The Personal and Political Ramblings of one guy in Texas.

Sunday, February 29, 2004

Jammer Reviews... 

The Last stand of the Tin Can Sailors by James D. Hornfischer.

Few people today know about the world War II Battle off Samar (note that spelling -- it's correct). In a way, its not surprising. Although a large number might know that Philippines were occupied by Japan and that Macarthur "returned" to take it back, they wouldn't know about its various phases. In fact, its doubtful many people could even tell you much of anything about WW2 in the Pacific between Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima.

The short version of the Battle off Samar is this: A Japanese fleet consisting of 4 battleships (including the Yamato, the largest in the world), 6 heavy cruisers, 2 light cruisers and 11 destroyers sallied from the San Bernadino Straight, aiming for Macarthur troops transports and supply ships. In their was a small American force that was mostly engaged in ground support and submarine hunting. Known by its call sign of Taffy 3, it consisted of 6 escort carriers, 3 destroyers, and 4 destroyer escorts.

By any reasonable measure, this small force should have been brutally crushed in passing by the Japanese fleet. That is was not, and that it (with help from planes from other, escort carrier groups nearby) inflicted serious losses on the Japanese, causing them to withdraw, is the stuff of legend.

Because I was totally into this stuff, I knew about this battle in the third grade, thanks to a book, Carrier War in the Pacific I often borrowed from the public library. I was wandering through the bookstore the other day when I saw the title above. I was intrigued by the possibility of a book-length treatment of this amazing encounter, and I have not been disappointed.

While it starts slow, in the typical "lets meet the people I got to interview and whom we follow through the battle" way, the description of the events leading up to the battle are fascinating, and once the Japanese are spotted by Taffy 3's planes, absolutely riveting. The description of a modern naval battle is downright terrifying, and the courage displayed by men who had no reason to believe they would survive a desperate attempt to save fellow sailors is very moving.

I heartily recommend this book to pretty much anyone, but those with an interest in military history should snap it up right away.

Friday, February 27, 2004

The Politics of Gay Marriage 

Or at least some of it. I was trying to develop a sort of Grand Unified Field Theory on the whole gay marriage thing, tying together electoral politics, the full faith and credit clause, state's rights, morality, religion, and everything else I could think of. I'm not going to make it. So lets just do some electoral politics.

Josh Marshall, Andrew Sullivan, and Southpaw are pretty much convinced this a desperate move by the president. And one that is going to backfire on him badly. I would not discount that possibility. But I'll play the contrarian. Karl Rove may not be perfect, but he's no dummy. What are the calculations here? Please understand that any political argument I make ("Bush will say") is not an endorsement, okay? I'm predicting what someone might do, not if its correct, good, or supported by logic.

The obvious one is the "evangelical". Evangelical is an over-broad term that includes people that are pretty left, they just happen to be religious left. So let's say the religious right or RR for short. It has been reported that 4 million RR types did not vote in 2000. That's a lot of votes, enough to make quite a difference in a close election. Most of them are no doubt concentrated in red states already, but there probably enough in swing states (and you can bet Rove has pretty good electoral maps) to make themselves a serious factor.

Obviously, this proposal will lose some votes as well, but how many votes hasn't been talked about by anyone. Who would it lose that wasn't lost already? The gay vote? Yeah right. The African American vote? Actually, AfAms are pretty hostile to homosexual issues in general, and Bush might use this as a wedge issue with them. It probably is the same with largely Catholic Hispanic voters. Democrats depend on large minority turnout and large minority majorities going their way. Peeling away a significant % or suppressing their turnout would hurt Democratic candidates badly.

Could this be Buchanan at the '92 convention? It's been argued that Pat Buchanan's harsh "culture war" speech at the '92 Republican Convention badly hurt Bush I's re-election campaign, maybe the cost him the election. We'll have to see how this plays out, but the convention is in New York this year -- and you can bet that 9/11 will be the theme, not gay marriage.

