Why Kerry Lost   

BOSTON—My take on the election: Vision without details beats details without vision. President Bush put forward a powerful and compelling philosophy of what the government should do at home and abroad: Expand liberty. You can disagree with Bush's implementation of that vision, but objecting to it as a matter of principle isn't a political winner. John Kerry, on the other hand, campaigned as a technocrat, a man who would be better at "managing" the war and the economy. But for voters faced with a mediocre economy rather than a miserable one, and with a difficult war that's hopefully not a disastrous one, that message—packaged as "change"—wasn't compelling enough to persuade them to vote for Kerry.

Without reliable exit-poll data, it's hard to know exactly which voters and issues decided the election, but my guess is that the Democrats will ultimately conclude that they did what they thought was necessary on the ground to win the election. Karl Rove and the Republicans just did more. (On the exit-poll question: If the initial evening exit-poll result that 5 percent of the late deciders broke for Ralph Nader had turned out to be accurate, Nader would have received more votes from among the pool of late-breaking undecideds than he ended up receiving from the entire electorate.) The Democratic confidence during the early afternoon and evening was based on more than faulty poll data. The Kerry campaign was confident that high turnout from the party base would swing the election their way.

But this election wasn't a swing, or a pendulum. There was no fairly evenly divided group in the middle of the electorate that ultimately broke for one side and made the difference. The 2004 campaign was not a tug of war between two sides trying to yank the center toward them. Instead, it was a battle over an electorate perched on a seesaw. Each campaign furiously tried to find new voters to add so that it could outweigh the other side. Both sides performed capably: Kerry received more votes than Al Gore did four years ago, and he even received more votes than the previous all-time leader, Ronald Reagan in 1984. President Bush just did even better.

Rove's gamble that he could find more Bush supporters from among nonvoting social conservatives than from the small number of undecideds in the usual voting public worked exactly as designed. The question for Democrats is whether Rove's formula will turn out to be a one-time trick tied to Bush's personal popularity and the emotional bond the nation formed with him after the trauma of 9/11, or whether the Democratic Party has been relegated to permanent, if competitive, minority status. Are the Democrats once again a regional party, the new Eisenhower Republicans of the Northeast? For seven consecutive presidential elections, the Democratic candidate has failed to garner 50 percent of the vote. Not since Jimmy Carter in 1976 has a Democrat won a majority, and even Watergate could get Carter only 50.1 percent.

The silver lining for the minority party is that the Democrats may have a slight edge in the Electoral College. Although he lost the popular vote by more than 3.5 million (a landslide in a 50-50 nation), Kerry lost the presidency by a much smaller amount: fewer than 140,000 votes in Ohio. The 2008 battleground will likely be even smaller than 2004's: Only 19 states in this election had a vote margin that within single digits. In 2000's divided America, Bush and Gore finished within 5 points of each other in 22 states. This time, Bush and Kerry came within sniffing distance of each other in half as many, 11. Despite President Bush's remarkably successful campaign, and despite the fact that he became the first president to win a majority of the vote since his father did the same in 1988, in his second term George W. Bush will preside over a country that is even more divided than it was during his first.


          The Bush Victory Party   

George W. Bush's last victory party, which took place four years ago in Austin, Texas, never quite got underway. There was some annoying business about a withdrawn concession phone call and a steady downpour of rain. This year's party, held inside the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., was in one respect an improvement. There was no rain.

The evening began in the Reagan Building's giant, sloping atrium. The GOP herded its youngish volunteers into a mosh pit, jammed between the stage and the TV cameras. Vodka tonics were consumed, and the twentysomethings seemed poised for giddy celebration. Just after 12:30 a.m., Fox News awarded Ohio to Bush, bringing the president's electoral tally, by the network's count, to 266. Four more years! Alaska followed 20 minutes later, nudging Bush to 269. Four more years! At that point, a portly man wearing a blue suit and pin-striped shirt removed his "W Is Still President" lapel pin, held it aloft like a cigarette lighter, and began to lurch toward the stage.

But as soon as the crowd began to rock, Bush's glorious night ground to a halt. More than three hours passed without Fox awarding Bush a single electoral vote. Some of the other networks refused to give him Ohio. It wasn't that the remaining states were breaking for Kerry; they simply weren't breaking at all. The country band playing at the victory celebration exhausted its playlist and began glancing up nervously at the TV monitors. A producer with a ponytail and "W" hat waddled onstage and told them to keep playing. Reporters in the press row reached for their cell phones: The news from Boston was that John Edwards would take the stage and extend the election.

Ed Gillespie, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, dashed to the podium and, in a speech that lasted for the exact duration of Edwards', declared that Kerry couldn't possibly unearth 100,000 more votes in Ohio. The crowd whooped, but malaise was setting in. Wouldn't the president just get over here and declare victory already? Better yet, wouldn't Kerry just give up?

The heavy eyes were a marked shift from the evening's start, which was brimming with cautious optimism. As Bush swept the early states, Jeremy Bouma, a member of something called the Center for Christian Statesmanship, told me the expected surge in Democratic turnout would be offset by new evangelical voters. "My prayer going into this was that the evangelical vote was the X Factor," he said. Rosario Marin, a former U.S. treasurer, thought that Bush had succeeded in increasing his support among Hispanic voters. She was telling me why Latinos did not, in fact, oppose to the Iraq war when Gillespie announced that ABC had called Florida for Bush.

Aaaaaaaaah! she screamed, into my right ear."Oh, sorry." Then: Aaaaaaaaaah! "Oh, sorry." Aaaaaaaaaaaah! I told her she should go ahead and scream. After she caught her breath, Marin said: "I'm so happy. I'm so excited. My heart is pumping. I've got to call my husband." And then she was gone.

Bush never appeared at his 2000 victory party. Around 3 a.m. Wednesday, a question arose as to whether, in fact, he would appear at this one. CNN's John King reported that Bush had stormed into Karl Rove's office and asked the guru to let him declare victory. The reporters in the press room that weren't asleep let out a whoop. King later reported that Rove told the networks that if they would just call New Mexico for Bush, the president would make his way to the Reagan Building. The message was clear: I know you're tired. So give me the damn state.

At 5:05 a.m., an end—sort of. CNN reported that Bush wouldn't appear in person Wednesday morning; Andy Card, his chief of staff, would speak in his place. Card arrived in a room with a few dozen listless Republicans and said nothing memorable. Mario H. Lopez, one of the listless, declared, "I don't know how I cannot describe this night as historic." Then he glanced at someone's watch and said, "I think we're gonna get some breakfast and then get ready to go to work."  ... 3:17 a.m.

Party Monster: Welcome to George W. Bush's "victory" party in Washington, D.C. Sorta. Us news reporters have been herded into a giant white tent, yards away from the actual party, and contact with revelers looks unlikely. This is what the mob outside Studio 54 must have looked like, if only you upped the dweeb factor.

As the Washington Post's "Reliable Source" column notedthis morning: "Reporters wishing to cover the president's election night party will have to pay $300 for the privilege of a 3-by-2-foot work space and a padded seat in a tent nearby to watch the proceedings on television. … Small groups of media will be escorted into the atrium of the Ronald Reagan Building to look around—but they won't be allowed to talk to participants." For a White House that hates the press, handcuffing reporters on Victory Night seems appropriate.

Last-minute indicators of victory: The handful of people I saw shuffling out of the White House grounds looked grim. Someone who identified himself as a Homeland Security apparatchik looked ebullient. On Fox News, Bill Kristol and Mort Kondracke are wearing prepared smiles. ... 4:05 p.m.

Recriminations Watch—Hispanic-Vote Edition: In the category of what my friend Noam Scheiber calls "possibly meaningless anecdotal evidence," my relatives in Northern New Mexico report an inordinate number of Bush signs in the poor Hispanic colonias—communities that figured to go overwhelmingly to Kerry. The same relatives report that Hispanic men profess to have a cultural affinity with Bush, who they see as a tough, macho sort of guy. Again, meaningless, but it underscores a point: That's about the only thing Bush has going for him with the Hispanic community. The Bushies, who heralded their leader's minority-outreach miracles as Texas governor, have done a shoddy job of courting Hispanics since entering the White House.

A few months back, Antonio Gonzalez of the William C. Velasquez Institute told me that Kerry staffers had whiffed at the Democratic Convention. They featured too few Hispanic speakers; and the preoccupation with Iraq drew attention away from domestic issues affecting the poor. All Karl Rove had to do, Gonzalez said, was goad his keynote speakers into mumbling a few "qué pasas" and the Hispanic vote might tilt slightly to Bush. Well, it didn't happen and it hasn't happened. Most surveys show Bush polling around 30 percent to 35 percent of the Hispanic vote, about what he did in 2000. Even GOP apparatchiks, wishing for miracles, don't put Bush much above 40 percent.

If Bush loses tight races in Florida and New Mexico (and, God forbid, Nevada and Colorado), an early recrimination theory might be that Bush spent too little time chasing Hispanic voters. Then again, perhaps he didn't have a chance. The sour economy disproportionately affects Hispanic and black communities; so does the Iraq War, which draws foot soldiers from the poorest segments of the population. Though both candidates ran Spanish-language ads in the Southwest, the campaigns seemed, at times, to forget about Hispanic voters entirely. Remember the fixation on the gringo Spanish spoken (haltingly) by Al Gore and Bush in 2000? Did Bush and Kerry ignore Hispanic voters, or has the media processed them as stable members of the electorate?

Even if Bush should lose, the GOP would be wise to thank him for ratcheting up their Hispanic numbers to Ronald Reagan levels—and up from depths plumbed by the Bob Dole and George H.W. Bush campaigns. But for a man who wonEl Paso County in his 1998 gubernatorial race, 35 percent doesn't seem like much of a miracle. ... 1:11 p.m.

Tom DeLay's Poetic Justice: Tom DeLay's push to rejigger Texas' congressional districts, an effort that caused such a kerfuffle last year, has faded under the onslaught of Swift Boat Veterans, the Osama tape, and Al Qaqaa. But DeLay's gambit has been no less effective. Five Texas Democrats face re-election Tuesday in GOP-friendly districts, and even the most optimistic Dems predict that only one or two of them (probably Martin Frost or Chet Edwards) can survive. There's a better-than-even shot that allfive Democrats will lose, giving the House GOP majority an enormous boost.

But it's not all sad news. With an influx of new Republicans comes an infusion of unwitting comic genius. Most of this can be seen in the personage of Ted Poe. Poe, a former Houston felony court judge, kicked off his national political career in August by boldly proclaiming, "Now is not the time to be a French Republican."

On the bench in Houston, Poe styled himself as a remorseless, Wild West, hangin' judge in the tradition of Roy Bean. His brainchild was something he called "Poetic Justice." With "Poetic Justice," Poe sentenced criminals to public humiliations to teach them a lesson. Shoplifters who found themselves in front of Poe, for instance, had to stand outside the stores they pinched from carrying signs identifying themselves as criminals.

When a man robbed legendary Lone Ranger star Clayton Moore, Poe made the perp shovel manure 20 hours a month at the Houston police department's horse pens. The sentence was to last for 10 years.

The Club for Growth's Stephen Moore reports that Poe made convicted car thieves hand over their own cars to their victims. Convicted murderers were forced to visit their victims' grave sites; others felons had to hang their victims' pictures in their cells and, upon release, carry them in their wallets. According to the Houston Press, Poe slapped one homicidal drunken driver with the following the rap:

… boot camp; erecting and maintaining a cross and Star of David at the accident site; carrying pictures of the victims in his wallet for ten years; observing the autopsy of a drunk-driving victim; placing flowers on the graves of the two victims on their birthdays for the next ten years; and carrying a sign outside a bar that reads, "I killed two people while driving drunk."

This article describes the ambiance of Poe's Houston office: "a poster of Alcatraz, a painting of a scene from the battle of Gettysburg and a sign proclaiming, 'I really don't care how you did it up north.' "

As the Houston Chronicle reports, victims' relatives have charged that Poe would often fail to follow through on the harsh sentences—a revelation which comes as something of a relief. Slate eagerly awaits the punishments Poe metes out on congressional Democrats. ... 11:12 a.m.

A Snowball's Chance: If the election drifts into Mountain Time Tuesday, will John Kerry regret stiffing New Mexico? That's one theory being floated on Joe Monahan's superb New Mexico political blog tonight. George W. Bush visited the state Monday, Dick Cheney over the weekend. So, New Mexicans will wake up Tuesday to read triumphant Bush headlines like this and this, while they'll see news pictures of Kerry overnighting in Wisconsin.

Bill Richardson pulls all the puppet-strings in New Mexico, but there's mounting evidence that Kerry may be in trouble. The polls have looked limp. And there's a theory that Al Gore's slim margin in 2000—366 votes, all found days after the election—may be attributable to one thing: snow.

On Election Day 2000, a freak snowstorm blanketed "Little Texas," the swath of southeastern New Mexico known for its cultural and political kinship with its neighbor. Conservative voters in three counties stayed home in droves. With Gore running strong in northern New Mexico and narrowly winning Albuquerque, the snowed-in voters may have cost Bush the state.

Tuesday's weather report: This site says "rain and snow showers will linger" near the region. Kerry may need every flake and drop.  … 12:01 a.m.

Monday, Nov. 1 2004

The ESPN Primary: "Mr. President, I am wondering how you feel about taxpayers having to have a financial burden placed on them for building new stadiums and new facilities for existing teams?" So went The Candidates: Election 2004,ESPN's special last night that valiantly tried to make Tuesday's contest into a referendum on professional sports. Jim Gray, the thinking man's Ahmad Rashad, the guy who hones his interview technique on coaches trying to sneak off the court before halftime ("So, uh, how do you prepare for the second half?"), landed interviews with both candidates. With its modus operandi inching ever closer to that of Sabado Gigante, it's groovy to see ESPN put on its serious face once in a while—for the shtick to give way to grave pronouncements about THE WORLD BEYOND SPORTS. Except that Gray never acknowledged that such a thing existed.

In response to a question about ticket prices, Bush replied, "I was always concerned when I was with the Rangers that our ticket prices would become so high that the family would be priced out of baseball." Perhaps this is why Bush helped build the Ballpark at Arlington, one of the most expensive venues in baseball and one of its most soulless. For his part, Kerry repeated his I-stand-with-the-working-man pabulum, suggesting that fathers were looting their children's college funds to sit at club level.

Asked to name his favorite athlete, Kerry, of course, straddled, ticking off a fair slice of the Boston Bruins' first line and, for swing-state mojo, a handful of Detroit Red Wings. Bush got another chance to coo about his clutch performance during the 2001 World Series. And that's about as deep as our man Gray got. There are some reasonably interesting questions to ask about sports, such as why it remains one of the viciously anti-gay segments of public life, a black mark that is ignored when it isn't celebrated.

But why get huffy when you can ask both candidates, as Gray did, what should be done about Pete Rose, who after his selfless act of contrition last winter finds himself no closer to baseball's Hall of Fame? This is the kind of spitball that will get you hooted off most respectable sports radio shows, but the candidates tried their level best. Bush said Rose had never really apologized to baseball. Kerry straddled, then agreed. You could see the nervous flicker in both men's eyes—Bush: Christian values!; Kerry: Cincinnati values!—as they tried outflank one another on Charlie Hustle's quagmire.  ... 10:02 p.m.


          The Vanishing Nonvoter   

FORT LAUDERDALE—Republicans love to criticize Democrats for failing to use "dynamic scoring" when assessing the impact of tax cuts on budget revenues. But if President Bush loses the 2004 presidential election, it may be because Karl Rove failed to use dynamic scoring when assessing the impact of his political strategy on the electorate.

In budgetary matters, dynamic scoring means including the effect that cutting taxes will have on economic growth when determining how a tax cut will affect federal revenues. A static analysis, on the other hand, would just decrease the government's inflows by the amount that taxes were cut (or increase revenues by the amount taxes were raised), without calculating the ways a change in tax policy can change people's economic decisions.

For the 2004 election, Rove's static political analysis was that appealing to the 4 million evangelicals who didn't vote in 2000 would bring President Bush a decisive re-election victory. Bush's campaign—and his presidency—have appealed almost entirely to the base of the Republican Party. In a static world, that strategy makes sense: Consolidate the support you received last time, and then find new conservative voters who weren't motivated to turn out four years ago, whether because of the late-breaking news of Bush's DUI arrest or because they weren't convinced of Bush's conservative bona fides. But Rove may have missed the dynamic analysis: the effect that such a strategy would have on the rest of the nonvoting public.

In most states, the Democratic voter-registration program has outpaced the Republican one. Here in Florida, that hasn't been the case, as the GOP has turned up more new registrants across the state than the Democrats. But evidence that Rove's unconventional strategy inflamed the Democratic base can be seen in the early-voting turnout, which seems to be favoring the Democrats. Friday's South Florida Sun-Sentinel featured this headline on the front page: "Early Vote Turnout Boosts Democrats." Calling the turnout in heavily Democratic Broward County a "bad sign for President Bush's chances to win the state," the Sun-Sentinel noted that "twice as many Democrats as Republicans had either voted at early voting sites or returned absentee ballots in the county." In Miami-Dade, another heavily Democratic county, Kerry stands to beat Bush by 90,000 votes if a Miami Herald poll conducted by John Zogby is accurate, Herald columnist Jim DeFede wrote on Thursday. Al Gore won the county by less than 40,000 votes.

"By our count, John Kerry already has a significant lead with the people who have already voted in Florida," Tad Devine said in a conference call with reporters Saturday. The voters who are waiting in line for 2 1/2 hours to vote—almost exactly how long the line was Saturday at the downtown Fort Lauderdale public library—aren't doing that to register their support for "more of the same," he said. Interestingly, Devine sounded more confident about Kerry's chances in Florida than in Ohio, a state in which most people think Kerry has a slight edge. He said that Kerry had a "small but important advantage" in Florida (as well as Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania) but only that the race was "very close" with Kerry "positioned to win" in Ohio, putting that the Buckeye State in the same category as Bush-leaning (by most accounts) states Iowa, Nevada, and New Mexico.

It's possible that Rove and the Bush campaign have turned up a huge trove of conservative nonvoters who were registered to vote four years ago and who therefore aren't showing up in the numbers of new registered voters. Unless that's true, however, the early indications are that Rove's repudiation of centrist politics will backfire. The secret of Bill Clinton's campaigns and of George W. Bush's election in 2000 was the much-maligned politics of small differences: Find the smallest possible majority (well, of electoral votes, for both men) that gets you to the White House. In political science, something called the "median voter theorem" dictates that in a two-party system, both parties will rush to the center looking for that lone voter—the median voter—who has 50.1 percent of the public to the right (or left) of him. Win that person's vote, and you've won the election.

Rove has tried to use the Bush campaign to disprove the politics of the median voter. It was as big a gamble as any of the big bets President Bush has placed over the past four years. It has the potential to pay off spectacularly. After all, everyone always talks about how there are as many people who don't vote in this country as people who do vote. Rove decided to try to get the president to excite those people. Whether Bush wins or loses, it looks like he succeeded.


          What Would John Paul Do?   

COLUMBUS, Ohio—Al Gore couldn't carry Tennessee. But will John Kerry lose his home faith? Among Catholic voters in this state, a recent poll done by Ohio University showed Kerry trailing Bush 50 percent to 44 percent, while the race among Protestants was closer, with 50 percent backing Kerry and 49 percent behind Bush. (Though both results are within the margin of error.) The question isn't just a matter of trivia: In Sunday's New York Times, Adam Nagourney raised the question of whether a Kerry defeat would "make it more difficult for another Catholic to capture the Democratic nomination any time soon." Kerry's opposition to Church teaching on abortion (at least in public policy) led to several controversies, including the one where some bishops announced they would not give Kerry Communion if he were in their congregations. Losing a bishop or two is one thing; if Kerry can't carry the Catholic vote comfortably in swing states, electability-driven primary voters may look more skeptically at future Catholic candidates.

Nationally, the polls have been mixed, and some recent polls have shown Kerry gaining ground among the flock. Last week's Zogby Poll showed Kerry leading among Catholics, and at Beliefnet, Slate's "Faith-Based" columnist Steven Waldman noted that undecided white Catholics broke for Kerry in two polls after the first debate. But despite that support, the debates over whether Kerry is a "real Catholic" have put liberal Catholics on the defensive and made them feel like an embattled minority. A convention of political journalism has added to the feeling: the unfortunate tendency to pronounce that "white men" or "married women with children" or "churchgoers" believe certain things, even when as many as 45 percent of the members of the demographic disagree. Journalism has no reservations about the tyranny of the majority.

So, when several hundred Columbus-area Catholics, including a nun and several priests, gathered Sunday afternoon for a "Catholics for Kerry" rally, the event had the air of a coming-out party. The speakers on stage embraced each other as each one finished addressing the audience. "It feels good, doesn't it?" said Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois. A member of the Columbus City Council, Maryellen O'Shaughnessy, sounded a we're-here-get-used-to-it note. "We won't be afraid to speak out on whom we support," she said. "We will not be cowed by some extremists who would have us be quiet."

At times, the speakers at the event seemed more interested in rebuking the leaders of the Church who have criticized Kerry than in praising the candidate himself. It wasn't a sober gathering filled with theological and canonical explanations of where Kerry's politics fit in with Church teaching. Too often, the rally was an angry, if understandable, rant. Father James Colopy read a letter written by his aunt to the New York Times and a local newspaper after the Republican convention. Her brother was burned to death in Vietnam, and she was outraged at the Purple Heart band-aids worn by delegates. The Purple Heart "should be honored as the flag is honored," she wrote. "And [Bush] calls himself a pro-life president," Colopy said. "Lies, all lies." Father Greg Jones agreed that Bush was not pro-life in the Catholic sense—because he prosecuted an unjust war, because he executed more than 150 people as Texas governor, because his abortion policy "is full of asterisks"—and alluded to the Church's pedophilia scandal when he said, "Tainted leadership has promoted the lie." The pope and the Catholic Church demand respect for all life, "from conception to natural death, not death in the Texas deathhouse," Jones said. "You see, life doesn't end at birth." And minority groups are alive, too, Jones said. You're supposed to nurture the lives of all of them, "not just one lesbian in the White House." (Jones did have a funny riff on Lynne Cheney's outrage over her daughter's "outing": "Hello? She's a professional lesbian," who worked for Coors doing gay outreach. "She actually traveled the country with Mr. International Leather. That's pretty lesbian.")

The speakers were smart men and women of faith, but they sometimes came across as imbued with the same self-righteousness as their political opponents. Eric McFadden, the man who organized the event through his Web site (and who was interviewed by Nightline beforehand), said he doesn't like it when the Bush campaign shows photos of the president with members of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic organization. As a fourth degree Knight, "That's an affront to me, because he does not walk with Christ," McFadden said. Father John Ardis, Kerry's pastor from the Paulist Center in Boston, explained that Kerry's Catholic faith dictated his support for Democratic slogans like "closing the gun show loophole" and "extending the assault weapons ban."

The quieter, less political moments were more effective. "God is real in John and Teresa's lives," Ardis said. "While they could undoubtedly choose to sit back and enjoy lives of relaxed leisure, they do not." By the time Sen. Durbin mentioned the Gospel story of the self-righteous prayer of the Pharisee and the humble prayer of the tax collector, his question—"How can those on the other side be so convinced of their righteousness?"—came as a rebuke not just to the religious right but, unintentionally, to the assembled religious left.

On Monday, I went to McFadden's house to talk about the rally with him. He agreed that parts of the rally may have come across as self-righteous, but added, "What was said yesterday had to be said. My organization shouldn't have to exist." They started it, he said. "They drug my religion into it, my faith. We didn't ask for this." For example, the Bush campaign shows pictures of the president meeting with the pope. "At that meeting, Pope John Paul II scolded him and condemned his war." The pope supports a multilateral approach to fighting terrorism, he continued. "Pope John Paul hasn't said a word in these last two months about abortion. But Pope John Paul has condemned the war twice. … To me, the pope has endorsed the platform that John Kerry is running on with regards to the war on terror."

McFadden, who is anti-abortion, concedes that some of Kerry's positions, such as his support for federal funding for abortion, are "tough," but says Catholics shouldn't be single-issue voters. And rallies like the one here on Sunday make him feel better. "I kind of felt like I was alone at the beginning."

