missiles on the borders of NATO member Poland. I think they've sensed an opportunity. Obama has already stated a desire to see other NATO members step up and do their fair share. Other NATO members are not so keen on this. I think Russia plans to end Europe's Obama honeymoon as soon as possible.


It appears the Democrats will fail to get a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. The article has disappeared from already, but judging from the comments section, people on both sides of the aisle agree that's a good thing.

A Little Soul-Searching

The nation has voted. Barak Obama is our president. I'm still working through just how I feel about that, but the bottom line is what I told my children:

No president ever lives up to his supporters' hopes or his opponents' fears.

Or, to borrow from a Beatle, "Presidency is what happens while you're busy making other plans".

As I recall, George Bush was on his way toward being an entirely different president when 9/11 forced him to take on a new focus. I suspect that the realities will force Obama to become something other than what he had in mind.

So as of this moment, I'm going to do my best to push the "clear" button on the last two years. President-elect Obama has a clean slate in my book. I will do my best to judge him based on what he actually does, not what his opponents say he will do.

When he does something I agree with I'll be honest enough to give him credit. When he does something I disagree with I'll be the "loyal opposition". I will, as Stephen Den Beste puts it, "not give in to the kind of paranoid fever dreams that have consumed the left for the last 8 years." We need to show the more rabid elements of the Left how to elevate political discourse. Or teach them, as my mother always said, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

I'm almost looking forward to what is to come. It's been a long time since we got to watch a new administration set up shop. Last time I wasn't fully engaged in the political process like I've become since then. I didn't become a father until a few weeks after Bush took office. I'll be paying closer attention this time around. It will be interesting to see how Obama goes about it during the next two months.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


I'm one disappointed camper tonight. I'd hoped McCain would pull out a victory somehow. Now the only consolation is that it appears the Democrats will fall short of a fillibuster-proof senate. It's not much hope to cling to, but it'll have to do for now.

Congratulations to the Obama campaign and the Mass Media. They got their boy elected. I just hope now that Obama does not forget the 48% of America who didn't support him and moderates his platform accordingly.

Truth be told, if he sticks to what he pledged in his platform he may not be too bad. His platform wasn't all that different from McCain's, really.

But, as it stands, I don't have much hope for the next four years. He's my president. I'll respect his office. My respect for him will have to be earned. I doubt he'll lose any sleep over it.

Election Day

It seems appropriate to start a new blog about politics on election day, before we know who will win. Whether it's appropriate to start a political blog at all is open to debate. I dislike politics. I dislike both parties. I wish we could have had a totally different slate of candidates. I dislike having had to pay attention all this time.

And yet I can't stay away, either. Somehow that's no longer an option. As a kid I used to avoid conversations with my father about politics. I'd cringe whenever the political conventions or debates were on and he'd start arguing with the TV. How could he get that wound up in something that was so unimportant? We only get a chance to do something about it once a year, right?

Then I grew up. I got a job, bought a house, got married, and started a family. It matters. These clowns will be controlling the environment I will have to live in for the next few years. They will be the ones who decide if my sons must go to war. They can help me get ahead, or they can keep me down.

It matters.

And now I find myself arguing with the television and actively scanning media for more insights into candidate X's positions or how issue Y may affect me. I have become my father. I understand him better now.

Yet as important as politics has become to me, I still consider myself outside of it all. I probably lean conservative, but I call myself a moderate. I will probably find myself running for office some day, so I'll have to connect myself with one party or another some day, but I'll resist that as long as I can.

I'm the president of my homeowners association. Mostly because no one else wanted the job, but also because I care. The condition of the neighborhood I raise my family in matters. If I don't do something, then nothing is what will happen. In our last neighborhood that meant eight-foot plastic pterodactyls hanging from trees, horrific Christmas light displays up--and burning--year round, rental properties with more weeds than lawn, and campers and boats cramping the streets to the point that our two-lane was really a one-lane. I don't want nothing to happen again.

And I will put aside my distaste for the whole process today and go vote after work. Because it matters. I will probably take my older kids with me so they can see how it works. Because I want it to someday matter to them.

I am not optimistic about our future. The nation appears ready to elect a president that I'm afraid hasn't really told us what he really wants to do, but has rather been telling us what he thinks we want to hear. But I have thought about it, and if he wins I will claim him as my president. I will not belittle him and his position like so many have done the last two presidents. Not voting for him does not absolve me of not granting him the basic respect his office deserves.

I have hope for the future. It's a hope that I will have been wrong about him, that ultimately he will prove as intelligent and thoughtful as his supporters claim, and that perhaps we don't see things so differently after all. It's a hope that, if I'm right about him, he won't have an easy time of getting his way.

It's a hope, too, that perhaps the media will return to their original role of comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable instead of trying to get someone elected. Or, even better, just report the news.

It's not a great hope. But there's always tomorrow.

Monday, November 03, 2008


Barak Obama's grandmother has died. My heart goes out to him and his family. Win or lose tomorrow, the timing could not have been worse. This should be a personal, private time for any family, and instead it will be pushed into the international spotlight. Some may pass it off as the cost of fame and power, but no one is really prepared for something like this.

If we can't be imposed upon to show sympathy, let's at least show some tact and taste. If anything can be considered "off limits" in politics, this should be one.

Loyalty Matters

Every few weeks John McCain goes to a Washington hospital to visit an old friend and mentor. Who? Morris Udall, a liberal ex-congressman from Arizona, who is dying of Parkinsons' Disease. He's one of the few who still does, including members of Udall's own party.

From an article in Slate Magazine.

Oh THERE'S a Big Surprise!

“We were surprised to find this link,” said Anita Chandra, the study’s lead author and a behavioral scientist at RAND, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research organization. “But teens spend a good amount of their time watching television — an average of three hours a day — and we don’t know a lot about its impact on their health decisions …

“We don’t think that [TV] is necessarily more significant than some of the family and neighborhood factors that can lead to teen pregnancies. But even when we removed all the other factors, we still saw a compelling link between a high exposure to sexual content on television and teen pregnancies.” Read more

Imagine that. Makes me want to sing a perhaps "We Thank Thee, Oh God, For A Prophet".