Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Since I am not in a mood to blog about the recall, let me note that the splendid Gutless Pacifist has a link today to an article by theologian Will Willimon on the ethics of gossip. It may date from 1990, but I had never seen it before. Willimon argues that gossip is, at least some of the time, essential for healthy communities, Christian and otherwise. He writes:

Perhaps we ought to encourage our pastors not to think of themselves as "above" such mundane conversations as gossip or as prohibitors of gossip, but rather as those who help us to gossip well in the congregation.


Our society makes strangers of us all, gives us the right to privacy without giving us anything to do with it...

Willimon is right that we can only learn how to lead truly ethical lives by living in communities with folks whose lives are radically open to us -- their failings and their successes, their addictions and their triumphs over them, their commitments and their infidelities. A society that simultaneously delights in exposing the peccadilloes of its leaders and at the same time self-righteously insists on an absolute right to privacy offers its citizens no tools for working through their own inevitable ethical and personal struggles.
William Saletan has an op-ed piece on partial-birth abortion legislation in this morning's Los Angeles Times. I am not going to climb into that particular emotional thicket, but I was struck by Saletan's hostility to a comment about freedom made by Pennyslvania's junior Republican senator, Rick Santorum. Saletan quotes Santorum thus:

In a speech, he (Santorum) denounced the right to privacy, calling it an "acid on the structure of America." The framers, he argued, intended "to give people the freedom to pursue the truth not hedonistic happiness, but true happiness that you find in serving others."

Saletan is evidently outraged at the notion that the needs of others should be placed before the sacred right of personal autonomy. He writes in response:

This is where Santorum and his allies hope the abortion debate will end: the abolition of individualism through the redefinition of freedom and happiness.

Saletan needs to head back to philosophy class. The notion that real freedom and real happiness is rooted solely in individual willfulness is a 20th century notion indeed (perhaps with the odd Enlightenment root). Aristotle dismissed the life of individual gratification as an inferior form of happiness; rather, "it is the possession and exercise of virtue which is the core constitutive element of happiness." Virtue has many definitions, but it is Saletan and his ilk, not the Santorums, who have dramatically "redefined" happiness.

I may have voted for a socialist for California governor, but by God, I am with Rick Santorum and our president when it comes to this particular issue in moral philosophy and public policy.

Monday, September 29, 2003

This I like: according to Mark Paul, editor at the Sacramento Bee, Schwarzenegger is the candidate most likely to get a tax increase through the legislature:

Once elected, Arnold would have to face the relentless budget math. He'd have an ongoing structural deficit of $8 billion or more. If the courts declare the deficit bonds illegal as they've already blocked the pension obligation bonds, he'd have an additional one-time $13 billion hole to fill. There's no way he could get himself out of a problem that big with spending cuts unless he closes down the University of California and the prisons. Blaming Gray Davis, he'd have to ask for a tax increase, as Pete Wilson did in 1991, and Republicans legislators would have to give it to him or cripple their new governor and throw the state into deeper chaos.

The lesson of the last four decades of California politics is that, if the state needs a tax increase, elect a Republican governor. Arnold's the one.

Hope he's right!

Most folks know who the top five finishers will be next week, and if the polls are right, we may even already be able to guess with confidence the order. But who will finish sixth?

Pathetic Earthlings has a poll going... put in your two cents.
Everyone this morning who isn't talking about the famous Cal victory on Saturday is talking about the new CNN/USA Today poll that shows Schwarzenegger veritably coasting to victory, as well as the recall passing by a whopping 63-35 margin. This is a stunning turn-around, and perhaps a tribute to the remarkable political tone-deafness of both Bustamante and Davis.

I do think it likely that both the recall and Schwarzenegger will win, but by much closer margins. I will be very surprised if the recall beats 60%. What will be interesting is the question of when Arnold will take office. If the election is not certified until mid-November, that will give Gray (as the ultimate lame duck) the chance to sign as many progressive bills as possible. The legislature could even come back in special session and ram some stuff through that Arnold could not undo by executive order...

Hey, I've been through a lot of lost campaigns as a lefty. I remember my first campaign, walking precincts to unseat Republican Burt Talcott in Central California when I was seven years old. (But good things come to those who wait: my old hometown is now represented by a reliable Democrat, Sam Farr.) I learned about losing early and often as a boy, and thus can afford to be sanguine when contemplating next week's election.

But a lot -- truly a lot -- can happen in eight days.
My beloved Golden Bears beat USC this weekend in triple-overtime. Nothing more need be said, except that the delicious taste of sweet victory will last in my mouth all week. I have the mixed fortune to be surrounded by Trojans of all ages (more of the faculty at my college received a degree from 'SC than anywhere else), so it will be a fine, fine week, to be an Old Blue.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

As I know a few have figured out, I cast my vote yesterday for John Christopher Burton. (The link only works some of the time, alas). It came down, in the parking lot of the Jackie Robinson Center (where one votes touchscreen), to Burton and Peter Camejo. I went with Burton for the following reasons:

On economic issues, I am sympathetic to the relatively moderate and democratic socialism that Burton represents. I certainly am neither a Marxist nor a Trotskyite, but I continue to have grave and growing reservations about the benefits of unbridled capitalism. Burton proposes a radical plan, far more radical than that of the Green Party; details of that plan are easy to find on either Burton's site or the site of the International Committee of the Fourth International.

Burton is also adamantly opposed to the recall, while Camejo in his public statements seems to regard it as a welcome opportunity.

Evangelical Christianity and socialism have a long history together (think, for example of the history of the British Labour Party). Though Burton is hardly a believer (and his positions on the "life" issues fall well short of the mark), the policies of his tiny fringe party seem to me to be more fundamentally consistent with the economics of Micah, Amos, and the gospels than those of any other political organization.