If John Kerry becomes president, the long-simmering divide between conservative and liberal Catholics will probably widen. But whether Kerry becomes president—and whether the Democrats wait four more decades before nominating another Catholic—may depend on just how not-alone McFadden is.


          I Want My GOTV   

COLUMBUS, Ohio—With only nine days until this election is over (or so everyone hopes), we've reached the stage of the campaign when the political press evaluates each side's ground game. The media's track record on this is not encouraging. Almost exactly nine months ago, reporters were wandering around Iowa judging the merits of everyone's "organization, organization, organization." The verdict: Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt were the men to beat. We were dazzled by Gephardt's union support and by Dean's "Perfect Storm" of door-knocking, orange-hatted, out-of-state volunteers. They both got creamed.

In hindsight, Dean's Perfect Storm has been judged a debacle on two levels: It annoyed Iowans, who don't like outsiders, and it tied up Dean's staff with organizational headaches—where should we house the Stormers? How can we keep them busy?—when the staff's time would have been better spent figuring out how to get Iowans to the caucuses. But at the time, it got great press.

So, perhaps it's a bad omen for Kerry's ground game in Ohio when I discover that Christy Setzer, the woman who handled press for the Perfect Storm, has been assigned to deal with national reporters who parachute into Columbus to watch America Coming Together, the New New Thing of the general election, in action. That's not meant as a slap at Setzer—she's a terrific person who's good at her job (see the aforementioned glowing press)—but the parallels are irresistible. Like the Storm was for the caucuses, the George Soros-funded ACT is the Big Question Mark of the general election: How many of the new voters it registered in the past year are authentic? How many of them will show up to vote? Can this unconventional strategy win Kerry the presidency?

ACT's army of red-coated canvassers are Kerry's Afghan warlords: He's outsourced his base campaign, his voter-registration drives, and a healthy chunk of his get-out-the-vote operation to them. Much of the rest of the operation will be handled by the groups (including ACT) that make up America Votes, another 527 that coordinates the voter-contact and voter-turnout operations of a host of interest groups, from the AFL-CIO to Planned Parenthood, to ensure that everyone's on the same page. In a sense, America Votes does for the liberal ground game what Grover Norquist's weekly meeting does for conservative talking points.

When I ask Setzer to compare ACT to Dean's Storm, she says it differs in important ways. For one, the canvassers are paid workers and not volunteers, and the organization tries to hire locals instead of out-of-towners. More important, perhaps, the canvassers are supposed to identify voters and get them to the polls, not tell voters their personal stories of how far they've traveled and why they're committed to Howard Dean (or John Kerry). But the real key is that they don't work for just one weekend.

The secret to turnout is frequent face-to-face contact with voters. That's a lesson Steve Rosenthal, the national head of America Coming Together, learned during his years as the political director of the AFL-CIO. Many people attribute Al Gore's victory in the popular vote in 2000—and his wins in every close state except Florida—to Rosenthal's turnout operation for the unions in 2000. Donna Brazile has called Rosenthal "the last great hope of the Democratic Party" and has compared him to Michael Whouley and Karl Rove. ACT is a national version of what Rosenthal did for Philadelphia Mayor John Street in 2003. In that race, 38,000, or 44 percent, of the 86,000 new voters Rosenthal registered came to the polls, he told National Journal earlier this year, compared to 28 or 29 percent of what the magazine called "voters from the same neighborhoods and similar socio-economic backgrounds who had registered on their own."

In Ohio, ACT sends out between 200 and 250 paid canvassers each day. They get paid between $8 and $10 an hour. Setzer reels off impressive numbers: We've knocked on 3.7 million doors in Ohio, had more than 1 million conversations. On Election Day, ACT will send out 12,000 volunteers, each paid a stipend of $75 for travel and expenses, to make sure voters get to the polls. ACT and the partner organizations that make up America Votes have registered about 300,000 new voters in Ohio, and they'll consider it a success to turn out just half of them. Those voters alone, though, wouldn't swing the election. Four years ago, Bush's margin of victory was nearly 180,000 votes. In all, Ohio has between 700,000 and 800,000 new voters for this election, though Setzer points out that some of that could just be churn from voters who moved.

My trip to watch two ACT canvassers in action wasn't very impressive, but that's because it was a Potemkin canvass, organized for the benefit of an MSNBC reporter and his camera. Malik Hubbard, 26, and Julian Johannesen, 32, walked up and down a few blocks in a largely African-American neighborhood in Columbus on a Saturday afternoon. As ACT's field directors for Franklin County, which includes Columbus, Hubbard and Johannesen don't usually canvass themselves. Each man carried a Palm Tungsten T2, which contained the addresses of the voters they were supposed to contact. It's Saturday afternoon on the day of the Ohio State homecoming game, so it's not optimal door-knocking time, but they do their best to put on a good show. When a voter answers the door, the canvasser gives him or her a flyer that has the address of the local polling place stamped on it. He explains that the polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m., advises the voter to bring some form of identification to the polls in case their registration is challenged, and asks if there are any questions. On two separate occasions, a voter worries about a false rumor that the neighborhood's voting machines have been replaced with punch-card ballots. After talking to each voter, Hubbard and Johannesen input the data into their Tungsten T2s.

Over the next nine days, canvassers will follow up with voters, continuing the personal contacts. For what it's worth, the Bush-Cheney campaign in the state is following a similar strategy, though it doesn't partly rely on an outside organization to carry it out. "I'm not saying we're gonna outperform the other side, because they have the potential to be spectacular," says Dave Beckwith, a Bush-Cheney spokesman in Ohio. "I'd just rather be where we are, with a real solid model." The model is the Republican "72 Hour Program," Karl Rove's get-out-the-vote operation from 2002, which helped the Republicans gain House and Senate seats in the midterm elections. Like ACT, the 72 Hour Program relies on frequent face-to-face contact with voters, what Bush's Ohio campaign manager Bob Paduchik calls "the volunteer-to-voter interface."

"By and large, it is an effort to move closer to the Democrat knock-and-drag vote drive," Beckwith says. Republicans have traditionally relied on things like direct mail to get out the vote, but this time, "We are going to the personal contact system." The Bush-Cheney campaign has printed up small pamphlets that contain a list of each committed Bush voter in a neighborhood, along with voters' phone numbers and a map of the area. On Election Day, a volunteer takes the book and checks off each voter after they go to the polls.

Beckwith admits that the Democrats have registered more new voters than the Republicans, but he says that their work was done by "mercenaries"—and they have "people signed up by crack addicts"—while his side employs volunteers, or "liberty-loving free men." Beckwith then drifts into a reverie about the Battle of San Jacinto and explains how Sam Houston knew that "conscripts" and the forces of "despotism" couldn't defeat free men. The enemy was saying, "Me no Alamo," Beckwith says with a laugh. (At another moment in the interview, Beckwith observes of the Kerry-Edwards campaign offices, "I think they're on Gay Street, which is interesting, because we're on Rich Street.")

At the Bush-Cheney headquarters, I mention to Paduchik, Bush's Ohio campaign manager, how the media overestimated the effectiveness of Dean's Perfect Storm. Paduchik says the evidence of Bush's organization in Ohio is the size of his crowds, because the campaign distributes its tickets through its volunteers. When you see 22,000 people in Troy, Ohio, or 50,000 people in Westchester, Ohio, you know you're looking at "a real organization," he says. "It's not because we had tickets you could download from the Internet. It's not because we had put them on car windows, or had people pick them up at a 7-Eleven, like the other side does."

On the way out, I'm reminded that all this work on both sides isn't necessarily a sign of confidence. As we walk to the door, Beckwith points to an empty portion of the Bush-Cheney offices. That's where the staff for Sen. George Voinovich works, he says. "These cocksuckers are up 30 points and they're never in here."


          On Novelty Cufflinks   
Cufflinks are usually worn as adornments - accessories of fashion that add style to a gentleman's attire. But it doesn't have to be all formal and conservative all the time. Men don't just wear them for style; they can also wear them for fun. And besides the rules of accessory matching, novelty cufflinks make men's fashion all the more fun and exciting. They add much flavor and variety in the ever growing world of men's accessories.
          Running Scared   

NEW YORK—One of the most striking things about watching the Republican National Convention from inside Madison Square Garden has been the lack of enthusiasm among the delegates on the floor. When they formally, and unanimously, nominated George W. Bush as their party's presidential nominee Wednesday at the conclusion of the roll call of the states, the delegates failed to muster much applause for their action. "We can do better than that," complained Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele from the podium. "Come on now, bring it on for the president." The delegates dutifully applauded some more, but they still weren't very loud, and Steele still seemed disappointed.

But by the end of Wednesday night, the delegates were fired up. What got them going? Speeches by Zell Miller and Dick Cheney arguing that John Kerry can't be trusted on matters of national security, that he's weak, indecisive, and open to influence from foreign leaders. "Kerry would let Paris decide when America needs defending," Miller scoffed, and the delegates booed. During Cheney's speech, delegates joyously mocked Kerry by chanting "flip flop, flip flop," and they booed the idea that Kerry even aspired to be the country's commander in chief. The knock on Democrats this year is supposed to be that they hate the other guy more than they love their own. Based on this convention, it sure looks like the same is true of Republicans.

Tonight confirmed what I suspected before the Democratic convention began: In violation of the normal rules of politics, this year's election is a referendum on the challenger rather than a referendum on the incumbent. There's a general sense that a change in presidents would be a good thing, but the country is taking that decision more seriously than it would in peacetime, and voters aren't certain, despite their disapproval of President Bush, that a President Kerry would be an improvement.

That's why this was the night the Republicans did their convention right. During the first two days of this convention, the prime-time speakers gave eloquent speeches, but they didn't hammer Kerry enough, with the exception of Rudy Giuliani's effective pummeling of Kerry's reputation for inconsistency. Tonight, Miller and Cheney more than made up for the oversight. My guess is that Republicans won't be able to convince voters that Bush has been a wonderful president, but they just might be able to convince voters that Kerry would be a terrible one.

There is the question, though, of whether anything that happens at this convention will make much of a difference in the race. As a rule, political conventions are aimed at the great mass of undecided voters who typically determine the outcome of elections, and this convention has been no different. But what's interesting about the Republicans' decision to follow those rules and hold a convention that appeals to swing voters is that Karl Rove has already announced that 2004 is a year that the normal rules don't apply.

This is supposed to be a "base" election, not a "swing" one. Rove believes that there are more votes to be found among the conservatives who didn't turn out to vote in 2000 than among the minuscule pool of undecided voters. In search of those stay-at-home voters, President Bush and Vice President Cheney almost exclusively visit heavily Republican areas in swing states.

Democrats fear that the Bush-Cheney campaign may be able to pull off a national version of what Ralph Reed did for Saxby Chambliss in Georgia two years ago, when Reed turned out droves of new evangelical voters who made the difference against Max Cleland. The race in Missouri provides a good example of what Republicans are trying to do. Earlier this year I spoke to Lloyd Smith, who is advising the Bush-Cheney campaign in the Show-Me State this year. Smith said the Bush-Cheney campaign will win the state by going to precincts that had as few as 500 or 600 voters in them four years ago and finding another 100 voters in each one to vote for the president.

In 2000, those stay-at-home voters didn't like George W. Bush enough (or hate Al Gore enough) to be motivated to get out to the polls and vote. Based on Bush's record, my guess is that they don't like him any more now. Love of Bush won't win the Republicans the presidency. Fear of Kerry might.


          Playing to Strength   

NEW YORK—Inside Madison Square Garden, Tuesday's schedule promised another day of moderation, with Laura Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger following Monday's tag-team of John McCain and Rudy Giuliani. But outside the hall, among the protesters, Tuesday is the day marked off for the hard-core left, for the anarchists and communists and the man at Union Square who is calling for American soldiers to rise up in mutiny and frag their commanding officers. Except at this convention, even the anarchists are moderates.

At Union Square, where Tuesday's "day of action" begins at 4 p.m., a small crowd gathers to block off the entrance to the park in defiance of police orders. "Ladies and gentlemen, you have to remove yourselves from the entrance," says a cop in front of a phalanx of shield-bearing officers. The crowd, which had been chanting, "Go arrest Bush! Go arrest Bush!" decides to adjust its message. The new chant: "The police deserve a raise! The police deserve a raise!" Who says anarchists aren't politically savvy? When trying to win over an audience, abandon the red-meat rhetoric and instead reach out to independent swing cops.

The protesters and convention speakers have a lot in common, in fact, including a preference for empty slogans and false choices. But more important, they both believe that showing resolve is the most important political act. The protesters believe that if enough of them are willing to lie down in the streets and get arrested—and if they do it over and over and over again—the American people will be persuaded to consider their point of view. The convention speakers agree that doing something over and over and over again, being unwavering and unchangeable, is the best way to pull Americans to your side.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Tuesday speaker with the most, er, movie-star appeal, says that "perseverance" is the quality he admires most about President Bush: "He's a man of inner strength. He is a leader who doesn't flinch, doesn't waver, and does not back down." Sure, the president led the country into an unpopular war, Schwarzenegger says, but that's a good thing! "The president didn't go into Iraq because the polls told him it was popular. In fact, the polls said just the opposite. But leadership isn't about polls. It's about making decisions you think are right and then standing behind those decisions." Schwarzenegger echoes what Monday night's final speaker, Rudy Giuliani, said: "There are many qualities that make a great leader but having strong beliefs, being able to stick with them through popular and unpopular times, is the most important characteristic of a great leader."

Now, that can't possibly be right. Surely Giuliani and Schwarzenegger believe that having the correct beliefs is more important than sticking by your beliefs, no matter how wrong you are. Sticking by your beliefs is probably the most overrated leadership trait. All great politicians are flip-floppers, including President Bush.

The biggest fib the president says on the stump is, "When I say something, I mean it." Did he mean it when he said that no matter what the whip count, he would ask for a second vote at the Security Council before going to war with Iraq? Did he mean it when he was against a Department of Homeland Security? Did he mean it when he opposed the creation of a 9/11 commission? Did he mean it when he opposed McCain-Feingold? Did he mean it when he said troops shouldn't be used for nation-building? Did he mean it when he said he planned to use his presidency to strengthen international alliances? Does he mean it when he says, "It's the people's money, not the government's money"? If so, then why does he spend so much of it?

Up to now, the Kerry campaign has elected not to use this inconsistent record to undermine the Republican claim that President Bush is a man of great resolve. Instead, they've decided to buttress the idea. The president is stubborn, unyielding, Kerry says. He's not flexible enough.

Kerry's approach plays into liberals' fantasies about themselves. Liberals think they're smarter, more thoughtful, more nuanced than conservatives. They think they're more aware of the complexities and ambiguities in life. They're not inconsistent; they're Emersonian. Kerry tried to take advantage of this at the Democratic Convention when he said that he understands that some things are complicated. Bush's response has been to say, as he does often, "There is nothing complicated about supporting our troops."

Howard Dean got it right when he said that people don't like President Bush because they agree with his policies. They like him because they think he's a strong leader. Unless Democrats can undermine that belief, they don't have a chance of regaining the presidency. The Kerry campaign may finally be learning this. When Bush said that he now believes the nation actually can win the war on terror (despite saying otherwise previously), the Kerry campaign e-mailed a press release with the headline, "Bush: Against Winning the War on Terror Before He Was for It." Maybe they've learned that Kerry can't blunt Bush's strength on national security without making at least some people think the president is a flip-flopping "politician." You don't beat your opponent by listening to his message, nodding, and saying, I agree.


          The Cheese Stands Alone   

BOSTON—Throughout his presidential campaign, John Kerry has relied on a team of salesmen to make the case for why voters should elect him as the next man to occupy the Oval Office. Even before the arrival of John Edwards as his running mate, Kerry seemed to know that he needed a charismatic advocate by his side at all times. In Iowa, Christie Vilsack, the wife of Hawkeye State Gov. Tom Vilsack, charmed the crowds at Kerry events, and the surprise arrival of this-man-saved-my-life Jim Rassman cinched the caucuses for Kerry. In New Hampshire, it was Bay State neighbor Teddy Kennedy who entertained the audience, while Kerry was content to play master of ceremonies to a cavalcade of guest stars. In effect, the first three days of the Democratic convention take the conceit of the standard Kerry campaign event to its logical conclusion, by eliminating the candidate entirely.

Unfortunately, it didn't work quite as well on Monday night as I expected. Al Gore and Jimmy Carter, the night's two main speakers not named Clinton, made powerful and persuasive critiques of George W. Bush's presidency, but they failed to advance much of a positive case for a President Kerry. Gore, the first major speaker to take the stage, gave the best speech it's possible for Al Gore to deliver, hitting that third gear he usually skips, the one in between robotic Gore and mental-patient Gore. It felt like Gore's turn to have a Bob Dole moment, to reinvent himself as an elder statesman who laughs at himself.

But what the speech did for Gore is less important than what it did for Kerry: not enough. Gore's case against Bush was clear and convincing. He asked those who voted for his opponent four years ago, "Did you really get what you expected from the candidate that you voted for? Is our country more united today? Or more divided? Has the promise of compassionate conservatism been fulfilled? Or do those words now ring hollow? For that matter, are the economic policies really conservative at all? Did you expect, for example, the largest deficits in history?" Gore also reached out to Nader voters—and maybe even to capital-L Libertarians—asking, "Do you still believe that there was no difference between the candidates?" Gore even advanced what Mickey Kaus dubs the "Pedro Martinez" theory of the presidential campaign. He asked supporters of the Iraq war to consider the merits of a relief pitcher: "Wouldn't we be better off with a new President who hasn't burned his bridges to our allies, and who could rebuild respect for America in the world?"

But if you're deciding whether to turn to the bullpen, it matters whether the guy warming up is Eric Gagne or Byung-Hyun Kim, and Gore doesn't do much to assure voters who aren't certain about Kerry's merits. Here's the entirety of his case for Kerry: He is loyal. He is honest. He is patriotic. He served in Vietnam. He protects the environment. He fights narcoterrorism. He's a deficit hawk. He picked John Edwards.

It's not a bad list, but it feels insufficient. Carter's speech suffered from a similar problem. It was filled with reasons to vote against George Bush but not enough reasons to vote for John Kerry. Carter's critique of Bush was even more effective than Gore's, though, in part because it was so genially vicious. Alone of all the speakers Monday night, Carter alluded to Bush's service, or lack thereof, in the National Guard. He noted that Truman and Eisenhower, the two presidents Carter served under during his time in the Navy, "faced their active military responsibilities with honor." Kerry, likewise, "showed up when assigned to duty, and he served with honor and distinction." Carter also came the closest of any speaker to calling Bush a liar. He said that if Bush wins reelection, "the manipulation of truth will define America's role in the world," and he said that "in the world at large we cannot lead if our leaders mislead." Carter even made what to my ear sounds like a reference to the Abu Ghraib scandal, saying that "we cannot be true to ourselves if we mistreat others."

Like Gore, however, Carter's embrace of Kerry wasn't as persuasive as his denunciation of Bush. This is nice, but it just isn't enough, I think to myself. Maybe Kerry can't rely on surrogates anymore. He's going to have to finally sell himself. Then Bill Clinton strode into the FleetCenter to worshipful applause.

Clinton sold Kerry, rather than just tearing down the leading brand. And he managed to tie Kerry's Vietnam experience into a compelling thematic refrain, with Kerry declaring "send me," like a believer answering God's call, every time his nation needed him. Soon, the crowd began chanting Clinton's refrain with him. As usual, Clinton's familiarity with the language of religion added depth to his oratory. After Clinton said to remember the Scripture, "Be not afraid," I found myself singing the hymn in my head: "I will go, Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart." More concisely: Send me.

The speech was everything Kerry could have wished for, an electric performance by the party's most charismatic salesman. Still, as the former president walked off the stage, I had to wonder how many people were thinking: Send Clinton. This man would beat President Bush—again—in a romp. Kerry, on the other hand, hasn't yet proved that he can close the deal.

So, in the end, Clinton's speech was just like Gore's and Carter's. It was nice, but it isn't enough.


          That '70s Campaign   

NASHVILLE—The Democratic Party's estimates of its chances of defeating President Bush in November have rebounded in concert with John Kerry's campaign. A little more than a month ago, most Democrats were overly pessimistic about the 2004 election. Now they're overly optimistic. Sunday afternoon, during a press conference prior to a Democratic Party rally at the downtown Hilton here, U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., declared not only that "Bush 43 looks very beatable at this point," but also that 2004 could be a congressional "tidal wave year" for the Democrats, akin to 1994 for the Republicans.

And if 2004 isn't a Democratic 1994, maybe it's 1976. That was former Vice President Al Gore's message to the Tennessee Democrats Sunday night. In an angry, sweaty shout, sounding like the second coming of Huey Long, Gore drew an extended comparison between the post-Watergate election of 1976, the year of his first election to Congress, and the post-Iraq election of 2004. John Kerry's two main rivals in Tennessee, Wesley Clark and John Edwards, spoke to the party, too, but Gore was clearly the main event. And if he wasn't before he spoke, he was by the time he was finished.

"You know, there was a mood in '76, a spirit of unity, a feeling of determination that we were going to win that race that year," said Gore, clearly linking that feeling to the resolve of 2004 Democrats to win back the presidency. Gore, however, wasn't referring only to the feelings of national Democrats in 1976. He was referring to the feelings of Tennessee Democrats, who were bitter over a Senate race that had been lost six years earlier.

Gore's father, Albert Gore Sr., was defeated in his 1970 campaign for re-election to the U.S. Senate. Gore made a number of comparisons between 1970 and 1976 in Tennessee and 2000, 2002, and 2004 in America. "President George W. Bush reminds me more of former President Richard Nixon than any of his other predecessors," he said, implying, it seemed, that Nixon smeared his father in the midterm elections of 1970 just as President Bush smeared Georgia Senator Max Cleland in 2002. "They tried to make out like my dad was an atheist because he didn't want a constitutional amendment putting the government in charge of telling children how they ought to worship God in the public schools," Gore said. "They came out with accusations that he was unpatriotic because he was opposed to the Vietnam War and the mistaken policy that got us into that war." Gore recalled his father's concession speech on Election Night: "He took the old Confederate slogan about 'The South shall rise again,' and he stood it on its head. And he proudly proclaimed, 'The truth shall rise again!'"

Gore was also drawing an analogy between his father and himself. He was expressing the hope that just as his father's loss was redeemed by the election of a Democrat, Jim Sasser, to his U.S. Senate seat six years later, so too could Gore be redeemed after his loss to George W. Bush, if the Democrats reclaim the White House in 2004. As Gore stood on stage before his remarks, I wondered, what must it be like to be Samuel Tilden? What's it like to be haunted by the fact that you're a historical footnote? Gore's speech provided some answers.

"We have seen an administration which in my view more closely resembles the Nixon-Agnew administration than any other previous administration," he said. "There's a reason I say that. I don't offer that as simply a casual slur." The crowd laughed. "I'm not above a casual slur," Gore added, in a "mind you" tone, to more laughter. "But I'm biased, I didn't vote for the guy." A man calls out, "Neither did America!" To which Gore responds, "Well, there is that."

He continued: "But here's the reason I say that President George W. Bush reminds me more of former President Richard Nixon than any of his other predecessors. Nixon was no more committed to principle than the man in the moon. He, as a conservative Republican, imposed wage and price controls. Hard to believe in this day and time. But he did. And he cared as little about what it meant to be really conservative as George W. Bush has cared in imposing $550 billion budget deficits and trillions in additions to the national debt. That has nothing to do with conservatism and everything to do with his effort to get re-elected!"

Gore then explained how he planned to travel to Iowa in September 2001 to deliver "a real ripsnorter of a speech" that would have harshly critiqued President Bush's first nine months in office and broken Gore's political silence. He abandoned his plan after the Sept. 11 attacks, he said, and instead swallowed his pride and told the Iowa Democrats of the man he clearly feels stole the presidency from him, "George W. Bush is my commander-in-chief."

"I think there were millions just like me, who genuinely, in spite of whatever partisanship they may have felt prior to that time, genuinely felt like they wanted George W. Bush to lead all of us in America wisely and well," he shouted.

"And the reason I'm recalling those feelings now is because those are the feelings that were betrayed by this president! He betrayed this country! He played on our fears! He took America, he took America on an ill-conceived foreign adventure dangerous to our troops, an adventure that was preordained and planned before 9/11 ever took place!" Gore closed with his father's line from 1970: "And so I say to you in closing my friends, in the year of 2004, the truth shall rise again!"

