Saturday, March 29, 2008

Clinton's "Black Knight" Strategy

Mrs. G. has been saying this for weeks, but Andrew Sullivan actually posted it.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Deep Government Says Guantanamo Prisons Are a Stain on the United States

Colin L. Powell, Henry A. Kissinger, James A. Baker III, Warren Christopher and Madeleine K. Albright agree.

That, in itself, is amazing.

What they agree on is that the political prison camps at Guantanamo Bay are damaging our reputation in the world and are probably illegal. The Secretaries of State for Democratic and Republican administrations agree that what the current administration is doing is wrong.

Christopher and Albright, and also Baker, Powell, and Kissinger (!) together make as clear a common voice from the center of the political system as one could ask for.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Rigidity, Not Patriarchy, Makes Family Roles Rigid

An article with the eye-catching title "Feminism Keeps My Marriage Together," by Christie Church, makes the claim that patriarchy was damaging her marriage because of the rigid roles it imposed on them. Feminism, she argues, let Church and her husband get free of the rigid expectations of their wife and husband roles imposed on them by society.

A patriarchal family does normally have rigid roles for wife, husband, and other family members. But so does a matriarchal family. Even an egalitarian family can have rigid roles -- in fact, a commitment to a 50/50 split of all family work forces even more rigidity than does patriarchy.

It is not the patriarchy that makes the rigidity, though; rigidity makes rigidity.

The Beavers scale of family functioning is a five-point scale running from chaos, through tyranny, rule-bound families, and the somewhat colorlessly named adequate and optimal families at the top of the scale. The problem in the bottom half of the scale is achieving enough order to have a secure life. In the bottom half of the scale, rigidity is a step up. This is why the middle -- not the bottom -- of the scale is the "rule-bound" family. Rule-bound is, as the name suggests, characterized by rigid roles. Most rule-bound families will lean toward patriarchy, but there are other rule-systems that they can enforce rigidly on one another.

The achievement of the rule-bound family is order. The price they pay is that it is hard for family members to be intimate with one another, without upsetting the rules. This, I think, is the problem that Christie Church is really wrestling with, more than patriarchy.

What makes the higher functioning families adequate and optimal is that they can maintain sufficient order while dealing appropriately with the individual qualities of each person in the family, not just their roles.

Church and her husband seem to be moving beyond rule-boundedness to a more flexible, adequate functional system. For them, that meant dividing labor in ways that were a little less traditional. For other couples, that might mean quite different arrangements -- strict equality, or complete reverse of tradition. I expect that for most couples, flexibly dividing family labor based on the interests, skills, and resources of each half of the couple would, in fact, result in a mostly traditional sexual division of labor most of the time. But however labor might be divided in an appropriately personal family, the point is that it is being rigid about roles that creates rigid roles in a family, not patriarchy or any other social system.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Wine With Dinner for Teens?

Following yesterday's post about drinking licenses for 18, 19, and 20 year olds, I was drawn to a column in the New York Times by wine writer Eric Asimov. He is a wine professional, and grew up with teens having a little wine with meals as part of his family's normal practice. Now that his kids are coming to the age when they would normally be introduced to wine, he and his wife were torn by the school's message that kids should have zero alcohol.

Asimov read the research and talked to the experts. His conclusion:

in a household where wine is regularly served with meals, and where there is not an alcohol issue, violence or a communication problem, young people might experience some degree of protection against future alcohol abuse by being offered small tastes of wine.... the research seems to indicate that it can help by teaching children that wine is a ceremonial beverage that we drink for its taste and for how it goes with food, and that the point of drinking is not drunkenness.

This seems to me an entirely sensible conclusion. Moreover, in 30 states, including Kentucky, it is legal for parents to serve their own children alcohol. I myself am a teetotaler and don't have wine with meals, so have not had occasion to offer it to my children. But I think that it is appropriate for my older teens to try alcohol. I will argue the benefits of a teetotal life, but if they learned to be moderate drinkers -- one glass of wine or beer -- that would be OK.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Choose Responsibility at the Grass Roots

I support Choose Responsibility, a national movement to create drinking licenses for 18, 19, and 20 year olds. Tonight I got my first chance to promote the idea locally. Many communities participate in the biennial federal survey of teen drinking, which they then discuss in town meetings. Tonight Danville had its town hall meeting. This was mostly about high school drinking, which was pretty scary. 80% of high school senior reported drinking ever, and a quarter reported binge drinking recently. When I made the pitch for drinking licenses for high school graduates, this was a new idea to most present. One person said "Oh, no, then they will just drink more; that would be like giving them condoms, which makes them have more sex." But I think most were open to exploring the idea -- especially those who deal with college students.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Family Citizenship by Military Service

The Associated Press has a new story on more than 100 soldiers who are awarded citizenship posthumously. The story focuses on their families' ambivalence in dealing with this sad achievement. passed the story on as part of their criticism of the war.

Yet as I read the story, this is one area in which the Iraq war has actually made things better. The AP reports that there are tens of thousands of "green card soldiers" in the U.S. Armed Forces. They get U.S. citizenship in exchange for their service.

At the start of the war, these servicemen and women would only be awarded citizenship when their service ended. For the families of those who died, this was particularly bittersweet. In response to criticism, though, Pres. Bush changed the rule to allow citizenship to those who applied for it on enlistment. Since then 37,000 soldiers have been naturalized. Another 20,000 foreign nationals serve in the U.S. military who have either not applied for citizenship or not completed the paperwork.

Another important change is that the relatives of dead soldiers who are awarded citizenship posthumously have the same advantages in coming to the U.S. legally that the relatives of living citizens do. This ended the Catch-22 in which the relatives of naturalized soldiers could get on the fast track to citizenship only if the soldier survived the war.

The United States has always offered immigrants military service as the fast way to citizenship. This seems to me a good and just thing. And these improvements in the path of naturalized soldiers seems to me a silver lining of this bad war -- even for the families of the dead.

Sunday, March 23, 2008