And was Buchanan really that major a swing? The Republicans were so wiped out by the culture war speech that in '94 they captured both houses of Congress for the first time in over 40 years, and spent the rest of the 90's gradually electing more governors and representatives at the state level than at any time since who knows when. Contrary to Southpaw's assertion, Buchanan was not run out of the Republican Party (though I wish he had) then, though as he grew more and more extreme he got further and further away until the Reform Party debacle of 2000. And it hard to say how Ross Perot truly influenced the election. Conventional Wisdom says that he pulled evenly from the right and left, and that absent him, those votes would have gone back evenly to Clinton and Bush. I've never agreed with that analysis. I think absent Perot, right voters would have gone Bush and left voters stated home. But you don't get remove one variable in an election to see what would have happened otherwise, so we'll never know.

Further, Bush will play this as an assault on activist judges, not on gays. He'll say that this is an attempt to allow people to choose themselves or via their representatives, not have something imposed upon them by the unelected.

Now you've you shored up the RR with this amendment proposal. Then what? Well, obviously, then you start touting all the nice things you've done. Work on education, the Medicare Bill, the freeing of Iraq from a dictator, the AIDS initiative in Africa, "partial birth" abortion bans, etc. etc..

Do not misunderstand me. I don't want the amendment. I want it defeated. But people who blandly assume that its a loser have completely ignored the lessons of the last several years. You keep saying Bush is stupid right before he hits you over the head with a hammer. Making an announcement this early give him a chance to get the RR's on board and then tack back to the center for the general election. There's a lot more going on here than gay marriage.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Paging Rev. Hasty, White Courtesy Blog. Rev. Hasty, White Courtesy Blog... 

I think the good rev might find this especially amusing. As I've noted here at least once before, I'm new to the Lutheran Church. Been a member for about 2 years now. And despite having taken part in an introductory set of classes ("Lutheranism for Dummies", as it were), I really couldn't tell you the important differences, theologically speaking, between Lutherans and the Baptist Church I grew up in.

Granted, my Baptist Church in Tilden, Texas, was not the sort people automatically think of when they hear the word "Baptist". So far as I know, everyone drank, everyone important in town was part of the Lion's Club, and they sponsored a dance every year at the Rodeo. With plenty of beer. So I think we were atypical. At least for Texas.

And further, I'm actually pretty well-informed on the general history of Christianity, probably a lot more well-informed than the average church-goer. I've read Armstrong's History of God, Johnson's History of Christianity, and Lane's Pagans and Christians, plus a few other things here and there. But when it comes to specifics of doctrine, I'm pretty weak. We did buy the books, like Luther's Small Catechism and such, but I confess I never got around to reading them. History is my bag, really. Fine theological hairsplitting leaves me cold. I mean really, could we get over worrying about Aristotalean notions of essence already?

All of which is a long preamble to this: I was asked to become the Head of Christian Education for our church, at least on an interim basis. I've extra time on my hands these days, so I accepted. It was only a bit later that the doubts appeared, most of which have to do with the above. I mean, what the heck do I know about educating people to be Lutheran Christians? Or even plain old Christian Christians? Just what ancient heresies might I inadvertently be spreading?

Its just a bit wacky to me that someone who (IMO) has never demonstrated any particular knowledge or insight in these kinds of matters, even an apparently well-meaning sort like myself, could even get suggested for this sort of position, much less be regarded as a good idea.

In a way of course, its also my fault. Like any organization, about 10% of the membership does about 90% of the work in pretty much any church, and since our pastor tries to stress the need to engage in service, we did so. It's apparently only a short step from being a communion assistant or usher, helping out on the twice-yearly cleanup day, and teaching 2 (count 'em) Sunday School classes to being a vitally important member of the church board. As my great-uncle Yakob would say: Oy.