The crowded erupted in a frenzy that recalled a Howard Dean audience circa August 2003. Which, if you think about it, is pretty much where Gore still is. Many Democrats took the 2000 election personally, and they saw the Dean campaign as the outlet for their anger and frustration. But no Democrat could have taken it more personally than Al Gore. To those who speculate that Gore's endorsement of Dean was a crude and ill-timed political calculation, this speech was a repudiation.

Not only does he believe that he should rightfully be president, he also thinks he performed his patriotic duty in the aftermath of 9/11, and Bush screwed him for it. To Gore, it seems that beating Bush wouldn't suffice. He wants to convince the world that Bush is one of history's worst presidents.

Gore is still popular with the Democratic base, but after this speech, the question for the party's nominee has to be, do you want this man to speak at the convention in Boston? Even if you like the sentiment behind this speech, if Gore delivers an address like this one in July, the historical analogy won't be to the Democrats of 1976 or to the Republicans of 1994. Instead, the comparison will be to the disastrous Republican convention of 1992. The angry white male is back. Do the Democrats really want him?


          Closing Arguments   

NASHUA, N.H.—I'm feeling sorry for Dennis Kucinich. And the feeling just makes me feel even sorrier, because pity isn't the emotion he's trying to evoke. Kucinich is standing in front of more than 1,000 Democrats at a fund-raiser Saturday night for the New Hampshire Democratic Party, at which every candidate in the New Hampshire primary except Al Sharpton is scheduled to speak. Kucinich must know that he's not going to win Tuesday night, but at the same time he surely fantasizes that this is his moment, this is his chance to make a winning, last-ditch appeal for his unlikely candidacy.

I am the only candidate who voted against the Iraq war and the Patriot Act, Kucinich proclaims to fervent applause. I am the only candidate "who insists on an immediate end to the occupation." Imagine a presidential debate between President Bush and my opponents (other than Al Sharpton), he says. They supported the war, they voted for the invasion, or they support the occupation. "Where's the debate with President Bush?" he asks.

And it's not just the war. Kucinich wants not-for-profit single-payer health care, and his opponents don't. "This is the time," Kucinich is saying, but I can't hear the rest. He's being drowned out, at least in the back of the room where I stand, by cries of "How-ard! How-ard! How-ard! How-ard!" coming from the hallway, where Howard Dean must have just arrived. Nearly a year of campaigning by the Ohio congressman for the highest office in the land is summed up in this moment. What must it be like to imagine yourself as the leader of an incipient movement for progressivism and then to have that movement led by another man, one that you view as a charlatan?

The night's other tragic figure is Joe Lieberman. He's begging for scraps of support by appealing to state pride, the last refuge of a second-tier candidate. "Hey, let me tell you this, I love New Hampshire," he says. "Did you see me at the debate the other day? I swore to God to fight to the death to protect the first-in-the-nation status of the New Hampshire Democratic primary." Lieberman knows he's not popular, but he's hoping against hope, too. "Looking around this room, I see there are some people supporting some other candidates for president, and I respect that diversity," he says.

See, Lieberman's not a conservative Democrat. He's diverse! "I have never wavered for a moment" on the need to remove Saddam Hussein, he says, and it sounds like three people clap. I'm more electable than the others, he says, because there are "a surprising number of Republicans who are disappointed with George W. Bush and ready to go for an acceptable alternative." There's a winning Democratic primary message: The candidate whom Republicans kinda like!

Lieberman can't get it right even when he's shoring up his liberal bona fides by talking about his plan to fight poverty. "Is it right for George W. Bush to have turned his back on 35 Americans in poverty?" he asks, omitting the crucial word, "million." But he's not discouraged. "I feel something happening in this campaign for me," he says. "My staff says that in New Hampshire today, there is an outbreak of 'Joe-mentum,' and I hope so." That's only the latest painful "Joe" pun in a Lieberman campaign list that includes the "Joe-vember to remember" and the campaign vehicle, the "WinnebaJoe."

As he's wrapping up, thanking "the people of New Hampshire for the warmth and respect" they have given him, Lieberman's speech has the feeling of a farewell, very much like a speech I saw Dick Gephardt give the night before the Iowa caucuses. Miracles do happen, and the Lieberman campaign is circulating a poll that shows him in a fight for third place (most polls show him mired in fifth), but inside this room it feels as if Lieberman, like Kucinich, is clinging to a fantasy.

Of the other candidates, Wesley Clark comes across the worst. "I haven't been a member of this party for very long," he says, and the crowd grumbles. "I know," shouts one man, while another calls out, "No shit!" Now that Dean has turned down his volume, Clark is the race's screamer, and he sounds a little unhinged. "We Democrats have got to take out that president," he says, in an unfortunate turn of phrase for one of the two candidates that has actually killed people. The crowd's applause is polite but tepid, and the race feels like it's slipping away from Clark, too.

The chair of the Democratic Party, Kathy Sullivan, introduces Dean as if he's a figure from the distant past, praising him for energizing the party "at a time when we were tired and unsure of ourselves." Dean draws big cheers, but they mostly come from the people in the back rows and in standing-room-only. A woman calls out to him, "Howard, don't ever give up." A man yells, "Give 'em hope, Howard!" Dean's eyebrows rise as he smiles his wicked grin. "I'm going to resist the temptation," he says.

Nearly a year ago, Dean appeared before the Democratic National Committee's winter meeting and declared, "What I want to know is why in the world the Democratic Party leadership is supporting the president's unilateral attack on Iraq." He pricked the post-9/11 bubble surrounding Bush and in the process transformed himself from a curiosity into a contender. But his speech Saturday barely touches on Iraq. He also says something I don't think I've ever heard him say before: "I ask for your vote."

John Edwards captivates the crowd. Edwards doesn't transfix me the way he does other members of the press. His way of merely describing his message as "positive" and "optimistic" and "uplifting" rather than, you know, actually having a message that embodies those qualities grates on me. What's the difference between Edwards' rhetoric and the awkward "Message: I care" rhetoric of George H.W. Bush? Edwards also has this new gesture he's using, where he puts a finger to his lips to appear thoughtful, that makes him look like Austin Powers.

But his message undoubtedly connects. He enters to enthusiastic applause, though it's not Dean-level. His speech about two Americas, about the importance of fighting poverty, and the borrowed Deanisms about restoring American democracy and taking it away from "that crowd of insiders in Washington, D.C.," and the "I believe in you" conclusion wins nearly everyone over. Edwards has become Howard Dean in the body of a good-looking, smooth-talking Southerner, and as he did in Iowa, he feels hot, hot, hot.

Of course, they're all Dean now. (Or, as The Nation'sDavid Corn put it, they're "the Angry Populist, the Calm Populist, the Polite Populist, the Executive Populist, and the Radical Populist.") John Kerry, who I think has the support of the majority of the crowd, says he wants to "break the grip of the powerful interests in this country and put the people in charge."

If Kerry, or whoever is the party's nominee, becomes president in 2005, he'll have Howard Dean to thank. Dean won. That's why he's losing.


          A Browser's Guide to Campaign 2004   

Here's a quick guide to the good parts of Winning Back America, Howard Dean's campaign book to be published Dec. 3 (complete with a cover picture of the candidate trying his damnedest to look sunny):

Chapter 1: "I'm a Regular Guy." Dean touches on his family's roots and his childhood in New York City, and he makes passing mention of his Rhode Island prep school, but he says he "really grew up in East Hampton on eastern Long Island." His "idyllic childhood" involved being outdoors, riding bikes, a duck pond, fishing, sailing, and baseball. His dad wouldn't buy him a uniform for his baseball team because he thought it was a waste of money. The chapter concludes, "At heart, I'm a country person."

Chapter 2: Howard Dean, Farmer. Devoted to Dean's summer jobs as a teenager. Dean writes two sentences about working as a sailing-camp counselor but an entire page about his work on a cattle ranch in Florida. There he earned "agricultural minimum wage," cleared land, dusted crops, and in a yearning-macho voice worthy of Apocalypse Now's Col. Kilgore, he remembers "feeling the cool mist of the herbicide on my bare chest as the plane went over."

Chapter 3: "Unlike George W. Bush, I Had Black Roommates at Yale." Bush went to Yale, too, but his senior year was Dean's freshman year, 1968. "The gulf between our experiences was much larger, though; it was as if we were a generation apart," Dean writes, referring to the changes wreaked both by "the phenomenon of the sixties" and the increasing diversity of the Yale student body, including more Jews, more public school students, and in 1969, women.

Chapter 4: Howard Dean, Ski Bum. Dean's post-college years before medical school. He skis in Colorado (living in a cabin "in a little place called Ashcroft"), where he pours concrete and washes dishes to pay the bills. He becomes a teacher by virtue of a strange snap judgment after missing a plane to Bogotá, Colombia: "I've taken many hundreds of flights in my life, and this is the only time that's ever happened. I realized that there was a reason I missed the plane. I cut short my intended trip, went home, and decided to get to work." After teaching for a year, he takes a job on Wall Street. He decides he's too careful with other people's money to be a good broker, and that he doesn't really like New York City.

Chapter 5: Med School and Judy. Contains one of the more intriguing sentences in the book: "I didn't really get to be a happy person until I went to medical school." Dean's explanation for this is that he didn't work hard enough at Yale, and "If I'm directionless and coasting, I'm not happy." He meets his future wife, Judy Steinberg. He doesn't get into any of his top three choices for his medical residency. The University of Vermont was choice No. 4, and he moves to Burlington in May 1978.

Chapter 6: Dean Enters Politics. Is Dean a moderate Republican in disguise? He compares himself to his Republican father, a "fiscal conservative" who was "not particularly liberal on social issues, but he wasn't particularly conservative either. Today he would be considered a moderate, business-oriented Republican; he wanted the budget run properly. In that way, I am very much my father's son." Dean on why he's a "pragmatic Democrat": "I was friendly with the younger, more liberal Democrats because they were my age, but I didn't vote with them. I didn't relate to their political sensibilities."

Chapter 7: The Vermont Statehouse. A woman tells him, "You're going to do really well here, but you've got to get over this chip on your shoulder that tells you to fix somebody's wagon if they cross you."

Chapter 8: Governor. "Our telephone number remained in the book." Dean cuts marginal tax rates to improve Vermont's economy, but he insists he didn't engage in the "outrageous tax cutting that went on in some of the states." He also cuts spending programs over the objections of liberal Democrats. On one occasion, he visits Congress to talk about health care: "Bob Michel, the House minority leader, was there. He was a wonderful person. Newt Gingrich was there. He's not a wonderful person."

Chapter 9: More of the Vermont Miracle. Here's Dean's illustration of the "striking difference" between Republicans and Democrats: "When the Democrats controlled the National Governors Association (I was chair of the NGA from 1994 to 1995), we used to fight against our own party when it passed legislation that harmed the states. When the Republicans took over, however, they took orders from the G.O.P. in Washington, with few standing up for the people they represented. … Most Republican governors caved to the right-wing Republican White House because they were fearful; the folks in the White House are more than willing to threaten them."

Chapter 10: Pre-President Dean. He defends the Bush daughters: "I know that several thousand kids every year get caught with fake IDs." And he defends his wife's decision not to participate in his presidential campaign: "The notion that the wife is going to be dragged along in the wake of her husband's career is something that should have been left behind decades ago." Six sentences on religion, including "I'm a fairly religious person though I don't regularly attend church or temple," "I pray just about every day," and "I also believe that good and evil exist in the world, and I thoroughly disapprove of people who use religion to inflict pain on others."

Dean's favorite books: All the King's Men, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Ken Kesey's Sometimes a Great Notion; also Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed and David McCullough's Truman ("It is one of the books that has had the most impact on me in the last ten years").

Dean ranks the presidents: 1) Washington; 2) Lincoln; 3) FDR; 4) a four-way tie between Jefferson, Truman, TR, and LBJ, despite Vietnam. We also learn Dean's weight, about 167 pounds. And don't tell Arianna, but he drives a Ford Explorer.

Chapter 11: The Chapter Most Worth Reading. Dean on the execution of his brother Charlie by communists in Laos in 1975 and on the death of his father in 2001. His parents thought Charlie was CIA: "There was speculation that Charlie was in Laos because he was working for the CIA and I think my parents believed that to be the case. Personally, I don't think he was employed by the U.S. government in any capacity, but we'll probably never know the answer to that question." Dean admits that he has spoken to counselors about his brother's death, and the chapter ends, "I'm sure that, had he lived, he'd be the one running for president and not me."

The second half of the book is campaign boilerplate: True believers will nod in approval, but you've heard this stuff before.


          See Dick Run   

SIOUX CITY, Iowa—Dean season! Gephardt season! Dean season! Gephardt season! If any lingering debate remained over which presidential candidate is currently enjoying his media moment, my two days with Dick Gephardt settled it. The 20 national reporters who follow Gephardt for all or part of his campaign swing from Des Moines to Sioux City are the latest sign that not only have the leaves turned in late October, but so have the media.

I came along to witness firsthand the evidence for something I wrote earlier this month after the Phoenix debate, that Gephardt's hard-nosed and well-organized Iowa campaign presents, at the moment, the biggest obstacle to President Dean (or, to be fairer, Democratic Nominee Dean). But I missed the media conspiracy memo that told everyone else to show up, too. During Gephardt's weekend swing in Iowa two days before, only three national reporters trailed the candidate. But now, David Brooks is here. So are Mara Liasson of NPR and Carl Cameron of Fox News. Throw in reporters from ABC, MSNBC, Knight Ridder, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Christian Science Monitor, Newsweek, and the New York Times. (Counting Brooks, on Wednesday there are two New York Times writers following Gephardt.) Just for the sake of overkill, there are reporters from the British press and from Japanese television along for the ride. At one event in Pocahontas, Iowa—a town with an absolutely gigantic statue of the Indian princess outside her teepee welcoming visitors from the highway—the number of journalists nearly matches the number of prospective caucus-goers.

The Gephardt campaign pushes its slow-and-steady-wins-the-race angle (or is it a plea for votes from Maryland Terrapins alums?) by emblazoning "Fear the Turtle!" on the front of the press itinerary, complete with a little clip-art turtle on every page. The packet includes the latest Iowa poll results, which show Gephardt and Dean in a statistical tie for the lead, with Kerry and Edwards lagging behind. For good measure, the campaign throws in last week's favorable press clippings, including Des Moines Register wise man David Yepsen's assertion that Gephardt is the Iowa front-runner and that Dean has "plateaued" in the state. Also enclosed is a much-discussed Washington Post report—distributed, in truncated form, to voters at campaign events—that Gephardt is the candidate "many prominent Republicans fear the most." Not included is a delicious metaphor for Gephardt supporters to latch onto: While hurtling from campaign stop to campaign stop in Iowa over the past few months, the Dean van has been pulled over multiple times for speeding.

At his first stop, a senior center in Des Moines (the first of three consecutive senior centers visited by the campaign), Gephardt is supposed to deliver a "health policy address," but it turns out to be a rehash of old Howard Dean quotes about Medicare. (Later, while being ribbed by reporters about the false advertising, Gephardt's Iowa press secretary, Bill Burton, protests that he never called it a "major" policy address.) The newest wrinkle: Gephardt wants to paint the 1997 balanced budget accord—generally thought to be one of President Clinton's major accomplishments, and one supported by Dean—as a "deep, devastating cut" in Medicare.

While Gephardt speaks in front of a sign that reads "Protect Social Security" and "Protect Medicare" over and over, like computer-desktop wallpaper, I wonder: Does he really want to play this game? Dredging up old quotes and votes about Gephardt's onetime conservatism is what helped to derail his '88 campaign. He voted against the establishment of the Department of Education. He voted for a constitutional amendment to ban abortion. He voted to means-test Social Security and to eliminate cost-of-living adjustments from the program. He voted for Reagan's 1981 tax cuts. He opposed an increase in the minimum wage. Does a man with a legislative record this long and varied really want to ostentatiously declare, "There are life-and-death consequences to every position taken and every vote cast"? If that's so, how many times was Dick Gephardt on the side of death?

For now, however, it's a more recent House vote that's preventing Gephardt from running away with the Iowa race. At nearly every campaign event I attend, Gephardt is forced to deliver, in effect, two separate stump speeches. The first is the one he would like the campaign to be about: universal health care, jobs, and the immorality of rapacious multinational corporations. Gephardt's not anticapitalist: "Capitalism is the best system," he says in Pocahontas. "But capitalism has to have rules, so the capitalists don't destroy the very system" they benefit from.

He describes his visits to Mexico, China, and India, where workers live in the cardboard boxes used to ship the products they make. "I smelled where they live," he says. They live without electricity, without running water, with raw sewage running down the streets and next to "drainage ditches filled with human waste." "They live in worse conditions than farm animals in Iowa," he continues. "This is nothing short of human exploitation, that's what it is, for the profit of some special interests in the world." I'm not sure I agree with Gephardt's proposed solutions—though I'm intrigued by his notion of a variable international minimum wage—but there's no denying that he's a powerful critic of global capitalism's excesses.

Then, once Gephardt has finished and the applause has subsided, almost invariably a voter raises his hand to ask: What about Iraq? Was this war about oil? How can we recover the world's respect? How can we pay for all your programs with a war on?

At this point, Gephardt is forced to unveil stump speech No. 2. Sept. 11 changed everything, he says. Government's highest obligation is to protect American lives. In a Gephardt administration, the highest priority would be to prevent a nuclear device—"dirty or clean"—from going off in New York, Los Angeles, or Des Moines. That's why he decided Saddam Hussein needed to be removed. He supported the war because he believed the estimates of the CIA and the warnings of former Clinton administration officials, not because he listened to President Bush ("I would never do that").

Slowly, Gephardt's defense of his vote for the congressional war resolution transitions into a critique of the president. Though in an interview he insisted that the president was smart, on the stump he's not shy about insinuating that the president (whom he often refers to as "Dubya") is stupid. "He's incompetent," "He frightens me," "He's hard to help," I told him America founded the United Nations because "I wasn't sure he knew the history," and "If you'd been meeting with him every week since 9/11, you'd be running for president," too. Because Bush refused to negotiate with Kim Jong Il, North Korea is now "weeks away" from producing nuclear bombs. Bush abandoned the peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine, saying, "It's not our problem." He's arrogant. He doesn't play well with others. By the end, people are satisfied enough with Gephardt's explanation, and maybe even a little terrified, but you get the sense that they're not enthused by it.

But Gephardt isn't counting on enthusiasm. He has a couple edges on Dean, in addition to his obvious union support. For one, a surprising number of Iowa Democrats just don't like the former Vermont governor. The opposition to Gephardt tends to be substantive, based on his support for the war or his failure as Democratic leader to enact a more Democratic agenda. But the opposition to Dean is stylistic, or maybe even cultural. In socially conservative Iowa, sometimes you hear it whispered: Where's Dean's wife? Before Gephardt arrives at an event in the town of Ida Grove, I overhear a woman grumble about Judith Steinberg's refusal to campaign for her husband. "I can't get used to that," she tells her companion. "It's supposed to be a family thing."

By the same token, Gephardt never fails to mention the "church loans" and "church scholarships" that allowed him to attend Northwestern and then Michigan law school. He also refers to his son, Matt, who survived prostate cancer as an infant, as a "gift of God." I don't think I've ever heard Howard Dean say the word "God" in reference to anything.

Just before the last stop in Sioux City, I'm granted a 10-minute ride-along interview with Gephardt. I've got a number of questions, but the one I really want an answer to is this: If balanced budgets and free trade—two things that don't get a lot of emphasis in the Gephardt platform—weren't the secrets of the Clinton economy, what were? Higher taxes for the rich? Gephardt explains that the '97 budget accord wasn't needed to balance the budget, and then he tries to explain why Bush's steel tariffs—which Gephardt supported, and which made the United States lose manufacturing jobs—aren't analogous to the retaliatory tariffs Gephardt wants to be able to impose on foreign products or factories that don't comply with minimal labor and environmental standards. Soon enough, we're so sidetracked that I've forgotten entirely what we were talking about.

But afterward, when I'm once again following Gephardt in my rental car, I'm left with my question: Clinton balanced the budget and promoted free trade, and the economy boomed. President Bush ran up enormous deficits and put new restrictions on trade, and the economy sputtered. Isn't Dick Gephardt's plan closer to President Bush's?


          WOW - Your Chinese Zodiac Animal And What It Says About Your Personality.   
Did you know you can find out some interesting facts about your personality, based on the traits of the various animal signs in the Chinese Zodiac?

You can determine your Chinese Zodiac animal according to your year of birth; however, do note that the Chinese Zodiac is based on the beginning of the year in the Chinese calendar, not the regular calendar year. The beginning of the year in the Chinese calendar varies from year-to-year and often falls in late January if not early February.

If you are born sometime in the early January or in the new year just before the start of the Chinese New Year in February, you might want to read about the personality traits associated with the previous year’s Zodiac to see if it more likely fits you.

Below are the 12 Chinese Zodiac Signs and
their personality traits and/or meanings:

YEAR OF THE RAT
(1912, 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020)
Individuals born in the Year of the Rat are charming and generally companionably and at ease in social situations. As a matter of fact, they are notably popular individuals and exude prowess in business; though, they are also known to be critical and quick-tempered. Rats have an exceptional grasp of information and ideas and additionally have vivid imaginations and unique intellectual abilities. Thus, they often see a lot of opportunities that others may miss. They are opportunists but may take on way too many commitments to fault. Nonetheless, they highly value relationships, and they are very generous and passionate in love as they are in businesses.
YEAR OF THE OX
(1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021)
Ox people are very much a representation of the expression ‘strong as an ox’ because of their uncanny ability to face and manage most types of circumstances. They deal with their responsibilities methodically and earn much respect for their confidence and great capabilities. On the negative side, they are sometimes prone to being chauvinists and are very demanding people, determined to defend their own interests to the extremes. Their admirable sense of duty to sometimes result to a less passionate or exciting personal life although very much stable. Nonetheless, ox people are classified as consistently faithful to their families and partners.
YEAR OF THE TIGER
(1914, 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022)
People born in the Year of the Tiger are deep sensitive and in-tune with their emotions, thus making them awesome lovers or partners. They seek balance between their domineering and strongly competitive nature and their immense need for love, which both drive them towards seeking independence from love; hence, they both bring passion and open candour into any relationship while also expecting the same in return. They have amazing confidence, though they can be quite shaken or depressed by criticisms at times. They can also be inherently restless. Tigers are best known for their ability to bounce back from negative occurrences, and they are dignified and courageous in facing any challenges, making them great leaders.
YEAR OF THE RABBIT/ HARE
(1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023)
Rabbit people are generally well-liked because they are affectionate, pleasant, and polite-mannered. They feel more comfortable staying out of disputes, controversies, or mini-quarrels. They very much love enjoyable pursuits that, although unintentional, they tend to forget about their loved ones’ needs without them realizing it. They become so distracted with fun. Despite their inclination toward good times, they are also quiet and conservative as well as intellectual. Some people may regard their overly sentimental traits as shallow but they can be very loving. They often seek security in all their relationships.
YEAR OF THE DRAGON
(1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024)
People born in the Year of the Dragon possess an almost charismatic aura and they are always brimming with energy. They are very talented in their pursuits because they are highly intelligent. Occasionally, they may seem loud and boisterous and they often follow their own course, not believing that rules should hold them. Their perfectionism makes them appear very demanding of others, just as they are to themselves. Nonetheless, dragons are generally inclined towards success and they enjoy challenging situations that give them the opportunity to use their innate talents and energies. Although committed relationships are not very important to them, kindred spirits sharing their life’s adventures are most valuable to them.
YEAR OF THE SNAKE
(1917, 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025)
Snake people are profound thinkers. They possess great wisdom and are often willing to work imperceptibly to achieve their goals discreetly without anyone realizing it. They also have a very charming and romantic side to them and they seek elegance in their relationships as well. They are prone to jealousy though. They also tend to be secretive and are most of the time seen as loners. Thus, they are less popular compared to their peers socially-speaking. Nonetheless, this may be ideal to the Snake as snakes often appreciate and prefer solitude.
YEAR OF THE HORSE
(1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026)
The popular expression ‘works like a horse’ hold true to Horse people because they exert great efforts in their line of work. They will readily commit to success and hard work unless they perceive the job as beneath them. Horses may be challenged by their own emotions because they are prone to explode in their tempers and become impulsive especially in love. They are also not regarded as good team players since they prefer independent work. Their independence may lend themselves characteristic of Egotism but their strong intellect and excellent verbal skills aid them in social situations. They can be quite popular.
YEAR OF THE RAM
(1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027)
Ram people are often likable and charming, and socially gracious although quite reserved. They are also kind, sensitive, and sympathetic individuals. Ram persons especially love art, nature, and culture, and they are also often having an artistic or creative nature. On the negative side, they are inclined feel discomfort physically and will often complain about it, plus, they are also prone to pessimism. The Ram often find themselves on the opposite ends of being assertively self-confident and being prone to timidity, but in relationships, as long as there is security, they feel most fulfilled.
YEAR OF THE MONKEY
(1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028)
People who are born in the Year of the Monkey have intelligent and energetic natures, and they possess magnetic personalities that draw in crowds. Monkeys generally appear to have very appealing personalities and somewhat an eccentric side to them while also possessing the likely gift of chatter. They are quick-witted and have an easy talent for turning every situation into a humorous one. On the down side, some people see this as suspect, hence the Monkey personality is seen as untrustworthy because of their typical brunt practical jokes. Monkeys also are high-energy and tend to be restless, and may find it difficult to choose careers. Nonetheless, they tend to succeed in environments that thrive on change including dynamic relationships.
YEAR OF THE ROOSTER
(1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029)
The Rooster sign is known for having a great sense of industry and diligence when it comes to work, and they also have a natural ease in expressing their opinions. They see their opinions, and their right to share it, as strongly important even to the extent that they have difficulties sharing their spotlight. They often display an attention-grabbing garb and style, and are generally successful at gaining attention they so eagerly love. Despite their sometimes-frustrating meticulous standards, they have many friends and they can be very loyal and genuine in their relationships. They also tend to achieve great success in their chosen careers because of their high standards.
YEAR OF THE DOG
(1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030)
Dog people are noteworthy for their loyalty and honesty in any relationship. They also focus their interest in a specialty subject, giving their whole heart and soul into it, be it a hobby or a career. They stick strongly to their principles of fairness and justice, and they also have great creative problem-solving skills. Dog individuals are challenged most by their need to criticize and their innate nature of having “sharp tongues.” As friends and lovers, they can be very trustworthy, but with special someone’s, they can be quite unforgiving because they tend to hold grudges till they feel they have been appeased. They have a profound need for a good, long-lasting relationship, making them loyal for life especially when feel they have found their perfect mate.
YEAR OF THE PIG
(1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031)
People born in the Year of the Pig make wonderful companions for they are tolerant, kind, sincere, and intellectually strong, which helps them perform well in rich conversations. They also use their intellect to go after challenging goals and ultimately achieve them. They strongly hold social harmony as highly important to, lending them well in overlooking people’s faults and seeing only the best in people. Pigs are noted, too, for their sense of humour and wit, but their greatest vulnerability lies in their seeming naiveté in expecting the same good traits in others. Their inclination to feel rage when people do not afford them the same kindness they are giving is one of their greatness weaknesses. Pigs are also inclined to physical/material indulgences, but they deeply cherish family or home life.


