Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Snowed out of Church, Part II

We sang many of the right songs, but it wasn't right. We missed our pastor, our choir, our music director, etc. The people were very nice. They left Paige alone, but talked to me. We're already mourning the fact that we're going to have find a church closer to home, and this just drove the point home. Still, a holy night. Now for our pagan pajama fairy. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Snowed out of Church

Today we looked at the roads in our town and thought, Those are totally drive-able. So we piled into the car and headed north toward our church, which is about an hour away. Halfway there, and surprisingly suddenly, the roads turned into a terrifying tundra of ice, snow, flying chips of frozen road, and clearly incapable drivers. We eventually gave-in, bought Noah another Christmas gift (don't tell), and came home. We couldn't even eat at the Jack and the Box we hit the last two years on the way to our church's candle light service (our own special Gorman tradition, abolished so quickly) so we hit the Burgerville in our own town when we got back.

Once home, Paige called somebody and found the time for a worship service at a nearby church, the one that houses Noah's preschool, and tonight we'll head over there. At this point in my life I can miss a single Sunday without losing much sleep, but a Christmas Eve without a church service... just the thought of it bums me out. Now we'll try to mitigate that with another church's service. I know what my mom is thinking: Same God. And she's right. But these people might just sing the wrong songs, and I'll have to deal with that. Also, they don't know how challenging we are to welcome to a church; Paige doesn't like talking to strangers, so they can't come up and greet her without making her uncomfortable. I do like talking to, well, everybody, so if they don't talk to me I'll feel dissed. Plus, they have to be willing to tolerate some wiggles from Noah if he has a tough time, but we'd like them to acknowledge it if he's wonderfully behaved in church (which he often is. It's a toss-up). How can these poor people possibly win? Well, Mary had to go through labor in a cave behind a small-town Motel 6, so I guess we don't have much to complain about.

No matter what, we can come home to another family tradition my parents invented: The Pajama Fairy. We get new PJs every Christmas Eve, and we found some pretty awesome ones for Noah, so no matter what, we'll all settle down for a cozy, fleecy, toasty long-winter's nap.

I hope all of you get to celebrate as you see fit, and I hope you get to sing that one song you're really hoping for this Christmas.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Mr. Ninja and Mr. Gorman

Here's my super-geeky, ultra-Mr. Gorman-esque Christmas gift to all my students and friends. I hope you all enjoy it.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Palin, Kennedy, and NBC

On Slate's political Gabfest, Emily Bazelon, in a fit of pique about how inappropriate it is for New York to even consider Caroline Kennedy for its vacant senate seat, pointed out that Sarah Palin got a much harder time and was arguably more qualified (she is a governor, after all, albeit of a state with around 700,000 people). My first inclination was to admit this point, though I felt a bit of bile rising up in my throat. Palin has at least run for office. Maybe she was treated unfairly, just because she didn't have... oh, I don't know... ANY of the knowledge one would expect a vice president to have, up to and including the nature of the job. No one doubts Caroline Kennedy's intellect (though we haven't seen her trip and fall onto the plate and take a couple of Katie Couric's softball questions in the noggin yet). But she hasn't done the legwork required of a politician. So maybe Bazelon's right. We've been unfair. And maybe I continue to be unfair by feeling so reluctant to give Sarah Palin her due, just because she was staggeringly unqualified on top of holding diametrically opposed views to my own.

Kathleen Parker to the rescue! Her piece in today's Washington Post argues that comparing the two isn't even apples and oranges, but apples and zebras, because even where the two are similar (both are unqualified) it's for opposite reasons. And when I think about it, I admit that I would prefer a smart, inexperienced politician to a woefully ignorant experienced one. Maybe history doesn't support that bias, but I'm a teacher, and I side with knowledge.

In a seemingly unrelated but very interesting piece, Alan Sepinwall writes that NBC's choice to abandon all its ten o'clock programing for more Jay (only-slightly-more-entertaining-than-infomercials) Leno is an "Extinction-Level Television Event". His basic thesis: The networks can plug along as though everything is fine, but as soon as they start to act like they are just other channels on our cable dial we'll suddenly realize it, too. And poof: No more networks.

So how is this related to Palin and Kennedy? Maybe not at all. But I wonder if both Palin and Kennedy are now a bit like NBC, in that we're aware of them, but haven't had a chance to make a judgment about their individual political fates. With Palin, people were voting for Obama, and those that voted for McCain may have been voting for him in spite of her. We don't know yet. For Kennedy, she'll hold the seat until an election, and then the people of New York will decide, rather than just their governor. Maybe, now that these two are on the radar, they may both be judged just like the networks: On content alone.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Comic book geek, meet NBA geek

Wow, this piece at Slate may have been written just for me. Literally. Just me. Are there any other folks out there who are both comic book geeks and NBA fans? I would guess we're a small demographic.

My NBA fantasy team drafts tomorrow, but unfortunately Marvel Comics superheroes can't be drafted. Wolverine on the Knicks? He's the best there is at what he does, but what he does ain't basketball. Me, I'd like to see Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic) on the Celtics. Or any team, for that matter. He could play offense and defense. At the same time. Rogue could make any team a contender (not the movie version, but the comic book version), plus she's smokin' hot and would help break down the gender barrier between the WNBA and the NBA. Iron Man would be cool, and the Robert Downey Jr. version of Tony Stark would be fun at press conferences.

Hulk? NFL.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sock and Awe

My uncle just sent me a link to a game where you can throw a shoe at Bush. I would never recommend that anyone actually try to hurt the president physically (though some emotional damage is warranted) but if you want to participate in the shoe throwing, this is a good avenue:

I wish that when you hit him he would cry out to Babs for help, or confess to his war-crimes and plead for mercy, or just make up new words in his own special way, but the game is satisfying enough.

Compassionate Conservatism?

Michael Gerson, former speechwriter for GWB and now an op-ed writer for the Washington Post, is still hard at work trying to build a legacy for his former boss out of lies, distortions, and thin air. Today he continues to try to sell "compassionate conservatism". Read the comments after the article. I can't help but wonder why, exactly, people are so angry at Gerson. Sure, he's a tool, but the level of ire is staggering. Is it just the fact that he's so off-base? Would they be this angry if the Washington Post had allowed someone to write an op-ed saying the moon is made of green cheese, or that Britney Spears invented the combustion engine? Or are they angry because they have to read about anything compassionate coming from the same administration that gave us water-boarding, two wars, a depression, and Dick Cheney's school of civil discourse? Are they just concerned that Gerson will succeed in his attempts to rewrite history?

Personally, I find it amusing and entertaining, in a schadenfreude-kind-of-way. Here's a guy who participated in a giant failure of a presidency, trying to say, "Despite all the evidence, what we accomplished was actually really cool." As commenter Katman13 wrote, "Michael: You forgot to make the point that waterboarding is good for your sinuses."

Record setting box office bomb?

I just read that the new fantasy animated adventure Delgo has set a record as the biggest opening weekend box office bomb for a movie released on so many screens. Now, when hollywood types want to talk about a bomb they reference Kevin Costner's Waterworld, which they've dubbed "Fishtar", a reference to a previous bomb, 1987's Ishtar. So, I'm asking for your submissions. Without having seen the movie (and, let's face it, no one has seen this movie) what should we rename it to capture it's truly epic box-office floppy-ness?

Ishtar cost $55 mil and made only $12.7. Waterworld cost $175 mil to make (the most ever until Titanic) and made $88 mil, though it eventually made a tidy profit with international sales and VHS and DVD. Delgo cost some $40 mil to make. Here's the salient number: Considering how wide a release it's had, here's the per-screen average: $237 for opening weekend. For a point of reference, Frost/Nixon made $16,061 per screen, and Doubt made $33,815, though it was only on 15 screens. So when I say Delgo bombed, it's difficult to come up with any kind of analogy that's in remotely good taste which describes just how big a bomb this is. (Bomb analogies are dangerous territory.)

Perhaps, like Fishtar before it, Delgo will do well enough overseas and on DVD to make a profit. But I hope not. Because in the previews the production values looked terrible. Many of my Xbox games' cut-scenes look better. If it's going to take Hollywood seven years and $40 million dollars to produce a movie, they should expect that by the time it comes out it will look like outdated technology compared to the world of video games.

Pixar's Wall-E is still fresh in my mind, as I recently bought it and watched it again because I'm going to show clips from it as part of the dystopia unit in my Sci-Fi Lit class. If Pixar can produce something as high quality as Wall-E, and fill theaters despite the fact that the story's protagonist not only lacks an overpaid actor doing the voicework, but barely has the ability to speak, then movies that look as bad as Delgo should go the way of the dodo. Aha! Maybe that's what we should call it. Dodo!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

And... Scene!

So, I've done my share of making fun of George W. Bush. Not any more than my share. Not your share. Don't worry. You could still do a bit more. Be clever. Do something original. And by that, I mean DO NOT THROW A SHOE AT HIM. Why? Because it's been done before. It's tired now. Here it is, first at full speed, then in slow-mo.

I heard a professor interviewed on NPR who made an excellent point: This incident is symbolic because the reporter failed to connect. Had he thrown more effectively, or had Bush failed to duck so quickly, we'd be looking at a very different kind of story. But, as is, it's just symbolic. And what a symbol it is!

According to Iraqi culture (and others, as I understand it), throwing one's shoe at a person is a way of saying, "You are like a dog." Let's examine that for a moment. The subtext is that Iraqis hit their dogs with their shoes. I find this distasteful. Announcing yourself as the kind of person who hits dogs with shoes seems to me to be more insulting to the shoe thrower than the shoe target.