We need a strong socialist party in this country (yes, I am dreaming) to force the larger parties to address the basic, systematic inequities that are part and parcel of the American capitalist system.

Here is a statement from Burton that sealed the deal for me:

I am the only candidate who says frankly that there can be no progressive and just solution to the crisis in California outside of a program to restructure the economy in a revolutionary manner. To obtain the resources needed for jobs, schools, housing and health care, I call for a radical revamping of the tax system to significantly reduce the burden on workers and small- and medium-sized businesses, and sharply increase the tax rate for the very wealthy. To end the anarchy of the so-called “free market” and the looting of social wealth for the benefit of billionaire speculators and corporate CEOs, I call for the transformation of big corporations and banks into public utilities, under the democratic control of the working population.

My Democratic friends will accuse me of "throwing my vote away." My friends on the right will grin with satisfaction, comforted that mine will be one less vote for Bustamante. But I am at peace with the decision.

Now, I only ask my conservative friends to join me: vote your consciences as I have done, and vote for the man whom you know in your hearts is right...

Friday, September 26, 2003

An hour or so ago, I voted "touchscreen" at the Jackie Robinson Center in Pasadena. In 2002, when I went to vote at the same place using the same method, I was the only one there. Today, there were half a dozen others lined up, and I had a brief (but not unpleasant) wait.

For whom did I vote? It wasn't an easy decision, but it was also not an entirely impulsive one. I had ruled out Schwarzenegger completely, but gave at least a moment's thought to all four of the other major candidates, as well as several minor ones. Here was how my thought process went:

Tom McClintock. On one key issue (you all can guess by my links what that is), Tom is the candidate closest to my views. But I am not a single-issue voter, and Tom (while sincere and dignified), is far too far to the right on economic issues for my taste.

Cruz Bustamante: I had gone back and forth on him many times, and am pleased to see he has turned leftward in recent weeks. There is something to be said for the argument that he has earned the nod by right as lieutenant governor. But the ties to corporate and gambling money are simply too big a millstone around his neck.

Arianna Huffington: I like her stances, especially on SUVs. But she is the very epitome of the term "gadfly", a latecomer to progressive politics, and I found her debate performance to be colossally disappointing.

Peter Camejo: Oh, I almost voted for him. Almost. Certainly my favorite amongst the "big five". I like many of his stances. But the fact is, he has made the voice of the Green Party in California as loud as I suspect it will be for some time to come. I'm not a Green, though I am a sympathizer; though I voted for Camejo in 2002 (and almost did this morning), Peter was not my final choice.

I didn't vote for Georgy Russell, though I briefly considered her. She is remarkably composed and thoughtful for her age, with some sensible ideas and a clever marketing campaign. I hope we continue to hear from Georgy for years to come. But she did not get my vote either.

I did not vote for Warren Farrell, though I think he is raising the otherwise ignored yet crucial issue of men's growing sense of their own disenfranchisement. Again, I am not a single issue voter.

And at various times, I considered the likes of Dan Feinstein (great blog) and Marc Valdez. But I did not vote for Feinstein or Valdez.

I did not leave the ballot blank on the second part of the recall question. Have you figured it out yet?

The name of the person for whom I voted, and the reasons why, coming soon.

The Bee's Dan Weintraub has come to the correct conclusion that at least to some extent, Schwarzenegger's attacks on Indian gambling are examples of traditional Republican scapegoating. Given that Dan is universally respected, it seems, by right and left in the blogosphere, this is most refreshing. I've made my feelings about legalized gambling perfectly clear in the past, but I also don't like the vaguely racist tinge to some of the attack ads against the Indian tribes. I don't object to Indian influence, I object to all legalized gambling as immoral, stunningly addictive, and corrosively destructive to the social fabric. There is a distinction.

I am off to vote today! Los Angeles County has about 17 touchscreen early voting stations; I used one in the 2002 election. No one ever accused me of being patient! I will vote no on the recall and both propositions (no-brainers for me), but will reveal my vote on the second part of the recall ballot later today. (Hint: that means I won't decide until I get to the screen...)

Thursday, September 25, 2003

I like this quote from my beloved Tony Campolo:

"I find it strange that the last place I can really quote Jesus these days is in American churches. They don't want to hear 'overcome evil with good.' They don't want to hear 'those who live by the sword die by the sword.' They don't want to hear 'if your enemy hurts you, do good, feed, clothe, minister to him.' They don't want to hear 'blessed are the merciful.' They don't want to hear 'love your enemies.'"

And in Alabama, conservative Republican governor Bob Riley is now facing a recall all his own. Why? Because this particular governor took his bible seriously, and asked Alabamanians to drop their terribly regressive tax code and replace it with one grounded in concern for the poor. His bold and visionary effort failed, and the less-savory elements of the Christian right are apoplectic (scroll down) at the idea that Scripture applies to the use of wealth every bit as much as it does to sexuality.

If the Alabama recall goes further, I may send old Bob a check. Hugoboy has never written one to a Republican. But there is always a time to start, and any governor who quotes Scripture in demanding a reallocation of resources and wealth will continue to have my prayers and support...
The National Review makes a fine case for McClintock again today...
I did not watch last night's gubernatorial debate "live", as I was off with my church youth group. But I watched highlights later in the evening and read the transcripts on-line, and to my eye, the clear winners were Tom McClintock and Peter Camejo. (I would LOVE to see just the two of them debate; then we could really get down to policy!) Perhaps I just appreciate substantive, ideologically consistent leaders who have clear agendas. I was generally unimpressed with the lackluster Bustamante, and actually quite annoyed with both Arnold (which I had expected) and Huffington (which I had not). Their spat is certainly the top story from the debate; here is one of the better summaries from the Chronicle.