          India and the Balance of Power   

India is arriving on the world stage as the first large, economically powerful, culturally vibrant, multiethnic, multireligious democracy outside of the geographic West. As it rises, India has the potential to become a leading member of the "political West" and to play a key role in the great political struggles of the next decades. Whether it will, and how soon, depends above all on the readiness of the Western powers to engage India on its own terms.

THREE STRATEGIC CIRCLES

India's grand strategy divides the world into three concentric circles. In the first, which encompasses the immediate neighborhood, India has sought primacy and a veto over the actions of outside powers. In the second, which encompasses the so-called extended neighborhood stretching across Asia and the Indian Ocean littoral, India has sought to balance the influence of other powers and prevent them from undercutting its interests. In the third, which includes the entire global stage, India has tried to take its place as one of the great powers, a key player in international peace and security.

Three things have historically prevented India from realizing these grand strategic goals. First, the partition of the South Asian subcontinent along religious lines (first into India and Pakistan, in 1947, then into India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, in 1971) left India with a persistent conflict with Pakistan and an internal Hindu-Muslim divide. It also physically separated India from historically linked states such as Afghanistan, Iran, and the nations of Southeast Asia. The creation of an avowedly Islamic state in Pakistan caused especially profound problems for India's engagement with the Middle East. Such tensions intertwined with regional and global great-power rivalries to severely constrict India's room for maneuver in all three concentric circles.

The second obstacle was the Indian socialist system, which caused a steady relative economic decline and a consequent loss of influence in the years after independence. The state-socialist model led India to shun commercial engagement with the outside world. As a result, India was disconnected from its natural markets and culturally akin areas in the extended neighborhood.

Finally, the Cold War, the onset of which quickly followed India's independence, pushed India into the arms of the Soviet Union in response to Washington's support for Pakistan and China -- and thus put the country on the losing side of the great political contest of the second half of the twentieth century. Despite being the largest democracy in the world, India ended up siding with the opposite camp on most global issues.

The last decade of the twentieth century liberated India from at least two of these constraints; state socialism gave way to economic liberalization and openness to globalization, and the Cold War ended. Suddenly, New Delhi was free to reinvent its foreign policy -- positioning itself to face the rise of China, shifting its strategic approach to its other neighbors, and beginning to work closely with the world's existing great powers.

VARIETIES OF INFLUENCE

India's recent embrace of openness and globalization has had an especially dramatic effect on the country's role in the region. As the nations of the subcontinent jettison their old socialist agendas, India is well positioned to promote economic integration. Although the pace has been relatively slow, the process has begun to gain traction. The planned implementation of the South Asian Free Trade Agreement this summer signals the coming reintegration of the subcontinent's markets, which constituted a single economic space until 1947.

At the same time, optimism on the economic front must be tempered by an awareness of the problematic political developments in India's smaller neighbors. The struggle for democracy and social justice in Nepal, interminable political violence and the rise of Islamic extremism in Bangladesh, and the simmering civil war in Sri Lanka underscore the potential dangers of failing states on the subcontinent. There are also the uncertain futures of Pakistan and Afghanistan: defeating religious extremism and creating modern and moderate states in both countries is of paramount importance to India. A successful Indian strategy for promoting peace and prosperity within the region would require preventing internal conflicts from undermining regional security, as well as resolving India's own conflicts with its neighbors.

In the past, great-power rivalries, as well as India's own tensions with Pakistan and China, have complicated New Delhi's effort to maintain order in the region. Today, all of the great powers, including the United States and China, support the Indian objective of promoting regional economic integration. The Bush administration has also started to defer to Indian leadership on regional security issues. Given the new convergence of U.S. and Indian interests in promoting democracy and countering extremism and terrorism, New Delhi no longer suspects Washington of trying to undercut its influence in the region. As a result, it is more prepared than ever to work with the United States and other Western powers to pursue regional goals.

Meanwhile, the external environment has never been as conducive as it is today to the resolution of the Indo-Pakistani conflict over Kashmir. The conflict has become less and less relevant to India's relations with the great powers, which has meant a corresponding willingness on New Delhi's part to work toward a solution. Of particular importance has been the steady evolution of the U.S. position on Kashmir since the late 1990s. The support extended by President Bill Clinton to India in its limited war with Pakistan in 1999 removed the perception that Washington would inevitably align with Islamabad in regional conflicts. But India remained distrustful of the Clinton administration's hyperactive, prescriptive approach to Kashmir. It has been more comfortable with the low-key methods of the Bush administration, which has avoided injecting itself directly into the conflict. The Bush administration has also publicly held Pakistan responsible for cross-border terrorism and has extracted the first-ever assurances from Pakistan to put an end to the attacks. New Delhi does not entirely believe these promises, but it has nonetheless come to trust Washington as a source of positive of influence on Islamabad.

These developments have opened the way for a peace process between the two governments. With the growing awareness that the normalization of relations with Pakistan would end a debilitating conflict and help India's regional and global standing, New Delhi has begun to negotiate seriously for the first time in decades. Although the pace of talks has not satisfied Pakistan, the two sides have agreed on a range of confidence-building measures. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has rejected the idea of giving up territory, but he has often called for innovative solutions that would improve living conditions and for common institutions that would connect Kashmiris across the Line of Control. Singh has made clear that the Indian leadership is ready to risk political capital on finding a diplomatic solution to Kashmir.

India's recent effort to resolve its long-standing border dispute with China has been just as bold. New Delhi decided in 2003 to seek a settlement with Beijing on a political basis, rather than on the basis of legal or historical claims. As a result, during Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to New Delhi in April 2005, India and China agreed on a set of principles to guide the final settlement. The two governments are now exploring the contours of mutually satisfactory territorial compromises.

India's search for practical solutions to the disputes over Kashmir and its border with China suggests that the country has finally begun to overcome the obsession with territoriality that has consumed it since its formation. Ironically, the nuclearization of India and Pakistan in 1998 may have helped in this regard: although nuclearization initially sharpened New Delhi's conflicts with both Islamabad and Beijing, it also allowed India to approach its territorial problems with greater self-assurance and pragmatism.

INDIA UNBOUND

Progress on the resolution of either of these conflicts, especially the one over Kashmir, would liberate India's political and diplomatic energies so that the country could play a larger role in the world. It would also finally release India's armed forces from the constraining mission of territorial defense, allowing them to get more involved in peace and stability operations around the Indian Ocean. Even with all the tensions on the subcontinent, the armies of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh have been among the biggest contributors to UN peacekeeping operations. The normalization of Indo-Pakistani relations would further free up some of the best armed forces in the world for the promotion of the collective good in the greater Middle East, Africa, and Asia.

Even as the Kashmir and China questions have remained unsettled, India's profile in its extended neighborhood has grown considerably since the early 1990s. India's outward economic orientation has allowed it to reestablish trade and investment linkages with much of its near abroad. New Delhi is negotiating a slew of free- and preferential-trade agreements with individual countries as well as multilateral bodies including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and the Southern African Development Community. Just as China has become the motor of economic growth in East Asia, a rising India could become the engine of economic integration in the Indian Ocean region.

After decades of being marginalized from regional institutions in different parts of Asia, India is also now a preferred political partner for ASEAN, the East Asian Summit, the GCC, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the African Union. Moreover, it has emerged as a major aid donor; having been an aid recipient for so long, India is now actively leveraging its own external assistance to promote trade as well as political objectives. For example, India has given $650 million in aid to Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban. Meanwhile, the search for oil has encouraged Indian energy companies to tail their Western and Chinese counterparts throughout the world, from Central Asia and Siberia and to western Africa and Venezuela.

On the security side, India has been actively engaged in defense diplomacy. Thanks to the strength of its armed forces, India is well positioned to assist in stabilizing the Indian Ocean region. It helps that there has been a convergence of U.S. and Indian political interests: countering terrorism, pacifying Islamic radicalism, promoting democracy, and ensuring the security of sea-lanes, to name a few. The Indian navy in particular has been at the cutting edge of India's engagement with the region -- as was evident from its ability to deploy quickly to areas hit by the tsunami at the end of 2004. The Indian navy today is also ready to participate in multinational military operations.

AXES AND ALLIES

The end of the Cold War freed India to pursue engagement with all the great powers -- but especially the United States. At the start of the 1990s, finding that its relations with the United States, China, Japan, and Europe were all underdeveloped, India moved quickly to repair the situation. Discarding old socialist shibboleths, it began to search for markets for its products and capital to fuel its long-constrained domestic growth. Economic partnerships were easy to construct, and increasing trade flows provided a new basis for stability in India's relations with other major powers. India's emergence as an outsourcing destination and its new prowess in information technology also give it a niche in the world economy -- along with the confidence that it can benefit from economic globalization.

Barely 15 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, India's omnidirectional engagement with the great powers has paid off handsomely. Never before has India had such expansive relations with all the major powers at the same time -- a result not only of India's increasing weight in the global economy and its growing power potential, but also of New Delhi's savvy and persistent diplomacy.

The evolution of Sino-Indian ties since the 1990s has been especially important and intriguing. Many see violent conflict between the two rising Asian powers as inevitable. But thanks to New Delhi's policy of actively engaging China since the late 1980s, the tensions that characterized relations between them from the late 1950s through the 1970s have become receding memories. Bilateral trade has boomed, growing from less than $200 million in the early 1990s to nearly $20 billion in 2005. In fact, China is set to overtake the European Union and the United States as India's largest trading partner within a few years. The 3,500-kilometer Sino-Indian border, over which the two countries fought a war in 1962, is now tranquil. And during Wen's visit to India in April 2005, India and China announced a "strategic partnership" -- even though just seven years earlier New Delhi had cited concerns over China as a reason for performing nuclear tests, prompting a vicious reaction from Beijing.

India has also cooperated with China in order to neutralize it in conflicts with Pakistan and other smaller neighbors. In the past, China tended to be a free rider on regional security issues, proclaiming noninterference in the internal affairs of other nations while opportunistically befriending regimes in pursuit of its long-term strategic interests. This allowed India's subcontinental neighbors to play the China card against New Delhi when they wanted to resist India's attempts to nudge them toward conflict resolution. But now, Beijing has increasingly avoided taking sides in India's disputes, even as its economic and security profile in the region has grown.

China is not the only Asian power that India is aiming to engage and befriend. Japan has also emerged as an important partner for India, especially since Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has transformed Japanese politics in the last few years. During a visit to New Delhi just a couple of weeks after Wen's in April 2005, Koizumi announced Japan's own "strategic partnership" with India. (This came despite Japan's harsh reaction to India's nuclear test in 1998, which prompted Japanese sanctions and an effort by Tokyo to censure India in the United Nations and other multilateral forums.) Amid growing fears of a rising China and the incipient U.S.-Indian alliance, Japan has elevated India to a key player in its long-term plans for Asian security.

Recognizing the need to diversify its Asian economic portfolio, Tokyo has also, for political reasons, begun to direct some of its foreign investment to India (which has overtaken China as the largest recipient of Japanese development assistance). Since the start of the Bush administration, Japan has also shown increasing interest in expanding military cooperation with India, especially in the maritime domain. India, too, has recognized that it shares with Japan an interest in energy security and in maintaining a stable balance of power in Asia. Japan actively supported India's participation in the inaugural East Asian Summit, in December 2005, despite China's reluctance to include New Delhi. Neither India nor Japan wants to base their political relationship exclusively on a potential threat from China, but both know that deepening their own security cooperation will open up new strategic options and that greater coordination between Asian democracies could limit China's impact.

India's relations with Europe have been limited by the fact that New Delhi is fairly unimpressed with Europe's role in global politics. It senses that Europe and India have traded places in terms of their attitudes toward the United States: while Europe seethes with resentment of U.S. policies, India is giving up on habitually being the first, and most trenchant, critic of Washington. As pessimism overtakes Europe, growing Indian optimism allows New Delhi to support unpopular U.S. policies. Indians consistently give both the United States and the Bush administration very favorable marks; according to a recent Pew Global Attitudes poll, for example, the percentage of Indians with a positive view of the United States rose from 54 percent in 2002 to 71 percent in 2005. And whereas a declining Europe has tended to be skeptical of India's rise, the Bush administration has been fully sympathetic to India's great-power aspirations.

Still, India does have growing economic and political ties with some European powers. Although many smaller European countries have been critical of the U.S.-Indian nuclear deal, the continent's two nuclear powers, France and the United Kingdom, have been supportive. Paris, in particular, bet long ago (well before Washington did, in fact) that a rising India would provide a good market for high-tech goods; with this in mind, it shielded New Delhi from the ire of the G-8 (the group of eight highly industrialized nations) after India tested nuclear weapons in May 1998. In the last several years, the United Kingdom has also started to seize economic opportunities in India and has been generally accommodating of New Delhi's regional and global aspirations.

In the wake of the Soviet Union's collapse, India also worked to maintain a relationship with Russia. The two states resolved residual issues relating to their old semi-barter rupee-ruble trading arrangements, recast their 1971 peace and friendship treaty, and maintained military cooperation. When President Vladimir Putin succeeded Boris Yeltsin, in 2000, India's waiting game paid off. A newly assertive Moscow was determined to revive and expand its strategic cooperation with India. New Delhi's only problems with Moscow today are the weakening bilateral trade relationship and the risk of Russia's doing too much to strengthen China's military capabilities.

CHARM OFFENSIVE

At the end of the Cold War, the prospect of India's building a new political relationship with the United States seemed remote. Washington had long favored Pakistan and China in the region, India had in turn aligned itself with the Soviet Union, and a number of global issues seemed to pit the two countries against each other. Yet after the Cold War, India set about wooing the United States. For most of the Clinton administration, this sweet-talking fell on deaf ears, in part because Clinton officials were so focused on the Kashmir dispute and nonproliferation. Clinton, driven by the unshakable assumption that Kashmir was one of the world's most dangerous "nuclear flashpoints" and so needed to be defused, emphasized "preventive diplomacy" and was determined to "cap, roll back, and eventually eliminate" India's nuclear capabilities. Of course, Clinton's approach ran headlong into India's core national security concerns -- territorial integrity and preserving its nuclear option. Pressed by Washington to circumscribe its strategic capabilities, New Delhi reacted by testing nuclear weapons.

But even as it faced U.S. sanctions, New Delhi also began to proclaim that India was a natural ally of the United States. Although the Clinton administration was not interested in an alliance, the nuclear tests forced the United States to engage India seriously for the first time in five decades. That engagement did not resolve the nuclear differences, but it did bring Clinton to India in March 2000 -- the first American presidential visit to India in 22 years. Clinton's personal charm, his genuine empathy for India, and his unexpected support of India in the 1999 war with Pakistan succeeded in improving the atmospherics of the relations and in putting New Delhi on Washington's radar screen in a new way.

It took Bush, however, to transform the strategic context of U.S.-Indian relations. Convinced that India's influence will stretch far beyond its immediate neighborhood, Bush has reconceived the framework of U.S. engagement with New Delhi. He has removed many of the sanctions, opened the door for high-tech cooperation, lent political support to India's own war on terrorism, ended the historical U.S. tilt toward Pakistan on Kashmir, and repositioned the United States in the Sino-Indian equation by drawing closer to New Delhi.

India has responded to these sweeping changes by backing the Bush administration on missile defense, the International Criminal Court, and finding alternative approaches to confronting global warming. It lent active support to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan by protecting U.S. assets in transit through the Strait of Malacca in 2002, agreed to work with the United States on multinational military operations outside of the UN framework, and, in 2005 and 2006, voted twice with Washington against Iran -- an erstwhile Indian ally -- at the International Atomic Energy Agency. India also came close to sending a division of troops to Iraq in the summer of 2003 before pulling back at the last moment. Every one of these actions marked a big departure in Indian foreign policy. And although disappointed by India's decision to stay out of Iraq, the Bush administration recognized that India was in the midst of a historic transformation of its foreign policy -- and kept faith that India's own strategic interests would continue to lead it toward deeper political cooperation with Washington. New Delhi's persistence in reaching out to Washington since 1991 has been driven by the belief that only by fundamentally changing its relationship with the world's sole superpower could it achieve its larger strategic objectives: improving its global position and gaining leverage in its relations with other great powers.

But India's ability to engage everyone at the same time might soon come to an end. As U.S.-Chinese tensions grow and Washington looks for ways to manage China's influence, questions about India's attitude toward the new power politics will arise: Can India choose to remain "nonaligned" between the United States and China, or does India's current grand strategy show a clear bias toward the United States?

The nuclear pact unveiled by Bush and Singh in July 2005 -- and consolidated when Bush went to New Delhi in March 2006 -- was an effort by Washington to influence the ultimate answer to that question. Bush offered to modify U.S. nonproliferation laws (subject to approval by Congress, of course) and revise the global nuclear order to facilitate full cooperation with India on civilian nuclear energy. New Delhi, in return, has promised to separate its civilian and military nuclear programs, place its civilian nuclear plants under international safeguards, and abide by a range of nonproliferation obligations. India's interest in such a deal has been apparent for a long time. Having failed to test weapons before the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty was drafted, in 1968, India was trapped in an uncomfortable position vis-à-vis the nuclear order: it was not willing to give up the nuclear option, but it could not be formally accommodated by the nonproliferation regime as a nuclear weapons state.

India's motives for wanting a change in the nuclear regime are thus obvious. But for the Bush administration, the deal is less about nuclear issues than it is about creating the basis for a true alliance between the United States and India -- about encouraging India to work in the United States' favor as the global balance of power shifts. Ironically, it was the lack of a history of mutual trust and cooperation -- stemming in part from past nuclear disputes -- that convinced the Bush administration that a nuclear deal was necessary.

AN IMPOSSIBLE ALLY?

Many critics argue that the Bush administration's hopes for an alliance are misplaced. They insist that the traditionally nonaligned India will never be a true ally of the United States. But such critics misunderstand India's nonalignment, as well as the nature of its realpolitik over the past 60 years. Contrary to a belief that is especially pervasive in India itself, New Delhi has not had difficulty entering into alliances when its interests so demanded. Its relationship with the Soviet Union, built around a 1971 peace and friendship treaty, had many features of an alliance (notwithstanding India's claim that such ties were consistent with nonalignment); the compact was in many ways a classic response to the alignment of Washington, Beijing, and Islamabad. India has also had treaty-based security relationships with two of its smaller neighbors, Bhutan and Nepal, that date back to 1949-50 -- protectorate arrangements that were a reaction to China's entry into Tibet.

In fact, there is no contradiction between India's alleged preference for "moralpolitik" (in opposition to pure power politics, or Machtpolitik) and the Bush administration's expectation of an alliance with India. New Delhi is increasingly replacing the idea of "autonomy," so dear to Indian traditionalists, with the notion of India's becoming a "responsible power." (Autonomy is thought appropriate for weak states trying to protect themselves from great-power competition but not for a rising force such as India.) As India starts to recognize that its political choices have global consequences, it will become less averse to choosing sides on specific issues. Alliance formation and balancing are tools in the kits of all great powers -- and so they are likely to be in India's as well.

That India is capable of forming alliances does not, however, mean that it will necessarily form a long-term one with the United States. Whether it does will depend on the extent of the countries' shared interests and their political capacity to act on them together. The Bush administration expects that such shared interests -- for example, in balancing China and countering radical Islam in the Middle East -- will provide the basis for long-term strategic cooperation. This outcome is broadly credible, but it is by no means inevitable, especially given the United States' seeming inability to build partnerships based on equality.

When it comes to facing a rising China, India's tendency to engage in regional balancing with Beijing has not come to an end with the proclamation of a strategic partnership between the two nations. Indeed, preventing China from gaining excessive influence in India's immediate neighborhood and competing with Beijing in Southeast Asia are still among the more enduring elements of India's foreign policy. Despite Western concerns about the military regime in Myanmar, New Delhi has vigorously worked to prevent Yangon from falling completely under Beijing's influence, and India's military ties with the Southeast Asian nations are expanding rapidly. In 2005, when Pakistan pushed for giving China observer status in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, India acted quickly to bring Japan, South Korea, and the United States in as well. Given India's deep-seated reluctance to play second fiddle to China in Asia and the Indian Ocean region -- and the relative comfort of working with a distant superpower -- there is a structural reason for New Delhi to favor greater security cooperation with Washington.

In the Middle East, too, India has a common interest with the United States in preventing the rise of radical Islam, which poses an existential threat to India. Given its large Muslim population -- at nearly 150 million, the third largest in the world -- and the ongoing tensions stemming from the subcontinent's partition, India has in the past acted on its own to avert the spread of radical Islam. When Washington aligned with conservative Islamic forces in the Middle East during the Cold War, India's preference was for secular nationalist forces in the region. When the United States acted ambivalently toward the Taliban in the mid-1990s, India worked with Russia, Iran, and the Central Asian states to counter the Taliban by supporting the Northern Alliance. Now, although some in India are concerned that alignment with the United States might make India a prime target for Islamist extremists, there is no way India can compromise with radical Islam, which threatens its very unity.

But shared interests do not automatically produce alliances. The inequality of power between the two countries, the absence of a habit of political cooperation between them, and the remaining bureaucratic resistance to deeper engagement in both capitals will continue to limit the pace and the scope of strategic cooperation between India and the United States. Still, there is no denying that India will have more in common with the United States than with the other great powers for the foreseeable future.