And then there's the text itself: This is a country where people express their displeasure with one another by hurling objects. Bush made light of the incident by comparing it to shouting things at political rallies or waving the ole one-finger-salute, but, unless those symbolic gestures are performed wildly inappropriately, neither will draw blood from the victim, and both are unlikely to spread disease to the intended target. In fact, shouting at someone at a political rally will hurt them with your words, but may hurt the person in front of you with your germs. Not so with shoe throwing, which can transmit the poo from the dog you beat earlier today (probably beaten because he defecated and you stepped in it) all the way across a crowded press conference to the politician with whom you have some disagreement. Imagine if Saddam had thought of this. He could have wiped out many more Iraqis by introducing some lethal-to-humans toxin hidden in dog's food, turning ordinary, angry Iraqis into death tossing terrorists via a common cultural convention. And Saddam would have done it, too, because he was a rotten bastard. I haven't seen his HBO biography, but I'll bet he probably liked to hit dogs with shoes.

Which brings us back to our own would-be-dictator, soon to retire to his own dirty hole in the desert, albeit a very expensive one built in the Dallas suburbs. Personally, I still hold out hope that, like Saddam, he'll be plucked from his hole and brought to justice. I don't want to see him hung, but I want the guy to do some real time. I don't think it will happen, though, so I'll bet this is as close as Bush will come to his just deserts. Which, if you watch the video, is pretty darn close, physically, though in a legal sense a shoe-to-the-noggin would be getting off pretty easy for his crimes. At the very least, I hope this becomes a summation of the man's legacy: While distracting the country with a debate about whether he was stupid or evil, and running it into the ground on the domestic front, Bush took us into a war of choice in Iraq based on false claims including the lie that we would be greeted as liberators. And at the first chance one of these liberated people threw a shoe at him. And, just as he'd ducked responsibility for his misstatements, bad judgments, his choice of cronies, and his high crimes and misdemeanors, he ducked the shoe, too.

This has been a dramatization of a terrible presidency. And... scene.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

An Argument Against Homeschooling

A couple of our friends, some of Paige's cousins, and even a colleague who teaches with me at the high school are all seriously considering homeschooling their children. At the risk of offending, please allow me to offer some arguments against, which some parents might have overlooked.

Homeschooling has some advantages, and I'm willing to recognize those. It offers parents a dramatic level of control over their childrens' education. For those concerned about political or religious bias in education, it allows parents to control the spin (or maintain the illusion that they could possibly present the content with no spin at all). At its best, it can allow a child to learn at a far more accelerated pace, and could personalize that education to best meet the individual child's learning styles as determined by the person who knows him or her the best. It seems like the perfect solution in so many ways. But it isn't. Let me tell you.

I see homeschooled kids come through my classroom when their parents decide they need to begin attending public high school, and they are lacking in remarkable ways. And if you think those are just the bad parents who failed their children in some way, saw the error of their ways and put the child in public school, and therefore represent a flawed sample from which to judge homeschooling in general, let me assure you: These are some of the better homeschooling parents I've come across.

I attended a small, denominationally affiliated Christian school for my undergrad education, so we had a disproportionately high number of homeschooled students there, and these students exhibited many of the same characteristics as their ninth and tenth grade counterparts, often to more extreme degrees. And these parents weren't the worst of the homeschooling bunch, either.

The worst homeschooling parents, in my experience, are those who allow their children to attend public schools but provide very little at-home support for their kids. Then, when these kids struggle, these public-school parents join the ranks of the homeschooling parents because they've come to believe the schools failed in some way, only to provide their kids with little or no instruction at all once the kid is removed from public schools. Once I came across one of my former students sitting in her front yard as I walked home from school, and I asked her why I no longer saw her at school, because I knew she hadn't graduated.

"I'm being homeschooled now," she told me. As it was then the end of the school day I knew it was entirely possible she'd spent the day hard at work participating in the same kinds of activities as her public school peers, but seeing her sitting there, alone, lounging in the grass, I couldn't help but be skeptical, and I let that image burn into my memory. The next year she returned to school, and we could all tell she hadn't received any instruction and was now a full year behind her peers; more than a full year since she'd dropped out because she'd been struggling in the first place. The existence of homeschooling as an option created a circumstance where her mother could abuse the avenue in order to neglect her child's education. To me, every homeschooling parent has an obligation to uphold the institution of homeschooling to a higher degree than merely providing something comparable to the public schools, in order to balance out the parents who use homeschooling as a means to neglect their children. If homeschooling, as an institution, isn't going to be a burden on society, parents who make the choice can't settle for just-as-good-as-public-schools. They have to commit to being better.

I don't expect that anyone who is thoughtfully considering homeschooling their child before kindergarten would become one of these negligent parents, but there are a handful of concerns even the best parents should bear in mind.

First and foremost: Education. I’m not talking about your level of education. You may have a B.A. or a Masters or a Ph.D. But have you studied education itself? We teachers sit around and badmouth our educational programs, complaining about the amount of jargon that’s thrown at us, but jargon is shorthand for real concepts, and we may have heads filled with educational buzzwords, but those are connected to strategies we wouldn’t know otherwise. You can read (obviously. You’re reading this) but that doesn’t mean you know more than one way to teach someone to read. You know the strategy that worked for you. Often students struggle in a particular subject or a particular class because they have a teacher like me who just can’t figure out why they can’t understand the information in the way that made the most sense for me. I do my best to try to figure out some other strategies, but one of the strengths of public education (or private, large school education) is that if I can’t figure out a way to reach a student, the next teacher might. Think back to a particular teacher who taught you in a subject in a way that just didn’t work for you. Now concede the possibility that you just might be that teacher for your child, at least in one academic subject. If you are your child’s only teacher, they’ll have the experience you had, only for their entire education.

Another consideration: Experience. Every time I teach a lesson I think to myself, how could I do that better next time? And almost every day I think of some little tweak that will make my classes better. They estimate that it takes a teacher seven years to reach the level of expertise desired for the profession. At the end of our careers we tend to trail off in energy, due to burn-out or the simple, inescapable biology of old age. In between, we’re at our best because we’ve had a chance to refine our practice and get really good at what we do. I’ve been teaching for a while now (three years as an Ed. Asst., one as a student teacher and sub, five years in my own room) and I don’t feel like I’m where I want to be as a professional, but I’m a lot better than I was my first year. In fact, part way through my second semester of teaching Creative Writing, when I’d run across someone who took it the previous semester, I’d apologize. I’d done my best to create the course for them, but I learned so much during that semester which I simply couldn’t foresee on my own, and the folks who take it from me now are getting a much better teacher. Over the course of your child’s education in the public schools, they will have some first-years teachers who bring a lot of energy and new ideas to the classroom, but also lack experience. They’ll also have some teachers who have plenty of experience, but may be burned-out. And, let’s be honest, they will have some teachers who just aren’t very good at it. But over the course of your child’s thirteen years before college, they won’t have any one of these every year. If you homeschool, at the very least they’ll have an inexperienced teacher every year. Just when you have a year of first grade teaching under your belt, you’ll be an inexperienced second grade teacher. And your child may have a teacher who finds that he or she also stinks at it. By then end, you might even be all three, the perfect storm; an inexperienced, unqualified burn-out.

Public education gets attacked often in the media because we have these bad teachers in our midst, but these criticisms generally don’t stand up to real scrutiny. Look at the literacy rate in the U.S. against other industrialized countries, and you’ll be appalled. But look at the growth in literacy by percentage of population over the last hundred years, and you’ll realize our public schools are pretty amazing. We’re frequently compared to businesses, but it’s a false comparison. Businesses get to choose what raw materials come in, in order to control the quality of the products that they produce. We don’t have that luxury. And yet, when you adjust our outputs for things like socio-economics, we’re doing remarkably well. The schools in some countries may be better, but their kids are richer, have socialized medicine, have a shared culture and language, have enough to eat every day, etc., etc. A fairer criticism is that we pay our teachers poorly, commensurate to their education and our expectations of them as professionals. That’s true, and I’m not just saying that because I want a holiday bonus. If we know that teachers are at their best seven years in, we should do what it takes to retain them. The problem is that we want to hold on to the good ones and get rid of the bad ones, but it’s very hard to judge which teachers are best. Test scores can’t do this, because different teachers teach radically different groups of kids, and individual teachers get different groups each year. More subjective methods can’t weed out bad teachers because, well, they’re too subjective. One administrator may think I’m great and the next may think I stink, and both for reasons unrelated to my classroom performance. We, as citizens, don’t want to invest in education if some of the money will go into the hands of the bad teachers, but we, as teachers, don’t want to give up any protections if we’re not going to see some serious investments in education. It’s a stalemate, but we overheat the rhetoric on both sides by trying to make our cases at the expense of public education as an institution. The folks who want more accountability say the schools stink because they want to get rid of teachers. The folks who want higher teacher pay say the schools stink because they want to show the need to recruit the best. But the fact is, the schools don’t stink. As a parent, you really are the one who benefits from the stalemate the most (though as a citizen you suffer), because schools keep chugging along on what conservative columnist David Brooks calls the “Missionary Model”. Your child’s teachers will be there, working as hard as they can in that classroom, not because they are being well paid, but because they care about students. This model might not be sustainable, as Brooks warns, but in the short run it means your child gets a professional teaching them who doesn’t expect to be paid professional wages. When considering whether or not to homeschool, don’t forget the gift-horse you’re looking in the mouth.

