Sunday, August 31, 2003

A very timely story today in the Chronicle: we are not anywhere near the "most taxed" state in the nation; indeed, by most figures we rank 19th.

I have no intention of voting for John Christopher Burton, my socialist neighbor and gubernatorial candidate. But his party's statement , issued yesterday. on the dynamics of the recall is worth a quick read. Yes, it is filled with tired Marxist rhetoric. But some of what Burton says (especially about recent Californian history) is right on target:

The success of Proposition 13, with its populist appeals for a “taxpayers’ revolt” against “big government,” was a product of the bankruptcy of Democratic Party liberalism, and the dead end of its policy of limiting all social reform measures to that which was acceptable to the profit system. Under the conditions of “stagflation” in the late 1970s—a combination of soaring price increases and near-zero economic growth—there was a tremendous squeeze on the living standards of working people throughout the US, including large sections of the professional middle class and small business owners. In California this took the form of record increases in property taxes—triggered by rising property values—which had to be paid out of dormant or declining real wages or the fixed incomes of retirees.

The Democratic administration of then-governor Jerry Brown made no attempt to alleviate this crisis, opening the way for right-wing demagogues to posture as the defenders of middle-class homeowners and retirees threatened by rising property taxes. Although the media and the political establishment of both major parties opposed the measure, it passed easily. The main beneficiaries of Proposition 13, however, were not retired workers or other struggling homeowners, but the biggest owners of property—the giant corporations and the very wealthy.

In the years following 1978, more such ballot initiatives were adopted in California. Some were sponsored by the far right and big business, adding new limitations to the state’s taxing powers. Others were sponsored by the Democratic Party or groups linked to it, including the trade union bureaucracy, and mandated specific levels of spending for health care, public schools and other programs. The result is that more than 80 percent of all state government revenue and spending is mandated by voter initiatives or constitutional amendments, and not subject to legislative action. Even if the state legislature had eliminated all discretionary spending in the current budget crisis—shutting facilities, eliminating jobs, cutting paychecks—there would still have been a massive deficit (Hugo's emphasis).

For a time, in the 1990s, the inherent conflict between these tax and spending mandates was masked by the flood of revenue generated by the stock market boom, especially the explosive growth of the computer and software industry in northern California. During Gray Davis’s first term, beginning in 1999, burgeoning state revenues made it possible to maintain and even increase spending on public services without breaching the constraints of Proposition 13 and similar measures.

But even before Davis’s election, the forces that would undermine the financial boom were already at work. The Asian economic crisis of 1997-98, hitting California’s biggest export market, was followed by the collapse of the dot-com bubble in 2000, devastating Silicon Valley and culminating in the onset of statewide and nationwide recession in 2001. Nowhere was the liquidation of paper wealth so calamitous as in California. Since the revenues of the country’s largest state were largely dependent on income and capital gains taxes, as opposed to property taxes, the state budget was swiftly plunged into deficit.

The crisis was exacerbated by the systematic robbery of California residents by the giant energy trading companies, above all Enron. Deregulation, enacted by Davis’s predecessor, Republican Pete Wilson, and continued under Davis, allowed the energy companies to rig the market, jack up prices to astronomical levels, and reap billions in profits. The energy crisis cost the people of California over $40 billion, and the state government alone over $10 billion, tipping the budget from surplus to deficit.

That's as good and accurate as any explanation I have read to date.

Saturday, August 30, 2003

Had a great 18-mile run this morning in my beautiful San Gabriel mountains; I am training to pace a friend the last 25 miles of the Angeles Crest 100 miler next month...

The right is in an indignant lather over Cruz Bustamante's ties to MEChA. As an undergrad (at Cal), as a grad student (UCLA) and now as a professor (at Pasadena City College), I have many, many friends and students who were involved in MEChA. For a very brief history of MEChA, click here. The constitution of MEChA can be found here, and it is worth a read.

Here are the organizational objectives:

A) To strive for educational, cultural, economical, political, and social empowerment within the Chicano
community in order to liberate nuestra gente;
B) To undertake the responsibility of retaining our identity and furthering our cultural awareness;
C) To undertake the responsibility of uplifting and mobilizing Chicanos and Chicanas through higher education;
D) To implement plans of action concerning Chicanos and Chicanas.

Gosh, that sounds a heck of a lot more like the NAACP than it does the Klan or the National Alliance.

While the right-wing may be dubious about the current need to "liberate" Chicanos in America, there is hardly anything that smacks of racism or hatred within their constitution. My own numerous encounters with MEChA have been outstandingly positive ; I have found that at times that my
best and brightest Chicano students are also active in MEChA. To fail to distinguish between healthy ethnic nationalism (which MEChA represents, in my experience) and genuine racial hatred is a gross and slanderous error.

Will it hurt Bustamante? Perhaps. Many of my fellow progressive Anglos are quietly unnerved by the growing Latino population of California. Though they might never admit to it publicly, they may not yet be comfortable with a Mexican-American governor.

The pedant in me feels compelled to point out that the first California-born governor of our Golden State after we joined the USA in 1851 was our last Latino governor, Romualdo Pacheco. I know, I know, you're gripped.

Friday, August 29, 2003

Many others have the link, but here is the Schwarzenegger interview in Oui Magazine. Yes, it's a bit graphic (as befits the soft-porn approach of the now-defunct Oui). But really, I can't imagine how this could hurt Arnold. The religious right is already committed to McClintock; feminists gays, and lesbians who might be troubled by Arnold's promiscuity and casual use of the word "fag" are already committed to the likes of Bustamante, Camejo, Huffington, Georgy, or someone else other than Arnold.

I have no intention of voting for Schwarzenegger. But I am always annoyed when journalists or political operatives dredge up the misspent youths of middle-aged politicians. Though I certainly did not vote for him, I was very angry that the story of the Bush DUI incident broke just a week before the 2000 election. It stunk to high heaven, and though I reject our president's politics, I honor his right to have had a colorful past and to have changed his life. Arnold also seems to have changed his life. If Arnold is still smoking hash and having group sex and still using the term "fag" in conversation, that might be a concern. (I suppose the fact that the last of those offenses seems most objectionable to me is telling, I suppose...)
Californians continue to grow up -- support gradually increases for same-sex marriages, according to today's Sacramento Bee. The real key in the poll is that the vast majority of Californians support extending all the responsibilities, the rights and privileges of marriage to gays and lesbians as long as it isn't called marriage. Is that inconsistent? Perhaps. But the key for gay and lesbian folks will be to continue to push for tangible legal recognitions, even while recognizing that actual marriage will have to wait just a little while longer.