Whatever lingering chance was left that I might have voted for Huffington has vanished. It's between Camejo and Bustamante for me now, and I lean strongly towards the former.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

A whopping 14 people have voted in my on-line poll (to your right); NONE for Bustamante yet, and McClintock leads Davis...
So yesterday, I listened to conservative AM talk radio. Specifically, I listened to the "John and Ken Show", well-known throughout Southern California for their feverish opposition to Gray Davis. For the most part, they were debating the merits of McClintock and Schwarzenegger. But at one point, the conversation turned to state government employees. Either John or Ken said: "It ought to be a matter of shame in California to work for the government. No way is a government employee as valuable as someone in the private sector."

Wow. Tell me, my conservative friends, is that representative of conservative opinion in this state? I have taught full-time at a community college for ten years now; the one real job of my adult life. All my paychecks come from the taxpayers of California. Am I -- and my fellow teachers and professors across this state -- a lazy freeloader? Because I chose the life of the mind and because I want to inspire young people to think differently than they have before, I ought to be ashamed? And my fellow state workers (the Highway Patrol, the CalTrans workers, the forestry workers, the firefighters, among others): are they less worthy than a small business-person? Am I overreacting to the savage vitriol of an unpleasant little man on the radio?

There was a marvelous article this past Sunday (go now, the link will expire soon) in the Los Angeles Times, written by California's foremost historian, Kenneth Starr. Here's a section:

When I hear the rubbish about how wasted taxpayers' money amounts to 15% of the state budget, I ask myself: What will Californians be willing to do without, now that they seem bent on making war on the public sector? Will they want their forest fires fought? Their highways maintained? Their wildlife and water preserved? Their coast protected? Their abandoned children brought into foster-care programs? Do they still want to be able to visit public parks?

Who will take drunk drivers off the roads? Keep dangerous felons under lock and key? Administer our courts, indeed, sit as jurists on our benches? Who will build libraries, tutor the illiterate, send talking books to the blind? Who will teach in community colleges, state colleges and universities? Who will administer Medi-Cal for the elderly, manage inland waterways, repair bridges, subsidize public art, take care of the feeble-minded, bury the unclaimed dead?

Shame on all Californians who indiscriminately bash the good and devoted men and women who do these things: the librarians, social workers, firefighters, doctors, nurses, fish and game wardens, park rangers, preservationists, transportation engineers, college teachers, road repair crews, parole officers, counselors. Shame on you, Californians, for wanting these services while refusing to pay for them — and, worse, basing this refusal on a contempt for the public sector that constitutes a form of postmodern barbarism: a repudiation of anything that does not seem immediately relevant or useful to one personally, a reconfiguration of society in narcissistic terms.
(emphasis is Hugo's).

Good and heroic Christian conservatism is, at its core, about selfless devotion to God and to feeding his sheep. The conservatism I reject is the "postmodern barbarism" that Starr so eloquently excoriates.


Tuesday, September 23, 2003

My friend the Flying Monkey cites internal polling (and he is in a position to know) that puts Tom McClintock within striking distance of both Cruz and Arnold at a solid 20%. Now that the election is on, so much depends on tomorrow night's debate.

Gray is leading in my poll at right, but the votes are limited.
The ongoing discussion with my family and friends and the Angry Clam about my fascination with conservatism continues. My father remarked in an e-mail:

I wonder if one can't, without too much tension, espouse overall liberal values, and at the
same time believe in real distinctions and objective standards of decency and morality.

Well, yes. The appeal of social conservatism for me lies in the appeal to selflessness and restraint. The problem with too many conservatives is they do such an excellent job of advocating sexual restraint while condoning and even celebrating unbridled economic license. Lust and greed are both sins of desire, surely; nowhere do I read that one is morally superior to the other. And yet in America, we have (almost) no one to remind us of the equally important virtues of restraint of both "pelvis and pocketbook."

When you see any one resplendent out-wardly with fine clothes and people in attendance, lay open his conscience. You will find many cobwebs within, and much dust.

-- St. John Chrysostom

Please vote in my poll, as it only lasts another week.
Darrell Issa says that if McClintock and Schwarzenegger both stay in the race, he will vote no on the recall to prevent a Bustamante triumph. I implore all good Republicans to follow the example of this brave and generous man. I still think the recall can be beaten, and if only a fraction of right-leaning folks adopt Issa's position, we're in good shape.

Monday, September 22, 2003

I have a new gubernatorial poll of my own; click on the "Click Here to Vote" link on the right... once each, please.
The Angry Clam has an interesting comment below on my brother's response to my musings about the appeal of conservatism...

And the San Jose Mercury has a profile this morning of Peter Camejo. Camejo praises Bustamante effusively, and indeed, "seems concerned about possibly being blamed for costing him the election by drawing votes from liberals."

Camejo sat down with Cruz recently, describing him as "very frank, very straightforward. I don't see a guy who's slamming the door in my face like Gray Davis."

I voted for Peter Camejo last November, and this article reminded me that that was a sensible decision.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

In response to my Friday night entry, my brother made the following comment which I copy here:

You pose the question, why do conservatives speak so eloquently to your heart and mind when liberals speak to your basic desires and wants. Answer may be that as a middle-class white American male, you find that while liberals speak to your conscious desires (for freedom, justice, peace, etc.), conservatives speak more insidiously and therefore more eloquently, to your *unconscious*, even *inadmissable* desires (for the preservation of your traditional security and superiority, a guaranteed position at the top of the class and cultural structure, etc.) Because it is difficult for a person of conscience to admit to having such selfish desires, the address to them is reinterpreted as an address to the heart or soul. (We could get into a discussion of interpellation here, but we don't need to.)
Just a thought, from one who's been (and is) there....