Now, for some parents, the greatest motivation to consider homeschooling is religious. They want to make sure that religious instruction is tied into every portion of their child’s education. Undergirding this concern is a fundamental belief that religious neutrality does not exist; that teaching a child without formal religious instruction is tantamount to evangelical atheism. In some cases, this is simply untrue, and that’s a reason not to homseschool. But in some cases it might be true, and that’s still a reason not to homeschool.

At the lower grade levels, the basics of any subject will not be fundamentally altered by incorporating religious instruction. The times tables are the same for Hindus, Christians, Atheists, and Mormons. Unless you want to teach your children hard-core young-Earth creationism, the sciences won’t be affected, either, and if you want to go that route don’t waste their time with any science at all. And don’t buy the “Intelligent Design” cop-out. That hyper-qualified bastard child of Creationism isn’t about science, really. It doesn’t actually make any scientific claims, but explains what we don’t know by defending the possibility that an intelligent space alien or magical unicorn had a hand in creation (think I’m exaggerating? Look it up. That’s what its foremost proponents argued for in court in its defense). Die-hard Creationism throws all science out the window. If you want to keep your child home to teach them that, fine, but be consistent and tell them your cell phone is powered by the beating of angels’ wings and the microwave oven heats food because magical fairies get very angry when they are trapped inside. Barring this kind of instruction, there’s very little that your religious bent will change in the actual content of your child’s education in the early grades.

At the higher levels, it actually might start to make a difference, and that’s a reason not to homeschool, too. By the time your child is in high school, a particular teacher’s take on, say, Old Man and the Sea, will certainly be colored by their religious beliefs. That’s because the book itself was colored by the author’s religious beliefs. As was everything by Shakespeare. And the writer of your child’s History textbook. But your child needs to learn how to interact with beliefs that are different than you own, not only to formulate and independent opinion, which is important, but also to isolate subtle bias. Unless you want to add Oscar-caliber acting to your resume, you can’t teach this through formal instruction by yourself. Students need to get to know many different teachers so they can come to identify the way different people spin information.

Now, you may be thinking that your religious education will affect the moral instruction your child receives throughout school. This doesn’t fit with my experience at all. When did you first learn swear words when you were a kid? When did you first say them openly and comfortably in front of your parents? I’ll bet there’s a distance between those experiences. That’s because you learned that different rules apply in front of your parents. Everybody learns this, and it’s healthy. It helps us learn that different behaviors are appropriate with different company. This year, in my class, we did an activity where students were supposed to come up with examples of homonyms. Guess which kid shouted out “Pussy and pussy!” and “Cock and cock!” Yep. The formerly-homeschooled kid. Because he’s trying to figure out boundaries other kids already know. I’m sure he wouldn’t have said those things in front of his parents, but now he has to figure out what will impress his friends, and what the consequences will be from the teacher. He couldn’t learn that at home. And don’t get me started on the formerly-homeschooled friend I had in college, who tried to catch up with his peers by attempting to out-do everyone with his drunken antics. Sheltering people from moral dilemmas does not make them more moral; it makes them less capable of analyzing moral complexities that have been postponed, because now they lack the experience to make those judgments. Your kid will be exposed to things that frighten you in the public schools. It’s better for your child to be exposed to those things incrementally, rather than thrown into a world full of those moral dilemmas without the proper preparation when they are old enough to be expected to know how to handle them.

This brings us to the most important reason not to homeschool your child: Social Development. You’re probably thinking you can get your child involved in play groups, sports teams, Sunday school, and a host of other social activities. I know these groups have become highly evolved within the homeschooling movement, because there's been a recognition that the isolation of homeschooling damaged children. The assumption is that these new social developments within homeschooling will prepare children for the real world in the same way school does. Wrong. Being on a sports team prepares you to be on a sports team. Sunday school teaches you how to act in Sunday school. But, as an adult, the shared experience which provides all the other employees in the office with their social attitudes came not from Sunday school or tee-ball, but from school. Social psychologists say the most important predictor of success in the adult world is emotional intelligence, the ability to interact with others on an emotional level. This can’t be taught through direct instruction, by me, by you, by any adult. It’s learned through peer interaction, especially when adults aren’t around. When is it appropriate to propose a new, made-up rule in a game of kickball or four square? How many rules can one propose before being dismissed as annoying? And how does one tease to let someone know they are part of group, as opposed to the kind of teasing that lets someone know one wants to exclude them from a group? And how does one flirt? Who will teach your child to flirt? If you say you’ll do it, that’s just gross. They will learn that on the playground, or on the school bus. Consider the other places where they’ll have to learn it if they’re homeschooled. Movies? The Internet?

Just about everybody thinks their child is of above-average intelligence, and, statistically, around half of us are correct. We worry that the public schools will not be up to the task of educating our little geniuses. But intelligence is more than the ability to perform difficult mathematical calculations in our heads or count toothpicks when a box is spilled. In our house we have a term for people who lack emotional intelligence. We call them “Sotards”. It’s short for Socially Retarded. This isn’t a knock on the mentally retarded. It uses the term "retarded" in its literal sense; to be slowed or impeded in growth. Just as the socially adept weren’t born that way, sotards aren’t born; they’re made. Those who choose to homeschool their children need to make that decision conscious of the fact that they may be raising the next generation of sotards, and that they were the ones responsible for retarding their children’s development.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Thank you, Timothy Egan

Timothy Egan has written a wonderful column for the New York Times asking, cajoling, begging, and shaming publishers into refusing to publish books by the likes of Joe the Plumber and Sarah Palin. Amen, amen. And yet...

Here's the problem, Mr. Egan: As a writer, you know that we need to focus on our audience. So, who's the audience of this piece? I have a few guesses.

Publishers don't want to hear it, and though they might need to, they're unlikely to be convinced to abandon lucrative sales in the name of good taste or fealty to the English language. Sure, they say they publish garbage so they can afford to publish real literature, and sure, that's often a justification to cash in, but considering their circumstances, can you blame them?

And your audience certainly isn't Joe the Plumber or Sarah Palin. No one, including Sarah Palin, knows what newspaper she reads. But anyone who's read some of her responses to questions and wondered how someone managed to convert oral blather to written drivel knows she doesn't read enough. And as for Joe the Plumber, could anything possibly convince this guy to avoid the spotlight for one second? If anything, you've done these two the favor of offering them some free press.

Which brings us to our third possible audience: The book buying public. We are most to blame for what publishers publish, just as we're most to blame for the rise of media freak-show acts like JTP and Palin. We're also to blame for the quality of the news we watch right before we go out and applaud politicians who criticize the media. We're responsible for the sex and violence in the movies we pay to see before dismissing Hollywood as too depraved. If we're really honest, we know we're responsible for the kid who hasn't seen his dad in five or six years because we threw him in a cell in Guantanimo and forgot about him. We're responsible for that errant bomb that landed in a school in Kabul or Baghdad, and we're also responsible for the correctly-aimed one we built and sold to somebody who sold it to somebody who sold it to somebody who dropped it on somebody else. Why start teaching Americans about personal responsibility when it comes to the crappy books we buy, and why stop there?

You see, Mr. Egan, my fourth guess is that your audience is really folks like me. I'm sitting here, working on the tenth... no, twelfth, no, fourteenth re-write of Chapter 12 of a novel no one will probably ever read, and when I take a break to catch up on some news I find your article. And there's the problem: You've written a very nice sermon to the choir, and worse, a choir filled with people who, categorically, don't matter. You are defending a bunch of nobodies, Mr. Egan.

It's almost as though you want to live in a world that listens to nobodies instead of paying attention to people like Joe the Plumber and Sarah Palin.

With those kind of ideals, I can't believe you found a publisher.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Prop. 8 - The Musical

Okay, so maybe it's not as funny as Noah, but I wish everyone would see this, on political, theological, ethical, and economic grounds. Oh, and it is pretty stinkin' funny, too.

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

It's been pretty embarrassing to be a Christian through the last eight years. Well, it's been embarrassing since Constantine married the Church to the state in 313 A.D., and there have been even more cringe-inducing times than the Bush years (that whole Spanish Inquisition thing was more than a bit awkward) but the last eight years have certainly been rough. So, let it be noted, I still side with Jesus.

Especially when he's played by Jack Black.

So, let's choose Love instead of Hate, and maintain the separation of Church and State.

...and Jazz Hands! Fosse, Fosse, Fosse, Amen.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Funny Boy

Tonight I was putting Mr. N to bed and while putting on PJ's he goes up to a map of the U.S.A. hanging on the wall and points to a state, asking, "What is that?"
"New Mexico," I reply.
"Let's go there tomorrow."
"Why?" I ask.
"Because it's New!"

Later I asked him what book they had read at preschool, but he couldn't remember. So I asked if it was about Christmas. He said "Yes, and Santa was in it at the end. But not the beginning." (pause) "A dad woke up and [Pause... great effort to remember] saw Nickelodeon!"

"Do you mean St. Nick?" I asked.

"Yeah, that's another word for Santa Claus."