So today (or maybe Sunday) I'll finally get to meet with the Pastor to find out just what it is I'll be expected to do.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

And Now, a Brief Word on Gay Marriage 

Well, the Prez really riled up the blogosphere by supporting some sort of amendment which would somehow define marriage as a heterosexual thing but might or might not actually restrict the states from creating civil unions of some such. I was going to try and do this one at length, but got distracted by reading Southpaw first and getting riled up over something completely different. Rather, a set of somethings. Anyway, for the time being lets just say I basically agree with Andrew Sullivan (whos server appears to be down at the moment) and leave it at that. Maybe tomorrow I'll try again.


I think Southpaw is going to have to come off the blogroll. Assuming I can make that happen from here some time soon. And this is painful, because several of the people there are friends of mine. I can disagree with people and still be friends with them. Back in my Usenet days, I had many a long argument with the people on what was then on matters of politics and religion, but we managed to get along just fine in social settings. Deciding someone is going to far to continue the dialogue is not something I like.

Let's start here, where bubba accuses the Bushies of lying about when the recession started. Is he technically correct? Yes. But its a sad sort of correct, a kind of pedantic parsing that Republicans deservingly got snickered at when they applied to it Clinton and Gore. The recession "officially" started on Bush's watch, but the American economy is gigantic; it simply does not turn on a dime. The factors that were leading to the recession that "officially" started under Bush were in place long before he was elected, much less took office, like the tech meltdown. To say he inherited a recession is basic truth. Arguing otherwise is a sad exercise in collecting pedant points.

By the way bubba, GDP growth has been positive for the last couple of years, but no credit for that, huh?

Then there is this. To Conservatives, Liberals are the same al Al Queda eh? All conservatives, and all liberals. Man, you could paint Texas with one stroke of that brush. I could paint some of my own: Forget about the NAACP exploding churches ad? The "wither on the vine" ad run in '96? The quotes in Congress about how welfare reform and the Gingrichites were seeking to starve children and old people? This sort of stuff was said on the floor of the House, too. Who the hell are these timid liberals bubba is trying to rile up? This stuff never stopped except for a while after 9/11.

I don't like those conservatives, either. You don't want to get lumped in with the likes of Katha "The flag stands for jingoism and vengeance and war" Pollit and the stupid Left? Don't lump me and guys like Andrew Sullivan with Buchanan. Hey, thought liberalism was supposed to be about nuance unto the death?

Finally, there is this exercise in tinfoil hattery. Folks, just because the guy was a Republican once (or says he is now) doesn't make him automatically credible. It was 13 years ago people were writing articles like this one. You can find this here from The Economist as well: "In its former powerless and angry form, Bush-hatred was dragging much of the Democratic Party to the land occupied by blowhards and conspiracy-theorists such as Michael Moore and now, alas, Kevin Phillips." And even the stuff that we can reasonably agree on is true leaves out important context. This is not adding light to a murky area, its pouring gasoline on a flame.

I don't have a problem with partisanship per se`. I do have an issue with excessive bile. People don't have to agree with me, but the disagreement needs to be constructive. You can make a point without being vicious. "But they started it" is no damn excuse. I don't let my 6-year old get away with it, I'm certainly not going to let grownups get away with it, regardless of their political leanings. A lot of conservatives have certainly played dirty pool, and one should feel free to call them on it, but there are better ways than invoking comparisons to Adolph Hitler (check out the comments. Bubba stays on the side of the Angels, but Chris is a major contributor to Southpaw -- Update: Now bubba is doing Himmler quotes. So much for that)).

I am not claiming sainthood here. I know I've not always met the standards I set, but I like to think I have at least made a good faith effort most of the time to be fair to my opponents (Oh, and I'm not accusing anyone of attacking me personally). Fair != timidity. There's a difference between being assertive and going for the throat. And just because they do, doesn't always mean you have to. Martin Luther King showed us that.