I highlighted the sentence that rang truest. I'll need to think about that a bit more, but I think my good brother is on to something.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

So, I got an email from the Angry Clam today, telling me (kindly, not sarcastically) that I might want to check out the Rutherford Institute. He thought they sounded as if they were right up my alley, with their pro-life, pro-civil liberties advocacy. (I mean, how many organizations out there really do viscerally oppose the Patriot Act and work to defend all human life from conception to natural death?) I have just started to check them out, but so far, they sound just like my kind of folks. A big, big bow and hat tip to the agitated mollusk! I don't agree with him often, but a kindness in blogger country ain't forgotten by the Hugoboy.


The founder of the Institute is a fellow named John Whitehead, and he wrote this about the 10 Commandments controversy down in 'Bama last month:

Judge (Roy) Moore is no Moses, leading his followers to the Promised Land. And Christianity, as it is being practiced today, is not the fix for what’s wrong with America. Thus, it turns out that this debate is really not about what’s wrong with America; it’s about what’s wrong with Christianity.

As Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., who marched into Montgomery under the banner of civil rights, remarked, "[T]he judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century."

If Christians really want to have a positive impact on the world around them, let them return to their communities and tend to the sick, feed the poor and stand up for the weak and the defenseless. Then maybe there will be no need for monuments.

Bingo, bingo, a thousand times bingo!
Warren Farrell has updated his site with a new press release, confronting his own Democratic Party. The rhetoric is woefully simplistic, but for the love of Pete, he is the only person out there talking about the fact that there is a genuine "men's crisis" out there. I don't think he's going to get my vote, but I would love to see a mainstream candidate incorporate some of his issues. Surely, folks, there is some truth here:

The Democratic Party is my Party. It is the Party of sensitivity and inclusiveness. Yet in some ways we are being insensitive and exclusionary. We care about families, but are disenfranchising dads after divorce. We care about education, but are ignoring why our sons are less likely to graduate from high school and college, and are neglecting the recruitment of male teachers. We care about inclusiveness, but support scholarships for women only. We care about integrity, but ignore paternity fraud. We care about health, but are ignoring the six times greater suicide rate of our sons and the six year earlier death rate of our dads...

Friday, September 19, 2003

Today was a good day to be home sick. (The volume of my blogging makes that evident). Four magazines arrived in my mail today: The Economist, First Things, California Educator, and The Mennonite.

The third is a throw-away; it's the California Teachers Association publication. I dislike my union because I think it reflexively opposes substantive reform and routinely protects bad teachers. But I loyally belong to a union because my local chapter handles collective bargaining issues with my college, and I consider it immoral to benefit from their hard work without paying my dues. I spent three minutes on the Educator today.

The first is world-famous; it is in an indignant lather this week over the sheer chutzpah of the 21 small nations who refused to play nice with the First World at the WTO meeting last week in Cancun. It's a good read, but far too convinced that capitalism is the only viable engine of human betterment for my taste.

The fourth is the humble bi-weekly publication of my newfound denomination. A quick read, it provides real insight into the surprising diversity amongst those folks around the world who call themselves Mennonites. We ain't all Amish, folks!

But this evening, it is First Things that has engaged me the most. It's a conservative Catholic publication (with an ecumenical editorial board). I read it for the superb writing, and as a religious liberal, I appreciate the fact that it makes me nervous. I often find, to my dismay, that the best and most thoughtful writing in America today is by cultural conservatives. (In other words, it's a hell of a lot more fun to read the National Review than Mother Jones, though I wish it were not so).

Here is the editorial board of First Things on the proposed marriage amendment. In their piece, which is really a thoughtful meditation on the culture war, the editors revisit the Achilles heel of American liberalism, which is the worship of the notion of choice and personal autonomy.

The First Things editors point out that the Catholic Anthony Kennedy has proven to be the court's truest and most consistent liberal on issues of "personal freedom." A decade before his sweeping opinion in this summer's Lawrence v. Texas, Kennedy wrote this in his decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey: "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life."

When I first read those words as a 25 year-old grad student in 1992, I found them incredibly moving. The highest court in the land had recognized that the true nature of liberty was to pursue one's own desires to their ultimate end, and to define one's own truths as one wanted. I found it very satisfactory. I still call myself a liberal in 2003, but Kennedy's words are far less compelling to me today. His critics write in First Things:

"In that way (Kennedy's) of thinking, the dominant, if not exclusive, purpose of the Constitution in dealing with rights is to serve the autonomous self as construed by the foundationless philosophy of expressive individualism. The moral, social, political, and legal order must bend to the individual definition of truth, no matter how willful or arbitrary."

Now, I disagree with the editors when they suggest that the desire of millions of gay and lesbian Americans to have their relationships legitimized is simple willfulness. But I think their essential critique of the Kennedy court's understanding of liberty is hauntingly accurate. Surely, surely, there is more to freedom than the freedom to pursue one's own desires. Liberty must be more about the freedom to choose the right thing than the freedom to choose anything.

My secular friends on the left (I have so few deeply religious friends who share my politics) would immediately accuse me of intolerance for suggesting that the right thing is anything more than inherently subjective and conditional. But my faith tells me that there is one Truth that always trumps the debased and mercurial human will.

I am torn and troubled tonight. Why do the social conservatives speak so eloquently to my heart and to my mind, while the liberals speak so well to my own
more basic desires and wants? Sometimes I feel like a well-meaning but hopelessly ineffective diplomat trying to make sense of a culture war raging amongst my friends.

The good news is that I have the wonderful new Dwight Yoakam cd, and it comforts me as I drink my tea and continue to ponder.
A study by a group of labor economists at UT Austin reports that all things being equal, students give higher evaluations to good-looking professors. That doesn't surprise me, but this finding was very interesting:

On closer investigation the economists found that good looks were significantly more important for men than women in producing high teaching evaluations. The same effect was found in earlier research relating wages to beauty: being good-looking, or at least not being bad-looking, is significantly more important for men than for women. (Emphasis mine).