While New Delhi has acknowledged that U.S. support is necessary for India's rise to be successful, Washington has recognized India's potentially critical role in managing emerging challenges to global order and security. As a major beneficiary of accelerating globalization, India could play a crucial role in ensuring that other developing countries manage their transitions as successfully as it has, that is, by taking advantage of opportunities while working to reduce the pain of disruption. Given the pace of its expansion and the scale of its economy, India will also become an important force in ensuring that the unfolding global redistribution of economic power occurs in an orderly fashion. Meanwhile, India could become a key player in the effort to modernize the politics of the Middle East. If nothing else, India's success in ensuring the rights and the integration of its own Muslim minority and in reaching peace with Pakistan would have a powerful demonstration effect.

To secure a long-term partnership with India, Washington must build on the argument of "Indian exceptionalism" that it has advanced in defense of the recent nuclear pact, devising a range of India-specific policies to deepen cooperation. India is unlikely, however, to become a mere subsidiary partner of the United States, ready to sign on to every U.S. adventure and misadventure around the world. It will never become another U.S. ally in the mold of the United Kingdom or Japan. But nor will it be an Asian France, seeking tactical independence within the framework of a formal alliance.

Given the magnitude of the global security challenges today, the United States needs more than meek allies. It should instead be looking to win capable and compatible partners. A rising India may be difficult at times, but it will act broadly to defend and promote the many interests it shares with Washington. Assisting India's rise, then, is in the United States' own long-term interest.


          Comment on We Still Celebrate Independence Day at Church (by Dean Stewart) by Daviss Woodbury   
I'm a pastor of a small rural church in north TX filled with traditional, conservative, patriotic folks. We have flags (U.S. and Christian) in the front corners of the auditorium, off the stage, but still visible. On patriotic holidays, we usually have a patriotic floral arrangement at the front of the room as well. The only elements of the service that call any attention to those types of holidays are the recognition of veterans at the very beginning of the service along with other announcements (really prior to what I would consider the official start of corporate worship, which we signal by the public reading of Scripture and prayer) and mentioning our gratefulness for freedom in our opening prayer. I might also, if it fits, use a historic illustration in my sermon that points to our founding or something similar. No patriotic songs, no pledges, no fireworks. I have seldom, if ever, received complaints about our level of (or lack of) patriotic emphasis in the worship service. That being said, I do have a question for those advocating full patriotic celebrations during the corporate worship hour: understanding that many in the congregation have experienced the kind of love that has resulted in marriage, believing that God is ultimately the source of that kind of love, and believing that God would have us celebrate the covenant of marriage as a gift, would you find it appropriate to have the congregation sing love songs (nothing lewd or unseemly, just good, wholesome love songs...think a nice Nat King Cole tune or a solid 80's power ballad like Journey's "Faithfully") during corporate worship? Is there a difference between singing songs expressing gratefulness for our nation and songs expressing gratefulness for our spouses in corporate worship? I promise I'm not trying to be combative or play "gotcha." I'm just trying to think through implications. Thanks.
          Comment on We Still Celebrate Independence Day at Church (by Dean Stewart) by Parsonsmike   
Exactly Ken. It's not whether you the pastor or a few of the members get the difference between the USA and Israel or the New Israel, is about those in the congregation that don't get it. In my town there is a Christian radio station that plays much of American Family Radio productions where church and state are often conflated. Where the idea is that the USA is a Christian nation. And all the baggage that goes with that. So maybe y'all see the difference but there are a whole lot of conservative type Christians that don't. And these are the weaker brothers we need to help. And we aren't helping them if we, in a sense, worship the USA, even occasionally, in the church service where E should be worshipping God alone
          Conservative Dads Little Princes Isnt So Naive As She Looks Like   
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          Frank Lloyd Wright: American Architect   
 By the dawn of the 20thcentury, architect Frank Lloyd Wright had discovered something I didn’t learn until the 21st century — that kleptocapitalism must finally and necessarily destroy the standards of every profession with which it comes into contact.
In his 1900 speech to the Architectural League of America in Chicago, titled The Architect, Wright “…reminded his colleagues that in this country commerce had triumphed over art,” wrote Robert C. Twombly in his book Frank Lloyd Wright: His Life and His Architecture. “The lust for money had reduced the architect to a servant of the business community.”
Wright charged that the American architect “…panders to silly women his silly artistic sweets,” trading experimentation and individuality for financial security. Wright called typical turn-of-the-century Chicago homes for the well-to-do “fantastic abortions” and said they “lied about everything.”
“(The architect) now modeled commercial buildings after Greek temples and luxury homes after Louis XIV palaces, all because the businessman and his wife ‘knew what they wanted,’” Twombly wrote. “No longer an independent spirit, the architect had become a salesman, peddling prepackaged ‘styles’ from the files of huge ‘plan-factories.’
“At the height of the industrial revolution in America, Wright was painfully aware that the new corporate elite had usurped the status of the professional, reducing him to an employee at its beck and call.”
In 21st century capitalism-gone-wild America, that sad state of professional degradation applies not just to architects but to physicians, professors, military officers, police officers, attorneys, journalists, you name it.
For pity’s sake, judges have been caught framing innocent American children because they’ve been bribed by private prison corporations to provide warm bodies in order to increase the corporation’s lucrative taxpayer subsidy.
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Wright employed stylistic innovations to achieve an inobvious family privacy in his prairie houses. The windows were easy to see out of but, because of overhanging features, difficult to see into. Shielded by broad eaves, windows could stay open even in rain. Exterior doorways were hidden in recesses, behind walls or around corners.
“A house that has character stands a good chance of growing more valuable as it grows older, while a house in the prevailing mode, whatever that mode may be, is soon out of fashion, stale and unprofitable,” Wright said.
The McMansions that now litter our landscape, with their bludging, tumorous protrusions, are an example of the latter.
Twombly noted that with five children by 1901, Wright, in his home designs, “…took greater pains to provide for group solidarity than for individual interests. Whether it was a symbolic inglenook, a formal entryway, a playroom for his children or his many exquisite dining and living rooms, his most elaborate efforts were areas of group activity.”
“Wright understood the family to be a tightly knit group within a larger community from which it withdrew occasionally (but did not reject) for its own sustenance. More concerned at this stage of his life with family unity than personal freedom, he assumed the former made the latter possible.”
Twombly suggests that Wright’s turn-of-the-century prairie houses offered a combination of innovation and protection that appealed to their forward-looking but finally insecure upper middle class owners.
“As independent businessmen likely to own their own moderate-sized manufacturing concerns, and as conservative Protestant Republicans, they frowned on eccentric social behavior, liberal causes and protest literature,” he wrote. “In a period of ‘progressive’ reform, they clung to 19th century values and like others in the rapidly growing metropolis felt themselves engulfed by sweeping changes not entirely to their liking…
“Wright’s designs satisfied needs and wishes murkily understood but deeply felt by large numbers of city dwellers and satisfied them more fully, in fact, than conventional styles. The prairie house appealed to an apprehensive upper middle class by emphasizing in literal and symbolic ways the security, privacy, shelter, family mutuality and other values people found increasingly important in a period of urban dislocation and conflict.
“Rapid industrialization and urbanization in late 19th century America created a disorienting situation. Armies of working class immigrants from Europe and from American farms and small towns helped escalate social tensions and instabilities in the cities. Newcomers of all classes, having lost their roots, found their places of residence determined not by family tradition or landholding but by unpredictable and insecure market situations. Vast impersonal corporations assumed control over the lives of laboring people, over white collar workers and executives, and over self-employed businessmen and professionals whose livelihoods depended upon the whims of an incomprehensible and seemingly capricious economic system. The depression of the 1890s, the most devastating in American history to that point, exacerbated the general uneasiness as even more people began to sense their helplessness.
“Few individuals could count on uninterrupted upward mobility, permanent employment or a secure future for their children. Even the upper middle class, especially people like Wright’s clients who did not possess inherited wealth, faced the specter of possible downward mobility and the loss of everything.”
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As an inspiration for Ayn Rand’s architect hero Howard Roark in The Fountainhead, Frank Lloyd Wright had, in a sense, helped her write her fiction by overdramatizing his career.
In a 1914 Architectural Record article, Wright presented “…his first proclamation of the ‘persecuted genius’ legend, an interpretation of his life as a continuous battle against overwhelming odds, as a struggle for principle despite social ostracism, personal indifference, financial hardship, public ridicule and personal rejection,” Twombly wrote.
“Publicly begun by Wright in 1914 and perpetuated by his closest admirers until the present day, the ‘persecuted genius’ legend became a major component of his self-image.”
In fact, Wright had notable professional support and public acclaim at the beginning of his career.
“Even Hollywood paid its respects,” Twombly noted. “Warner Brothers asked him to design sets for The Fountainhead (1949), based on Ayn Rand’s novel by the same name, but when Wright demanded $250,000 for the job — he did not want it — negotiations ended.”
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Wright died in 1959, just before his 92nd birthday, a venerable, outspoken sage whom some called a crackpot. But we’d have recognized many of his concerns easily enough.
“Continued growth of the military establishment and the mushrooming of governmental bureaucracy and of corporate hegemony made him despair for the future of democracy,” Twombly noted. “Fearing that centralized authority manipulating a mass society would crush individual liberties, he interpreted American foreign policy as a cover to advance overseas corporate interests and attacked internal anticommunism as a ‘smoke screen’ for political consolidation to further selfish partisan gain.”

Too bad we didn’t listen to the architect. We might have built something better than the shabby, ramshackle structure this country has become.


          Helen Gahagan Douglas: She Who Must Be Waylaid   
“Helen Gahagan Douglas … had not the slightest interest in politics until the late 1930s. Her conversion was as dramatic as a first-act curtain in the theater.”
  Eleanor Roosevelt

Congresswoman Helen Gahagan Douglas, a former movie star and opera singer, was a principled beacon of liberal light following the death of FDR.
She had once played She Who Must Be Obeyed, and when she ran for Senate in California, Congressman Richard Nixon regarded her as She Who Must Be Waylaid.
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Helen Gahagan Douglas
“While sitting in a Viennese coffeehouse with an English music critic who was a friend of several colleagues, the two discussed her new contract,” wrote Sally Denton in The Pink Lady: The Many Lives of Helen Gahagan Douglas. “Suddenly, the man leaned in conspiratorially and whispered, ‘Of course, Miss Gahagan, you are pure Aryan?’
“Helen felt sick to her stomach as the man attempted to recruit her to the Nazi cause. ‘Aryans such as we,’ he told her, ‘(have) a duty to defend the superior race against Jews.’ At first she couldn’t speak. Until that moment the perspective of Jews in the world was a purely abstract notion. Now, as the Englishman spouted the familiar rantings of Hitler and Goebbels while asking her to enlist the support of fellow Nazi sympathizers in America, she felt forever changed. Her ‘Irish blood at the boiling point,’ she tore up the contract and left for home.”
It didn’t help the English critic’s case that her husband, the film actor Melvyn Douglas, was a Jew.
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But it was the Dust Bowl that really blew Helen Gahagan Douglas into politics.
Once upon a time, specifically in California during the Dust Bowl 1930s, those much-despised “illegal aliens” were American citizens who’d fled West.
“Confined to filthy camps, thousands of starving families were ‘herded about like animals,’ living without toilet or showers, while local officials and growers fought to keep the federal government from supplying the migrants with food and medical supplies, fearing that they would form permanent communities, join unions and, most significant, interfere with the cheap Mexican laborers they were shuttling across the border and paying slave wages,” wrote Denton.
 “Importing labor was far cheaper than establishing schools and health-care clinics for American migrant workers, so the growers used every method possible, including force, to get the migrants to move on.
“Helen and Melvyn had attended dinner parties at which the subject of the ‘Okies’ was raised and they were frequently appalled at the lack of compassion shown by many of their peers. They ‘listened with astonishment to people making comfortable statements about how the situation was exaggerated or that the migrants should stop being so lazy and dirty.’”
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Guided by Eleanor Roosevelt, she became more involved in politics even as she became less involved in her marriage. After Melvyn started a serious affair with a co-star, they separated, but would never divorce.
“I suppose it is commonplace that most long-time couples divide areas of emotional response, even as they share responsibilities and material goods,” Melvyn said years later. “Certainly our friends, the Roosevelts, had done something like that.”
Rising in politics, Helen had few illusions about it. “I was raised in a household of dominating men, and I learned early that men guard their authority over women jealously,” Helen said. “As for politics, they sincerely believe public life to be a male bailiwick. They reason that men have been running the country for the past two hundred years and are meant to do so for centuries to come. In short, men would never share power with women willingly. If we wanted it, we would have to take it.”
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Fighting a conservative tide to keep the liberal Henry Wallace vice president in 1944, Douglas gave an eloquent speech at the Democratic National Convention.
“The Democratic party is the true conservative party,” she said. “We have conserved hope and ambition in the hearts of our people. We are the conservative party. We have conserved the skills of their hands. We have husbanded our natural resources. We have saved millions of homes and farms from foreclosure and conserved the family stake in democracy.
“We have rescued banks and trust companies, insured crops and people's savings. We have built schools. We have checked the flooding rivers and turned them into power.
“We have begun a program to free men and women from the constant nagging fear of unemployment, sickness, accident—and the dread of insecure old age. We have turned a once isolated, flood-ravished, poverty-stricken valley, the home of four and a half million people, into what is now a productive, happy place to live—the Tennessee River Valley. We have replanted the forest, re-fertilized the soil. Ours is the conservative party.
“We have guarded children, protected them by labor laws, planned school-lunch programs, provided clinics. Ours is the conservative party. Ours is the party that has created laws which have given dignity and protection to the working men and women of this country. Ours is the party that has made the individual aware of the need for his participation in a true democracy. We are the conservative party.
“We have conserved the people's faith in a people's government—democracy.”
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Elected to Congress in 1944, Douglas was often compared to her glamorous right-wing counterpart there, Clare Booth Luce, the playwright and wife of Time Inc. founder Henry Luce.
“Driving cross-country with her secretary Evie Chavoor, and a friend, Jarmila Marton, having decided to make the move to Washington by automobile, the women tuned the radio to a morning news broadcast,” Denton wrote. “They listened with amusement to the announcement that Helen had defeated Luce as one of the 10 best-dressed women in public life.
“The rookie congresswoman had broken a cap on her front tooth, leaving a gap and stump when she opened her mouth to smile. Evie ‘turned around and looked at Helen, and there she was in the back seat with her terrible sloppy pants on … huddled in a blanket, her hair all streaming down.’ The women howled with laughter, wishing a photographer could see her in such a state.”
Douglas understood, though, that the trivial focus on women’s looks was a means of undermining their power. “Congresswomen’s ideas should rate above their clothes and looks,” she said. “Why this emphasis on the sexes anyway, in a serious thing like government?”
“I never felt I left the stage,” Douglas said, and her clipped, powerful, theatrically trained voice was a great asset in politics.
But there was nothing phony about her, nothing fake. She was a proponent of what philosophers call “virtue ethics,” giving a fair summary of it in this quote: “Character isn’t inherited. One builds it daily by the way one thinks and acts, thought by thought, action by action. If one lets fear or hate or anger take possession of the mind, they become self-forged chains.”
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The liberal and idealistic Douglas was waylaid by the rising, conniving and unprincipled Nixon, sounding an ugly theme that has echoed in American politics right into the 21stcentury.
Nixon’s dirty tactics — among them smearing Douglas as a Communist and sponsoring calls to ask voters if they were aware that her movie star husband was “a Jew” — earned him the apt, lifelong nickname Tricky Dick. But Douglas was also hampered by her own lofty idealism and California’s Chinatown-like civic corruption. And the times were against her, the 1950 election coinciding with both the rise of McCarthyism and the height of the Korean war.
“There was the United States fighting communism and I was the person who said we should limit the power of the military and try to disarm the world and get along with Russia,” Douglas said.
“The worst moment, a sight I couldn’t shake, was when children picked up rocks and threw them at my car, at me. I knew that in order to survive I would have to accept the rocks and the Nixon campaign, shrug them off and move on. I wondered if I would be able to do it.”
She was, finding herself exhausted but strangely calm after Nixon’s huge victory. “I was so pleased that I had escaped the terrible burden of hating Richard Nixon that I was almost elated,” she said.
Nixon, in later years, at least feigned regret over his behavior in the campaign. “Years later, asked by British publisher David Astor to explain his campaign tactics, Nixon reportedly ‘cast down his eyes with a look of modest contrition’ and explained, ‘I want you to remember that I was a very young man,’” wrote Anthony Summers in The Arrogance of Power: The Secret World of Richard Nixon. “In 1950, (Nixon) was 37 and a veteran of four years in the House of Representatives.”
Douglas summed it up simply: “There’s not much to say about the 1950 campaign, except that a man ran for Senate who wanted to get there, and didn’t care how he did it.”
After Nixon revealed his true character to the world in Watergate, and was driven from office in shame, Douglas had the last laugh. But she didn’t laugh. She mourned.
“If the national security is involved, anything goes,” she said in 1973. “There are no rules. There are people so lacking in roots about what is proper and improper that they don’t know there’s anything wrong in breaking into the headquarters of the opposition party.”
After Nixon’s resignation, a bumper sticker started appearing on vehicles throughout California: “Don’t Blame Me, I Voted for Helen Gahagan Douglas.”
Her secretary Nan Stevens said, “People rather expected that she would be gloating over Richard Nixon finally being found out, but she was only said. She thought it terrible for the country and for America’s reputation abroad. I know that makes her sound almost too good to be true, but she was good. I’m not saying Helen didn’t have feet of clay. But you had to look awfully hard to find her tiny clay feet.”
---
Douglas and her husband often led separate lives. She had an affair with, among others, Lyndon Baines Johnson, but became estranged from with him during his presidency over her support for disarmament and opposition to the escalating Vietnam War.
But Douglas and Melvyn were always good friends, and he made an impassioned radio speech for her during her doomed Senate campaign. “It is easier — as a matter of fact it is the easiest thing in the world — to call people of good will dirty names, to call them Communists,” he said.

Melvyn was at her side when she died of cancer in 1980, and he wrote, “She was entranced always by the light. In every house we ever occupied, she wanted the windows to be wider. She always thought no room could have too many windows … She was always saying, ‘Look at the light! Isn’t it beautiful? Shewas the light. And she was beautiful.’”

          Resistance Blooms in Nigeria   

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim's novel goes beyond a tragic love story and proves not just a biting critique of Nigeria’s political structures but also of its cultural, religious, and gendered norms, challenging what a woman can and can’t do within a conservative society.

The post Resistance Blooms in Nigeria appeared first on The Millions.


          Miracle Grow   

Release Year: 2016
Cast: Alex Grey
Genres: Adorable, Amateur, Big Dicks, BJ, Blonde, Blowjob, Casual, Caucasian, Conservative, Cute, Deepthroat, Doggystyle, Easy, Girl Next Door, Hardcore, Home, Indoor, Innocent, Jeans, Kitchen, Long Hair, Money Shot, Natural Tits, No Condom, Passive, Petite, POV,
Video language: English

Petite little Alex is a sad girl supreme. It seems like every year she is the smallest girl at school. She just wants to be tall and slender like all the other girls. Maybe one day, or possibly even today? She hears a knock on the door and its her friend Buddy! He hit a major growth spurt, but not naturally. Hes been using a product called miracle grow and its extended him two inches a week for the past month! Alex needs this now. Its only fifty bucks, but Alex is broke. She decides to see if maybe she could use her tiny assets to gain some bigger ones. She kneels down and her mouth open as wide as she can to fit Buddys fat cock. It barely fits but shes able to work it. She then spreads her tiny micro pussy to its extremes so Buddys cock can fuck it. Watching this incredibly tiny girl bounce on a thick dick was quite enticing. Buddy eventually came in her mouth, and left her with the miracle grow pills. Too bad that shit was empty! It was a ploy on her sluttiness and it worked. Not only will Alex never grow now, but shes got a tummy full of cum and its not the most fun!

Format: mp4
Duration: 24:01
Video: 960x540, AVC (H.264), 2637kbps
Audio: 129kbps





File size: 488.2 MB






          Herding Sheep in Hanover: The Premiere of 'Doggie Hamlet'   
Here's a quiz: What world-premiere performance in Hanover, N.H., this week was inspired by William Shakespeare's Hamlet, Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book and David Wroblewski's 2008 novel The Story of Edgar Sawtelle? No clue? Try this: It involves five people, a couple dozen sheep and a few border collies. Hmmm... OK, the answer is Doggie Hamlet. Presented by Hopkins Center for the Arts, the unique work combines dance, theater and sheepherding, and will be performed twice on Thursday, June 29, on the Dartmouth College campus green. Imagine choreographed swooshes of fluffy white sheep against the verdant backdrop, accompanied by highly trained dogs to keep them from succumbing to stage fright and running willy-nilly. And, yes, there will be a fence. The performances are free and open to the public. (No food or other dogs are allowed.) The visionary behind Doggie Hamlet is Ann Carlson, a Los Angeles-based, internationally lauded choreographer and performance artist whose work has long included unconventional participants and locations. In fact, notes Hop programming director Margaret Lawrence, Carlson was one of the first people she commissioned when she arrived at Dartmouth some 20 years ago. "That piece was about, and starred, the custodial staff of the college," Lawrence says. "Ann has an incredible view of people. She's very interested in the ways humans and animals interact." Carlson has worked with other animals before, Lawrence says, but not sheep. A different breed would like to see the choreographer's work put out to pasture. As New York Times dance critic Gia Kourlas noted in April, Doggie Hamlet earned Carlson scorn from the flock of conservatives who would dismantle the National Endowment for the Arts. Kourlas references an article on right-wing site the Washington Free Beacon that witheringly sums up Doggie Hamlet as "actors yelling and running at sheep in a field in Vermont." (That commentary, by writer Elizabeth Harrington, was based on a brief promo video for the piece; a preview presentation took place last September in Westminster West.) For her part, Kourlas defends Carlson the artist, whose work, she declares, "poignantly explores social issues through the lens of performance." In her nonlinear piece, Carlson raises thoughtful questions, Kourlas argues: "What does it mean to follow? What is instinct, and how does that differ from a reaction? What is our relationship to animals and to land?" Such thematic concerns aside — and regardless of one's opinions on…
          Radar observation and aerial capture of mountain pine beetle, Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopk. (Coleoptera: Scolytidae) above the forest canopy. 2008. Jackson, P.; Straussfogel, D; Lindgren, B.S.; Mitchell, S.; Murphy, B. Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service, Pacific Forestry Centre, Victoria B.C. Mountain Pine Beetle Working Paper 2007-02. 32 p.   
An outbreak of the mountain pine beetle, Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopk., in central British Columbia, Canada, has reached an unprecedented size and intensity, and has been spreading to the northeast. The ability of this insect to spread over large distances is known, but has not been studied directly. The 2005 emergence and subsequent flight of mountain pine beetle in central British Columbia was studied using direct observation of emergence, radar imagery, and aerial capture. Doppler weather radar was used to remotely observe the daily flight of beetles above the forest canopy. To verify that the daytime, clear-air radar returns seen during this period were indeed generated by airborne mountain pine beetles, aerial sampling in the area covered by the radar was performed using a drogue capture net towed by a single-engine light aircraft. Results from the aerial sampling verify that airborne mountain pine beetles are being detected by the Doppler radar, and that during the emergence period significant numbers of mountain pine beetles can be found at altitudes up to more than 800 m above the forest canopy. A conservative estimate of transport distance indicates that mountain pine beetles in flight above the forest canopy may move 40 to 100 km in a single day. Estimates of the instantaneous density of mountain pine beetles in flight above the canopy on flight days in 2005 indicate an average (maximum) density of 4950 (18 600) beetles per hectare.
          Ebook Download More Money Than Brains: Why School Sucks, College is Crap, Idiot Think They're Right (Globe and Mail Notable... Free PDF Online   

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          Free A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the White House: Humor, Blunders, and Other Oddities from the Presidential... Ebook Download Full   

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TH Definition by AcronymFinder TH: Technische Hochschule (German: University on Engineering) TH: Through Hole (soldering and electronic engineering machinery) TH: Teen Help: TH: Helper T Cells Funny Quotes BrainyQuote Share the best funny quotes collection by famous authors and comedians. Join the fun with our Funny Quote of the Day on the web, Facebook and blogs. Read/download A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the White House: Humor, Blunders, and Other Oddities from the Presidential... ebook full free online.