(and apparently so is Nickelodeon)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A thought on Prop 8

I'm sure someone much smarter than I am has already made this point regarding California's Prop 8, and hopefully someone can point me in that direction, but just in case, I have to get this out there:

For years, one of the chief arguments against granting gays the right to marry has been the notion that this would somehow threaten the existing marriages of heterosexual couples. I've personally always found this bizarre and disturbing. If Steve and Scott get hitched, I'm somehow less married? I can't even wrap my mind around that. I suppose this view is predicated on the erroneous belief that marriage is some timeless and unchanging tradition, and any change to it invalidates it all. That's patently false: "traditional marriage", even "biblical marriage", involved a man gaining family connections, a vessel for childbearing, and sexual gratification by acquiring multiple thirteen- or fourteen-year-old brides who were his legal property. Seen in that light, it's the defense of traditional marriage which is the obviously taboo position within our modern culture. If any threat to traditional marriage invalidates the entire institution, then there's nothing left, folks, because a marriage between two equal partners of opposite genders who might even be (gasp) of different racial backgrounds and different religious persuasions... that modern cultural construction is so far from "traditional marriage" that the institution has either taken on new meaning over time, or has none at all.

But if we are concerned with protecting the modern version of marriage, a legal and religious commitment between two adult partners joining their lives for personal reasons, then the passage of California's Prop 8 poses the greatest threat to that institution of any action I can imagine. In fact, the other bogey-men hypotheticals of legally sanctioned plural marriage and bestiality don't hold a candle to the danger of Prop 8. Because even the most extreme broadening of the definition of marriage does not create a circumstance where legally recognized marriages might be invalidated in the eyes of the law. Prop 8 has done just that.

Currently, it looks like the 36,000 people joined in marriage before the passage of Prop 8 will still be legally recognized after the court challenges pass through the system, but that's not a settled legal question. And that's just the point. To the best of my knowledge, no legally recognized marriages have ever been retroactively invalidated. Can someone find an exception? Were some Mormon plural marriages recognized at some point in some state and then later invalidated? Did any state temporarily recognize interracial marriages and then change its mind? If not, we've created a unique legal precedent already, regardless of the outcome of the impending court rulings. Scott and Steve already got married. That didn't threaten anybody's marriage. But now a state government has to decide whether or not to take away Steve and Scott's marriage. And if they can do it to Steve and Scott, if they can even consider doing that, they could do it to Paige and I, too, should they see fit to do so.

Gay marriage is no threat to hetero marriage. But invalidating gay marriages undermines the sanctity of the commitment at a fundamental level. When I entered into this contract, I did so fully conscious of the religious commitment I was making with a third party; my promise wasn't just to Paige, but to God as well. I was tangentially aware of the fourth party's involvement, but I took the legal recognition for granted. I knew I acquired new legal rights and privileges, but I had no idea the state could change its mind. If Paige agreed to stay married to me, and God agreed to keep us alive, then our contract would remain binding. But Prop 8 adds a new layer of insecurity to an institution that is already tenuous in our culture. All marriages fail, eventually, because of the frailty of the stakeholders. One party decides to dissolve the contract, or one dies. God may maintain the contract in the afterlife (one can only hope), but the two human stakeholders cannot maintain it in perpetuity. Now, thanks to Prop 8, those of us who are married must realize that the fourth stakeholder is also too frail to guarantee its continued recognition of the institution.

Is it likely that any state will invalidate any heterosexual marriage? Of course not. It's a silly fear for a silly, sci-fi world. But the future is designed by people, and some of those people are nonsensical enough to believe that two adults making a choice to commit to love one another for as long as they can somehow threaten the same commitment of the couple next door, who happen to have different and differing genitals. These paranoid, irrational zealots have their sights set on gay couples right now, so, by all means, heterosexuals need not fear, and we don't need to speak up.

Of course they won't come for us next.

That's never happened before.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Gingrich on Middle-Class Tax Cuts

Bill turned me on to Newt Gingrich's piece on middle-class tax cuts in yesterday's Wall Street Journal. Bill also correctly pointed out that Gingrich proposes no mechanism to pay for his proposal of a massive middle class tax cut. This may be an attempt to find common ground with the Obama administration, but Gingrich can't avoid harping on the same pet peeves that pushed him into the political mainstream once upon a time, and which are woefully out-of-step with American political culture now.

First, Gingrich criticizes tax credits as welfare. He's right, in that they are federal give-aways rather than tax breaks directly tied to work, but if he wants to keep welfare as his favorite political punching bag, he'd better stick to fictitious welfare queens, because if he starts telling the American people that recipients of tax credits are the lazy enemies of a successful economy, he'll be in trouble. The child tax credit is wildly popular, and not just with "welfare queens". That full-time single mom who is also a half-time student uses that credit to keep her children clothed and fed until she can enter the workforce in a more profitable and productive position, and the child tax credit, like the deduction for childcare expenses and the deduction for her tuition, produces a net gain for us all if she finishes school and works as a para-legal or a nurse's assistant or a dental tech. A simple cut to the lowest tax rate would mean she'd keep more of her paycheck from her job at McDonald's, but she'd also need to stay there, and that's a net loss for all of us.

Second, Gingrich falls back on this tried-and-true conservative myth: liberals want the rich to pay what he dubs "hate rates" because the rich "are too productive, work too hard, and earn too much." Gingrich, it seems, does not have a 401K, or he might have noticed that the rich haven't been to productive recently. As to the notion that the rich work too hard, I think that's a pretty tough sell, too. Would he seriously claim that Paris Hilton works harder than the employee behind the counter at one of her family's hotels? Does Gingrich expect us to believe in the vaunted work ethic of the extremely wealthy when our exposure to them consist of shows like The Hills? Certainly there are wealthy people who put in ridiculous hours at stressful jobs, and though they might not sweat as much as their poorer counterparts, they probably have the ulcers to show for their work, but if Gingrich thinks he can push public policy by feeding off sympathy for the wealthy, especially during an economic downturn, he'd better enjoy the scenery in the political wilderness. And liberals do not think the wealthy should pay higher taxes because they "earn too much", but because they need too little. Stealing from the rich is morally dubious, but hoarding while others suffer is universally recognized as immoral behavior. The wealthy recognize this moral imperative, too. That's why they voted for Obama this time around.

So Gingrich's brand of conservatism:

-provides no mechanism to pay for itself, so it's not fiscally responsible. Strike 1.

-maintains its attitude that the poor are morally inferior, but ropes in the middle class folks who like their child-tax credits. Strike 2.

-predicates itself on the belief that the wealthy are better, better, and better than the rest of us, a notion which doesn't even appeal to the wealthy. Strike 3.

I'm not a baseball fan. Perhaps someone can explain some political version of the infield fly rule which explains how this view of taxation gets conservatives on base?

Sunday, November 09, 2008

"Subtle Remonstrance"

In today's NYTimes, a guy named Henry Alford advocates "reverse etiquette." "I supply the apology that they should be giving me." He shares stories of how he apologizes to people who have wronged him in huge ways, like dropping his apple at the grocery store or not having change at the deli. These are really hart-warming stories of douchebaggery.

Tucker, help me out here.

"I've read suicide notes that were less passive-aggressive than this."

Thanks, Mr, Carlson.

Seriously, this guy can't possibly be advocating being a raging prick in the name of etiquette, can he? I like sarcasm as much as the next guy (and almost as much as my wife, who loves it). Smarm is fun. But I don't pretend to believe it's kind or polite. It's rude and hurtful, and if one can reserve it for blog posts that almost no one reads so that one can avoid using it in face-to-face human interaction, that's probably for the best.

Alford not only admits that this reverse apologizing is largely an attempt to "sublimate" his own "irritation," but then goes on to argue that this will teach these people empathy. Really? If I wrong someone and am unaware of it, and then they come at me with one of these backhanded supplied apologies, let me tell you, empathy will be the last thing on my mind. If someone scolded me, after I'd accidentally dropped their apple and then picked it up, by saying, “Sorry about that — I really didn’t mean for you to drop that," I would hope to be quick witted enough to say, "Oh, if my dropping your apple caused you to feel sorry for me, allow me to return it to the floor to ameliorate your pity." Then I would gently put it on the floor and say, "I'm okay now. You don't have to feel bad for me anymore." You think you got smarm, buddy? Bring it!

Mr. Alford has written the forthcoming "How to Live." Perhaps it's a book on manners, but I suspect the title needs a colon and some more information. Like: "How to Live: How picking really petty fights will only get you punched in the face, which is non-lethal."

Perhaps he is being sarcastic throughout, and I just missed the joke. It's all some very clever meta-satire of people who give really bad advice.

If that's the case, then Mr. Alford, I'm very sorry your column tricked me into thinking you're a jerk. I apologize.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Watching the Conservative Crackup from the Left Side of the Colosseum

I pick on conservatives a lot here, and with voices out there like Michael Gerson and Bill Kristol, why not? But, in the spirit of President-elect Obama's new politics, I want to give credit to a conservative who wrote a great line as part of an exchange on Slate about the new direction of conservatism, the Conservative Crackup.

A bit of summary: Douglas Kmiec wrote a letter saying, among other things, that the Obama campaign had better ideas about abortion, avoiding the traditional pro-life tactic to talk about judges and talking about how to lower abortion rates. He proposed that anti-abortion activists seek legislation which would seek to establish that life begins at conception while prohibiting the criminalization of women's choice. Anyone, even a pro-choice believer like me, could see this was not only going to frustrate those who are pro-life, but it would also create a bizarre and illogical situation protecting the act of killing a person established as such in law. Weird.