As a male prof (who teaches gender studies courses) I won't comment further, except to say that I am fundamentally surprised. Men in my profession -- even those of us prone to human vanity -- tend to make the assumption that talent as a teacher has no correlation with handsomeness. It is a bit unnerving to learn otherwise.
My father was born in Austria; many relatives of mine have done their time in the Austrian Army. Austria is a small country, but it takes the notion of mandatory national service very seriously. It comes as little surprise that Arnold was a deserter and served time in the brig as a result. (Far worse than what Clinton did during Vietnam...) Here is a link to the story in the Contra-Costa Times.

Does it matter what Arnold did when he was 18? Not if he acknowledges the youthful mistake and repudiates it. But I do wonder how it would play if he had deserted from the US Army.
My recovery continues slowly; hurrah for antibiotics.

My girlfriend is seriously considering McClintock as an alternative to Schwarzenegger, even though she is far more liberal on social issues than he. I'm surprised, but encouraged by the prospect that she may yet move away from Arnold. I really don't want to have to vote for Cruz; this story in today's Chron about Bustamante's advisor, Richie Ross (a real charmer, evidently) gives me plenty of reason to pause.

Will we hear from the Ninth Circuit today?

Thursday, September 18, 2003

It is always a dangerous thing to criticize one's fellow Christians in a public forum. But there is much to fear from the slick and superficial tactics of the so-called "mega-churches". Perhaps it is jealousy because I belong to a very small denomination, the sort in which a large congregation is numbered in the low three digits. But this Forbes magazine article (hat tip to The Corner) on the marketing tactics of the largest mega-churches is truly disturbing. In the last paragraph of the article, it says:

No doubt, churches have learned some valuable lessons from corporations.

Yikes. When one of Caesar's leading publications praises the church for its ability to adapt to corporate tactics and ethics, something is very, very, very wrong.
My girlfriend was absolutely heroic during my brief hospitalization, actually sleeping on a cot in my room overnight. I am immensely grateful. She has not, however, decided whether to take up my political challenge. (I have agreed not to vote for Cruz Bustamante if she will agree not to vote for Schwarzenegger; otherwise, we cancel out each other's vote).

Candidates whom I might vote for should she accept my challenge are listed on the right-hand side of this blog. But I know that my girlfriend, a fiscal conservative and social moderate, has a hard time seeing anywhere to put her vote other than Schwarzenegger. I have done some research, and found three moderate Republican women who might be worth her vote, and perhaps yours as well:

Brooke Adams, a young and thoughtful woman with a very snazzy website;

Cheryl Bly-Chester, who describes herself as "pro-business, pro-education, pro-environment";

Heather Peters, who has the best slogan of all: "California needs a mediator, not a terminator"

All three are fiscal conservatives, social moderates, and the most natural heirs to the Ueberroth vote.

Again, I am not enthused about Cruz, but he has my vote (assuming, as I do, that the courts will permit the October election to go forward) unless my beloved agrees not to go with Arnold. I commend to her, and to my more conservative readers, all three of the fine candidates named above.
Well, the "little flu" I thought I had a few weeks ago turned out to be a truly nasty case of giardia. I won't link to the details, except to say it is unlike anything I have ever endured. I am home and on antibiotics, thank you very much, and will return to teaching on Monday. I did have to spend the night in the hospital on Tuesday...

He may be a man of many flaws, but few could deny that Robert Byrd is one of the most eloquent U.S. senators of our -- or any -- age. Here is a link to his moving and fierce attack on the Bush Administration's Iraq policy, made yesterday from the floor of the US Senate. I especially like this bit:

The President asked America for a generation of "sacrifice," but that noble sounding word does not reveal the true nature of what this President demands from the American people. He asks them to supply the fighting men and women to prosecute his war. He implores our people to sacrifice adequate health care; he asks them to settle for less than the best education for their children; he asks them to sacrifice medical research that could prolong and save lives; he asks them to put up with unsafe highways and dangerous bridges; he asks them to live with substandard housing and foul water; he asks them to forego better public transportation, and not just for now, for generations, and all of it for his folly in Iraq.

More on the recall when I am up to it.

Monday, September 15, 2003

I've just finished skimming through the Ninth Circuit's opinion (Adobe Acrobat required). My favorite part of it is its reliance on the Supreme's own majority ruling in the infamous 2000 case of Bush v. Gore:

Plaintiffs' case presents almost precisely the same issue as the court considered in Bush, that is, whether unequal methods of counting votes among counties constitutes a violation of the Equal Protection Clause. In Bush, the Supreme Court held that different standards for counting votes in different counties across Florida violated the Equal Protection Clause... The Plaintiffs' theory is the same, that using error-prone voting equipment in some counties, but not in others, will result in votes being counted differently among the counties."

I can't wait to read see how the Supreme majority in Bush v. Gore deals with this one... My money says that in the interests of consistency if nothing else, the High Court will not reverse the Ninth... but perhaps that is wishful thinking.
The fun starts now! The Ninth Circuit delays the recall election; story here.
Georgy Russell's blog has a humorous account of her encounter with Arianna Huffington last week... Arianna received a thong and some tough questions from her younger rival.
It has been just over a month since the General Convention of the Episcopal Church came to its dramatic end. In the aftermath of the national church's decision to affirm the elevation of an openly gay man, Gene Robinson, to the office of bishop, many conservatives have spoken of leaving the church.

Here is a link to a sermon by the bishop of East Tennessee, calling for wisdom and patience. I like this excerpt:

Thus we come to a familiar question of our day. Was the church - gathered as General Convention this summer - right in decisions made about human sexuality? The short answer to that question - and in many ways, the best answer - is that time will tell. For those of us who are imperfect people, we usually need the passage of time and the advantage of hindsight to determine the rightness or wrongness of difficult decisions.