          Download Ebook A Modest Proposal and Other Satires (Konemann Classics) Free PDF Online   

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          Download Ebook Punching Tom Hanks: Dropkicking Gorillas and Pummeling Zombified Ex Presidents a Guide to Beating Up Anything Free PDF Online   

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Mother of all Establishments

The ruling class, the creme de la creme, the establishment - the mother of all establishments in fact - what is it like? Its wit tends to be both dry and acerbic. Its city is New York. Its profession is attorney. Its manner cool. Its clothes black. Its heroes Kennedys. Its music is mostly jazz standards I think. Its passion is film, or maybe dating. (Though I doubt their self-conscious coupling deserves the name of passion.) Its ethnicity is mixed, but the Anglo-Saxon and Jewish elements predominate. Its politics are moderate but liberal on certain social issues like abortion.

Many minor-league establishments send their best players to the big leagues. The ultimate establishment draws from corporate CEO's; judges; college presidents; the highest ranks of the military; union bosses; partners in prestigious law firms; titans of finance; media royalty; upper echelons of the ever-spreading government bureaucracies; nabobs from the political world - governors, senators, etc.; successful entertainers of all kinds- talk show hosts, rap artists, journalists. Powers from other nations are included: prime ministers, despots, treasury secretaries, generals, top smugglers and rights activists. The distillation of all these subsidiary elites, everyone from bankers to performance artists, physicists and film stars, mayors who've clawed their way up from the streets alongside the residue of the most aristocratic families - are all blended together to create the mother of all establishments.

Don't confuse the ultimate establishment with the penultimate establishment. The penultimate establishment consists of conservative Republicans picked to play the role of the ultimate establishment. They are the designated target, the Simon Legree at whom we are directed to hiss. They, very visibly, perform the disagreeable but necessary tasks of Power. They are the millionaires who keep the economy moving, the generals who keep the armies moving. They are the father figures who can, eventually, be safely discarded.

If you think these Republicans are in fact the ultimate establishment they are supposed to be you are wrong: 1) Conservative Republicans always lose the bitter battles over social policy - the struggles over segregation, abortion, feminism, gay rights, etc. 2) The supreme establishment would never, at least visibly, ally itself with the rich or the military. The rich are wildly unpopular (They like escaping their tax obligation as much as cutting badly-needed services to working people.) The military commanders may be popular domestically, but they are hated abroad. The supreme establishment instead derives power from pretending to battle these dangerous forces. 3) Businessmen are ruled by the market, by the desires of consumers. The government, in contrast, can do whatever it wants - it can arrest you; jail you; take your house, your children, all your money.

What are the beliefs of the mother of all establishments? While hostile to the world's religions, especially those denigrated as "fundamentalist", the ultimate establishment does possess a faith. They hate any restrictions placed on individuals by churches or clan patriarchs or rural communities - any restrictions placed on individuals by Tradition.

The era of this ultimate establishment is nearly over. Soon they and their urbane vanities will disappear. Then I think people will wonder how so few ruled over so many for so long.
             
Prometheus

Should we try to make ourselves better physically, mentally, morally? Should we try a eugenics program? We could alleviate so much suffering - of the "thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to" we could get rid of maybe 900.

We have always been able to alter human nature, but recent discoveries have considerably enhanced our abilities. We could make people more intelligent, more creative, more athletic. We could make people better suited to monogamy. No one would have to be born with a propensity for addiction or excessive weight gain. We could make people who are more altruistic - who wouldn't commit crimes, who wouldn't allow anyone to go hungry, wouldn't permit war, wouldn't tolerate cruelty of any kind, or even indifference. We could banish inherited disease of all kinds. Why wouldn't we bestow these benefits on our children? Do we like suffering? Should we get busy sticking pins in each other?

Of course playing about with human nature can be dangerous. Here are some objections:

Objection - What if the program fell into the wrong hands - some sinister cabal? Would they manufacture a race of soldiers, obedient and deadly? Or make a herd of pig-people, self-satisfied and pleasure-oriented? Or build a monster like Frankenstein's? Or, conversely, will their creation be so tepid, so dull, so unable to give offense as to drown us all in a (luke-warm) sea of blandness. We'll all perish of insipidity.
Response - These mistakes are not inherent in a eugenics program and can be avoided.

Objection - It is impious to alter our nature.
Response - (Just as it was impious to rise above our station or invent the airplane.) We were made by our Creator to aspire and improving our nature is one of our grandest aspirations.

Objection - A eugenics program requires coercion.
Response - Coercion is not unknown at present. Have they stopped writing regulations? Making arrests? Dropping bombs? At present all the manipulation, all the force only brings about the apotheosis of certain unworthy individuals.

Objection - A eugenics program favors aristocracy.
Response - A eugenics program and democracy can coexist. The program should be entirely meritocratic, and everyone, regardless of their genetic endowment, should be cared for and respected.

Objection - A eugenics program is racist.
Response - There is no necessary connection between eugenics and racism. Personally I look forward to a time when everyone is kind of tan.

Objection - In the wake of eugenics life will be boring.
Response - Is it really necessary for so many children to die of leukemia or war (for instance) to provide us with entertainment? A desperate, never-resting search for drama does not find happiness. If some thinkers hold that a dearth of evil or suffering exists they can always (with the best motives) drive nails into their friend's eyes.

Objection to a eugenics program that aims at improving our morals - We are already pretty good, or at least capable of becoming pretty good. If only the political or economic system was fixed, we would approach Utopia, which is just around the corner.
Response - Both the French and Russian Revolutions descended into terror and despotism, destroying the hopes of naive humanists. Even the most successful countries are plagued with suicide, divorce, addiction and other social ills. Many nations still suffer war, police oppression, ethnic conflict, etc.

Objections to a eugenics program that aims at improving our morals - If the conflict of man vs. man vanishes, if the conflict of man vs. himself disappears as well, we will be diminished. If soldiers are no longer required to charge the foe, nor ascetics to trek into the desert, the necessary result will be mere lassitude.
Response - Life will still be worth living even if we neglect to torment our neighbors or ourselves. The conflict of man vs. the physical world will remain, and this struggle will be enough (sometimes too much). We will not run short of obstacles: To create we will have to contend with physical objects that are not always plastic. We will have to contend with the law of gravity also. To explore we will have to battle mountains, ocean currents, steaming jungles, frozen continents. I do not know which will challenge our understanding more - infinitely large distances of space or infinitely small particles. Accidents and finally death will frustrate our deepest desire for permanence. Obstacles will remain, only now we will go out to meet them with an undivided heart.

Why does science always have to serve such ridiculous ends? Thanks to the genius of our scientists we can now build amazingly destructive bombs. Thanks to remarkable improvements in microprocessors and materials we can now buy products that will never benefit us at all in any way.

In the wealthy countries many are alive only because of massive medical intervention. If these people reproduce defective genes could be passed on to the children. We are faced with a long-term problem: succeeding generations will be less and less healthy.

The religious hope God's grace will help us become better. Humanists think we already have become better. Conservatives favor vigorous punishments (stoning?, the rack?) to force us to become better. So why would any of them object when we actually become better? Is it really so necessary to maintain our precise current levels of rottenness?

Once, tens of thousands of years ago, we shared the earth with other hominid species. we helped exterminate them, however, and gained dominion over the world. Someday the more advanced humans created by eugenics will succeed us. What could be more fitting?
          Mexico's Upcoming Election Mirrors U.S., Europe's Nationalist Movements   
From Texas Standard : Mexico’s election season is right around the corner and two candidates are already leading in the polls. It looks likely that leftist candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico’s MORENA party and conservative candidate Margarita Zavala Gómez del Campo of PAN will face off in July 2018.
          Another Sad Loss: Conservative Margaret Thatcher Dead, Her Accomplishments   

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Former prime minister Baroness Thatcher dies peacefully in her suite at the Ritz after suffering a massive stroke at...

Read the full post here »

The post Another Sad Loss: Conservative Margaret Thatcher Dead, Her Accomplishments appeared first on Watchwoman on the Wall.


          Continuing the Case for Health Care Reform   

Fareed Zakaria is one of the most balanced, sensible reporters and commentators on international affairs going today. Because of this, he brings a global perspective to American domestic issues that many of the pundits lack. In this week's Time Magazine, he has a commentary entitled, “Health Insurance Is for Everyone” (CNN shows about half the article, the entire piece is on Time’s website that is accessed by subscribers).  In it he writes,

The centerpiece of the case against Obamacare is the requirement that everyone buy some kind of health insurance or face stiff penalties--the so-called individual mandate. It is a way of moving toward universal coverage without a government-run or single-payer system. It might surprise Americans to learn that another advanced industrial country, one with a totally private health care system, made precisely the same choice nearly 20 years ago: Switzerland.

Switzerland is not your typical European welfare-state society. It is extremely business-friendly and has always gone its own way, shunning the euro and charting its own course on health care. The country ranks higher than the U.S. on the Heritage Foundation's Index of Economic Freedom.

Twenty years ago, Switzerland had a system very similar to America's--private insurers, private providers--with very similar problems. People didn't buy insurance but ended up in emergency rooms, insurers screened out people with pre-existing conditions, and costs were rising fast. The country came to the conclusion that to make health care work, everyone had to buy insurance. So the Swiss passed an individual mandate and reformed their system along lines very similar to Obamacare. The reform law passed by referendum, narrowly. The result two decades later: quality of care remains very high, everyone has access, and costs have moderated. Switzerland spends 11% of its GDP on health care, compared with 17% in the U.S. Its 8 million people have health care that is not tied to their employers, they can choose among many plans, and they can switch plans every year. Overall satisfaction with the system is high.

Zakaria continues,

The most striking aspect of America's medical system remains how much of an outlier it is in the advanced industrial world. No other nation spends more than 12% of its total economy on health care. We do worse than most other countries on almost every measure of health outcomes: healthy-life expectancy, infant mortality and--crucially--patient satisfaction. Put simply, we have the most expensive, least efficient system of any rich country on the planet. Costs remain high on every level. Recently, the International Federation of Health Plans released a report comparing the prices in various countries of 23 medical services, from a routine checkup to an MRI to a dose of Lipitor. The U.S. had the highest costs in 22 of the 23 cases. An MRI costs $1,080 here; it costs $281 in France.

In 1963, Nobel Prize--winning economist Kenneth Arrow wrote an academic paper explaining why markets don't work well in health care. He argued that unlike with most goods and services, people don't know when they will need health care. And when they do need it--say, in the case of heart failure--the cost is often prohibitive. That means you need some kind of insurance or government-run system.

Now, we could decide as a society that it is O.K. for people who suddenly need health care to get it only if they can pay for it. The market would work just as it works for BMWs: anyone who can afford one can buy one. That would mean that the vast majority of Americans wouldn't be able to pay for a triple bypass or a hip replacement when they needed it. But every rich country in the world--and many not-so-rich ones--has decided that its people should have access to basic health care. Given that value, a pure free-market model simply cannot work.

In the campaigns for president, it seems that the conservatives have changed their tunes on requiring mandate for everyone to be included in health insurance. Zakaria observes,

Catastrophic insurance--covering trauma and serious illnesses--isn't a solution, because it's chronically ill patients, just 5% of the total, who account for 50% of American health care costs. That's why the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, came up with the idea of an individual mandate in the 1980s, proposing that people buy health insurance in exactly the same way that people are required to buy car insurance. That's why Mitt Romney chose this model as a market-friendly system for Massachusetts when he was governor. And that's why Newt Gingrich praised the Massachusetts model as the most important step forward in health care in years. They have all changed their minds, but that is about politics, not economics.

He concludes,

When listening to the debate about American health care, I find that many of the most fervent critics of government involvement argue almost entirely from abstract theoretical propositions about free markets. One can and should reason from principles. But one must also reason from reality, from facts on the ground. And the fact is that about 20 foreign countries provide health care for their citizens in some way or other. All of them--including free-market havens like Switzerland and Taiwan--have found that they need to use an insurance or government-sponsored model. All of them provide universal health care at much, much lower costs than we do and with better results.


          Know Thy Enemy   

By Michelle Ray (twitter: @GaltsGirl)

The IRS admitted to targeting Conservative groups. Then, they passed along information to a liberal nonprofit. Why? Thanks to Tj Thompson for putting my thoughts into video format.

The article Know Thy Enemy is original content from Conservative Daily News.


          "Democrats fume over early Gorsuch rulings; Conservative moves by the new Supreme Court justice draw mixed reviews"   
"Democrats fume over early Gorsuch rulings; Conservative moves by the new Supreme Court justice draw mixed reviews": Josh Gerstein of Politico.com has this report.
          Concussions, Appendicitis, Forearm Fractures - PediaCast 217   
Join Dr Mike in the PediaCast Studio for another Research Round-Up! This week we discuss published articles on the following topics: predicting long-term concussion symptoms for football players, rapid vs interval appendectomy for children with perforated appendicitis, and conservative management of displaced and overriding distal radius fractures. If these terms sound complex or confusing, never fear… We always break it down so moms and dads can understand!
          Re-conjuring the afterlife    
Upon exiting an evening viewing of The Conjuring 2, I was left with a sense of unease. Not so much due to the film itself, though it offered up its fair share of demonic spectres (fast becoming a staple for James Wan) that sprang out from dark places, providing my companion with ample amusement as I jumped and blasphemed. No, this sense of unease came from the dislocation between the film's narrative, and the series of events I had previously associated with the Enfield haunting. I've nowhere near read all there is to read on this subject, but I thought I'd got the basics right. Lorraine & Ed Warren banished a demon in Brimsdown? That "minor" detail passed me by! Then again, Brimsdown (the part of Enfield in which the case is centred) is rather close to Brimstone, phonetically speaking (I think they missed a trick there).

Of course, The Conjuring 2, like so many films based on 'true stories', takes rather large liberties with the historical record. This is true of all manner of genres and subject matter concerned with historical occurrences, but it seems particularly pertinent to tales involving the supernatural. Largely, I would argue, they are advertised as being 'based on a true story' in an attempt to preserve their authenticity. This sense of the real, as being grounded in the everyday, and to ordinary people, is key to the scare. In this sense, the advertising of supernatural (and usually scary) film as 'based on a true story' blurs the boundaries between fact and fiction, and in doing so, raises the supernatural - often boxed safely into imaginary spaces in other fictions - much closer to home. Look, it says, you can turn the television off, or leave the cinema, but you can't leave behind the fact that the supernatural does happen. It happened here... supposedly, it could happen to you. At least, that is the subliminal message one might pick out from this kind of publicity. After all, such films often provide 'follow ups' before the credits roll, with little snippets of what happened next to the characters involved (again, this is fairly common for all genres retelling of true stories), reinforcing the context in which said events occurred with a traceable legacy.

An embellishment of personal accounts, anecdotes, or historical events is perhaps necessary for such tales of the supernatural, due to the subtle nature of most supernatural events - a smell doesn't offer much for building dramatic tension. But also, at least my own research suggests, supernatural events often lack clean endings. The Enfield haunting, for example, seems to have drifted into gradual anonymity (save for the recent media interest due to its recent re-tellings and the on going concerns and discussions of the Society for Psychical Research), having divided scientific and public opinion of its legitimacy, and so Janet and her family disappeared from public life. Janet re-emerged on my path a few of years ago via a chapter in Will Storr's excellent Will Storr vs The Supernatural, but here she seemed a spectral character, haunted in relative obscurity by the events that momentarily elevated her to the heights of controversial reality star. Storr captures the unfinishedness of this story when he writes:
"But, but, but… I can’t achieve resolution. And so my memories of Janet just hang there in the back of my head, bumping around every now and then, my own noisy ghost. And whenever I hear talk of it, or see fictionalised retellings in the TV schedules, I can only think, "Oh yes, Enfield. That was weird."" (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/films/2016/06/13/the-conjuring-2-what-really-happened-during-the-enfield-haunting/)

While Lorraine Warren has been cited as regarding the film as 'fairly accurate', I find this somewhat difficult to consider with any seriousness as - from what I can gather - the Warrens were only present at the Enfield House for one day, back in 1978. And, according to Guy Lyon Playfair, one of the chief researchers for this case, they arrived uninvited (NB - there are some accounts that dispute this, and say that they were invited). But the accuracy of a film such as this is not my concern here, rather, it is the manner in which the narrative has been changed, and the significance of those changes and additions, that has captured my interest.    

In The Conjuring series, we have two paranormal investigators who are, first and I would argue foremost, devout Christians. Their beliefs are clearly symbolised through several different physical mediums, for example, the wearing of a large cross, their regular use of, and reference to, the bible, and their recognition and orientation to demonic evil as the cause of paranormal activity. Both films are not concerned with human spirits so much as they are with the battle against the demonic. And it is a battle, of words and crucifixes primarily, but a battle nonetheless.


Christianity has long been intertwined within supernatural fiction, but certainly not exclusively. We can see this in Bram Stoker's Dracula, whose heroes are all good practising Christian men. While many Western ghost experients may seek help from the church, the influence of the demonic tends to be more frequent in American interactions than with British ones. This most probably represents the higher percentage of devout Christians and explicit Christian identities in America as opposed to those in Great Britain, where church attendance and its presence in the public has dwindled over the last hundred years. Furthermore, there appears to be higher percentage of Christians who subscribe to the reality of evil as demonic forces in American, than those Christians in Great Britain who are not so convinced. A quick comparison of ghost investigation shows, say Ghost Adventures in the USA and Most Haunted in the UK, show this difference quite clearly - you are much more likely to encounter a demonic presence in the company of Zac Bagans than you are with Yvette Fielding (so, depending on what you're looking for, this might help when it comes to "who you gonna call").

The role of the demonic binds The Conjuring films to a particular cosmology: one in which there is a very definite and definitive God and the Devil, a very real Heaven and Hell. Demons are depicted as malevolently operational: they have a presence in the world of the living, and may appear as spectres or possess human hosts. Their sole motivation is a corruption of humanity; they're pretty primal in that regard, and not likely to engage you in any deep theological debate. I've long been rather disappointed by this, considering the longevity of their lives and the possibilities for knowledge they might have at least made a start on. Their desires are insatiable, and their purpose in a narrative is one of irredeemable horror, where such insatiability is at the root of their power to inspire terror (their immortality also makes them excellent fodder for sequels). The battle between demons and the Warrens is a sacred quest played out amid the landscape and inhabitants of the profane.

The role of, and their expertise in, Christianity is what sets the Warrens apart from the other protagonists. The Hodgson's Christianity is a quiet faith, and they are certainly no experts in demonology. Furthermore, because we can see are told through the film that the demonic is real by showing it, this also sets them over Maurice Grosse, who is situated as more of a concerned amateur paranormal enthusiast than lead investigator in The Conjuring 2. He is almost (unfairly) downgraded to a bumbling attention seeker, bar a 'touching' scene between himself and Lorraine in which he responds to her question of his integrity with the tale of his dead daughter, and his compassionate intention. All this plumps up the idea that the deeper you know of the bible,  the more committed you are to it, then the more likely you are to be able to be a proper hero. Devoutness is key.

The role of the demonic, and its corresponding Christian cosmology, was a controversial move in the original The Conjuring, primarily because of its 'reinterpretation' of history. Again, from what I can gather, there was supposedly some speculation that the spirit in question was, in life a witch, but this largely seems hearsay, and she certainly wasn't hung from a tree. The internet can be a rather frustrating resource when it comes to such matters. As the primary antagonist here is supposed to be descended from a witch executed in Salem, we see, I think, the problem with this kind of retelling. As W. Scott Poole writes:
"The Conjuring’s conservative politics are mostly implicit. Its historical revisionism, on the other hand, is all up in our grills. We learn that the persecuted people of 17th century New England were not, in fact, victims of religious fanaticism. They were Satanists who presumably got exactly what they deserved. The Crucible, and generations of historiography, has gotten it all wrong." (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/w-scott-poole/faithbased-horror-the-con_b_3670617.html

The issue of femininity, and the good nuclear family, are also important components for the film's narrative. Writers like Stephen King have established a popular strand for horror fiction as the malevolent intrusion of the extraordinary into the ordinary. Rather than the ghostly ensnaring of wary trespassers in off the road villages, circa M R James and H P Lovecraft, the terror stems from our powerlessness to control and protect our familial arenas. In these films that powerlessness can only be overcome by invoking the power of Godly forces; God, quite literally, has to be invited into the homestead, has to be endorsed as subordinate and supreme, and the evil therefore made to submit and subsist. In both films, the mothers are unable to protect their children, and so must be aided by the Warrens, who act as spiritual parents/guardians. Similarly, both films work with images of the anti-mother or anti-woman, of a reversal of the archetypal qualities of good mother and womanhood; in The Conjuring the spirit of Bathsheba is a child killer, and in The Conjuring 2 the demon Valak appears in a nun's habit. Andrew O'Hehir examined this further, calling into question the first film's reflection of:
"...America’s obsession with evil, and how easily that gets pointed in the wrong directions. It’s a movie based on the reassuring premise that when something is wrong in your family, your community or your country, you don’t have to worry about the priests, the cops, the dads or the other male authority figures. They’re the good guys. Blame the women." (http://www.salon.com/2013/07/18/the_conjuring_right_wing_woman_hating_and_really_scary/)


There's a kind of irony about the association between Catholicism and the demonic reveal in these movies (NB - The Warrens are cited as Catholic, and invoke Catholic paraphernalia). After all, Catholics gave plenty of theological space and consideration for spirits of the dead, particularly those springing forth from purgatory to beg for absolution, and remind the sinful living to repent in memento mori. In both installments of The Conjuring, we can find that the 'true' stories are presented as fairly typical ghost encounters, that is, that the families were haunted by spirits of deceased people. There was no terrifying possessions, no attempted child murder, no mass furniture levitation. But likewise, in both installments, these spirits have mutated via their translation to the silver screen, into the powerful demonic. The irony of this comes from that fact that it was the Protestants who called into question the reality of spirits. The development of Protestantism altered the afterlife map, by removing purgatory, distancing God's involvement in the world from actual interloper to hands off observer, and making the road to heaven and hell a one way system. Once you had been assigned to one of those two places there was no going back, and so the dead - quite simply - could not return to haunt us. The answer to the repeated protestations that ghosts had been experienced was that either the experient was mistaken, or that it had in fact been a demon in disguise. 

This is a rather light brush over the surface of these films, but the question that lingers in my mind is: so what? Does it really matter if we play around with history, if we glam up the God role and dumb down the bad? I go and see these movies after all, and if I'm honest, its not always due to 'research' as I'm sometimes heard to protest. Perhaps not, but then again... my thoughts turn to how these films, and the stories they represent, may be regarded in a hundred, or two hundred years time. After all, Bram Stoker took simple inspiration from Vlad Tepes' historical entry, and nowadays Tepes and Dracula are often regarded as one and the same. The power of fiction as a river into which the public imagination drinks from should not be underestimated. Still, maybe that doesn't matter, or maybe, as Poole and O'Hehir have suggested, we should critically consider what these films are really communicating to us about the societies we live in.

Finally, another thought lingers. If we start making our ghosts into demons, what might we be missing? An exploration of Sky TVs recent serialisation of The Enfield Haunting (a far superior effort in my humble opinion), while no doubt also adding great big dollops of made up happenings, captured something much more poignant. Through a much closer - and more genuinely empathetic - exploration of Grosse's terrible grief we are reminded that while demons stalking you in a creepy house is momentarily all rather spine tingling, bereavement, and our search for what awaits us after we and those we love die, is a much more meaningful, and sometimes agonising, affair. 