To paraphrase Shakespeare: "What's in a name? A marriage by any other name (namely domestic partnership) would smell as sweet."

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

I will be away from the computer for a few days, visiting my mother and my hometown of Carmel by-the-Sea. I'll be reading the Carmel Pine Cone, the Monterey County Herald, and keeping up with the news as best I can. I'll be back...

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

One blog I read daily is The Right Christians. Today, it includes a very pithy analysis of the faith journey of George W. Bush. Much is taken from the recent Jim Wallis article in Sojourners on our president's own Christian identity; it is well worth reading. Those of us who are faithful believers often are instinctively reluctant (perhaps rightly) to over-analyze the faith of other Christians who are not known to us personally. But when the name of Jesus is invoked time and again in support of policies that we regard as unbiblical, we have no choice but to politely, prayerfully, and firmly dissent.

The best quotation in the Wallis article is from Joe Klein: "The president's faith, (he) wrote, 'does not give him pause or force him to reflect. It is a source of comfort and strength but not of wisdom.'"

That is troubling. But I suspect that Klein is right. And I know too that the president's shortcoming is also my own. Many of us who are believers need to be reminded to pray for wisdom and discernment at least as often as we pray for courage, for strength and for comfort.
This past weekend, as many of you may have read, there were a series of attacks on SUV dealerships here in the San Gabriel Valley. My own local paper, the Pasadena Star-News, has labelled the perpetrators "eco-terrorists". Other news outlets have also used the term "terrorist" to describe the members of the shadowy Environmental Liberation Front (ELF) who undertook these actions. While I am utterly unsympathetic to this sort of self-indulgent criminal activity, I don't regard the ELF as a terrorist organization. Certainly since September 11, the term "terrorist" has been used to refer to those who target human beings (with the goal, presumably, of "terrifying" the general public) To use that same term to describe activists who go out of their way to attack private property when it is unoccupied is to elevate property to the same value as human life. (I know lots of SUV drivers who are furious with the ELF, but none whom I would describe as genuinely "terrified").

The ELF activists are misguided vandals who are doing significant harm to the serious environmentalist movement; those who attacked the Hummer dealerships should be punished. They were wrong to do what they did. Vandals and fools, yes. But not terrorists. Not in any sense of that word.
Simon's supporters seem to be turning towards McClintock rather than towards Arnold -- a link to a story in the Ventura County Star...

Monday, August 25, 2003

A local activist I admire very much, Rudy Carrasco, links today to a report that a Harvard University study shows that African-American students do significantly better when they get a school voucher. No such improvement was noted, interestingly, for other ethnic groups.

I do support the limited use of vouchers, as long as they are confined to impoverished urban communities. I do not want the upper-middle class to use vouchers to avoid their responsibilities to support local schools. But in too many inner city areas, the public schools are irreparably broken. This card-carrying teacher's union member believes that vouchers can be one part of a far-broader and deeper commitment to reform. Sojourners has a good editorial on the subject.
Today's moral integrity award goes to Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor. Pryor, a conservative Republican, has been nominated by President Bush for a federal appeals court judgeship. His nomination is currently held up in the Senate by Democrats, who remain concerned that Pryor is a darling of the Christian Right. But Pryor's status as a hero to conservative Christians may be jeopardized by his stance on the Ten Commandments monument at the Alabama State Supreme Court. The Washington Post reports today that Pryor is determined to enforce the law, even though it is one with which he disagrees:

Pryor's nuanced explanation of his position -- he believes courthouse displays of the Ten Commandments are legal but does not approve of violating federal court orders -- will surely be lost on most people, the chairman of the Alabama Republican party said.

"The attorney general is going to have to do some repair work with a great number of Alabamians," said John Giles, president of the Alabama Christian Coalition

It's an interesting and complex story, and as usual, my sympathies lie with the fella caught in the middle. Hurrah for those on all sides who recognize nuance and complexity, who can hold contradictory ideas in tension, and then act accordingly. That is integrity, folks.

The National Review has a good backgrounder today on Pryor and the strange Judge Moore.
Here is a link to a story from Austin, Texas, detailing how one Episcopal parish is living with the aftermath of the Gene Robinson vote earlier this month. The Rev. David Hoster says:

"If you're a winner in this battle, don't gloat, but work to win others to the vision of justice that means so much to you. If you see yourself on the losing side, don't quit, but stay and work in love to win the argument you so believe.

If you're sick of it all and wish the fighting would just stop, try to wrap your mind around the idea that this is a defining moment for the church you love, and join us in rising to the occasion."

What does it mean to "stay and work in love"? Worshipping and praying and breaking bread with those with whom you passionately disagree is difficult. One of the things that can make corporate worship so compelling is the conviction that the men and the women all around you believe the same things that you do. After a battle such as the one at General Convention this month, that belief will be difficult to hold onto in those churches where both conservatives and liberals worship together. But it will not be impossible; and I remain profoundly optimistic for the future of the Episcopal Church in the USA.

Democrats are cautiously optimistic, according to the Chronicle. But the dark cloud in the polling is that the top three Republicans have 47% of the vote, 12 points ahead of Cruz Bustamante. I expect Ueberroth to bow out within the next couple of weeks, perhaps after having won some concession from Arnold. But the key is keeping McClintock in -- and I cannot imagine that Tom will withdraw unless something extraordinary happens. McClintock has always seen himself as an outsider, and he has been so often scorned by the GOP establishment it is hard to imagine that he would drop out to benefit a moderate Republican who doesn't have a tenth of his own skills.