May I offer you a warning at this moment? It seems to me that a primary temptation for Episcopalians today is to take ourselves too seriously. Sins that persistently will follow taking ourselves too seriously are self righteousness and pride. And in our day, I warn you especially against the temptations to those sins. They are within our easy reach - ripe for the picking and good for the tasting.

We need more sermons like this; we need less certainty and more humility.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Well, my flu symptoms have temporarily returned, though with considerably less of a vengeance. Hence, little to no blogging this weekend.

My girlfriend is leaning against accepting my offer to avoid cancelling each other's votes. The sense, however, that the recall may in fact be defeated outright is growing. With the right turnout, Davis may still be our governor next month. The Los Angeles Times, which doesn't lean as hard to the left as the right tends to think, has a nice story today on growing opposition to the recall.

Friday, September 12, 2003

My girlfriend has not yet decided whether she will accept my proposed deal (see yesterday's entry). Part of the problem is that beyond Arnold, there are few moderate Republicans in the race now that Ueberroth is out. If I were a moderate Republican, I might vote for Heather Peters... Her slogan is "California needs a mediator, not a terminator."

Conservatives and the business community are bemoaning the passage of recent progressive legislation in Sacramento. I am heartened by these bills, and will be very pleased if Davis signs them.

I also fail to see how Schwarzenegger will be unable to undo progressive legislation in the face of a solid Democratic majority. If I were John Burton (the senate leader, not the splendid socialist candidate for governor), I would be relishing a battle with Arnold, knowing that the new governor will need dramatic early successes and knowing that he (Burton) may well hold the key...

And I comfort myself with the recollection that Pete Wilson signed the biggest pension improvements in the history of the State Teachers' Retirement System. Moderate Republicans, facing heavy Democratic majorities in both houses of the legislature, sometimes infuriate their conservative base and delight progressives... we can hope.

In the meantime, the new LA Times poll gives us hope as well. Who would have thought that 47% of Californians are still willing to vote "no"?

Thursday, September 11, 2003

For all those on left and right who are uncomfortable with the "lesser of two evils" choice of Bustamante or Schwarzenegger, I have a suggestion.

My beloved girlfriend is considerably more conservative than I am, especially on economic issues. She had her heart set on Peter Ueberroth, but now is uncertain where to turn. She is seriously considering voting for Arnold.

I, on the other hand, am leaning reluctantly towards Bustamante. I would rather vote my heart, which would involve voting for someone to Cruz's left.

So, last night I proposed a "deal" to my sweetheart: I will promise not to vote for Bustamante in exchange for her promise not to vote for Schwarzenegger. We each would vote our hearts, confident that we were not hurting or helping either of the two main candidates. After all, why simply cancel out each other's vote? (We are still taking opposite positions on the recall itself, of course!)

My girlfriend has not yet decided whether she is willing to accept my deal. I can, however, declare that I will indeed vote for Cruz if she and I cannot come to such an agreement, and will definitely select another candidate if she and I can...

So let's all pair up with our ideological opposites and swear solemn vows not to vote for the two leading candidates. The pay-off? You can vote your conscience without guilt. Speaking as a Nader voter in 2000, it seems like a worthy goal.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

I am very disappointed this morning in the outcome of yesterday's vote on tax reform in Alabama. For those of you not up on the latest from the Deep South, Republican Governor Bob Riley had proposed a daring, progressive, and astonishingly brave overhaul of his state's hopelessly regressive tax system. What was so exceptional about Gov. Riley's proposal was that it was grounded in explicitly biblical language. Here he is in a PBS interview:

..."when I read the New Testament basically, we get three mandates: to love God, to love each other, and to take care of the least among us. And I think this is at least a step in the right direction."

One of my favorite blogs, The Right Christians, has far more detailed coverage of the Alabama story. As always when it comes to issue of biblical justice and modern economics, I think of these words of Amos (which also mean so much, apparently, to Bob Riley, who is the Hugoboy hero of the day).
The news that Bustamante is tacking to the left is indeed welcome. He must realize that he has little to no hope of attracting Republican or conservative independent votes; what he could do is get voters (like me) who are flirting with Huffington and Camejo and Georgy Russell to come back into the Democratic fold. Camejo pulled well over 5% last fall; if Bustamante can get some disaffected progressives behind him, that could be just the trick to get him over the top.

The key, especially now that Ueberroth is out, is keeping Tom McClintock in. I pray hourly for Tom's continued success and his continued commitment to remaining in the race. Of course, absentee ballots are already being turned in across the state... if McClintock does withdraw very late in the game, it may be only after a substantial number of Republicans have cast early votes for him. One can hope.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Now fully recovered from last week's flu, I gave my first full lecture in my Men and Masculinity course yesterday afternoon. I've been teaching a variety of courses in gender studies since 1995, but this is only the second time I have offered this "men" course.

It is striking how many of my students are profoundly uncomfortable with the notion that American men (as a group) are suffering in contemporary society. Pace, my conservative friends; I don't just teach tiresome old identity politics courses that focus on each and every imaginable group's unique and special pain! But I do believe that there is a crisis among our young men of every class and ethnicity; it is linked to a growing confusion about gender roles and a pervasive sense of uncertainty about their own fundamental usefulness and competence. It is not a universal crisis, but it is a serious one.

Our colleges and universities (even at the graduate school level) are increasingly dominated by women. Similarly, our elementary and secondary schools are increasingly ill-equipped to meet boys' needs. Male suicide rates among all ethnic groups have risen dramatically while women's have fallen.