I think the Southpaw boys have ceased even making a pretence of fairness.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004


Well, its been a busy 4 days since the last time I wrote on Thursday. First, it was a full-court press getting the house ready for Jake's 6th birthday party. Then of course, we had the party on Saturday (20+ 5-6 year olds hopped up on cake and ice cream. Oy). Next day was spent finishing the cleaning begun on Saturday evening. Then I woke up on Monday morning with a most unpleasant virus. Lets just say that by the end of the day, in addition to being pretty hungry but not real interested in food, I was seriously jonesing for some of that toilet paper that has skin lotion in it. 'Nuff said. I was getting better, or so I thought, when I hit the sack at 8:30pm. But the bug wasn't done with me. I couldn't sleep, so around 10pm I took some Dramamine because it can make you drowsy. While getting the Dramamine, I was hit by the chills and shakes so bad I could barely open the package. I lay there shivering and moaning for quite some time. Then, Dramamine or no Dramamine, I got nauseous. Eventually, that led the normal response. I had another wave or two later, but nothing came of it, and at some point, I mercifully lost consciousness. I woke some time during Trish's attempts to get herself and Jacob ready for school, and while I was not exactly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I was ready to continue living.

So, while I try to get better and re-hydrate myself, I suggest you head on over to the Rev. Hasty's blog. He has a series of good posts up, here, here, and here, dealing with, respectively, the need to consider all ages and their differences in church services, the St. Olaf's Nobel Peace Prize conference, and gay marriage.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Notes From the Campaign 

Josh Marshall is having a grand time noting an AP poll showing both Kerry and Edwards with leads of 12% to 10% over Bush for the election, respectively (you need to scroll down a bit). Marshall manages to say that its stll too early to get excited, but you can tell he's barely managing to contain his glee. OTOH, Power Line notes a Rasmussen and Zogby poll showing small Bush leads. Who's right? Who cares! The election is in November! This is at least as dumb as those on the right who were crowing over insane Bush leads back last Summer and Fall. Chill, people.

Howard Dean officially has bowed out of the presidential race. That has gotta hurt. Two months you're the Man, the front-runner. Everyone says the nomination is yours. Then whammo! You're a footnote. The conventional wisdom is that people got riled up by Dean, and then decided that Dean would get clobbered by Bush in the general election. Dean also made some tactical mistakes and Kerry brought in some tough and experienced campaign professionals to straighten himself out. And so people gravitated back to Kerry as the original front-runner. As it is, I think I've yet to run across people who are really excited about John Kerry. John Edwards it the current press darling. Granted there are reasons for this other than "the press hates Kerry". Kerry has been pretty much all over the place on the war in Iraq and other issues. Edwards has a winning way on the stump and reportedly has a well-developed set of policy positions.

Personally, I think Kerry is a loser. He'll get hammered in the general and won't be able to handle it. I'm not saying Bush will lose, but he'll lose it by screwing up, not because Kerry is some great candidate. Odds are I won't have to, but I'd have to at least look into Edwards if somehow he makes it into the general.

Its the War on Terror that decides it for me. Bush may or may not be doing it right, but I believe he's serious about it in a way I haven't gotten from any other candidate except Joe Lieberman. Kerry has tried to talk tough on it, but I just cannot buy it. He's just not a hawk. He'll be too worried about placating the UN and the Euros. We're in this mess partially because we haven't been willing to crack down on the Iran's, Syria's, Iraq's, Saudia Arabia's, etc. that have either abetted or actively supported terror groups. If nothing else, 9/11 should have made us realize we can't do that wink and nod thing anymore. We can't treat this like "Law & Order: Anti-Terror Unit".

Sure, there's plenty of room for regular-style police work (as if there hasn't been a lot of that going on). But its going to take more than that and a few Spec Forces raids on the periphery.

The democrats need to find Harry Truman. And they need him now. Or they will be clobbered in the general, no matter how good things look for them right now.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Link Fest 

Scattershooting while wondering wahtever happened to that guy who always started his columns this way...

The good Rev. Hasty has announced a run for office. Being a Lutheran means you don't have to worry about accusations of being beholden to the Pope, but there is bound to be a scandal when it is discovered White House coffee is being served in the fellowship hall.