Then Ross Douthat wrote a response attacked Kmeik for not offering enough to pro-life voters with these ideas, and for implying a bizarre attempt at compromise would offer nothing to the pro-lifers. He wrote, "I am sure that Kmiec is weary of being called a fool by opponents of abortion for his tireless pro-Obama advocacy during this election cycle, but if so, then the thing for him to do is to cease acting like the sort of person for whom the term 'useful idiot' was coined, rather than persisting in his folly." For those of us on the left interested in some schadenfreude, reading conservatives, famous for their unity, call each other names the way Democrats have during their time in the wilderness is like driving a Ferrari filled with adoring super-models to a fully functional amusement park made of candy.

But it gets better. Kmiec replies with a revolting letter that was probably written inside a card purchased at a particularly tacky Christian gift store with a picture on the front depicting Jesus juggling Anne Geddes babies dressed in assorted produce. "Genuine love and affection do not reside on the Internet, so I cannot extend it to you, but in my heart, I forgive your great unkindness." Wait, hold that vomit in your throat. "Ross, you are not ordinary in God's eyes; nor are the women facing abortion as a tragic answer to a dismal, impoverished, and near-hopeless existence. Ross, you and she are brother and sister made in God's image and are expected to be of help to one another. That is a lesson for the Republicans." Okay, you can let it tickle your uvula, but don't toss your cookies quite yet. "If I have offended you in some way, I ask your forgiveness. For we remember, in the reminder from Benedict XVI, St. Paul admonished Christians to be reconciled with their brothers before receiving Holy Communion..." Okay, aim carefully and let fly.

No here's where I want to give some props to a conservative. After a couple hours I can only imagine as an uncomfortable silence filled with grimacing and sideways glances, Tucker Carlson, the one who ties his disdain for liberals like me in a bow-tie and maintains his party orthodoxy with his Goldwater '64 souvenir stick-up-the-tookas, responded to Kmiec: "Hey, Doug. Toughen up. Seriously. I've read suicide notes that were less passive-aggressive than this." I love that last line. In a spirit of bipartisanship I plan on quoting it at every opportunity.

But Tucker can't stay on my good side for more than ten lines. He continues, "I understand it must have hurt when Ross accused you of shilling for Obama. On the other hand, he's right. You did shill for Obama. That's not Ross' fault. Don't blame him. But if you are going to blame him, do it directly, like a man, without all the encounter-group talk and Pope quotes. People often attack the religious right, sometimes with justification. But as you just reminded us, there is nothing in the world more annoying than the religious left."

But here's the thing: Kmieck is a conservative legal scholar who took over a position previously held by Antonin Scalia, and served in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and Bush I. Carlson wishes he had those kind of conservative bona fides. Kmieck did shill for Obama, but he's far from the religious left, and the religious left doesn't sound like that. Carlson is calling him left because "left" is Carlson's idea of a swear word, the same way we use "Coulter" in my household.

Chastened, Kmiec returns to a less WWJD tone, though he addresses himself to someone other than Douthat or Carlson. He concludes, "One needs a philosophy of governance in addition to honoring the constitutional structure. Barack Obama's philosophy of government provides service for needs unmet by the market. And the Republicans' philosophy?"

I would refer Kmiec to a passage from an earlier post by Jim Manzi: "Any real-world government requires taxes. The people who have a lot of money will end up paying a share of these taxes disproportionate to their numbers under any nontyrannical regime. Further, any just real-world government will have at least some poor relief, by whatever name, for those unable to care for themselves. Therefore, at least some mild redistribution will be an incidental byproduct of a just and well-functioning government. Accepting these practical realities is very different from actual advocacy of redistribution as good in and of itself." Now this is a kind of honesty that one hasn't found in conservatism for years. It's much easier to shout "Socialist!" than to explain this nuanced view of taxation. But this is far more persuasive, even to a liberal like me. I'm no Maoist. I just don't think a great country lets any of its people die in its streets. I certainly can't answer Kmiec's larger philosophical question for conservatives, but I can give him some helpful advice: Find somebody with the courage to stand up to the anti-intellectual wing of the Republican Party (a pro-intelligence maverick) who can explain this distinction between redistribution for the sake of social justice rather than redistribution as its own ideological imperative, and your party will do a lot better in 2012.

Of course, if you want to spend the next 4 years calling each other fools and useful idiots, then responding with the kind of passive-aggressive-ism found in suicide notes, those of us on the Christian left would just love it.

As Pope Sanctimonius the XXXVII said, "Bring me some lawyers, think-tank wonks, and a guy in a bow-tie. Throw 'em in a pit and tell 'em only one gets out alive. I like watching their slap-fights."

Thursday, November 06, 2008

More Gerson Douchebaggery

Today Michael Gerson hosts a pity party for his old boss, George Bush, in his column in the Washington Post. Apparently everyone has been unfair to Bush, who has "a deeper decency" then we all give him credit for.

Boo frickin' hoo.

Hey Mr. Gerson, has Bush done anything to stop the torture his administration authorized? Is Guantanimo Bay still open? How dare you say a man who would allow innocent people (most of the people picked up in sweeps and sent to Gitmo) be denied rights affirmed in the Geneva Conventions and by U.S. law, and then describe the man who should be ultimately responsible as decent by any measure.

Tell that to the child who lost his mother to an errant bomb in an unnecessary war. Or tell the child whose father was tortured at Abu Ghraib that Bush took some unfair hits from the press and has a low approval rating. I expect (and hope) that kid would hit you with the sole of his shoe.

Gerson sites Bush's AIDS initiative. I'll give Bush credit for his increased aid, though it should be noted that the elimination of any kind of birth control and the abstinence only bent blunted what could have been a truly great achievement. I'll give Bush credit for his willingness to work with the G-8 on fighting malaria, too.

Gerson says that my image is Bush is so skewed that I cannot accept his portrait of this deeply decent man. He writes, "That is, perhaps, understandable. But it means little to me. Because I have seen the decency of George W. Bush."

Fine. But Gerson's also been on Bush's payroll. Perhaps he can't understand that a short list of compassionate acts does not erase a much longer list of incompetent, callous, and even cruel ones. Perhaps there is some threshold of charity that blots out war crimes, but I'm not sure what that would look like, and Bush's record doesn't come close.

Mr. Gerson, rumor has it that Nero played his lyre and sang songs while Rome burned, but one historian claims that wasn't true. He says Nero may have started the fire, but then he did a great job rebuilding the city. When the people got angry about the tax increases needed for all the rebuilding, Nero found some Christians to use as scapegoats, and had them thrown to the dogs, crucified, or burned. But his urban renewal plans were nice, and after the fire he let some of the homeless live in his palaces, so, I guess by your standard, he had "a deeper decency". If only he'd had a fan like you to rewrite history for him.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

God is still in control.

I just received a friendly and innocuous email from a college buddy titled "TOP 10 PREDICTIONS NO MATTER WHO WINS THE ELECTION". It contained a list of Christian truisms about how Jesus still loves us and God is still in control. I don't disagree, but since I'm not sure of my friend's politics, I didn't know how to respond. Is this how McCain supporters are comforting themselves? If so, that's fine. They can also take comfort in the fact that their candidate gave a gracious, dignified concession speech and earned back some of the respect many of us on the other side had lost for him over the course of the campaign. John McCain is a good guy. Sarah Palin asked to speak last night and the McCain staff (wisely) told her she couldn't, but in the spirit of national reconciliation I'll assume she would have apologized for some of the things she said, like implying that a lot of us aren't real Americans, and some of the things she did not say, like calling out and reproaching some of the people who shouted out abominable remarks during some of her speeches. I'll just assume she's a good gal, too, in spite of everything I've ever seen or heard from her.

But maybe my friend is an Obama fan, in which case there are some things I'd like to add to his list.

11. There will still be idiots on both sides of the political spectrum, and in every religious group.

12. There will still be Christians who believe greed is a virtue.

13. There will still be Christians who believe problems between nations are best solved with guns and bombs.

14. There will still be Christians who believe poor people are poor because they are lesser people.

15. There will still be Christians who espouse "American Exceptionalism", the entirely un-Christian idea that American lives are worth more than the lives of people in other countries.

Those statements could have been added regardless of who won the election. But now we can add a "prediction" that is entirely dependent on the results of yesterday's vote.

16. These kinds of Christians will still exists, but on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue they are packing their bags, and a very different kind of Christian will soon be moving in.

Can I get an Amen?

Wolf Blitzer and Princess Leia

Last night my brother, Joe, called me and interrupted Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's election coverage (sacrilege?) and convinced me to flip over to CNN to check out their hologram machine. On the one hand, it's another tacky ploy to make 24 news coverage more interesting through gimmicky gadgetry. On the other hand, it obviously worked. As though the night weren't historic enough, we entered the age of the interview by hologram. Or maybe we just returned to it, since it began in 1977 in a galaxy far, far away.

Tapping Out

Well, there are still some races left to call, so we can't declare a winner in the online pool Joel put together, but as of 2:53pm Noah is currently winning in our house with 11 correctly guessed swing states and contested governors' races. Paige and I each have 10. I really want to stay up to see how the last senatorial races play out and see if Noah correctly guessed the final electoral college vote, but since the presidential election was decided so early I didn't maintain my caffeine intake levels, and now I'm crashing. The politics junkie couldn't make it until all was decided. Embarrassed, I'm off to bed.

Obama still better be the winner when I wake up tomorrow.

So this is what we're in for?

Bill Kristol is almost always wrong, but I respect him more than I respect Micheal Gerson, former Bush employee and steadfast Bush boot-licker over at the Washington Post. Maybe I should start a list of people who deserve less respect than Bill Kristol. Think of it as the Razzie of political punditry.