Yes, I support McClintock for tactical reasons, in order to split the Republican vote. But I have always liked and respected him as well. He is one of those hard-line conservatives whose consistency and integrity make him an admirable politician, even when those politics themselves are execrable. (I felt the same way about James Rogan, the Republican who represented my district in Congress before losing his seat in the aftermath of the Clinton impeachment). Perhaps Arnold will drop out, and we will have a thoughtful ideological struggle between Bustamante and McClintock. A debate between those two would be something for any political junkie in which to delight.

Saturday, August 23, 2003

Oh, oh, please be true! Here is a link to the LA Times poll, out tonight, that shows Bustamante with a whopping 13% lead over Arnold, 35%-22%. With only 6% in the poll supporting the now-defunct Simon campaign, the withdrawal does not put Arnold over the hump. The Times shows McClintock as the clear #3 candidate at 12%, making it less likely (God willing) that he will withdraw. The election is still 45 days away, but this is promising.
The Simon withdrawal was not unexpected, though it was earlier than I thought it would be. The real key for Bustamante is to keep McClintock in the race, and fortunately, McClintock remains committed as of today. Many conservatives I know were lukewarm on Simon, blaming him for an inept campaign last year. McClintock is to Simon's right (slightly), and is a far more thoughtful and knowledgeable politician and campaigner.

Check this link out. It tells you which candidates are closest to your views, and ranks them. Of course, it tells me that I agreed with Arianna 52% of the time, and rated her number one. Yet Cruz Bustamante was rated as a 67% agreement, and was ranked only fourth on my list. I smell something fishy. And Greek. Visit, play along, see what happens for you.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Georgy Russell announces that she has been approached by the Huffington and Camejo campaigns to consider joining their progressive alliance. No other confirmation yet available. But if true, it could mean that Russell is on the verge of becoming the most prominent of the so-called "fringe" candidates. But what about Warren and J.C. and Dan?
Cal kicks off its football season tomorrow in a nationally televised game against Kansas State; here is a season preview from the Chron.
So it turns out that Democratic activist Susan Estrich and Arianna Huffington have gotten into a bit of a tiff. Estrich wrote a scathing piece yesterday in which she called Huffington a hypocrite and a bad mother. Huffington's teenage daughters apparently did not want her to run, according to Estrich, and are no longer living with her as a consequence. Here's an excerpt:

"Bad fathers have been running for office for decades. Does it matter if a mother runs instead?

Huffington has no chance of winning. Never did. The only reason to run was her ego, self-aggrandizement, attention -- at the expense of her kids.

She is running on a platform she didn't even believe in a few years ago. Nor is it one she lives by.

How could she do that to her children? my own children ask.

In Huffington's case, of course, it may be a bit more complicated than that, financially speaking, since it's slightly more difficult to live off your children's child support when your children aren't living with you. But don't bet against her. This is, after all, the woman who runs against oil interests and lives in a mansion financed by oil money, rails against pigs at the trough and pays no taxes, runs as an independent and supports a guru. She's even got a documentary crew following her for the campaign. I wonder if they filmed the children moving out."

The article concludes:

....when it costs you your kids, when the kids ask you not to do it, when they move out . . . whew.

If you don't get that right, Jackie Kennedy used to say, what difference does anything else make? You're only as happy as your least happy kid, one of my friends always says.

Arianna fires back today in her new blog, denying the charge and writing: "I knew when I got into this race that people would sling all kinds of mud at me - although, I must say, I never expected that they would also turn back the cultural clock to the days of Ozzie and Harriet and label me a bad mother for running."

Obviously, I don't know what is really going on with Arianna's daughters, and it may not be any of our business. But I know that anyone who runs for public office without the unequivocal support of their children is by definition a fairly lousy parent. Arianna is slipping down my list today.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

One last post for tonight: a link to a sermon by a dear friend of mine, a former priest at my church, now the dean of the Cathedral at San Diego, the Very Rev. Scott Richardson. It is also a call for healing, for reconciliation, for living together in love and in tension with those with whom we disagree about homosexuality. I commend to you in particular this paragraph:

"Now, as Convention concludes and the dust settles, we are left with the hard work of honoring one another as we move into the new reality that lies before us. These debates were and remain highly contentious. Deep feelings of joy, peace, power, anger, fear, and sadness are being expressed in print and in private conversation. Some are moving toward the church for the first time in their life. They hope the church will be a place of love and sanctuary for all people. Others are deciding whether they can remain in our church. Like the expelled evangelists in John’s first-century community, they feel their vision of holy community has been rejected and dishonored. I realize that many people here today know exactly how that feels from years and years and years and years of bitter experience. It is not good. It is not helpful. It is not healthful. Rejection has no place in the community of Christ. It distorts us. It opens us to harsh division and spiritual violence. It must end."

I haven't posted about the Episcopal Church in a while, not since before we went to Colombia... I want to link tonight to a pastoral letter from the winsome bishop of San Diego, the Rt. Rev. Gethin Hughes, one of the few real centrists left in the denomination. Hughes is a very likeable fellow (years ago, I attended with some regularity a church in his diocese, St. Paul in the Desert). Hughes was one of the 45 bishops who voted against Gene Robinson's confirmation as the church's first openly gay bishop. His letter laments the selection of Robinson, but it also makes it clear that unlike the rightists in the church, Hughes will stay and stay gracefully:

"For better or for worse I am committed to being a part of ECUSA though I will watch with interest the global developments on this matter. What pains me most is that I have heard from several dozen people from the congregations of our diocese who feel they can no longer be part of the Episcopal Church. To those who have reached this conclusion I would say that I understand your frustration, but I beg you to remain with us as God leads us through these testing times. Others in our diocesan life are encouraged by what has transpired. I pray that we continue to struggle and live together in Christ’s love until such time as a clearer picture emerges.To some extent it is good we belong to a church with is open and forthright in its struggle with homosexuality. In some ways I appreciate being able to deal with these complicated issues more directly rather then experience the hypocrisy and secrecy that previously existed throughout our church. Above all else I want you to know how wounded and confused I feel about what has transpired and how much I dislike being a lightening rod for the violently differing opinions that the people of our diocese have on
these matters.