Harry over at The Kudzu Files figures this whole Kerry-Intern thing is a big nothing, and figures its an attempt to smear Kerry. Well, duh. The question is, who's doing the smearing? One naturally assumes some Republican, but I've yet to read a post from someone on the right afraid of Kerry. Concerned about the election? Sure. But no one worried about Kerry. And besides, wouldn't you save this for much much later? Harry earlier wondered if it was meant to distract from the Bush AWOL story. Problem with that theory is that we're too far from the general election. If the whole AWOL thing is just a Rashomon-like affair where partisans can see what they want to see, then it won't matter much by then. If there is a there there, as they say, then a little faked up Kerry intern story won't stop it. You'd need a bigger better smear. So, assuming that, why not a Democrat? But why a Democrat? Who would gain? John Edwards? Dean? Or just someone who really hates Kerry? But again, why now? This sort of scandal would have better been used much earlier. Now its just desperation. But that could apply to its use as a distraction smear by the GOP as well. Or even just some conservative loose cannon out to make trouble. Arg, what a tangle.

My friends at Southpaw (who have yet to give me some link-love -- c'mon, I know you guys are Lefty partisans, but we try to be fair here -- stick me in Texas Blogs) try to defend Kerry against the apparent lie he threw away someone else's Vietnam medals. Seems Kerry threw away his ribbons, which is why he still has his medals hanging in his office. But this is an awful lot like eating your cake and having it too, isn't it? Especially for a man who is no longer in the military. In fact, it fits quite neatly into the Kausefiles (scroll down to the Monday, 2/16 posts, plus many, many others) accusation that: that all Kerry's votes are easily explained by crude political self-interest. How about his actions too, as long ago as the early '70's? Find a better example, guys.

Last but not least. Hey hey hey. Now we know where M!EK has been for the past week or more. Congrats on the Dahmlet (or is he a Domelet -- inside joke, there), Mike! I know how you feel. You know why people always tell you the same old cliches about having a child? That's because they are pretty much all true. Enjoy yourself! Each period in your child's life is the best so far--until the next one starts, then that is the best so far. Though I figure this might get a little iffy around the teen years...

Anyway, congratulations again! And sleep whenever you can...

Friday, February 13, 2004

On Stuff 

The good Rev. Hasty commended me for noticing that there is "more to life than just accumulating stuff". While that is true as far as it goes, and I appreciate the compliment, I don't want to leave the impression that I've gone all Henry David Thoreau ("Simplify, simplify") on the world. Of course Thoreau wasn't exactly being Thoreau either, since he was sponging off Ralph Waldo Emerson at the time and having his laundry done by people in town (hmmm, maybe I'm more like Thoreau than I thought when I started this. So which whould be more true, to be like the person as people think he was or to be like he actually, better stop. That way lies madness).

Anyway, I must confess a love of Stuff. Granted, its not a "keeping up with the Joneses" sort of thing. If a neighbor gets a cool new TV, I might feel a greater desire for a cool new TV of my own, but mostly because I think how nice their TV is, not because its some sort of weird competition for a place in the pecking order.

Yep, I love Stuff. Granted, I'm not as bad as Dilbert, but I am currently considering getting a long lint brush to clean the lint traps on the clothes drier, and water leak detectors. I really want a laser level to help putting in those shelves I talked about the other day. Yesterday I bought a small basket-thing to keep in the laundry room to hold those dirty clothes that we don't want to lug up the stairs to the bedroom dirty clothes hamper. You don't want to know what I'd like to do to upgrade my computer.

I'm going to have to hurry this up. We're having our once a year bit of ice/snow/sleet fall, and I need to get more dog food before crazy Central Texans start sliding off the roadways like it was a new Ice Age.

Anyhow, I do like to think I keep things in bounds. Not getting most of these items isn't going to make me unhappy. Nor do I think any of it will make me happy if I do get it (except the computer stuff. And maybe the laser level). I do know and appreciate that there is a lot more to life than shopping. And I try to do it, with the help of my lovely and talented wife. There's some amazingly cool stuff around this town, and I wonder how much of it I would have bothered with if she wasn't around.