These are only a few statistics, of course, and statistics can be manipulated to serve any political end. What is interesting to me is how many students are uncomfortable with any discussion of the problem. What happens is this: Male reticence to admit pain conspires with the feminist fear that focusing on mens' collective hurt will obscure the far more important issue of continued discrimination against women. (As if suffering, discrimination, alienation and confusion were all parts of a large pie, and the more that one group received, the less would be left for another!) Bottom line: we have a great deal of work to do!

Here is my reading list for the class:

Iron John, Robert Bly. Love Bly or hate him, you can't do men's work without him.

Manhood in America, Michael Kimmel. A terrific overview.

Muy Macho: Latino Men Confront their Manhood , Ray Gonzalez. Great anthology.

Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk. If Nick Hornby were American, I would use his works, but Palahniuk is the next-best writer I know of the contemporary young male heart.

Monday, September 08, 2003

Georgy Russell reports that Mike Farrell, actor and activist, has not-quite endorsed her. I have already not-quite endorsed her as well, but note the lack of an accompanying press release. She is coming to speak to my classes at PCC on the 23rd, however.
Men's rights advocate Warren Farrell has finally updated his campaign website. He also issued a new press release that included this:

The Democratic Party has become the prisoner of feminists. Dr. Farrell congratulates the women’s movement and the Democratic Party for being so successful empowering women and empowering each other that they have virtually ended the “women’s crisis” of the 20th Century. Now, though, a “men’s crisis” has emerged: “men today are where women were in the 1950’s; the ‘women’s crisis’ was to the 20th Century what the “men’s crisis” is to the 21st Century” says Farrell. Quite a statement, coming from the only man in the US ever elected three times to the Board of Directors of the National Organization for Women (NOW) in New York City. Farrell challenges the Democratic Party to take the lead with men as it did with women. “The Democratic Party has pushed the pendulum of the women’s movement to the point that feminism has become the one party system of gender politics. Bureaucracies have been created that are both self-perpetuating and anti-male. The Democratic Party must remember that as many families have sons as have daughters; that when either sex wins both sexes lose. Temporarily, we need less of a women’s movement and more of a men’s movement; ultimately, we need a gender transition movement.”

You need to be familiar with Farrell's work to understand the depth of the "men's crisis" to which he refers. His rhetoric is inflammatory and way over-the-top; that is to be regretted, as he makes occasional good sense. Feminism, however, is hardly the culprit to the extent that he imagines it to be! Yet he is absolutely right that there is a crisis with young American men, one reflected in everything from rising suicide rates to plummeting college admission rates. The origins of this problem are complex, the solutions far from evident -- but the fact that there is a problem is difficult to deny. Farrell has (at least in part) the right message, but I am not at all sure he is the right messenger.

Progressive candidates to replace Gray Davis will be participating in an on-line debate sponsored by the group "Gloves Off". Find out how you can join in the questioning here. The editors of Gloves Off make an excellent point:

We at Gloves Off are concerned that candidates pursuing progressive agendas in the California gubernatorial recall are marginalized AND treated as a homogenous group—as if their views are all the same, and are therefore equally dismissible.

That's a good point. There are genuine ideological differences among progressive Democrats and Greens. Some are outright pacifists. Some are consistent pro-lifers (but not many, alas). Some are radical libertarians; others are Trotskyites. There are real debates to be had among lefties about issues ranging from the marketplace to the environment to immigration to abortion to rampant comsumerism to poverty. What mustn't happen is that we on the Left continue to allow serious differences to obscure even greater commonalities. Civil, articulate, thoughtful, optimistic debate needs to happen, and Gloves Off seems likes a nice forum (though the pacifist in me winces at the name).

Sunday, September 07, 2003

The attacks on Bustamante have shifted from the ridiculous (his association with MEChA) to the serious (his ties to the Indian gambling industry). Bustamante has long ties to Indian gambling in California. (I refuse to use the industry-preferred term "gaming" -- horseshoes is a game, folks. Making billions from the desperate, the poor, and the addicted is no game). The Indian tribes openly boast of their influence over the Bustamante family; Cruz's younger brother manages an Indian casino near Fresno.

If there is one reason why I will vote for Peter Camejo, or Georgy Russell, or Dan Feinstein, or John C. Burton, or Arianna, it is because of Bustamante's ties to an industry that makes a fortune off of misery and weakness. Our society in recent years has made great strides in recognizing the destructive and life-wrecking nature of nicotine addiction; California has been on the cutting edge to protect its citizens from cigarette smoke. To a lesser degree, we have become far more aware of the damage alcohol consumption does to individuals, families, and society at large. But paradoxically, in the past decade we have become far more accepting of two other addictive and destructive influences -- pornography and gambling.

I don't intend to blog about porn today. But I know far, far, far too many people whose finances have been ruined by compulsive gambling. I have colleagues and friends who gamble rent and retirement funds on everything from horse racing to football games to the California Lottery to slot machines. Yes, gambling is legal. I am not sure whether it ought to be banned outright or not, though I loathe the idea of the government deriving revenue from it. But I certainly dislike the idea of any group (even a group with a history of suffering as extensive as that of Native Americans) making staggering untaxed profits from this destructive, heartbreaking vice. If the California tribes were marketing their own brands of cigarettes, manufactured on Indian land, how would that be different?

Check out this site: National Coalition against Legalized Gambling. Also, read the 2002 ad placed by over 200 American religious leaders (including conservatives like Richard John Neuhaus and Kenneth Connor and progressives like my heroes Tony Campolo and Jim Wallis). Here is an excerpt:

Gambling has subverted the rightful role of government as protectorate of the people. Casinos in particular have bought favor with politicians at all levels, thus enabling them to spread their poison product into even more communities. In the most recent election, gambling interests lavished $10.9 million on candidates and parties at the federal level alone. That does not include the multi-millions spent on lobbying, nor does it take into account that gambling interests have become the single most powerful force in a number of state governments. All of this influence comes at a terrible price that is paid for by the gambling industry's multitude of victims.