Today Michael Gerson tries to write an op-ed saying we should all support the new President-elect because it's important to have a president we all see as legitimate. He wants us to put partisanship aside. I know he wants to be a part of the historic moment, and probably also wants to jump from the sinking ship (too late!) but the piece is a mess of hypocrisy and faulty reasoning.

At one point he writes: "Liberals have perfected this machinery of disdain over the past few years."

But in the same post Gerson criticizes partisanship and describes theories about criminality and deception from the Bush administration "lunatic". This is Gerson's attempt at magnanimity and bi-partisanship in the name of country.

As the kids would say: Epic Fail.

Sometimes calling a liar a liar is not partisan. Calling a criminal a criminal is not necessarily bitter or ideological. And treating deception and criminality with disdain is entirely appropriate.

Would Gerson disagree? Depends on the party participating in the deception or criminality.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Post-racial? What does that mean?

I am so proud of my country, my party, and my new President-elect.

The election coverage? Not so much.

I understand what these talking heads are trying to say when they describe Barack Obama as "Post-Racial". I don't think it's a partisan term, in that it could also be applied to Governor Bobby Jindal (R) of Louisiana. But would they apply that term to any white candidate? If the term "Post-Racial" only applies to minority candidates or office holders, does it really mean what they think it means? Or does it mean a candidate who doesn't run on his/her race but gets tons of attention for it from talking heads with too much time to fill bloviating?

Sure, President-elect Obama's race makes this election even more historic, but can't we also admit that the race issue was probably a push, with racists and those wanting to vote based on reverse racism/ racial guilt probably canceling each other out? Let's face it; when you take race out of it you have a brilliant, exciting, young, incredibly talented candidate running a nearly perfect campaign at a time when people are desperate for change and rejecting the party in power. Of course we elected Barack Obama. The very fact that it's been close has been disheartening, not because it was a sign of racism, but because it showed that so many vote based on party branding rather than issues. Sure, some folks vote based on principles, but many of those are essentially identity politics, too. Take abortion as an example. If that's your single issue, are you voting for the Republican Party because they have delivered you anything except slightly higher rates of abortion whenever they hold the White House? Or, on the flip side, are you voting based on Universal Health Care? How much have the Democrats produced while running with that as a stated goal? No, even these single issue voters are voting for the party that stands with them, not the party that has done something substantive for them. This relates directly to the race issue. Most overt racists were in one party or the other and wouldn't switch because of race, and my guess is that the number of racists, either overt or subconscious, who made their choice based on the color of Obama's skin probably crossed that line and passed an equal number of folks coming the other way for the opposite reason.

Race does not explain this election. Not by a long shot.

On February 17th of 2007, I wrote this at my blog on the Barack Obama website: "I made a screen shot of Senator Obama's page which showed me as one of his friends. When he's finishing his second term my son will be 12, and I'll be able to show him the picture and say, 'Yes, President Obama and I go waaaay back.' I desperately hope that my son won't be able to remember or even imagine the state of moral decay of the presidency before President Obama took office. I fear that it will take all of the president's energy to undo the damage that has been done by this administration, but I think Senator Obama (I mean, my pal Barack) has the character and intelligence to pull it off."

Well, more than a year and a half later, despite the talking heads spending much of tonight talking about (my pal) Barack's ethnicity, I still think this election was won due to his intelligence and character. I still think it's going to take eight years to clean up Bush's mess, and I still believe President Obama can do it.

This election isn't about a post-racial candidate. It's the story of a majority of post-racial voters who, without feigning some idiotic affected racial blindness, cast our ballots for the best person for the job.

I'm sure there are a lot of post-racial voters on the Republican side of this election, too. But if they looked beyond race and party branding and chose McCain, they unfortunately chose someone who couldn't look beyond his party base this time around, and greatly diminished himself over the course of this campaign. He sided with a party whose most honest strategists openly admit it benefits from lower voter turn-out and heightened fear within the electorate. McCain has been a great man in the past, but he gambled on the Republican base vs. the middle.

Americans chose to vote.

Americans chose to be brave.

That's why Barack Obama is President-elect.

And that's why, to paraphrase our new First Lady, I'm prouder of my country tonight than I've ever been before.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Five things white people shouldn't do if (when) Obama wins

Some very good advice here.

Media Biased Towards Facts

Joel told me about this piece on media bias at Apparently, when McCain talks about media bias, he sites a statistic by a non-partisan media watchdog site. This study considers reporting about polling showing an Obama lead as "positive" coverage favoring Obama and "negative" coverage towards McCain. Similarly, one imagines that accounts of the sizes of Obama's crowds are considered positive coverage, while reports of McCain's crowds are negative. Oh, and it gets worse; when fact checkers report on lies McCain has told, those are negative pieces about him. So, if McCain tells the most lies, has anemic crowds, and loses in polls, he is receiving coverage that is biased against him.

In that case, I am praying the coverage of McCain is going to be really negative when reporters reveal the simple fact that he's lost the only poll that matters.

So please, people, go out and vote, and encourage media bias.

Election fatigue mixed with high anxiety and a dash of...

Last night I found myself overwhelmed by two seemingly contradictory emotions. On the one hand, I felt a tsunami of election fatigue. I've been reading every bit of election news I can get my hands on, despite obviously diminishing returns as pieces not only repeated the same facts, but even started repeating lines stolen from one another.

But while the coverage made me feel tired, my anxiety about the outcome had me hopped up like I'd been mainlining Jolt Cola. All the data points to an Obama win, but I've seen that kind of thing before. I'd get excited about celebrating, then agitated about the nature of my mourning should things go all screwy. Would I rend my clothes and put ashes on my head, old testament style? Would I try to pull out my hair? How does a bald guy do such a thing? Tweezers? Would I just end up with a bunch of unsightly scratch marks?

Tonight I felt a third, even stranger emotion: I began to prematurely miss all the interest the county has discovered for their own governance. Will we return to worrying about the failed relationships of celebrities, the next blond girl to get kidnapped, the personal beef between Rosie O'Donnell and Donald Trump? Luckily, Jack Shafer and Anne Applebaum assure me this will not be the case, as the press will immediately turn on President-Elect Obama and the international community will only warm up temporarily before realizing much of our foreign policy will remain unchanged. By November 6th or 7th we'll be reading angry op-eds about how Obama hasn't magically delivered on every campaign promise, enacted the entirety of the liberal agenda, ended hunger, brought about world peace, and filled my refrigerator with Mountain Dew and loaded my cupboards with Cool Ranch Doritos. (Okay, I'll be writing that last one in a couple days.) So, thanks to Anne and Jack for letting me return to simply being worn out and freaked out, comforted by the knowledge that we'll all still be nearly as politically obsessed as I am.

See, now you're worried and exhausted, too!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Clensing the Palette with Sarah Marshall

Tonight Paige and I watched M. Nigh Shyamalan's "The Happening". I'd read the reviews, and had pretty low expectations. I had my smarmy remark all planned. Credits would roll, and I'd say, "Well, that happened." I'd say it with such a complete lack of passion that it would convey that I knew the line was unoriginal, but I didn't even care about that.

Well, the movie managed to disappoint, to the extent that I couldn't manage to say, "That happened," unless by "that" I meant a painful waste of time, strung along by some hope for the fabled M. Night Shyamalan surprise ending, which, it turns out, was an endangered species in the beginning of his career and is now officially extinct. Not only was the ending bad, but the whole movie made me wonder if he'd agreed to the basic premise on a dare. Someone said, [Spoiler Alert] "Hey, M., I'll bet you can't make a movie where the villain is a plant! And I'm not talking about some kind of mobile plant monster, but just a regular old rooted plant."

And M. said, "Well, can it be more than one rooted plant?"

"Um, I guess."

"Can it be all the plants in the world? 'Cause I think I'm onto something here!"

"Oh, crap. What have I done."

Yep, I'll bet that's how it went down. And down, and down, until it fell into a steaming pile that was this movie. And I'm not even trying to be gross, but the movie was a lot like poop. Imagine someone taking a dump in public. You'd be horrified, and you wouldn't enjoy it, but you'd have trouble looking away at first just because the whole scene would be so surreal. That's what the first few minutes of this movie were like. But when the crazy person pulls up his drawers and walks away, you wouldn't saunter over and stare at the poop for another hour and a half, would you? Well, maybe you would if you thought that, at the end of that time, the poop would do something really amazing which you couldn't possibly have expected. Only, it doesn't. So now you're the guy who stared at human feces on a sidewalk for two hours. How do you feel? That's how I felt after "The Happening."

Paige went to bed, but I couldn't just take that feeling into the dark. It's one thing to go to bed scared by images in a horror film. That's a part of the experience. But it's altogether different to go to bed angry, imagining the bodily harm you'd like to inflict on some arrogant, over-rated filmmaker. My psyche doesn't need that.

So I watched our next Netflix offering, "Forgetting Sarah Marshal". Judd Apatow, the producer, gets a lot of credit because he produced this, which seems a bit unfair to me. I'm sure the director, Nicholas Stoller, contributed more than Apatow, but I think the most credit should go to Jason Segel, who not only played the lead roll but wrote the script, played the songs, and even operated a puppet. The guy was amazing. The movie is very funny at times, but the thing that struck me the most was the fact that the characters all seemed amazingly believable. I don't actually know any Hollywood actresses or rock stars (or, for that matter, pot-head surf instructors) but the characters all broke free of cliches and, more than that, of their archetypal parts in the standard machine of a romantic comedy. I can't recommend it to my Creative Writing class (not appropriate) but that's a shame, because it's a good lesson in how to avoid two-dimensional characters, even when two-dimensional characters seem like the kinds of tools that will allow you to claw your way through a plot. Kudos, Jason Segel! And thank you for washing my mouth out with your (pretty filthy) movie, to clear away the toxic "Happening".