I hate to do things alone. And stuff doesn't help with that, despite jokes about renting happiness.

Thursday, February 12, 2004


Fisking is one of those blog terms that has begun to die off, probably from mis-use as much as over-use. Once the Fisk became more of an attempt to show ohh, aren't I much, much more clever than the bozo I'm attacking it's days were numbered.

But there are times when few other terms of art will do. Some writings are so goofy that an attempt to engage them as argument grants them vastly more credit than they really deserve.

And this brings me to Naomi Klein's recent Nation article, "Hold bush To his Lie". One object of Klein's ire is otherwise the unassuming non-profit research think-tank RTI, located in North Carolina near Durham. Interestingly, RTI is down the block from IBM, around the corner from GlaxoSmithKline according to Klein. Just why this is worth an aside is not mentioned, but perhaps for those who understand such things, it is a major clue. Somehow, I cannot help but think if the HQ for, say, the AFL-CIO, happened to be down the block from the HQ for, say, the oil lobby, it would rate a mention in Klein's world. Just saying.

RTI is tasked with helping set up local governance in Iraq. Is the problem that apparently this was supposed to start with Coalition-appointed locals, as opposed to immediate direct elections? Despite the fact that RTI is supposed to be assisting the Iraqis, not making decisions for them (per Klein's article), Klein cannot help but snort off the fact that some areas had councils in place before RTI got there. Supposedly these were elected, but elected by whom? And how? Klein doesn't say, nor I suspect does she know. She can make RTI and by extension the CPA and Bush look bad by citing them, and does so. This despite the fact that the military has been tooting about local councils set up by Iraqis for months and months, especially the guys from the 101st Airborne.

She takes note of a large demonstration in Nasiriyah on January 28 as another example of this sort of failure. But as Juan Cole (no friend of the Administration's policies) notes this demonstration was really about national politics, not local ones.

Surely this sort of sniping, almost ludicrous on its face, cannot be the real source of Klein's anxiety?

After you read further down (and some of her other articles there on the website) you get to her real gripe. Privitization. Somehow, the bad transitional government that the Bushies have been pushing will manage to lock in all sorts of awful "illegal" privitization schemes that will leave the eventual "good" permanent Iraqi government powerless to prevent backroom deals to transfer illegitimate debts and to maintain "macro-economic continuity." Again and again, newly liberated people arrive at the polls only to discover that there is precious little left to vote for. Apparently these include such horrendous things as joining the WTO and getting loans from the IMF. Not to mention garbage collection! No, really:

"There really is not a Sunni way to pick up the garbage versus a Shiite way," he tells me. (Perhaps, but there is a public way and a private way, and according to a July Coalition Provisional Authority report, RTI is pushing the latter, establishing "new neighborhood waste collection systems" that "will be arranged through privatized curbside collection.").

Only in the pages of The Nation could private garbage collection represent a finger of the Imperial American Raj.

And then this stuff:

We can harness Bush's political weakness on Iraq to demand that the democracy lie become a reality, that Iraq be truly sovereign: unshackled by debt,

Sort of what James Baker is doing, no? Sort of why Bush insisted on, and got, that $18 billion in grants and not loans?

unencumbered by inherited contracts,

Hopefully to include those old oil deals made with the French and Russians. Or is ticking off the Euros still verboten? But contracts also come with ending dates, and buy-out clauses. It will not require revolution to end any contracts entered into by the Transitional Government or inherited from the CPA. And of course, its these evil contracts that are getting the electricity going and water cleaned up in Iraq right now, though no doubt Klein would prefer them to all be done by government workers. Its that nasty private sector, always causing trouble.

unscarred by US military bases

Wait, I thought she wanted democracy to come to Iraq? Ain't gonna happen without an ongoing (though hopefully much smaller) US presence. Earth to Lefties: There are no vast numbers of capable international UN peacekeepers available to do this job on their own.

and with full control over its resources, from oil to reparations.