          Reflections on the strangest election yet   
As the dust settles, I am reflecting on the strangest general election. Who won, who lost – and where do we go from here? Let’s look at it party by party: Conservatives Well, they called the election when they didn’t have to. Clearly, they calculated that they would increase their majority substantially as well as … Continue reading Reflections on the strangest election yet
          Utter Contempt   
People who know me will know that it isn’t often that words fail me. They will also know that I’m not a huge fan of Conservatives either, But David Cameron had the world at his feet. He had led a successful coalition government, steered the nation through a financial crisis, modernised his party to the … Continue reading Utter Contempt
          The Supreme Court is back in business   
With all nine members now in place for the next term, the US Supreme Court is expected to decide cases that could impact the lives of many Americans. We hear what to expect from the newest Justice, Neil Gorsuch, who's already taken some very conservative stands.
          Supreme Court ends a quiet term, looks ahead to a blockbuster one   
With all nine members now in place for the next term, the US Supreme Court is expected to decide cases that could impact the lives of many Americans. We hear what to expect from the newest Justice, Neil Gorsuch, who's already taken some very conservative stands.
          A Living Wage for a Living Tree?   
The Ballors went with a live tree this year. We bought it at Flowerland and I do not know the name of the farm whence it came. Over at the American Conservative, Micah Mattix reflects on the Christmas tree market, which in his neck of the woods is “notoriously unstable.” In Ashe County, North Carolina, says Mattix, a dilemma faces the small tree farmer: “It is not sell or starve, but it is sell or go without a new septic tank, a repaired roof, a mended this or that.” Although not specifically about Christmas trees, the difficult choice faced by the poet in the Robert Frost poem Mattix engages at length is also reminiscent of the dynamic of poverty in Winter’s Bone. Continue Reading...
          Fracking industry dealt setback in its battle against local control   

It was one of the many great ironies associated with controversy surrounding the issue of fracking in North Carolina that so-called conservatives opposed efforts during the 2012 legislative session to include stronger protections for landowners. As you may recall, it was mostly conservative supporters of the fracking industry who opposed efforts to include language in fracking legislation that would ...

The post Fracking industry dealt setback in its battle against local control appeared first on The Progressive Pulse.


          Candidate for Dem Party chair explains resignation from ALEC   

As we and others reported on Friday, a candidate for state Democratic Party Chair, Donald Vaughan, was revealed in recent days to have been a member of the corporate-funded, arch-conservative group ALEC. Late on Friday, Vaughan sent us a letter in which he explained that he is resigning from the group. Click here to read the ...

The post Candidate for Dem Party chair explains resignation from ALEC appeared first on The Progressive Pulse.


          The Tiananman Square Protests Weren't Liberal   
One of my favorite blogs is Echoes, subtitle "Dispatches from Economic History", at Bloomberg. There isn't a unifying theme other than contextualizing current events by looking to past episodes. The authors are experts on each topic -- i.e. there aren't just one or several folks writing every day -- and I almost always learn something from the post.

For example, that the Tiananman Square protests weren't exactly liberal. The author of the piece is a sociologist as Kansas State who has studied Chinese development since 1949, and he says that the protesters were "radical reactionaries". This atypical conjunction means that they were anti-authoritarian but also anti-capitalism.

The story goes like so. The early reforms economic reforms in China benefited rural farmers and initially urban consumers as well, but after awhile industrialization efforts and a plateau in farm production increased price inflation. At the same time corruption increased. This hit urbanites particularly hard. They demanded more political access, but mostly so that they could reverse economic reforms. Thus, they urbanites were "radical reactionaries". I guess that means the rural farmers were "conservative revolutionaries".

Deng refused to yield, but had the protests been successful China might've ended up with the opposite of what they've had over the past generation: political reform without economic reform. Ironically this would have hurt urban dwellers in the long run, since the economic reforms Deng undertook eventually benefited them the most.

Anyway, it's certainly not the textbook version of the story. But elements of this still resonate, as this Dissent article about the contemporary anti-reform movement in China illustrates.
          Marginalia   

Corey Robin has written a long article arguing that Austrian economic thought and marginalism in general is descended from Nietzsche. Hence, Hayek et al are a bunch of aristocrats dedicated to oppressing society. I'd be happy to be persuaded that the marginalists -- at least as Robin uses the term, which isn't the only way -- are Nietzschean, but Robin's article didn't do it. Too many strong assertions based on tenuous evidence, and Robin is not exactly an impartial observer. This follow-on John Holbo post -- while exceptional in many ways -- doesn't do it either. Partially because it rests so heavily on a peculiar (I think) reading of this quote from Hayek in The Constitution of Liberty:

To grant no more freedom than all can exercise would be to misconceive its function completely. The freedom that will be used by only one man in a million may be more important to society and more beneficial to the majority than any freedom that we all use.

This does not have to mean that "some people’s freedom is a lot more valuable than other people’s freedom", as Holbo wrote in a previous post and quotes here. In light of the rest of Hayek's work (or even the rest of the passage from which this quote is pulled: see below) it is strange to argue that this passage means anything like what Holbo thinks it means: "Ideally, we would find that one man and even make all others his slaves, if that is what it took to let him exercise his freedom to the fullest. Hayek thus affirms a freedom monster argument somehat analogous to the classic pleasure monster reductio."

The Hayek quote refers to the exercise of liberty, which may not be universal even if the liberty is extended universally. Hayek is arguing that it does not follow from the fact that the exercise may be non-universal that the liberty should be restricted. Instead, those who would exercise their liberty should be free to do so. In fact, there are a million liberties. None of us can act on all them, but all of us will act on some of them. Restricting liberties that the majority isn't exercising may be tempting, but it would be wrong to do so since the exercise of liberties leads to the improvement of society. That's the argument.

To get from Hayek to Holbo's interpretation of Hayek you have to take a few steps. First you'd have to ignore the footnote on the very passage Holbo pulls, which contains this quote (from some people I've never heard of): "If there is to be freedom for the few who will take advantage of it, freedom must be offered to the many." How does that imply enslavement of the masses for the benefit of one? Suppose I proposed universal suffrage while acknowledging that many people will stay home on election day. Would that make me anti-democratic? It's a strange argument.

Hayek believes that social progress occurs partially through experimentation, the results of which are ex ante unknowable. The "unknowable" part is extremely important for Hayek. It's how he can simultaneously support a welfare state and public provision of public goods while opposing egalitarian redistribution and social ownership of the means of production. "Knowable" advances can be socially planned, and Hayek was fine with using the power of the state to do so. ("It is the character rather than the volume of government activity that is important.") Unknowable advances cannot be planned but are nevertheless desirable, thus experimentation must be allowed through constitutionalization and encouraged by the preservation of (market) reward for experiments that succeed. Holbo is correct that this is Millian -- J.S. Mill's "utilitarianism" is dynamic, not static: society benefits at time t+1 from the exercise of individual liberty at time t. Whether this is actual utilitarianism or something else is, I suppose, the question -- but wrong when he implies that Mill, by way of Hayek, was Nietzschean.

Hayek seems to believe that the majority of society will choose not to experiment because they are risk averse -- "The freedom that will be used by only one man in a million..." emphasis added -- or because they are exercising some other liberty, but it is socially optimal to have somebody doing some experimenting. Those who are interested in doing so, those who will exercise their liberties while others do not, should be allowed to do so, since society will benefit if they succeed. The rest of the passage in The Constitution of Liberty quote above goes:

The less likely the opportunity, the more serious will it be to miss it when it arises, for the experience that it offers will be nearly unique. It is also probably true that the majority are not directly interested in most of the important things that any one person should de free to do. It is because we do not know how individuals will use their freedom that it is so important. If it were otherwise, the results of of freedom could also be achieved by the majority’s deciding what should be done by the individuals. But the majority action is, of necessity, confined to the already tried and ascertained, to issues on which agreement has already been reached in that process of discussion that must be preceded by different experiences and actions on the part of different individuals. 
The benefits I derive from freedom are thus largely the result of the uses of freedom by others, and mostly of those uses of freedom that I could never avail myself of. It is therefore not necessarily freedom that I can exercise myself that is most important for me. It is certainly more important that anything can be tried by somebody than that all can do the same things… What is important is not the freedom that I personally would like to exercise but what freedom some person may need in order to do things beneficial to society. This freedom we can assure to the unknown person only by giving it to all.

How can one (e.g. Holbo) read this and come away thinking Overman? It's more like the open source movement. Which makes sense, since Hayek's view on this goes back to his 1945 essay "The Uses of Knowledge in Society". He argues there that because much knowledge is local, and centralized planning cannot incorporate local knowledge, that centralized planning will fail. This argument is what he's drawing from to say that the exercise of liberty by some -- who are in possession of local knowledge not available to all -- is not suboptimal.

Now, possibly you could argue that Hayek's view of the masses is too dim (even though he includes himself in them) and that is where the aristocracy comes in and takes us to Nietzsche. Or possibly you could argue that the "knowable" advances are greater than the "unknowable" advances. Indeed, this is the argument against which Hayek dedicated himself to in writing The Constitution of Liberty, which was published in 1960 -- a time after Sputnik when Paul Samuelson was predicting that the USSR's GNP per capita would surpass the US's within a generation or so -- so you'd at least be meeting him where he is. The question Hayek is trying to address is whether society will benefit more from planning or from spontaneous emergence. He obviously believes it is the latter. He may be wrong, but not because he's a Nietzschean.

The better argument is the one made by Amartya Sen: it is not necessarily local knowledge which precludes some from exercising certain liberties, but rather material opportunity. It may not be that some will not exercise their ability but that they cannot do so. In this case they are not free. Hayek says almost nothing about this directly, but does say that just because some are free does not mean that all should be enslaved. Those who can exercise their freedom should do so, as this will provide benefit for society.

This is the point, I think, that Hayek goes astray. His argument about the importance of local knowledge and decentralization falls apart when those with local knowledge cannot employ it and opportunity is centralized. His claim that innovations by the few will benefit the many is empirical: sometimes they do, often they do not. His argument that order is spontaneous is contingent, in other words, not a law of nature. Complex systems can, and do, break down. To simply admit does not require giving anything else up.

But, again, this is not Nietzschean. Which is why Objectivists do not like Hayek. This is an argument that Hayek should revise his beliefs to include a role for a marginally bigger -- although not fundamentally different -- state, or some other redistributionary apparatus. This is doable using Hayekian language, even if Hayek himself and many of his supporters recommend a minimalist state. Hayek is reconcilable with somewhat-modest forms of social democracy, in other words, and social democracy is reconcilable with a deregulated-but-redistributionary political economy.

But to do that you'd have to admit that Hayek was not quite a moral monster. Corey Robin is dedicated to showing that the right wing is authoritarian in all its guises. He believes that when Hayek writes "Why I Am Not A Conservative" he simply cannot be trusted: he's a reactionary like all the rest, and all the rest are motivated first and foremost by a lust for exploitation and oppression. There is nothing inherently wrong with this intellectual project, and I've learned a lot by following it. But it is inherently limiting at the same time, and it commits one to answers before questions have even been asked.


          The Conservative Left   
Henry Farrell's article on the plight of European democracy in the face of "technocratic" management is very good reading. 

Tangentially related is this bit from Thatcher making a similar argument ex ante



Which is not to say she was anti-Europe. She wasn't. Alex Harrowell put it well:
[T]he European Union has not turned out to be the nice alternative to Thatcherism it was sold as in the 1990s. ... 
The policies it delivers – open trade, austeritarian macro-economics, open capital flows, no real redistributive budget, and a permanent war on inflation – are basically nothing Margaret Thatcher would not have welcomed. ... 
Thatcher was a European; it’s Europe that’s the problem.
Except that Thatcher rejected the central bank, which is Europe and thus the problem. Harrowell says truthfully that the UK was pegging to the German mark for much of Thatcher's tenure, but that was a choice which was easily reversible (and was in fact reversed) as soon as it became disadvantageous.

The longstanding left political project -- internationalism plus a strong welfare state funded by capitalism -- contains as many contradictions as capitalism itself. So what's the left to do? It's adopting the tone of the right. By the end of his life Tony Judt couldn't really be more conservative. Farrell's essay suggests that this is the only plausible path forward, and it's not a good one.


          Georgia Special Election Portends What the "Trump Effect" Will Be on GOP-Leaning Congressional Districts in 2018   
Today voters in the northern Atlanta suburbs go to the polls to vote in a special election, the most expensive congressional race in history.  Democrat Jon Ossoff faces Republican Karen Handel in the battle to replace former congressman and current Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price in Georgia House District #6.  Both parties, but especially Democrats, have poured money into the competition for a district that Price won by 23% in 2016, but President Trump only carried by 1%. The national media is focusing on the race as a referendum on Trump.  Republicans have won previous GOP-leaning special districts this year, but in every instance the Republican share of the vote has been substantially down over previous years.

The Real Clear Politics average of polls show Handel with a .2% lead.  Obviously a dead heat.


Karen Handel
Is too much made of this special election as a referendum on President Trump?  Certainly too much is based on who wins or loses.  If Handel, for example, wins by a handful of votes instead of losing by a handful of votes, there shouldn't be too much read into the result. However, the GOP is having to defend this heavily Republican seat is a significant development, apart from the actual result that rolls in tonight.  It should be noted that Georgia HD #6 has a highly education population.  Indeed it is in the top 10 in that measure.  The other nine congressional districts with the most educated populations are represented by Democrats.  There was a time when the more education one had, the more likely a person would be a Republican.  That appears to be changing.

While far from an inspiring candidate, Handel's moderately conservative views better fit the district than the bland Ossoff.  Politically, Ossoff, who is only 30 years old, is a traditional liberal who would be much better suited for a Democratic-leaning congressional district in Massachusetts or California, rather than a Republican-leaning district in Georgia.  Even more importantly than his age and liberal views being a handicap in the district, the biggest negative for Ossoff is that he doesn't actually in House District #6. While not a legal requirement, that issue has proven to be a deal-breaker for challengers who have attempted to convince voters they can properly represent a district in which they don't live. 

What I find most remarkable is that the Democrats, despite recruiting an extremely poor candidate for the district, have a real chance of winning tonight. That speaks volumes about the drag that President Trump will be on the Republicans going into the 2018 congressional elections.  Call it the "Trump Effect."
          Liberals Show Contempt for Free Speech in Silencing Ann Coulter   
By now many if not most people have heard that "conservative" columnist Ann Coulter's planned speech at the University of California at Berkeley has been cancelled.  Liberals on and off the campus acted to shut down the speech.  Fox News now reports on the latest development, support from a prominent actor:
Rob Schneider attacked UC Berkeley for cancelling conservative commentator Ann Coulter's speech, saying the university should "add burning
Ann Coulter
books to the curriculum." 
"UC Berkeley, after you done eliminating speech you don't like & words you don’t like what’s next?" the comedian wrote on Twitter adding, "Maybe add burning books to the curriculum." 
The outspoken star also tweeted, "Freedom of thought, speech, conscience & informed consent to medical risk taking. There's no greater calling for Americans in the 21st Century." 
... 
Earlier this month, a bloody brawl broke out in downtown Berkeley at a pro-Trump protest that featured speeches by members of the white nationalist right. They clashed with a group of Trump critics who called themselves anti-fascists. 
... 
In February, violent protesters forced the cancellation of a speech by right-wing writer Milo Yiannopoulos, who like Coulter was invited by campus Republicans.
I am no fan of Coulter.  I find her to be utterly repulsive, an ideological faud who has hijacked the "conservative" label to promote ideas that are full of hate and not at all conservative.   It is people like her, and President Trump, who are destroying the once great conservative movement that convinced me to become a Republican.

Nonetheless, college campuses should be venues where the open exchange of ideas is welcomed, even when those ideas are an anathema to many who study and work at the school.  One of the most unfortunate trends in recent years is the increasing lack of tolerance for free speech by people on the left, particular at our colleges and universities.  If you want to read a great book on the subject, written by a liberal Democrat no less, pick up The Silencing by Kirsten Powers.

          VP Pence Shows Pres. Trump How Conservatives Can Successfully Handle The Liberal Media   
The Indianapolis Star reports:
WASHINGTON – Vice President Mike Pence joked Saturday night that the most embarrassing part of the recent news that he used a personal email account while Indiana’s governor is that millions of Americans learned he was one of the few people in the country to still have an AOL account. 
Vice President Mike Pence
“My wife said it was good for my image,” Pence said at the Gridiron Club dinner, a white-tie dinner of speeches, skits and songs put on by Washington's oldest journalism organization. “She said now America knows I’m not stuck in the ‘50s. I’m just stuck in the ‘90s.” 
Pence also read some of the comments made on Twitter after IndyStar broke the story Thursday that raised questions about the security and government transparency of the AOL account, which was hacked last summer.  
Among the social media slams: “Your grandma is hipper than Mike Pence.” Another said: “This is the most I’ve heard about American Online since I last saw the free disks on a counter at Blockbuster. #MakeAOLGreatAgain.” 
Pence was the headline speaker at the dinner, which takes a humorous look at the political scene.  He wore a black tie to the white-tie event, which he said he thought he could get away with until House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi asked him to refill her coffee.  
... 
Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, who represented the Republicans, said she’s impressed that Pence never needs a teleprompter. “Maybe that’s because every speech begins with, `Let me explain what the president meant to say,’” Ernst said. “And thank you for that. 
The Mike Pence I remember from law school was an outspoken, unapologetic conservative. But he also had an engaging personality and a wonderful sense of humor that won over even die-hard liberals at that school.  I am not sure where Pence's personality and sense of humor went during his four years as Governor (I blame his advisers who didn't know how to use Pence's greatest assets), but they appear to have returned as Vice President.  It is good that they did.  He will need those tools given the train wreck that the Trump presidency appears to be.

Pence's performance at the Gridiron shows how conservatives should handle the media.  No doubt most journalists have a liberal-bent and want to see conservative politicians fail.  But journalists also have many other things that influence their writing, even more so than political philosophy.  Pence appears to understand that and knows that winning them over as a "nice guy" goes a long way to developing more positive news coverage.


          Sexism in Comics   
I've been itching to write some sort of commentary on the recent explosion of discussion about women in comics, but it seems like a subject that needs a careful approach, so this essay has been a long time in the imagining.

To talk about "women in comics" is to cover the experiences of every woman who has ever worked in comics, not something that can be done easily or quickly. Any concise opinion can't possibly be adequate to the task of speaking for so many people at once. Experiences are unique to each individual and diverse by consequence, so when accusations of prejudice are made, there will always be people to disagree. The debate is often loud, and sometimes aggressive.

There's also a tendency for people involved to see their own experience as more than just a single snapshot. Social events like conventions and social networks like twitter enhance this effect by providing a huge sense of connection. When combined with the compelling idea that the comics industry is a small one in which "everyone knows everyone", it's easy to imagine that your experience, plus everything you hear and everyone you know ads up to a very complete picture. The more connected you are (or feel you are), the stronger this feeling will be. You know what things are like.

Argument from experience is a common form of debate, and it can be a powerful and persuasive one. Unfortunately it's also notoriously inaccurate because regardless of gender, we're all subject to some human biases that are hard to escape. Behavioural studies have shown that the majority of people are far more likely to believe a story they hear if it supports their own beliefs - something known as the confirmation bias. We also have a tendency to make close connections with people who are in similar situations to ourselves, meaning that we're more likely to encounter events and individuals that support our beliefs in the first place! This doesn't just effect beliefs, it also acts on social movement, including your career. It's the conservative force behind nepotism that if left unchecked tends to preserve any social divide it touches.

As with anything social, the whole picture can only be seen by stepping back, but how do we see the wood when the trees fight back? The thing to bear in mind is that no matter how loud and angry they are, experiences aren't the same as evidence. When one person says they've encountered restrictions or barriers, and another says that they haven't, it's not the same as one person declaring that rocks fall upwards whilst the other insists that they fall downwards. The industry can comfortably contain both people who have, and people who haven't experienced sexism.

So what are things really like? When one person says there are no women in comics, others leap in with a ready list and a reassuring word. We’re told that it’s not as bad as we think - DC, Marvel and other “mainstream publishers” (an odd phrase when you consider what’s mainstream outside of comics) may have a bit of a problem with female representation, but the rest of the industry doesn’t. Being honest, that’s what I tend to think as well – I imagine the gender balance on my own shelves, it seems about 50/50, and I’m reassured. However, a list or a mental tally isn’t enough for our purposes because there’s another human quirk involved here: most of us can’t handle statistics well at all! If we’re confronted by a list of 20 women in comics, we struggle to think of 20 men on the spot, and our limited data suggests an illusion of parity.

So, I decided to stop relying on rhetoric and actually count the creators on my shelves (which consist of my collection and Kate Brown’s combined), hoping they might offer a positive image of gender in comics. The results were 2% uncertain/ungendered, 26% female and 71% male! That’s a much bigger majority for men than I had expected from a collection that I’d imagined as gender neutral.

Not satisfied with the informal picture my shelves painted, I decided to collect some more numbers in town. We have two good comics collections in Oxford, one in Blackwells Art and Poster shop (that consists almost entirely of indie titles from across the board) and one in Waterstones (which has a large DC/Marvel shelf alongside a decent indie collection). The results from the indie section in Waterstones were 3% uncertain/ungendered, 9% female and 88% male. The results from Blackwells were 6% uncertain/ungendered, 16% female, 78% male. That’s an even less representative ratio than my personal collection! Not only are these percentages dominated by male creators, but I noticed while counting the Blackwells results that a large chunk of female representation came from SelfMadeHero’s Manga Shakespeare range (which they no longer commission) along with Nelson and Nobrow 6 (both of which are anthologies). If I discount those results the new percentages for Blackwells are 84% male, 11% female and 5% uncertain/ungendered!

This is not a good picture. I would have expected more diversity from publishers like SelfMadeHero, Top Shelf and Jonathan Cape that were very well represented in the stores I looked into. It’s also rather telling that I should find a higher percentage of women where the money and exposure involved were lower. SelfMadeHero especially surprised me in this respect. Their first titles, the manga Shakespeare range (one of which I drew) consisted of 6 female artists to 7 male, but since then their ratio has dropped to 20% women.
(EDIT: I originally reported the SelfMadeHero statistic to have plummeted to less than 10%, which turned out to be a figure skewed by limited data. Doug Wallace pointed out on twitter that "across the 67 titles published between Feb 2007 and July 2012, 30 involve a female author or illustrator". This prompted me to do a full count of their website, which showed (discounting Manga Shakespeare and their gift book range) a ratio of 85% men to 15% women, but with translators and foreign creators removed to keep the results representative of English speaking comics creators, that count went to 80% men and 20% women. It's interesting to note that the first count I did of titles actually on the shelf should be so much lower, although that may be a fluke.)

Following up on a suspicion, I dived into my giant pile of self-published comics collected at conventions over the years to find percentages of 47% male, 49% female and 4% ungendered/uncertain – an almost perfectly representational proportion. Are we seeing a picture of equal representation at grass roots, but mostly-male where the money and jobs are? These statistics suggest that the answer is yes, and although the data is limited I made sure to use a sample that, if anything, should provide a more representative image than a true survey might. Remember also that these figures ignore DC and marvel, who if included could have easily taken non-male representation to percentages lower than 10%. I encourage everyone to count their own shelves, along with the shelves of their local shops in order to improve this data!

(EDIT: It's worth noting that in order to make sure that the data reflects the market for western creators and the companies that employ them, I skipped over any translated manga in my count, and would encourage you to do the same if you count yours! The manga industry is a very different beast with its own quirks worthy of a post this long dedicated to its own gender issues and balances!)


So what does this mean? A quick tally makes it seem like there’s an imbalance in almost every sector of the industry except the amateur one. Are we knee-deep in a business that harbours terrible sexism?

As befits the recurring theme of this essay, I have a feeling that the first thing that someone might think of when they contemplate sexism is personal behaviour. We’ve seen a glass ceiling and we’re all wondering who holds it in place. Perhaps it's a man in a position of power refusing a woman a promotion. Perhaps it's male to female sexual harassment, or derogatory jokes about women. In most cases, it's very hard to think about a social phenomenon happening without thinking of an agent (a person or group of people) acting deliberately (with agency) against another person or group.

I believe this to be the reason that gender discussions can blow up so easily. It’s very hard to suggest sexism without being seen as making personal accusations. If you say that the comics industry is sexist as a whole, you're seen as saying that creators and fans across the board are individually sexist. If you say that DC or Marvel are sexist companies, you're seen as saying that their owners, editors and staff are all individually sexist. It's no wonder that people get up in arms about it, because it's a gender issue, and no one can escape being personally implicated in some way. “Sexist” has become a vicious insult and unfortunately it seems impossible to use it without wounding prides and egos.

I'm sure some people would say at this point, “let them be wounded!”, but I'd argue that there are larger issues and bigger truths being obscured by debates that quickly go ad-hominem.

Whilst personal examples of sexism in action are by no means insignificant, they're very much like symptoms of a larger social problem with a much greater reach. It's possible for an industry at large to be “sexist” (in the sense that it restricts access to women) without a single individual being deliberately aggressive or inconsiderate towards women.