So where do we stand? The Diocese of San Diego will continue to be an integral part of the Episcopal Church, though sadly we will lose many faithful individuals from our lives. I will continue my policy of refusing to ordain any candidates for the ministry who are sexually active outside of marriage, whether they are homosexual or heterosexual. I will continue to refuse to authorize any requests by the clergy of this diocese to bless same-sex unions, because the Anglican Communion is no where near clearly understanding what such a blessing would mean. At the same time I will call upon every member of this diocesan family to be welcoming and respectful to our gay and lesbian fellow Christians who are part of our congregational life.
" (bold emphases are mine -- Hugo).

The heroes of any church are men like Gethin Hughes -- willing to stay rather than become schismatic, willing to stand as a lightning rod even when it means strikes from both sides, willing to be welcoming and respectful and pastoral to those with whom he profoundly disagrees. I am no longer an Episcopalian (for reasons that have nothing to do with homosexuality), but I do not fear for the future of a church that has folks willing to stand in the middle like the good bishop of San Diego. Would that all church leaders could embrace all sides with such clarity and charity.

The Chronicle reports that Dianne Feinstein will not cast a vote on the second section of the recall ballot; she will vote "no" on the recall and then leave the second section blank. Well, there is a certain consistency to her position, but it is quite surprising for the eminently pragmatic DiFi. One wonders how many Californians will join her. I like the idea of saying that I will leave the second half blank on principle, but I am too much of a political animal to not relish the idea of making a choice from such an interesting and worthy lot as the California 135.

Here is a fun site: Recall Sanity, which demonstrates the wonders of instant-runoff voting (and does a nifty job explaining how it works). Have a look, and have fun ranking your candidates. Georgy Russell is in the lead, followed by Peter Camejo.
The LA Weekly has a story today about Arnold's stance on illegal immigration. Last fall, whilst campaigning for his after-school initiative, Arnold said:

"I would never stand in the way of any child going to school, whether he or she is here legally or illegally, it does not matter."

Herrlich, Arnold. Hurrah for that. Arnold's gut instincts may be better than I had imagined. Maybe some of his Catholic upbringing is still alive and well within him after all. Let's see what the righties do with this tidbit.

I did my graduate work at UCLA (but was always, always, loyal to the Golden Bear). I still check out the Daily Bruin online however, and Monday's edition has a nice story about Green party candidate Peter Camejo. The main reason to visit is to see the picture of Camejo and Arianna Huffington campaigning together. The political relationship between the two is still a bit murky, though the official line remains that the candidate with a weaker standing in the polls come late September will drop out and endorse the other. We shall see.
Here is a brief essay by a Carl Estabrook (from April, but I found it today) that deftly compares the common euphemism of being "pro-troops" to that of being "pro-choice". I repeat here the closing paragraph:

It's a vicious society that offers abortion and enlistment as palliatives for poverty. To force people young and old into situations in which they have no choice but to stain their consciences with the deaths of others is a great crime, one that can't be covered with euphemisms. The beginning of wisdom is often to call things by their right name.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

My socialist friend, John Christopher Burton, actually has some good analysis of the recall as a right-wing plot that has metamorphosized into something with real progressive potential. Hey, he's no higher than fifth on my list, but still deserves some press and some website hits.
Rightist writer Brent Bozell has some more excellent reasons why real conservatives should not support what he calls the "Schwarzeneggernaut." Keep on fragmenting, my dear Republican brethren, keep on fragmenting. Viva McClintock, I say again.
One of the reasons why I was so excited when Dennis Kucinich declared his candidacy for president was because of Kucinich's record as one of the very, very few pro-life progressives in Congress. In his first term in Congress (the 105th), Dennis earned a 90% rating from the National Right to Life Committee. He voted against partial-birth abortion, and he declared that life did indeed begin at conception. (Details of his voting record are here). He continued his pro-life voting record until mid-2002, when as recently as last September, he voted against a bill that would have allowed federal funds to be used to support abortion at overseas military bases.

But as soon as he became a candidate for president, Kucinich abandoned the unborn with unseemly and craven haste. Knowing full well that a pro-life position would utterly marginalize him in the Democratic Party, he adopted a platform on reproductive issues that would make the National Abortion Federation proud. This same fellow who believed one year ago that "life begins at conception" and had the near-perfect record from National Right to Life, now declares:

I support Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose, and will select Supreme Court justices who affirm this Constitutional right.

I’ve had a journey on this issue that a year ago, before I became a candidate for President, caused me to break from a voting record that had not been pro-choice. After hearing from many women in my own life, and from women and men in my community and across the country, I began a more intensive dialogue on the issue. A lot of women opened their hearts to me. That dialogue led me to wholeheartedly support a woman’s right to choose.

I find it very difficult to believe that the women in Dennis' life only began to discuss abortion with him sometime in late 2002 or early 2003. Dennis simply gave in to the near-monolithic support within the Democratic Party for abortion-on-demand. When he decided to run for president, this intelligent, thoughtful, prayerful Catholic progressive turned away from his tiniest and most vulnerable constituents.

I do know that abortion is a wrenching, difficult, issue. The right tends to ignore the pain and desperation of women who do choose abortion. We could all do well to be more prayerful, more humble, far more compassionate, and more discerning when it comes to sweeping pronouncements on the issue of when life begins and when life (if ever) can be willfully terminated.

I will still vote for Kucinich in the primary, if only because as a pro-life progressive I have NO POLITICAL CHOICE. Not with the Greens, the Republicans, or the Democrats. He's not going to beat Kerry, or Dean, or Gephardt, and he probably knows it. Dennis is a good man, but he squandered a historic opportunity to make the case that one can be a Democrat and see that there is a higher moral good than protecting "choice".

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Well, gosh, I had just bumped Cruz down my list (below Arianna, Georgy, Warren, and Dan, and just above J.C. Burton) when he popped out today with a surprisingly bold and seriously progressive budget plan. The bit about moving forward with a split tax roll to tax commercial real estate at a higher rate was particularly pleasing. It is clear that Bustamante is trying to energize the left, while counting on Simon, McClintock, and Ueberroth to dilute Arnold's support. Too early to tell, but it is a very good sign from Bustamante. He's very much in play for Hugo's vote tonight...
Well, the newest candidate to catch my eye (and I am a bit late on this), is Dan Feinstein, a distant relative of our state's senior senator. A San Franciscan, he seems to have some very thoughtful ideas about reforming our tax system and is eager to include the CSU and UC in the Proposition 98 guarantee of state funding (a much-needed change). Check out his site, and stay updated on his blog. Hey, he's ahead of Warren Farrell for now...
On a day where suicide bombings occupy much of the news, this story from China caught my eye. The accompanying photo made me very happy.
Folks, yesterday I confessed to being still unable to decide betwixt Arianna and Cruz for my vote on October 7. I then listed my third choice as the young but promising Georgy Russell, and my fourth as the splendidly named John Christopher Burton.