Friday, October 31, 2008

Bill Kristol says something I agree with!

And for those of you who think I've been too petty:

Tonight, on The Daily Show, Bill Kristol said something I agree with. I didn't think he could do it. I was starting to think he couldn't form a true sentence, like, "The sky is often a blue-ish color," or "objects with a lesser mass sometimes, in the right circumstances, depending on the political year, fall towards objects of a greater mass," or "Sarah Palin is basically a bad historical punchline that could, through folksy charm and voter suppression, gain the ability to make teenage rape victims bare their unwanted children." His lips refuse to wrap around real words and spit them out in the correct order.

But I was wrong! I admit it. Bill Kristol proved me wrong. Sure, he had to qualify the statement, but the basic gist is true.

He said, "There are times when it would be wise to talk derisively about people like me."

Bill has a compulsion to avoid the truth, but he's trying here, so let's give him some credit, and our assistance. Let's take out Kristol's hedging, shall we?

Strike "There are times when..."

Strike "...people like..."

What is Kristol really saying? "It would be wise to talk derisively about me."

Sure, he spent the rest of the interview saying such ridiculous things that it was difficult to believe even he would drink his own Kool-aid. He claimed that when Alaskan corporations give citizens a check, that's not the kind of socialism Sarah Palin's been talking about, but "Conservative economics, you know, helping those hard working citizens." Jon Stewart was so blown away I thought he would pull all his hair off and sport that Ben Gorman look. Then Bill Kristol criticized Jon Stewart for reading the New York Times. Bill Kristol works for the New York Times!

But there I go again, focusing on the negative. Let's encourage positive behavior when we see it. For a brief, shining moment, Bill Kristol was (at times, someone who is like people who are) 100% correct.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fear Mongering Works... On Cowards

Folks concerned with the tenor of the political debate at the tail end of this election, as things get particularly desperate and ugly, should check out Wallis' post today, "Be Not Afraid". Good stuff.

Now, I have a question about the chiding I got for my tone: I think we can all agree it's right to warn people not to be afraid, or making judgments out of fear when it comes to electoral politics. That's scriptural (for folks concerned with that), it doesn't attack anyone, and it also seems very... safe.

But what's the difference between saying X or Y group is trying to motivate people through fear, and saying X and Y group depends on cowardice in order to succeed? And if we see fear mongering, and watch it succeed, then are we wrong or hurtful to say the group that used such a strategy is composed of cynical leaders and cowardly followers?

You see where I'm going with this. To say, "Don't be manipulated by X group, which is trying to scare you." Okay. Kosher. Socially acceptable.

But "X group is composed of cynical, manipulative leaders and cowardly followers."? Bad. Impolite. Uncivilized. Disrespectful.

I'm no fan of the term "Tough Love". I think it's become a euphemism for everything from child abuse to overly harsh punishments for criminals. But what about tougher rhetoric? Protecting the feelings of cowards and dishonest, cynical politicians doesn't really do anyone any favors. We shouldn't shut down debate with shouting or reckless name calling, but speaking truth to power is a good thing. As we watch our economy go into a tailspin, we're going to hear a lot about shared responsibility between Wall Street and Main Street. Doesn't the same go for our politics? In a democracy, the people have power. If leaders resort to fear mongering, the accountability also belongs to the fearful who allowed themselves to be manipulated.

I understand politicians can't call voters cowards, just as they can't call everyone with too much credit card debt irresponsible borrowers. But those of us who live with the consequences of cowardly voting might not be running for office, so we can, and should, call out our neighbors for being spineless.

Thank God for Helen

Well, after posting a link and a comment on Jim Wallis' God's Politics blog, I've received some (deserved) flak for my uncharitable tone. Now I have to send as many people as possible to this awesome blog by Helen, an 82 year old grandma' who has been doing her darnedest to make my angriest rant look tame by comparison. And I have to admit, I love it.

Check out "Margaret and Helen" here.

Long blog Helen Philpot!

Still No. 1, for what it's worth.

Robert Kagan has a piece in today's Washington Post op-ed page criticizing those who talk about American decline. As someone who's caught more than 1 episode of "Jerry Springer" I've ranted often about our cultural decline, but Kagan doesn't talk about that. Mostly he focuses on our GDP and our military prowess, which are still unrivaled in the world.

Do I sense some oversimplification? While our share of the world economy has remained relatively stable, within our country that money has shifted disproportionately to the wealthy, meaning more and more people are living in conditions which do not match what one would expect of the world's wealthiest nation. And as for military power, we may be unrivaled but we are also stretched so thin that there is significant concern that we couldn't fight another land war right now, and certainly couldn't handle a two-front war, which means we are paying the most in the world for our military but don't have the power to use it (or threaten to use it) as we once did when it had a smaller price tag.

I still don't see another country knocking us off our spot quite yet, but President Obama will have his work cut out for him if he wants to make sure we stay #1. And besides, #1 doesn't mean much to the infant who can't get the care they need in a country that ranks so poorly in infant mortality, or a child who goes to schools that are not the best in the world. At some point the unequal distribution of our blessings leaves many of us saying, essentially, "I dropped out of a more prestigious college than the one you graduated from."

We may be No. 1, but we have a responsibility to make sure that isn't a hollow claim.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

In a world where...

Couldn't have basso profundo-ed it better myself.

Yea Jim Wallis!

Joel asked, "Who is the major voice in the Christian community that is rising up in opposition to what Dobson and his people say?"

The answer is Jim Wallis, of Sojourners Magazine, bloging at God's Politics (Thanks for the link, Jed!).

Check it out:

Yeah, Jim! Thank you and bless you!

Monday, October 27, 2008


Okay, I have to quickly backtrack here and make it clear that I do not find all Republicans to be stupid, just as I know that not all Republicans think of me as a cowardly, unpatriotic baby-killer. I formally apologize for using a blanket label to include a whole lot of people I do not mean to include in my descrition.

Good, smart people I respect, like Jamie (who commented below) reside in the big tent of the G.O.P. and are also in the tent of People Ben Cares About and Respects Completely. Some of these people are those single issue voters who have a single, strongly held, entirely defensible position whih I can respect but with which I disagree. Some are very embarassed Republicans who sided with the party based on its expressed ideology, who keep considering them in elections based on those principles, don't always vote party line, and feel betrayed by this administration. Those, again, are people I can respect. In fact, maybe the people I don't respect don't really exist, but they are not caricatures of my own creation alone. When someone like Sarah Palin talks about a Joe-Sixpack character who is a real-American, who suspends his judgment of his government's actions because he is always patriotic, who dismisses people because they are educated or elite (which does not mean snooty, but genuinely better than he is), then I think I can be forgiven for believing in this caricature. I guess I don't think Republicans are stupid. I think the kinds of voters the Republican politicians focus on, reach out to, pander to, and sack-tickle are stupid. In contrast, maybe all us Dems really are a bunch of morons, but the politicians more often reach out to us drooling, numb skull liberals (and, admittedly, flatter us and pander to us) as though we are educated, reasonable people who have nuanced worldviews. And this is a big and telling difference, both between the current Democratic and Republican parties, and between the current Republican party and its intellectual progenitors. One party is vilified for being dependent on its intellectuals, but it honors them. The other party (or at least its governing philosophy) was created by intellectuals, but now depends on those who are not only ignorant, but willfully so and proud of it.

I know that the Republicans can't really run on their educational records this time around. We've got a contest between a law professor and a guy who was fourth from the bottom of his class, and between a lawyer and a woman who took five schools (or was it six?) to get her B.A. and never sought any more formal education. Still, the Republican POLITICIAN's expressed antipathy to education or nuance pre-dates this election. I respect a lot of Republicans and I don't think they're stupid. But their party keeps telling them they should be.

Homegrown American Taliban Threatens Christian Evangelicals with Blame for Ruining America if Obama Wins

My friend Joel, in an effort to show the world just how well he knows me, sent me an article and asked for my thoughts on it. Now, one might think that only a total geek and a rabid politics junkie would enjoy receiving a writing assignment on a political topic from a friend. Well, Joel knows "total geek" and "politics junkie" pretty much sums me up.

Even more telling, Joel sent me something that he knew would make my blood boil faster and hotter than Ramen noodle broth in a microwave (which is what we lived on while we were college roommates). And boy, was he right. This piece is a doozy.

Posted on Dr. James Dobson’s “Focus On The Family” website, the piece is designed as an imaginary letter from a Christian, writing back to us from the nearly apocalyptic world of 2012, where, after the machinations of an Obama administration, the nation has gone to hell in a hand basket. Before I lay into the piece itself (which, it seems, no one who currently inhabits our particular location in the space-time continuum wants to take credit for by name), I have to ask: Joel, why in the hell are you reading this trash? Did some evil person send it on to you just to drive you crazy, too? Or do you regularly check up on the American Taliban for fun?

