Saturday, May 24, 2008

Marry Our Daughter - SALE!

A friend showed me a wonderful, terrible prank site, On it teenage girls are offered for sale by their parents for brideprices ranging from a few thousand dollars to just under $100,000. The higher priced ones seem to be blondes who want to be good Christian wives and mothers. The cheap ones "wrestle with unchristian urges."

The thing is probably meant as a dig at Christians as well as "inconsistent marriage laws" (this according to

Nonetheless, as an artifact of relative values, or what are thought to be relative values, it is pretty intriguing.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Obama's Substantive Record

Barak Obama achieves the Gen X way, not the Boomer way. He works directly with the people affected on problems that can be solved. He is more interested in results than showy fights. His is the generation of Just Do It and Git 'R Done -- not "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention."

My fellow blogger hilzoy of Obsidian Wings summarized Obama's legislative approach this way:

His bills tend to have the following features: they are good and thoughtful bills that try to solve real problems; they are in general not terribly flashy; and they tend to focus on achieving solutions acceptable to all concerned, not by compromising on principle, but by genuinely trying to craft a solution that everyone can get behind.

Moreover, hilzoy continues, "His legislation is often proposed with Republican co-sponsorship." This is a good thing. This is a way to get legislation actually passed. His work with Sen. Dick Lugar, one of the real statesmen of the Republican Party, on securing loose nuclear weapons is an excellent example of Obama's approach. His work on getting an ethics bill that could actually pass is another. And preparing for avian flu. And regulating genetic testing. And making a federal database of political contributions. Etc, etc.

A legislator's record includes what they did when not in office. When Obama finished his fancy education at Occidental, Columbia, and Harvard Law, he did not just go corporate and cash in. He went to the slums to work with poor people to organize their communities, so that they could make their own lives better. That is about as Gen X (and centrist) a form of giving back as you could name. (And let me be quick to say that Sen. Clinton's service to poor women, and Sen. McCain's military service, when they were done school are equally honorable - a stark contrast with the current president's twenties. And thirties.)

Senator Obama's record as a legislator is a solid roster of working with the other side to achieve worthwhile things. You might oppose what Obama wants to do as president, but it would be unfair and ill-informed to say that he hasn't really done anything.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Obama vs. McCain as Centrists

A friend asked me to respond to David Brooks' recent column, "Talking Versus Doing," in which he charges that Obama is not really a centrist or a serious change agent because he voted for the pork-laden farm bill -- a bill McCain opposed.

I take this criticism seriously. I usually agree with this friend, and with Brooks. Brooks is a decent centrist -- he is only a "conservative" compared to the rest of the New York Times roster.

Brooks actually cited two cases of the corruption of the Washington system. The farm bill was one, and the energy bill was the other. I agree that both are bad bills, more of a sweetheart deal for the biggest agribusiness and oil companies. That they both passed Congress overwhelmingly is a sign of a deep corruption in our politics.

It is also a sign of the necessity of compromise in making legislation. McCain made his reputation as a maverick -- which he is quickly shedding. Obama made his reputation as a coalition builder, which entails voting for lots of bad legislation in order to get something done. These are two different ways of being a centrist.

What has impressed me from the outset about this primary season is that the electorate of each party has chosen, out of a large initial field, the candidate with the greatest appeal to independents. McCain won best in open primaries in which independents and Democrats could vote. The Republican way of doing primaries meant that he wrapped up the nomination early. If Republicans had had proportional primaries, McCain would still be fighting it out with Romney and Huckabee. Obama has won best in caucuses, where people have to take a public stand and offer some kind of reason for their choice. The reason they are most likely to give is that Obama is a uniter, capable of getting things done.

Any leader has to decide that some things cannot be compromised. McCain has his list - which used to include campaign reform, and still includes torture. Obama has his list, which includes the war in Iraq and his Obama-Lugar bill to control loose nuclear weapons. Leaders also have to decide which bad bills to support anyway, because the deal that made them included some worthwhile elements. Each voter will have to decide on a case-by-case basis whether the leader's no-compromise list matches the voter's list closely enough.