I expect to tinker with my rankings from day to day, but wanted this morning to draw attention to another fringe candidate: Warren Farrell.

I teach a course on Men and Masculinity, and Warren Farrell is a fascinating and controversial figure in the burgeoning American Men's movement. Originally a pro-feminist male, he worked with the National Organization for Women throughout the 1970s, organizing all-male beauty contests to give men a sense of how deeply discomfiting it was to be objectified. Later, he underwent a radical metamorphosis, reemerging as a profound anti-feminist. His most famous book, "The Myth of Male Power", argued that it was men who were the truly oppressed sex in contemporary society. The book features such chapters as "Women Who Kill Too Much and the Courts That Free Them: The Twelve "Female-Only" Defenses", and my own favorite: "From Husband Sam to Uncle Sam: Government as Substitute Husband". Yet for all of his inflammatory rhetoric, he actually makes sense. For those who are interested, here from his press release, are his

Top Ten Social Solutions that Create Financial Solutions

1. a men's birth control pill and a paternity fraud bill;
2. universal prenatal care;
3. listening skills taught from first grade, with simultaneous retraining of parents;
4. equal father and mother involvement, especially if there is divorce;
5. more male teachers;
6. stressing female empowerment rather than victim power
7. keeping taxes on businesses low
8. schools that are friendlier to boys;
9. a commission on the status of men and men's health
10. restraining the Government-as-Substitute-Husband

As a gender studies prof, I can wholeheartedly and without reservation endorse most of these suggestions. (Though I could point out that you will immediately get more male teachers when you increase the pay and prestige associated with teaching in the primary grades, and that is not likely to happen with suggestion #7). Farrell is in some sense fundamentally correct that in a culture of divorce and single-parenthood, we do expect our government to perform tasks (educational, economic, moral) that were once the responsibility of fathers. The link between poverty and single-motherhood is too well-established to require discussion.

But while Dr. Farrell is absolutely right that we have turned the state into a surrogate for our absent men, he is wrong to blame either the government or feminists for the problem. The core issue of our time, folks, is male irresponsibility. Too many of my brothers are lost to careerism, alcoholism, violence, promiscuity, and pornography addiction. Above all, especially among younger adult men (those of us still on the low side of 40, but old enough to enlist), there is a pervasive and stunning refusal to make commitments and then, if made, to honor those commitments. That is the at the essence of the problem.

Still, Warren Farrell deserves his bit of attention for raising some unusual campaign issues, and, fairly or not, for asking questions about men and the state that no one else will ask. Give him a few seconds of your time.

Monday, August 18, 2003

The fidelity and simple witness of Christian Peacemaker Teams has long since made them one of my favorite causes; here is their webpage on their work in Colombia. When I die, in lieu of flowers, I would love money to go to them.
Okay, I am still trying to decide between Arianna and Cruz. But if I were going to rank some of the lesser known candidates, I might pick the following for third place:

Georgy Russell (yes, the gal selling thongs on her site) makes good sense on several issues, especially her enthusiastic support for a Clean Election Act for California, which would be a huge leap forward. (If there is one reason why I won't vote for Cruz Bustamante, it is the money he has chosen to take from Indian gaming.) And the entrepeneurial angle seems wholesome and honest. Good on her, I say.

In fourth place, if I were going to indulge my far-left fantasies, I would vote for the candidate who lives just up the street from me in Altadena, John Christopher Burton. Not only does he have the same name as our fine state senate leader, Burton is an unabashed socialist. I left behind dogmatic Marxism when I graduated from Cal, but I have some affection for the few folks still left who preach the old time religion.
One of my favorite right-wing California bloggers, Angry Clam, makes a nice case for why conservatives should support McClintock and not Arnold. Read it, read it! Hurrah for Tom!
I confess that I have been in the past a card-carrying member of the ACLU. But the suit the ACLU has filed against punch-card voting annoys me no end. Perhaps I am sentimental -- I voted in my very first election (a recall election of some unpleasant school board members in my hometown, Carmel-by-the-Sea, back in 1985) using punch-cards. If hanging, pregnant, or dimpled chads are the problem, then surely since the Florida debacle we are all aware we need to check our ballots after pulling them out of the punch-card machines. I live in Los Angeles County, and am a happy punch-card user... though last fall, I tried out and enjoyed the touch-screen voting machines.

I was very encouraged by the Field Poll that indicated Bustamante leading a divided Republican field. The key for this progressive is to do everything possible to ensure that conservatives cast a principled vote for the splendid Tom McClintock. Oh Republican brethren! Vote for integrity! Vote for ideological purity! Vote for a true conservative! And give us Bustamante...
We are home from a very interesting and happy visit to Colombia. Though my Spanish hardly improved, I was struck by how "normal" life in Colombia seemed. On only one occasion -- during a city-wide alert in the coastal city of Santa Marta -- did we get a sense that this was the most violent and dangerous country in the Western Hemisphere. The people were warm, the Andes spectacular, the food marvelous. (Though I have eaten more red meat in a week than I normally eat in a year). Looking for a bargain? Colombia is remarkably inexpensive, as the peso has fallen dramatically against the dollar in the past two years.

My thoughts on California politics and so forth once I have had a chance to digest the news.

Friday, August 08, 2003

Well folks, I am off for Colombia -- to Bogota, Santa Marta, and Bucaramanga. I don't speak more than three words of Castellano, but my girlfriend will be a first-rate interpreter...

Who knows what will have transpired in Cali politics by the time I return on August 18?