Okay, now to the piece, “Letter from 2012 in Obama’s America”. It’s long (16 pages in a downloadable pdf), and though I’ll link to it in the name of fairness, I don’t recommend reading it unless you are a masochist who likes migraines, or a Dobson fan, which is itself a kind of socially acceptable sadism. I know I said I wished I could be more respectful to people I disagree with in a recent post, but I also said I can’t manage it, and if you were to subject yourself to this piece you would know why. The piece is particularly galling for me because I consider myself a Christian. For years I’ve admitted that with a great deal of embarrassment, not because I’m ashamed of Jesus Christ, but because I’m ashamed to be associated with many of his followers, especially those in power in my country. Lately I’ve begun to wonder about the term itself. The definitions of words are cultural constructions, and when I describe myself as a Christian I mean something so wholly different from what someone like Dobson would accept that I feel like a guy who says, "I'm a phrenologist, by which I mean that I live in Oregon”

“But that’s not what the term 'Phrenologist' means,” they say to me. “Phrenology refers to the people who study the bumps on people’s heads to learn about their personalities.”

“That’s not what it means to me,” I say. “I mean a person who lives in Oregon.”

“Well then you are ignorant of the term’s meaning, or crazy,” they say.

That's the same thing they would say when I describe myself as a Christian, if “they” were the kinds of people who treat James Dobson as an authority on theology, family dynamics, national politics, or anything more consequential than the location of his own backside, which he may or may not be able to find with both hands.

You see, when I say I’m a Christian, beyond meaning that I believe in and serve Jesus Christ, I extend that to mean:

I should reject violence and war;

I should love all of God’s children (and not just say I love them while advocating policies that do them great injustice);

that much of the Bible is allegorical and that allegory and metaphor can be just as meaningful, if not more so, than accounts of literal history;

that homosexuals are not sexual deviants who deserve to be disempowered, but an oppressed minority who deserve justice, protection from the majority, and yes, even admiration for their struggle;

that gender roles are products of the fall and thus sinful and to be done away with, rather than prescriptive definitions of who we should be as human beings;

that parents shouldn’t educate their children through violence…

I could go on and on. I have read enough of Dobson to know he would disagree with me on all these claims, but I suspect he (or at least many of his acolytes) would go further and say these beliefs make me something other than Christian. I’m tempted to say, “Fine. When somebody asks about my religious beliefs I’ll just launch into that tirade, because the label has been convenient but now requires so much explanation of what kind of person I’m not that I should just jettison the label altogether.” I used to say to myself, “Self, why should I let fundamentalists take the term away from me?” Now I wonder if, when asked, I should just say, “Well, I love Jesus and I love people, but I’m not sure what that makes me in America anymore.”

But I haven’t broken ties with the label enough to avoid feeling outraged when I read something like the garbage Joel sent me, so, baited, I’ll vent.

The piece starts out by saying it’s not real (thanks for that) but that it’s all based on the case law from liberal judges and quotes from Obama this writer has cherry picked to form his apocalyptic vision of the future. I thought about writing an equally petty piece about 2012 in a McCain administration as a form of satire, but I don’t think McCain is some diabolical agent of evil who would set out to reshape the social fabric of America in some terrible way. I disagree with him on many things, and I think that a McCain presidency would be a bad one, though probably not quite as bad as the office’s current occupant. But then, if McCain realized all my worst fears based on reports of his erratic temper, by 20012 we’d be living in a post-nuclear holocaust world which Cormac McCarthy has already described better than I ever could in his haunting book The Road, so any attempt to make light of the worst case scenario for a McCain presidency would involve making light of the end of humanity, and that’s just not my style. (Well, okay, maybe when I’m in the right mood, but not tonight.) So, rather than parody, let me just tell you about this fictional Christian’s argument, and by then end I think we’ll all agree it says a lot more about Dobson and his ilk than it does about Barack Obama.

First, the organization. The piece lays out the horrors of Obama’s America in big segments under bold headlines. These are, in order:

The Supreme Court
Same-sex marriage
Religious speech in the public square
Gun ownership
President Obama’s response to the Supreme Court
Military policy
Health care
Taxes, the economy, and the poor
Talk radio
Christian publishers
Prosecution of former Bush administration officials

Predictably, these things all go exactly the opposite of the way Dr. Dobson would want. But take a look at the order! Either these are in ascending order of importance or descending order of importance. If the order is ascending, one would have to believe Dobson (or the writer he publicize without attribution on his site, so let’s just say Dobson) thinks protecting W from a much deserved war crimes prosecution is more important than abortion, gun rights, and gay marriage (unlikely), or they’re in descending order, in which case Dobson thinks the danger of gay marriage is more serious than the terrorist attacks he threatens in the section on “Military Policy”. In fact, either way he kind of buried his lead. Terrorist attacks, a Soviet takeover of Eastern Europe, and a complete economic meltdown caused by over-taxation are in the middle, apparently less important than the ability of high schoolers to pray by their school’s flag poles, or less important than the ability of evangelical publishers to sell their books in Barnes and Noble. Yeah, because what’s on the shelves at the local big-box bookstore, or what the kids are doing around the flagpole (and trust me, I work at a high school, and they ain’t prayin’ now) demands an urgent warning sent back from the future, but FOUR terrorist attacks inside the US get tossed into the middle of the letter, almost as an aside? This time traveler is a douchebag. But wait, you say, maybe the whole piece is just a random list of grievances. Do you mean to tell me that four years in the future they don’t have a simple word processor program with Cut and Paste commands so writers can organize their thoughts? Did Obama outlaw that, too? Then that should be added to the random list. Maybe at the beginning. Or the end.

Now to the actual content. As you can guess, two dudes want to enter marital bliss, and that wrecks the country. Kids are told they can’t peer-pressure other kids into standing around listening to readings of Dobson’s sexist, bigoted interpretation of scripture, and that wrecks the country. A woman is allowed to make her own decision about whether she wants to risk her life to bring a tubal pregnancy to term so she can raise her rapist’s baby, and that wrecks the country. Adults are allowed to make their own decisions about what kinds of art they consider indecent, and that wrecks the country. Localities are allowed to take measures to make sure cops are more well-armed than crooks, and that wrecks the country. Obama says he didn’t want any of this to happen, but then he said he wasn’t a Muslim, too, so we all know what that’s worth. The U.S. pulls out of Iraq and so, AS A CONSEQUENCE OF LEAVING, NOT SHOWING UP IN THE FIRST PLACE, terrorist come into the country and people BEGIN to kill one another. (Oh, and, by the way, terrorists attack the U.S. four times.) Doctors and nurses are told they have to put the interests of their patients above the religious beliefs of one Dr. James Dobson, and so they all quit practicing medicine and it wrecks the country. Rich people have to pay the same taxes they paid in the nineties, (remember, back when all the rich people were leaving the U.S. to live in Burkina Faso and Haiti?) so they all leave (again?) and everyone left is poor, and it wrecks the country. Workers can easily join unions so they can have healthcare and safe working conditions, and of course that wrecks the country. People aren’t allowed to spew bigotry on the radio, which causes Americans to not know who to hate anymore, and the ensuing confusion wrecks the country. Christian publishers can’t get their books sold at Barnes and Noble (yep, the time traveler specifically mentions Barnes and Noble and only Barnes and Noble) and that wrecks the country. Bush administration officials are bankrupted by the court costs necessitated to defend themselves from war crimes charges, and though this doesn’t wreck the country it’s just so unbelievably tragic that we all wish we were dead.

The article then goes on to say that the people most responsible for this are the evangelical Christians who supported Obama in this election. Just to be clear, according to this time traveler if you are an evangelical Christian who votes for Obama you are responsible for four terrorist attacks, countless abortions, sodomy on every street corner, the collapse of the economy, the suffering of book publishers and radio talk show hosts, and the legal fees of that lovable Dick Cheney. Oh, wait, but not in that order. Damn you, centrist evangelicals, for taking away my ability to cut and paste that back into the order Dr. Dobson posted on his website!

Joel asked, “Who is the major voice in the Christian community that is rising up in opposition to what Dobson and his people say? Where are they?” It’s a fair question, though it’s also fair to wonder if Dobson himself is still a major voice in the Christian community. This kind of desperation shows his power is waning, at the very least. Maybe “major voices” are just letting him rant himself into oblivion. I have another theory, though. I don’t think there are any “major voices” on the left in the Christian community, not because no one will stand up, but because they have been effectively silenced and marginalized over the last twenty years. I wrote a book (a lot of research, a lot of time, and a lot of passion wasted) and was told it was good enough to publish but too liberal for a Christian publishing house and too Christian for a secular house. If the Christian right has set up it’s own parallel media world, and everybody else has said, “What, you want crazy talk? There’s a separate store for that down the street,” then it’s no surprise that some household name hasn’t stepped forward to repudiate this letter from within the ranks of Christians. Liberal Christians, apparently, can’t sell enough books to become household names.

This article specifically warns against hoping for suffering as a means to strength, but I’ve read a handful of conservatives who’ve pined for some down-time in the political wilderness to get their house in order. As a liberal, I can’t speak for those folks, but I can say I want the same thing for Christianity in America. As a Quaker, I’m a big believer in shutting up and listening for guidance from God. Maybe American Christianity needs to be saddled with this kind of lunacy just long enough that no one takes us seriously anymore, so we can stop making pronouncements about what all Christians think or how all Christians should vote long enough to figure out if that term has any meaning as a single, monolithic label. I think that should take ten or twenty years, but if Dobson is allowed to continue spewing this stuff he hastens the date when no one, including Christians, listens to “Christian Leaders” about anything more consequential than where to find the coffee and donuts between services.

So, God bless Dr. James Dobson, who willingly sacrifices his own dignity in order to embarrass all Christians into the Quaker practice of silence. Thanks.