Oddly, enough, I think the Bushies would be plenty happy with that.

And she closes with this gem:

Genuine democracy could come to Iraq, not because Bush's war was right, but because it has been proven so desperately wrong.

You cannot argue with logic this impenetrable.

Sort-of Update

It occurred to me that if I was submitting a post to the Beltway Traffic Jam, then I need to link to said jam. Oops. Sorry James.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

The Perils of Being a Trophy Husband 

First, I wish had thought up the term "trophy husband" myself. Second, its definitely got its strong points.

As some of you might recall from a prior posting, my job was ending. Well, it ended with January. Last week I was home, but since much of last week was also a school holiday (teacher in-service or some such) it felt more like a...well, a real holiday. Christmas or something. Not something very different.

So now I'm on my third day of real trophy husbandom. Kinda nice, so far. The house is quiet, I can wear my bathrobe until 9am, sleep in every other day (Trish and I take turns getting Jake ready for school), fix myself a hot lunch, etc. etc. The only real downside so far is that is has been raining every day since Sunday, and the dogs are feeling a bit stir-crazy.

But things are getting done that were having trouble getting done before. Laundry had an unfortunate tendency to pile up. Got it all done. Things got piled onto tables willy-nilly. We knew we couldn't throw them out, but we didn't know what to do with them. Getting organized, slowly. The books in the study piled up to dangerous levels. I've begun to put them away. We've got some rotten wood on a door frame; I've called a guy to come fix it -- and I'll be here without having to miss work. There is stuff still lying around from my parent's deaths that hasn't been dealt with. It will be now. I'll get the shelves put up in Jacob's room before his birthday.

I was able to take one of the dogs to the vet for a shot yesterday, during the day, without a zillion pople running around needing their pets taken care of right then because that was the only time they had. I"ll be able to do the grocery shopping for Trish, freeing up a big chunk of her time.

In short, this is great for us right now. Things are getting done, and our lives will be less hectic.

Now, it must be admitted that part of the reason, a huge part of the reason this is great is that we are in a place financially where we can afford to do it for quite a long time. Maybe even forever. Not everyone has that luxury, not by a long shot. And if we didn't, I am not sure what I'd be doing right now, but I can bet it wouldn't involve sipping hot tea in my bathrobe and typing on a blog page. I might be cleaning up at the Starbucks down the road, or showing up for day labor at the house construction sites nearby.

My self-image is not in my job. Sure I got a lot of ego boost from doing it well, and having people tell me so, but for me a job was a source of income, not a source of self. Maybe knowing I had that financial cushion should things get sideways was part of the reason, I don't know. But that's where I am. Now, how long might this work? Will I still feel the same way in 6 months? A year? Two years? I dunno. And I am looking for another job. It will make getting the laundry done tricky again, but it will make the whole budget thing simpler as well.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Gay Marriage 

Well, with the Plame affair heating up and the AWOL story developing legs after 4+ years, I think it is high time I delved into gay marriage. JammerBlog! Late and counterintuitive since January! As if you didn't have Andrew Sullivan to keep you updated on all things homosexual.

Well its sort of timely. President Bush has said that if judges continue imposing gay marriage, then there might have to be a consitutional amendment. This is a reaction to the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling that civil union ain't gonna cut it. The leg needs to allow marriage, period. I still think he's hedging here, but he's moving away from the shrubbery.

If you read my piece about needing a 5th political party from a couple of days ago, you might suspect that I don't have any problem with gay marriage. And you'd be right. I don't even have a problem with it from the perspective of being a Lutheran Christian(though I'm only recently Lutheran. Someday I need to blog about the shock I felt upon learning 1) What a "dry county" was, and 2) that Baptists were behind a lot of them). I know the ELCA has no official position -- the church is going through a long and painful study process in order to decide what to do. But we've already decided to set aside some of the more problematic passages from Paul's writings, so why not a few more? Especially since they're inconsistent with Jesus' message, and certain specific teachings that say who someone is is a lot less important that how they behave (the Good Samaritan). And I like shrimp way too much to worry about anything in Leviticus (the Old Testament source of many many restrictions and rules).