Thursday, August 07, 2003

If this is the last word on General Convention from a conservative, it is a beautiful word indeed. Doug LeBlanc, Christianity Today correspondent and thoughtful evangelical, has written this. It made me cry. As a progressive, I am grateful for men of God like Doug.
People will need to file fast -- only nine candidates statewide have completed the paperwork, paid their $3500, and turned in their signatures. Here is the link to the Secretary of State's website.
Darrell Issa is definitely out, and that may well build good will for him amongst the GOP. Peter Ueberroth has taken out papers, and Dianne Feinstein herself (on CNN an hour ago) refused to rule out categorically a return to the race. It is hard to keep track of all of this.

Issa is out, CNN reports. That is not good for Democrats.
Bustamante says "vote no on the recall, yes for Bustamante." Some may portray that as a confusing position, but I regard it as a sensible and thoughtful one. I am still in Arianna's corner. The same story linked above reports that Michael Huffington has endorsed Arnold rather than his former wife.
The African Anglican who makes the most sense, Njongonkolu Ndungane, weighs in on the Gene Robinson election. Predictably, the conservatives trumpet statements from traditionalist prelates like Peter Akinola, but ignore the millions of South African Anglicans.
AP now reports Garamendi will indeed come in today. Welcome to the zoo.
With Bustamante in, and Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi (a fine Cal Golden Bear football player in his day) also said to be likely to run, Davis' strategy of Democratic unity is an abject failure. I don't think Dianne will change her mind, but things have gotten much more interesting.

We progressives could have a real struggle choosing between Bustamante and Huffington; we need the conservative vote to get split amongst Issa, Simon, and McClintock, and we need to expect Arnold's star to fade rapidly as real questions are raised by the Davis team.
Cruz Bustamante will announce later today that he too is running, the AP reports.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Are the Republicans sure they want this guy? Here is a quote this progressive can sign on to:

"We want to make sure children aren't left without any books. We want to make sure our children have the books, that they have a place in the castle. We want to make sure that their mothers have affordable day care. We want to make sure we give the older people the care that they need."

-- Arnold Schwarzenegger, August 6

Sounds like more spending, not less, to this boy! Whoo hoo!
Not a total success for progressives at General Convention; the conservatives win one on the subject of same-sex unions...
The moderates won, and the progressives suffered a minor setback on the subject of same-sex unions today at General Convention. It gives the right some solace after their crushing day yesterday.
A man I admire very much, Jerry Brown (former governor, current mayor of Oakland, Cal Golden Bear alum, lover of Linda Ronstadt), was just on CNN talking about Arnold. Reminds the viewers that no one took George Murphy (the tapdancer who became a California senator) seriously. More poignantly, Brown pointed out that his father, Pat Brown, dismissed Ronald Reagan as a lightweight heading into the 1966 election. We know what happened to Pat Brown that November.

Jerry also says he wants to run for attorney general of California in 2006, which is news to me.

Arianna, bless her, is now on CNN, with this soundbite: "It's the Hummer" (Arnold's favorite car) "versus the hybrid" (referring to Arianna's anti-SUV campaign). I love the prospect of a heavily accented campaign!
Whoa Nellie! Arnold pulls a fast one! Reuters is reporting that Schwarzenegger is running for governor... curiouser and curiouser! Though I am stunned, it still opens things up for a progressive -- or at the least, for a very moderate Republican as opposed to a hard-line ideologue.
The fall-out from yesterday's vote at the Episcopal General Convention continues; most conservative anguish can be found collected by the folks at Classical Anglican Net News. Again, I am in no mood for gloating, even though I am deeply pleased. Progressive reaction can be found here. Since this story is so well covered now in the mainstream press, I can give it a rest for a while.

Arianna is in, Feinstein (as I predicted), will (wisely) stay out. I am well to DiFi's left, but I have admired her ever since that terrible day in November 1978, when I was in the sixth grade and first became convinced that the adult world really could go mad.

Here is Arianna's new campaign website. You can give online: I just did!

With no credible Democrat running, and the GOP vote split amongst Issa, Simon, Riordan, and McClintock, and with Peter Camejo's support, Arianna actually has a shot. I will still vote "no" on the recall, but what could be more delicious than to have a genuine progressive replace Gray Davis? Can you imagine the apoplexy amongst the angry white troglodytes of AM talk radio? It is too dreamy to even contemplate...

Keep checking Calblog and California Insider Blog for the latest!

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

The actual vote was 62-45; the exact breakdown by bishop is available here. The Bishop of Pittsburgh Robert Duncan, a vocal traditionalist, issued this statement after the vote. The language is powerful and sobering:

"You cannot imagine my grief, or the grief of many, many people. Thousands are elated just now, but millions at home and abroad share my -- our -- vast sorrow... I have not left, and will not leave, the Episcopal Church or my apostolic role as Episcopal Bishop of Pittsburgh. It is this 74th General Convention that has left us, betrayed us, undone us... May our merciful Lord Jesus have pity on us, His broken bride."


We progressives who rejoice need to acknowledge that the pain of folks like Duncan is justified, and that there will be painful consequences for many as a result of this vote. This was the right thing to do, I believe -- on canonical grounds, on the grounds of reason, and yes, on the grounds of scripture. But frankly, more people worldwide in the Communion will grieve than will celebrate, and those who have "won" must reach out to those who perceive themselves to have lost. Healing can and will happen. We have to believe that, and pray for it.

So -- a roller-coaster ride of emotion these past two days. But in the end, the net effect for this half-Episcopalian observing from afar is one of subdued joy and humility.

Whenever I am feeling solemn, I sing this hymn to myself.
Calloo callay. Reuters reports 62 bishops voted in favor of Gene Robinson. That meant that out of 106 bishops, 44 either did not vote or opposed him. We progressives must try and stifle our own triumphalism, even though after the frustrating and infuriating events of yesterday, it is hard not to want to chortle in our glee!
David Virtue, the intemperate traditionalist Anglican whom I lambasted last week, was apparently behind the story that Gene Robinson was connected to porn. Here is an article from the Concord (NH) Monitor that gives us new insight into Mr. Virtue, and, I am afraid, into the American Anglican Council:

"Virtue said yesterday that he agreed to expose Robinson's "link" to the pornographic Web site in a story Sunday night at the request of conservative bishop associated with the American Anglican Council.