I believe that Obama and McCain are about equally committed to getting things done. I also see each as being within half a standard deviation of the center. I liked McCain the best out of the Republican field as a potential president, and I am enthusiastic about Obama out of the Democratic field. Neither would be a terrible president.

Whether a Democratic or a Republican administration would be better for the country is another question.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

We Lost, Yet Won

Obama got crushed in the Democratic primary in Kentucky yesterday. He lost to Hillary Clinton worse than I thought he would.

Worse still was the reason he lost. Obama held his core -- nearly all the academics I know voted for him, and the college Democrats were overwhelmingly for him. Clinton kept her core of old women and some workers. The big margin seemed to come from people who admitted to pollsters, in face-to-face conversations, that race was a factor in their voting. Chris Matthews reported that a fifth of those voting yesterday -- taking both primaries together -- said this. And he reasonably noted that if a fifth of voters admitted this in public, another X percent vote racially in the privacy of the voting booth.

Still, John Kennedy faced sizable percentages in 1960 who openly said religion was a factor in their voting - yet he still won.

In the larger race for the nomination, though, Obama all but won. Clinton will carry on through the last primary. I believe that the party elders have already arranged for the superdelegates to settle the issue immediately after that. Obama was very gracious in his Iowa speech last night to both Sen. Clinton and Sen. McCain. This bodes well for the fall.

I think the past election that will most resemble this one is 1960. That was a squeaker, which could have gone either way. Senator McCain is no Nixon, but his position as a last-chancer with enemies in his own party is somewhat similar. The parallels between Obama and Kennedy are so striking that I hear about them all the time from people old enough to remember the 1960 election - my birth year.

Last night after Obama spoke they played Bruce Springsteen's "The Rising," as they have as the first song in several rallies recently. A little later, while the talking heads will still chewing over the night's events with the Obama rally in the background, we could hear Brooks and Dunn's "Only in America." Springsteen broke his political silence last time to campaign actively for John Kerry. Brooks and Dunn have been the most prominent musicians performing at recent Republican conventions. I expect the musicians will not change parties this time. But their music can be a symbol of unity. Only in America.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Primary Day in Kentucky

This may be the only time the Kentucky primary matters at the presidential level.

Mrs. G. and I were at the polls early this morning. We voted on a paper ballot for the first time. This should provide us with a little more security than all-electronic voting gives.

The junior G.s, two of whom are now voters, will vote after their beauty sleep.


Monday, May 19, 2008

Why I am Not Meeting President Clinton Today

Bill Clinton is coming to Danville today. The Kentucky primary is tomorrow. Hillary Clinton will win the primary, but Obama will win the nomination in a few weeks.

Today I am mad at Bill Clinton. I have been mad since the South Carolina primary when he started playing the race card, which he has done several times since. The Democratic Party, after great struggle and at great cost, shed our racist past. We should never play to race card again.

Bill Clinton used to be the best campaigner in the party. I believe that if he were campaigning on his own behalf, he would be more sensitive and deft to what should and should not be done. Because he is defending his wife, though, he feels authorized, even duty-bound, to be angry -- or at least snarky -- on her behalf. Any good spouse would be tempted to do the same.

I look forward to the end of the primary season, when the party will unite behind our nominee. I am pretty sure that will be Obama. At that point we will all shake hands, sing Kumbaya, and get on with the real campaign.

But not today.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Jonah's Bad Weekend

The best image of Commencement Sunday at Centre College came from the baccalaureate sermon by chaplain Rick Axtell.

Jonah was swallowed by a giant fish, spent days in its intestines, was vomited up on a beach, walked in the baking desert to a city he detested for a mission that, as he saw it, failed. And then we went and pouted. Jonah had the worst weekend in recorded literature.