Politically, as a man of the center-right (more or less) my view of government says that it shouldn't have much say about how people choose to get together, regardless of what I think is the best way to hook up. And if you think this means that bigamy and polygamy are on the table, then you're right.

About the only reason it seems to me that government should restrict who can marry whom would be to prevent societal breakup. Stanley Kurtz of NRO has been peddling this line (somewhat confusingly, in both NRO and The Weekly Standard), primarily based on a Swedish study. Well, neither Sully or me are buying into it (you'll have to scroll down). Marriage as an institution was declining in the Nordic countries well before the gay issue became a part of it.

This does leave the sticky issue of how to allow it. Marriage has generally been defined and controlled by the states. A consitutional amendment is a very un-conservative way to deal with the issue (either for or against). Nor do I precisely like what the Massachusetts court is doing, basically telling the legislature to write a law the way it wants it to read. Now granted, if marriage is a true civil right, up there with speech and voting, then a court can just void any laws against it. But the idea that a court can roll in and say "okay, we know that has been the law for a couple of hundred years, but the times have changed man, and out it goes."

Process should matter to people who care about democracy, and we shouldn't blow off process just because the result happens to be the one we like. Sullivan understand this, even as he's thrilled by what the Massuchussets court is doing. Women got the vote by agitating and marching for years, until they got the law changed, not invalidated. Slavery was amended away, not voted down by the Supreme Court.

Gay marriage is something whose time has come. Lets get it voted in, not handed down.

Monday, February 02, 2004

We Need a Fifth Party 

People often moan that we need a third party. I like to grump that we really need a fifth party, since we already have at least four big enough to count and get people elected. The other two are the Greens and the Libertarians.

The problem with both of these outfits is that they represent fairly fringe sets of policies. What many people really want is a middle-way third party. Such a party actually would be "socially liberal and fiscally conservative."

There are glimmerings of such a beast. The Democratic Leadership Council and the Bull Moose Republicans represent the left and right halves of such a group. At the moment though, things are kinda bleak for these outfits as groups.

The DLC has been visibly reeling since Gore went populist at the 2000 Convention. The complaint is that DLC policies cost the Dems the left wing activists but didn't gain enough centrist votes (i.e., they are "Republican Lite"). But they at least got people elected. The Moosers at this time appear to be a movement without any actual members in government, with the possible exception of John McCain. But McCain was more or less an inspiration to the Moosers, not a founder. I don't think he has ever called himself a Bull Moose Republican, or endorsed the group. There is no Bull Moose Caucus in the House and Senate.

Less than a year ago, some openly wondered if the Democratic Party was going to split apart. But the ongoing failure to find WMD's and the muddy situation in Iraq, plus the sluggish job market, large piles of government red ink, and the predictable scandals (predictable in that there are always scandals of some kind or other, not that the specific cases were predictable), have solidified them again.

I had hoped that the Dems would split. Not because I looked forward to hard-right dominance, but because I felt that, shorn of the need to pander to their lefty base (who would bolt to the Greens), the rump of the Dems could turn into a solidly centrist party, attracting independents and what I call Andrew Sullivan Conservatives, though others might call them South Park Republicans. Then the Religous Right could go and stuff itself.

If you believe the folks at NRO's Corner, its now the Republican Party that finds itself in danger of schism. Well, schism may be stretching it. But Bush overspending, pandering to the center, and the guest worker policy have them ready to at least stay home. And if the Administration cuts and runs in Iraq, like right-blogger Tacitus thinks they might be doing quite a few people who might have held their noses and voted Bush anyway despite many misgivings because we felt he would at least be firm on national security...

Anyway, I'd like my fifth party. And a pony.

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