The hope, Virtue said, was to have it circulating in time for yesterday's vote in the House of Bishops.

Virtue, who has been vocal about his dislike for the "gay agenda" at the convention, was happy to oblige.

He made no retractions or corrections after the inaccuracies of his story were pointed out to him.

"This is a hot story for you," he said to a colleague.

"(Robinson) is in deep sh - . This is great news. He is going down."
(The bold emphasis is mine, not the Monitor's).

Well, it may not be a vast right-wing conspiracy, but it does stink to high heaven. Thank God it did not work.

FYI, here is the full statement by Bishop Scruton of Western Massachusetts, completely exonerating Gene Robinson.

MSNBC reports that Robinson has been cleared, and the vote goes forward today.
More details about David Lewis, the Vermonter whose eleventh-hour allegations against Gene Robinson have touched off a firestorm in the Episcopal Church: "Sources say that the alleged inappropriate conduct by the Rev. Cn. Gene Robinson occurred when Robinson touched a married man in his 40’s on his bicep, shoulder and upper back in the process of a public conversation at a province meeting around two years ago."

Bicep, shoulder, upper back. Wow.

CNN is reporting the investigation is complete! The report is due at 12:30PM Pacific Time, and then the vote!

Here is a link to a very fine and thoughtful address by Njongonkulu Ndungane, archbishop of Southern Africa, on the subject of homosexuality. This remarkable man (who did three years at Robben Island, the infamous apartheid-era prison), makes it very clear that acceptance of gays and lesbians is not a uniquely northern hemisphere phenomenon!

Here is a relevant passage:

"Those who are convinced that homosexuality is sinful, or at best a lamentable condition which requires of homosexual persons a commitment to life-long celibacy, point to scripture as self-evidently clear on the issue. Biblical texts were seldom examined in their context. The understanding of homosexuality in biblical times was not explored, or even questioned as being different from our own understandings. In other words, it was assumed that the Bible spoke clearly on the issue and that homosexuality is sinful at worst, or at best, is a condition which calls for lifelong celibacy from those who are homosexual. Given that the scriptures were written at least 20 centuries ago, before the advent and development of our current medical, psychological and sociological studies, this attitude towards scripture might validly be accused of being simply a way to support a particular prejudice."

These are not the words of an elitist westerner, out of touch with the reality of Third World Christianity -- they are the words of a prelate every bit as African as the virulently anti-homosexual Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria.

Good morning. Barely more than 100 hours remaining until the filing deadline in the California recall, and Dianne Feinstein shows no sign of jumping in. This is a dangerous time for the Democrats, and yet I remain convinced that if a major Democrat is NOT on the ballot, the recall will be narrowly defeated. The key is energizing the base -- unions, teachers, minority groups -- most of whom stayed home and contributed to Davis' poor showing last fall. I predict the electorate this time around will be more liberal, and hence more representative of California, than in last November's general election.

Monday, August 04, 2003

My last post of the night -- on what has been an exhausting day -- is a link to the letter by a David Lewis of Manchester, Vermont, which accused Gene Robinson of harassment. I just don't know what to think.

Good night.
Here is a link to a press release from Outright, the organization very loosely affiliated with Gene Robinson, and accused of having the link to a pornographic website. I stand by my comments earlier today (see below) about the problem of links.
I think I like the Gray Davis who is afraid of being recalled; he signs fine progressive legislation like this.
Gene Robinson's accuser's note was dated Sunday (yesterday). Did the note appear when Gene was first elected in New Hampshire? No. Did it appear when the national media began to cover the story months ago? No. Did it appear on Friday? No. It only appears AFTER the House of Deputies vote, almost literally at the last minute. It defies logic to say that the timing of the note was coincidental. I firmly believe that the mainstream traditionalists had nothing to do with this -- but I am increasingly leaning towards the belief that a fringe element on the far right may be behind this ugly attack. It is a very tough day for the church. More will be revealed...
Meanwhile, as my heart breaks for what Gene Robinson must be going through, some California news. The "Run Arianna Run" campaign website reports that Arianna Huffington will enter the race IF Dianne Feinstein does not; it further reports that Peter Camejo of the Green Party will indeed support Arianna if she runs. Lastly, it appears that Arianna's ex-husband, Michael Huffington, will NOT run. Curiouser and curiouser!
Who knew that someone on the Right would play hardball like this? I cannot believe that decent conservatives would have anything to do with the eleventh-hour allegations against Gene Robinson... but one never knows. The timing is appallingly suspicious, however. Let us, right and left, remain in prayer and wait and see.
The Weekly Standard stoops: it reports today that Gene Robinson is a founder of a group called Outright which seems to link GLBTQ youth from throughout New England with each other and with older, positive role models in the gay and lesbian community. The Standard gleefully reports that there was a link on the Outright site to a pornographic website, until all links were recently removed. Whether the site was genuine pornography, or something the Right considers pornographic, was not explained.

If there is one truism in cyberspace, it is that it is hard to be responsible for links listed on one's webpages, given how often internet sites change. The Right's links ought not to be explored too closely. For example, popular conservative anti-immigration author Michelle Malkin has a link on her site to even farther right site Vdare.com which has as one of its links the white nationalist site American Renaissance. Three easy clicks from Malkin, who is nationally syndicated, to a site that features a charming article on "instilling racial identity in today's children". Do see for yourself.
Here is a nice report from Integrity Virginia, detailing how the House of Deputies voted yesterday. It includes brief summaries of the pro and con arguments made by various speakers. My own diocese (I am still on the rolls of All Saints Church, Pasadena, even as I am also a member of Pasadena Mennonite Church) was split. Los Angeles clergy voted "yes", but Los Angeles laity were divided.
More on Gene Robinson from the eminently fair evangelical, Doug LeBlanc.

Now here is an idea I endorse, and had I an extra $3500 on hand, would happily join these fellows. The idea is to make the recall unwieldy by swamping the ballot with hundreds and hundreds, perhaps even 1000 names. It's called a "denial of service attack on the recall", and I love it!