The rapid increase in legal gambling opportunities has created a concomitant boom in the number of gambling addicts. According to the NGISC, more than 15 million Americans struggle with a significant gambling problem-and the repercussions are often profound. Perhaps no single statistic better reveals the depth of despair associated with gambling addiction than this: One in five of those who become addicted to gambling will attempt to take his or her own life.

Gambling has become a blight on our nation's cultural landscape. As religious leaders, we see the gambling-induced pain and devastation among many of those who look to us for spiritual guidance. Thus, we stand together not only in our concern, but in our commitment to oppose this predatory and destructive industry. We call on members of Congress to place America's citizens and families ahead of the false promises and hefty political contributions of the gambling industry, and to begin to address this rapidly growing menace to our national welfare.

Do I want a governor who has such close ties to gambling? No more than I want a governor who has such close ties to pornography, like Larry Flynt. Am I willing to hold my nose and vote for Cruz Bustamante regardless? I don't know.

Saturday, September 06, 2003

I am still recovering from a nasty flu that has knocked me flat for three straight days.

The National Organization for Women has endorsed Carol Moseley Braun for president. As the supporter of a darkhorse candidate myself (Dennis Kucinich), I can hardly criticize NOW for not aligning itself with a more promising figure in the Democratic party. But given Moseley Braun's absolutely disastrous personal ethics (which included no fewer than seven trips to Nigeria when it was under the dictator Sani Abacha), the endorsement is unfortunate.

Perhaps Moseley Braun has been judged unfairly. But there seems little doubt that the endorsement of Braun (and the utter lack of attention it received) is emblematic of how politically irrelevant NOW is in danger of becoming (or perhaps has already become). The media is partly to blame, to be sure, for the failure of many young American women to identifiy themselves as feminists. The right has demonized and caricatured feminists to an appalling degree, sure, but mainstream feminist organizations such as NOW do not help the feminist cause when they endorse marginal candidates with questionable ethics.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Hugo is very, very sick. Came down with a nasty flu yesterday. Took the day off from school. No energy to blog.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

My college was overwhelmed yesterday by desperate students; course cutbacks have meant that many, many people will be unable to get into the classes they need to continue their education. 33 people showed up in my 1030AM ancient history class yesterday, seeking to add into an already full class of 40. It is immensely sad.

The story -- which is being played out in community colleges across California -- is in the Star-News.
My younger brother (who lives and teaches in Exeter, England), is a committed socialist as well as a first-rate scholar of the English Renaissance. He got around to reading my blog, and sent me this note:

Mother has alerted me to the existence of your blog, which I have just
been reviewing. All very interesting. But dear brother, I do not approve of
this habit of patting right-wingers on the back simply for being thoughtful
and sincere. These are not virtues in themselves! Heydrich is not to be
esteemed over Goebbels because he was a sincere anti-Semite,
whereas Goebbels was merely an opportunistic one. The enemy
remains the enemy. And I quite like the look of J. C. Burton, though his
small sectarian fringe of the Fourth International, the SEP, is always
horrible about my small sectarian fringe of the Fourth International, the

He refers, no doubt, to my fondness for praising the likes of Richard Land, Bill Pryor, and Tom McClintock. I have praised all three men for their faith and, in different ways, their integrity. I suppose I have a tendency to want to humanize those with whom I most virulently disagree, hoping to establish common ground with men whose views mystify and, at times, horrify me. It may be both hubris and a waste of time, but I will carry on.

Still, my dear brother may have a point. He also alerts me to a fine site from which he has derived both comfort and information: Anglo Catholic Socialism Worth a quick visit to find out what the Anglican/sacramental Left has been all about.

And I may yet vote for John Christopher Burton.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Political gadfly Mickey Kaus is not willing to let Cruz Bustamante's ties to MEChA drop. The expression that so upsets him is the MEChA slogan (not now nor ever the organization's motto): "For the race everything. For those outside the race, nothing." What was a briefly used slogan to denote priorities has been portrayed as a separatist battle cry. The scholar Rodolfo Acuna issued a stinging reply last week to FoxNews and others who compared MEChA to the Nazis. He writes:

They say that his (Bustamante's) membership in MEChA is certainly more relevant than Arnold Schwarzenegger's father being a Nazi. I really find this to be offensive. First because it trivializes an ideology that murdered six million people, and second because no one in the Latino community is stooping to this sort of demagoguery.

As I wrote on Saturday, Austrian Nazis murdered by two paternal Viennese great-grandmothers. I, a half-Jewish born-again Mennonite blue-eyed white boy, have been welcomed to a number of MEChA meetings with warmth and cordiality and an eagerness to engage in dialogue. One MEChA website, based on the East Coast, describes the goals of MEChA as I have known them, writing in their own preamble of the following aspirations:

"We commit ourselves to the organizing and leadership of La Raza to nuestras familias, to nuestras comunidades, and to the struggle for equality of all people." (Emphasis mine).

To even compare the Nazis with MEChA is both odious and ignorant. Cruz Bustamante has his shortcomings, but his membership in a benevolent and inclusive organization like MEChA is hardly one of them.

At long last, I have added a "comments" feature. Rejoice and write to me.
It's the first day of school, and so I won't have much chance to blog today. But make sure you visit Rough & Tumble for all the California news.

One of the most thoughtful and sensible figures on the so-called religious right is Richard Land, the Oxford-educated president of the Southern Baptist Convention, America's largest Protestant denomination. Here is his brief essay on the 10 Commandments controversy, arguing against the confrontational stand chosen by Roy Moore and others in Alabama. Too often in this country, the secular media fails to report that religious conservatives are not a monolithic lot in their views on public policy and the role of the church in American society.

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