Sunday, August 03, 2003

The vote in the House of Deputies, by delegation, was 128-63 in favor of Gene Robinson with 25 delegations divided. Drop out the divided delegations, and that is a solid 2/3rds in favor of Canon Robinson. I listened live to many of the speakers on CNN Radio, and was generally impressed by the passion and the civility on both sides. The New York Times report is here.

I am cautiously pleased, but will write more after tomorrow's vote.
Kendall Harmon, fellow blogger, thoughtful conservative Episcopalian, and delegate to the General Convention, made an eloquent argument against Gene Robinson in a presentation on Friday night. Today, his site includes a link to an article in the Baltimore Sun on the subject of the opposition of Third World Anglicans to homosexuality. Harmon extracts the following for his readers:

"In Nigeria and other parts of the developing world, church leaders firmly oppose Robinson's confirmation and the blessing of same-sex unions. Many see the U.S. church as out-of-step with the world - not other way around.

The Rev. Greg Venables, the primate who oversees Anglicans in seven South American countries, says part of the problem is cultural. Tolerance for gay life in the United States has accelerated drastically in the past five years while attitudes in much of the developing world remain more conservative. Leaders in the American church, he says, just expect the developing world to accept their views.

'The attitude is: 'You'll get there one day,'" Venables said Thursday in a phone interview from Buenos Aires. "'A few years of Whoopi Goldberg, whatever, you'll come along.'"

'The vast majority of Anglicans throughout the world say 'This is terrible,'" Venables continued. "It would appear in the United States the opinion is: 'So what?' And that is what horrifies the vast majority of Anglicans. It's not merely about sexuality. It's about the way we make decisions as Anglicans.'"

The conservatives in the Episcopal Church USA have been paying extraordinary attention to the African Primates in recent years, especially the outspoken Peter Akinola of Nigeria. The problem is, it is the Left in the church, not the Right, that has been most concerned with day-to-day issues affecting African Anglicans. When was the last time the Right spoke out against Third World debt? When was the last time the Right demanded an increase in aid for developing nations? Though individual evangelical missionaries have done marvelous work in the developing world, until very recently it was the progressives who had evinced the greatest concern for Africa. Most Americans right/left/center, frankly, have been sinfully and willfully ignorant of Africa for decades. To start fawning over traditionalist prelates like Akinola seems quite self-serving.

Of course, many Africans are NOT opposed to same-sex unions. The most famous African Anglican of all, Desmond Tutu, has long been supportive of same-sex unions. Tutu's successor as Primate of Southern Africa, Njongonkulu Ndungane, has also been outspoken in his willingness to include non-celibate gays and lesbians in the life of the church.

We don't hear much from the conservatives about Tutu and Ndungane, for obvious reasons...
I have a new hero: Bishop Stacy Sauls. Here is his resolution, to be voted on tomorrow by the bishops of the Episcopal Church, on the subject of same-sex blessings. He is himself a passionate supporter of same-sex unions (as is this blogger); at the same time, he believes this:

"...our commitment to live with one another in the midst of the diversity will best allow the reasoned conversation to take place that will allow consensus to emerge and be the best witness of our common devotion to Christ."

Thus his resolution calls for a pause, a time of further reflection and consultation with the wider communion, before a rite for same-sex unions is developed. (Bishop Sauls strongly supports the continuing practice of "local option", which allows individual dioceses to bless same-sex unions and so forth). So many of us suffer from the sin of impatience! We want the gay issue in the churches settled NOW. We want gay marriage NOW, or we want to rule it out FOREVER with a constitutional amendment. We are unwilling to go on discussing, go on discerning, go on praying, and live in discomfort and ambiguity and tension. And yet, I sense that that period of discernment may be what we (Christians across denominations) are called to do for the next few years.

The vote in the House of Deputies on Gene Robinson's election is scheduled for 3:00PM today, central time...

Saturday, August 02, 2003

Today is a relatively quiet day at the Episcopal Church's General Convention. Things get more interesting tomorrow.

What a fascinating week we are headed for! Almost 300 folks have taken out papers to run for California governor, but I imagine that by August 9, no more than 20% of them will have qualified for the ballot and paid their fees. Still, 60 names will surely help those of us who are arguing that this whole process is an unwieldy and costly circus. If, on the other hand, there are fewer than 30 names on the ballot, that makes it tougher for Davis.

Barbara Boxer may be open to the "draft Dianne" plan. The scenario that some are discussing is that if Davis were recalled, and Dianne were to win, she could appoint Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove) to her seat. While neither woman is a poster-child for progressive causes, it would be a deeply satisfying outcome.

I am still pushing for Arianna.

One nice thing about the recall is that it has pushed Davis towards the left and towards his base. He vetoed a bill last year that would give undocumented workers driver's licenses; sources now say he is very likely to sign an almost identical bill soon. Better late than never.

Friday, August 01, 2003

I am slowly getting a handle on this blogging thing. Feel free to e-mail me by clicking on my name at right...
Many Anglican progressives were devastated when the new, brilliant, and controversial Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, asked Jeffrey John (a celibate gay man) to step down from his appointment to be Bishop of Reading. Anglican conservatives, especially evangelicals, have little trust for Williams, whom they see as a stealth liberal. Williams has already proved himself to be far more complex and thoughtful (not to mention an unpredictable) leader of the Anglican Communion than Left or Right had hoped or feared. A bit late, here is the link to a condensed version of his marvelous Easter sermon. It is most relevant and comforting.

For all who fall prey to the irresistable temptation to claim Jesus as firmly on their side, Williams writes:

"Perhaps when Jesus tells us not to cling to him, one of the many things he says is, Do not use me, do not use any vision of what is true or good, to keep yourself from recognizing the real and potential evil within you. Don't cling; follow. Take the next step, putting your feet in the gap I have cleared, conscious of how you may make mistakes, but trusting that I can restore you and lead you further, that I can deal with the residues of evil in your heart and in every heart.'"

Bingo. May all of us prone to the delicious and wicked pleasure of self-righteous indignation be humbled by the reminder of our own internal "real and potential evil".

Step one completed: an Episcopal Church committee has approved the election of Gene Robinson... votes in the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops will unfold over the weekend and into next week.

The church also beat back the center-right compromise of Alabama's Bishop Parsley; read the vaguely self-satisfied report here.

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