In order to understand how this happens, it's important to first establish that when you study large groups of people in the modern, English speaking world, trends appear that separate women from men in occupation, behaviour, income, tastes and appearance. Just like the observation that flipping a coin produces 50% heads and 50% tails is no basis on which to say for sure what the next result will be, these statistical differences between men and women are by no means a sure method with which to predict the behaviour of an individual. There's nothing to stop a woman possessing “masculine” traits or vice versa. Instead, they're observations that form an unfortunate but unavoidable long-distance snapshot of modern life.

The argument as to whether behavioural gender differences are social in origin, genetic or both is fascinating and highly politically charged, but thankfully for the purposes of this blog entry, it's also academic. What matters for this discussion is that regardless of what we'd love to be the case, right here and now, the products you buy, the stories you enjoy and the stories you write are most likely (if not always) influenced by your gender.

So, where we might imagine sinister businessmen in board rooms enjoying a sexist joke whilst they reject perfectly good material coming from talented women, the reality is most likely well-meaning people trying to do their best whilst running companies with pre-established audiences. This is evidenced strongly by the comment that might well have been a major catalyst in this debate: Dan DiDio saying We’re just trying to hire the best people-, after a panel in which he received a question about female representation in DC titles.

This is in a way the perfect response with which to illustrate what's going on here. DC have an audience that they've built up over decades who have come to expect specific output from them. This audience has been attracted by material produced almost exclusively by male creators with particular ideas and a particular audience in mind. Consequently, this audience are also mostly male, and naturally expect more stories and art of the type that made them fans in the first place.  The fact that DC's output consists largely of franchises that have used the same characters and universes for decades only enhances this effect: a vicious cycle of creation, audience, and demand. Steering DC is analogous to steering a cruise-liner through financial icebergs: it would take consistently applied, unhesitating and risky pressure to change the make-up of a large audience on whom you rely, especially when you're fighting against the public perception of comics as superhero stories for adolescent boys! And the statistics I gathered earlier show that this isn’t just happening at DC and the superhero brigade, it’s happening across the board.

So when powerful people in the comics industry look for “the best”, they really do. Only it's not “the best” in an objective sense, it's the best for their personal tastes, and the best for their company, and for the reasons above they're unlikely to find that from women at the moment.

THIS is how a glass ceiling works – invisible and inescapable. This is sexism at its most powerful, not in the hands of an individual or group to whom it's easy to point a finger, but perpetuated by social momentum, financial conservatism, and that social impulse we all have to gather in groups of similar people. Everyone who buys, reads and creates comics unwittingly colludes in it, regardless of their gender or their predilections. From the editor who goes with that style they've always loved, to the man who decides to work for the company who pays them best, to the woman who decides that another career might be more lucrative. I'd wager that only a small fraction of the people involved in maintaining a male majority behave in a sexist manner on a personal level.

Unfortunately this means that pointing the finger has a slippery effect. When you examine individual events, most people seem to be polite and well meaning, or at the very worst speak before they think too hard.

Perhaps because of this it seems that many people, both women and men, wish they could make the women in comics debate disappear. It raises the hackles of men who feel accused, it makes women upon whom the spotlight is turned by merit of their sex instead of their work feel patronised, and it makes many people who dislike conflict uncomfortable. However, I believe that despite the raised voices and capslocked comments it tends to cause, the debate is absolutely central to the continued health and diversity of comics. We're talking about the involvement of half the world's population here after all! When we consider that almost every publisher in comics seem to have built themselves businesses that unwittingly exclude female creators, it's no wonder that comics struggle to attract a wider audience and gain recognition as a “worthy” storytelling medium!

In most industries, large companies have the most clout, but are the least mobile. This is obviously true for comics, but we're beginning to catch glimpses of an industry augmented by the increased availability of cheap printing, digital distribution and a direct creator-to-audience link facilitated by the internet. All of these things make for much more lucrative and mobile small business models, and hopefully as comics continue to expand their audience, there will be more consumers to support new publishers and creators. I think this is where we need to look in order to address gender parity in the future! DC and Marvel are in a way a statistical fluke – huge companies catering to every last scrap of a tiny niche – and clumsy to steer as they are, I don't think they can be relied upon to redress the gender balance.

There's no limit to what comics might create, to the stories that they might tell, but until we reach gender parity in both creators and audience, half that potential will remain unexplored. I call upon smaller publishers with more mobility, and new creators with their careers ahead of them to give all this serious consideration. If comics are to continue to grow, you’re the publishers and creators who will make that happen. You’re the people with the power for change.

This issue needs to be hammered hard, and hammered consistently, but with a hopeful message. One of the things that consistently makes change hard is the feeling that it’s futile. If creators walk away from the debate feeling hopeless, it only perpetuates the imbalance. Thankfully, the subtle mechanics of sexism work in our favour here. We’re not dealing with an industry of bigots who will only publish men. We’re not dealing with an industry in which there is an imbalance in the genders of new and hopeful creators. We can say “there is a problem” and “it doesn’t have to be a problem” in the same breath.

          Newswire: Jason “poor people shouldn’t have phones” Chaffetz is heading to Fox News   

If you’re already an established Republican politician, getting a gig on Fox News must be one of the easiest things in the world. Basically, all you have to do is make a name for yourself by saying or doing something completely outrageous that promotes conservative talking points in some way, and you might as well be an A-list celebrity. The latest lucky duck to figure that out is Representative Jason Chaffetz, who Politico says will be resigning from his job in Congress on July 1 so he can becoming a correspondent on Fox News.

For those who aren’t familiar with Chaffetz, he’s a particularly delightful brand of asshole who thinks he deserves everything while everyone else deserves nothing, which is a roundabout way of saying that he’s a Republican politician. He’s also the guy who said that people should buy healthcare instead of a new ...


          Let's Pretend: A Civil Health Care Discussion   

I should probably accept that corporate and deeply entrenched political interests would not allow a comprehensive health care system to gain traction in the United States. Yet I can’t let go. One of the things that hurt me deeply is the lack of civil public discourse. It could have been different. Come with me to the set of the imaginary Vixen News Network as Becky Glenne shows us how it could have been possible for pundits to peacefully share differing opinions on health care reform.
Stethoscope on Indian banknotes of different denominations

Becky Glenne/VNN: Thank you H.C. Andersen for that follow-up report on the tragic situation the nation has come to know as “The Little Match Stick Girl.” Her identity is still unknown at this time. I have been joined by a panel of bloggers who have strong opinions and, at times, the facts to back them up.

Each of the panelists has been given the question “How does the death of The Little Match Stick Girl relate to the health care debate in the United States?" The order of the panelists has been selected by random draw to prevent accusations of favoritism.

VNN: Fulvia Tiberius, how does this tragic incident relate to the health care debate?

Fulvia: Well, Becky, as far as I can see it has nothing to do with it. It does speak to a higher natural law of survival of the fittest. It is indeed a shame a life has been lost, but I nor should anyone else feel that they have a so-called moral obligation to help, aid or assist another human being unless it is in that specific person’s vested interest to do so.

I reject the intervention of the government into private matters. I oppose the use of any federal state or local taxes to help or prolong the existence of vulnerable or unproductive members of the society. Let the market and environmental forces regulate the health care needs and wishes of the nation. Allow the forces of nature to adjust the population accordingly.

VNN: Germana Servius, your response to the relationship between The Little Match Stick Girl and health care reform, please.

Germana: When compassion is measured in dollars and cents terms, I am deeply saddened. It is not that we are incapable of designing a fair and equitable heath care system, it is that we are profoundly selfish and unwilling to provide the quality of services that members of Congress have currently enjoyed for years. I believe that no child or adult for that matter should be denied affordable health care.

If we seriously looked at waste and fraud within the federal budget, we could have the kind of coverage we could be proud to have as citizens. Stopping an illegal war would go a long way to providing health care funding.

VNN: I wish to remind the panel that the subject is health care, and to the extent possible please confine your responses to that topic. The next name to be drawn is Sabina Aculeo.

Sabina: Socialism! The victim mentality will destroy the nation. Give me my country back!

VNN: That is it? That is your entire response?

Sabina: Yes.

VNN: Moving on, up next is Claudia Laterensis.

Claudia: Glad to be here, Becky. Look,  there is a finite amount of money. We as a nation cannot fund every well meaning but financially unrealistic desire each citizen might want to have in terms of governmental services. Just as in our personal lives, we have to be fiscally prudent in our national spending.

However, there does need to be some form of a health support system. It would be unrealistic and in fact dangerous not to have a base level of health care resources as the incident with The Little Match Stick Girl illustrates.

Is this the time to implement a full-scale health delivery system? I don’t think so, but it might be a time of public/private option that does not require the full engagement of government support.

VNN: Finally we have Marcella Plauta to give her response to the topic.

Marcella: Thank you, Becky. It is the gift of passion and concern that has engaged the nation in this debate. Quite honestly, it has been a challenge to hear authentic and not politicized voices. I want no less than what the majority of industrialized nations have, an equable and accessible health care system.

It does not make me disloyal to my country to want to be able to obtain health treatment without losing my home, my stability or my piece of mind. It should not be a reflection of my character if I believe the interference for profit of the health insurance companies is not the best way to administer health treatment in this country.

I am profoundly disappointed that Congress and both political parties could not create a cohesive workable solution for the nation. There is only one approach at this time; a single-payer plan that does not involve the health insurance industry. This will happen, maybe not in my lifetime, but it will happen.

And so another dream of an engaged population rising above partisanship is once again deferred. Perhaps the next time.

Blogs to Consider If You Are Looking for Alternate Views:

Objectivists

Liberal/Progressive Blogs on Health Care

Conservative/Libertarian

Gena Haskett is a BlogHer CE. Blogs:Out On The Stoop and Create Video Notebook


          Why Black History Month Still Matters   

The stories that a nation tells about its history provide a foundation for building community, creating institutions and transmitting values. For a pluralistic democracy such as the United States, the work that historians call "constructing a usable past" is vital to the task of building a future. That's why it's imperative that people who want that future to be built on principles of inclusion, mutual respect and genuinely equal opportunity should understand and embrace commemorations such as Black History Month.

Let me start with a disclosure: I am a member of the advisory board of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), the organization that founded what is now known as Black History Month. I receive no compensation for that position; I do it to repay a debt to educators and scholars whose work was essential to my survival and development. The views presented here are strictly my own, and do not represent the opinions of ASALH.

The learning opportunities afforded by Black History Month (and other related celebrations devoted to the history of other groups who have been traditionally under-represented or misrepresented in social studies curricula) offer the following benefits:

  • They can help children of African descent form a positive self-concept and a critical perspective on the negative propaganda about blackness that continues to encourage self-sabotaging behavior among black youth.
  • They can promote informed conversation about "race" because the historical formation of the concept of "blackness" is linked to the process by which "whiteness" was constructed. As Judy Helfand explains: "Whiteness is defined by determining who is not white; it is defined as the superior opposite of non-white."
  • They offer insight and context for contemporary policy debates, such as the furor over former Rep. Tom Tancredo's recent claim that President Obama was elected because we lack a "civics literacy test" as a qualification for voting.
  • The 2010 Black History Month theme, the History of Black Empowerment, is relevant to contemporary efforts to achieve genuine economic recovery

A Personal Journey

When i was growing up in black working-class neighborhoods in Camden, New Jersey, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I did not see people who looked like me doing the kinds of things I liked Wikimedia portrait of Sarah Vaughanto do: reading books, taking Saturday morning science classes, collecting rocks, writing poems. One day in elementary school, though, I found ASALH's Encyclopedia of Negro History on a bookcase at the Friends' Neighborhood Guild. I can still remember the delicious shock of poring over profiles of black inventors, scholars and artists.

I did not know then what I know now, that Carter G. Woodson, a child of slaves who became the second African American to earn a doctorate in history at Harvard, founded ASALH in 1915 to redress the "mis-education of the Negro" (a term that became the title of his most famous book. In addition to the encyclopedia that held me in thrall, Woodson founded two

journals that are still publishing: the Journal of African American History, found today in many university libraries, and the Black History Bulletin, targeted to middle and secondary-school teachers. 

When I flipped through Woodson's encyclopedia, I remember, especially, being transfixed by a glamorous portrait of singer Sarah Vaughan, (pictured above, left). She had skin like mine, a nose like mine and hair like mine, and she was beautiful and successful. This was heady stuff in 1966, and it opened a crack in my very limited view of what a black woman could become. (It was only later, upon further study, that I learned how colorism had kept her from appreciating her dark chocolate skin, and that her success was circumscribed by patriarchy.)

In high school, I learned of WEB DuBois and Paul Robeson, further confirming my growing belief in the power of principled scholarship and culture work. However, I was nearly 40 by the time I discovered Jessie Fauset, who had come from my home town, gone to my high school, and become the magazine editor who first published Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen and many of the other writers we now associate with the Harlem Renaissance. Despite my educational privilege I was 20 years out of journalism school before Patricia Hill Collins and David Mindich helped me understand why Ida B. Wells' exposure of Southern lynching and northern complicity had been ignored by my undergraduate history and politics professors and my graduate school journalism teachers. 

Today, when I teach my occasional class on WEB DuBois, or Race, Gender and the News, I still meet students who tell me that they've never encountered most of the American history we are studying. Others told me that while they may know some names, dates and places, they haven't been taught to think systematically about how African American or multicultural history helps to shape the nation in which they live today, regardless of their own racial or ethnic identification. A more comprehensive understanding of African American history would, I submit, substantially improve our civic discourse.

Robin Roberts Reads To Children For Black History Month

In other words, I agree with the Rev. Irene Monroe who rejected arguments against Black History Month by contending, "In order to move forward, you must look back."

 

Backlash and Confusion

 

In making this argument, let me acknowledge the anger and confusion that some people have around the rituals popularly associated with Black History Month. Womanist-Musings, for example, has been a vocal progressive critic of the way that corporations that market unhealthy products or engage in problematic labor practices use Black History Month as a marketing opportunity:

"Why should black history month be any different than any other public celebration?  That's right, commodify the shit out of it and then pretend that we seriously value it.  We certainly shouldn't be taking the time to educate children about the struggles of their ancestors through conversation, or even visit sites that are important in African Diaspora history, when we can conveniently purchase something to prove that we are culturally aware."

(A side note here - the history of the kind of cause-related marketing she's criticizing is an interesting African American history moment in and of itself. Moss Kendrix is credited with convincing corporations such as Coca-Cola to market products to black and urban markets in the 1950s and 60s. Many viewed his efforts as a step forward, because it gave black media and ad agencies access to advertising and promotional dollars that had been unavailable before. Many also also saw it as a way to break down stereotypes. When I was in corporate PR in the 1980s, I still read accounts of corporate advertisers being admonished that black consumers don't just buy cigarettes, alcohol and expensive cars. As late as 2004, broadcasting personality Tom Joyner found it necessary to campaign against a major media buying organization that labeled urban radio stations ad being full of "suspects, not prospects.")

Mural with Carter G. Woodson quote

(media credit: DB King, Flickr)

Let's also dispense with the kind of faux controversy that the musician Questlove set off when he posted a picture of the soul food menu in the NBC cafeteria. He later said he posted the picture because he thought the sign was funny, but a national discussion ensued over whether a racial offense had been committed. What's really unfortunate about the incident is that this non-story dominates the Google Blogsearch results for the term "Black History Month" when there are many substantive issues to consider.

 

Tom Tancredo's Toxic Brew

Former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) stirred up some of those issues this past weekend with his speech at the Tea Party convention. His speech was a call to arms against what he claimed was a decades-long drift toward socialism accelerated by President Obama:

"It seemed as though we were doomed to experience the political equivalent of the proverbial frog in the water syndrome. Every year, the liberal Democrats and RINO Republicans turned the temp up ever so slightly till it seemed we would all be boiled to death in the cauldron of the nanny state. "And then, because we don’t have a civics literacy test to vote, people who couldn’t even spell vote, or say it in English, put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House named Barack Hussein Obama. He immediately turned up the heat under that cauldron so high and so quick that people started jumping out of the water all over the place."

After critics, such as Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page, lambasted Tancredo for endorsing a practice that was historically used to keep African Americans from voting, Tancredo issued a statement denying any racist intent to his proposal.

Pro-democracy protest for Iran in Washington
However, as a former social studies teacher who launched his political career in 1975 when his school district introduced bilingual education, there's little doubt that he understood the incendiary history associated with these kinds of tests.

 

In 2004, my former student Scott Hoover created an interactive version of the Alabama literacy test that you can try out for yourself. I'm pleased to report, by the way, that Scott's work is going to be turned into an exhibit at the new International Civil Rights Museum, which opened Feb. 1 in Greensboro, North Carolina, on the site where the sit-in movement began exactly 50 years before.

I don't know what Tancredo thinks of educational projects such as Scott's or the International Civil RIghts Museum, but he's an avowed opponent of what calls the "cult of multiculturalism," a phrase he credits to blogger Michelle Malkin in one of his audio commentaries. In that commentary, he describes a purported "civil war" being waged by left-wingers intent on presenting American history in the worst possible light. He further mused on this theme in a radio interview last December, where he acknowledged the hardships endured by Native Americans and African Americans but asked:

"Now the question that we have to ask ourselves and certainly African Americans have to ask themselves is: Are they better off as a result of the fact that they came under any conditions? And it does not mean for a second–let me reiterate– it does not for a second mean that slavery was a good thing, that we should be happy about it. It is a black mark on our society and all societies that have had it since the beginning of time. Or recorded time… It doesn’t mean it is good. Is someone better off today in the United States of America as a result that they came under–or are Native Americans better off as a result that people came here from the West and created the society that we have here? Or would they have been better off if that had not happened?"

 

Tancredo is often dismissed as a fringe figure, but his claims about American history reflect a larger movement by some conservative academics and activists to discredit, and in some cases distort, multiculturalist scholarship. His efforts strike me as similar to those members of the Texas State Board of Education who want to revise that state's social studies standards to downplay such topics and civil rights in favor of greater emphasis on teaching about conservative leaders such as Ronald Reagan and Phyllis Schlafly.

The bottom line is that the discussion of the proper way to understand and teach American history, including the experience of African Americans, is part of the debate over the core values that will guide public policy in this country. Becoming acquainted with the credible, peer-reviewed scholarship in the field is one great way to prepare for the debate that may be coming to your school district sooner than you think.

Related: 

Sarah Vaughan portrait from Wikimedia Commons

ASALH posters from ASALH

Robin Roberts and Tom Tancredo images from Picapp.com

Kim
BlogHer Contributing Editor|KimPearson.net|


          Is Feminism in the Toilet?   

The last few years (OK, decades and really centuries, maybe even millenia) have been challenging ones for women fighting for equal rights. Gail Gauthier at Original Content speculated with a friend that "feminism has gone down the toilet" in recent years. In the Western world, we've been called Nazis, elitists, racists, intellectuals, classists, man-haters, lesbians, witches, and all sorts of other names. (All are true at times except the first slur, which infuriates me to no end.) But a post written by Zachary Mason, a Peace Corps volunteer in Mali, which struck me as earnest if not naive, got me thinking about the importance of toilets to women, and what bathroom facilities mean in strict gendered societies.

As Mason noted, in Mali "the onset of a girl’s first period often means the end of her academic career... A toilet changes that whole equation." Many people have written about how lack of access to rags and other supplies prevents menstruating girls in developing countries from attending schools. Some, like Rachel Kauder Nalebuff, who edited a book about first period stories, raised money to help build latrines and provide water to enable girls to attend school. But in places like the United States, we don't think about how toilets are a feminist issue for millions of women in the world - we are lucky enough that we don't have too.

Nope, when we think about bathrooms and feminism in the US, we get hysterical. In the United States, the Equal Rights Amendment, which would have barred discrimination based on sex, failed to garner enough state ratification to add it to the Constitution. As blacksheepone at Whenceforth Progress writes:

Remember the Equal Rights Amendment? Remember how Phyllis Schlafly and company were all aflutter about the dangers of coed restrooms in public places?... Schlafly (and her fellow woman-hating conservatives including Ronald Reagan, the President in 1982 when supporters succumbed to the anti-amendment pressures) successfully ended pursuit of the Equal Rights Amendment by scaring people into fearing co-ed bathrooms.

Blacksheepone goes on to explain how this scare tactic is currently being used to rile people up against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). it seems that nothing horrifies Americans more than the idea that you might have to do a number #2 behind closed doors next to someone of another gender.

In fact, the issue is so thorny that there is an entire book about bathroom politics. Mandy Van Deven at The WIP interviewed editors Olga Gershenson and Barbara Penner about their book, Ladies and Gents: Public Toilets and Gender, which is totally fascinating. I know you will be shocked - shocked! - to discover that only in Victorian times did people get their knickers in a bunch when it came to the idea of women using public toilet facilities. (Seriously, the Victorians pretty much ruined everything in life with their gender purity obsessions.)

Given the complicated underlying issues of bathroom usage, I actually am OK with feminism going down the toilet. We need to - bathrooms are a feminist issue.

Suzanne also blogs at Campaign for Unshaved Snatch (CUSS) & Other Rants and is the author of Off the Beaten (Subway) Track.


          Comment on Brian Head fire increases entering Panguitch City’s watershed by Brian   
This fire and the decisions that lead to it are such a good analogy for the ruin that comes out of many liberal policies (see Detroit, Baltimore, etc as examples). Conservative locals have known this day was coming for 15 years because its the natural, predictable consequence of shutting down all logging and not spraying for bark beetles. Yes, it's "natures way", but so are pandemics and serious disease. Should we stop medications and vaccines since they interfere with natural cycles? Similarly, its no surprise that it was during the over-regulating "capitalism is evil" obama era that more businesses went under than were created for the first time on record. Just like its no surprise that Seattle is finding that raising the minimum wage so high, so quick is killing jobs. Just like its no surprise that getting government involved in healthcare has caused premiums and deductibles to skyrocket. Just like its no surprise that the government getting involved in student loans caused a massive and continuing spike in tuition costs and debt. Just like its no surprise that the government changing to buy any and all mortgages caused a massive bubble leading to the 2007 crash. It is worth noting that some of these examples fell under "republican" "leadership" (I used that word VERY loosely), but the actions in question were done by progressives, with conservatives screaming at the top of their lungs against it (which led to the creation of the tea party). The next big fire and smoking ruin may very well be our economy... I guess we should get used to it.
          Homosexuality and Religion   

Disclaimer: In this article, for the sake of simplicity and consistency, we will be using the term “homosexual” as a blanket term to represent all queer, bisexual, pansexual, questioning, and other non-heterosexual orientations. If you would like to learn more, you can read our Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity article. If you need resources or support, you can visit our Support Groups and Organizations page, as well as our Resources page.

Religion and sexual orientation have historically appeared to clash. For centuries, “the religious condemnation of homosexual acts, and even homosexual persons, was unquestioned.”1 In the United States, regular participation in organized worship has proven to be the strongest demographic predictor of whether a person disapproves of homosexuality or not.1 The relationship between religions and homosexuality is complex and has fluctuated immensely throughout time. Every faith holds a unique view on sexuality that has come to shape how we perceive sex. Oftentimes, these convictions are adjusted as we adapt to the diversity of sexual expressions in the world.

Religious Approaches to Homosexuality

There are three primary stances on homosexuality in regards to religion:

  1. Rejectionism
  2. “Love the sinner, hate the sin”
  3. Full acceptance1

Rejectionism

Rejectionism is a system of belief that entirely objects to the idea that homosexuals deserve equal rights. This belief is held by Judeo-Christian denominations that embrace a more fundamental, Biblical interpretation of sexuality, as well as many predominantly Islamic nations. Some countries and belief systems punish homosexuality by sentencing those caught engaging in homosexual practices to death or torture. These states of Yemen, Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, and the United Arab Emirates all have legislation that criminalizes homosexuality.2 Rejectionist philosophy widely varies among its proponents on its stance on sexual orientation being a choice. The religious sects and individuals that utilize prayer-based conversion to “cure” gay people of their affliction believe that homosexuality is a choice and that, with enough guidance, can be reversed.3 The rejectionist philosophy asserts that homosexuals can be forgiven by God only after sincere efforts to repent for the sin of their sexual orientation.

“Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin”

“Love the sinner, hate the sin” holds that LGBTQ people should be regarded an with equal amount of respect; however, homosexual behaviors are not tolerated. This modified rejectionism perspective accepts that sexuality cannot be changed but states that one can only be obedient to a higher power as long as they abstain from acting on their desires.

Full Acceptance

The full acceptance approach asserts that queer people are entitled to all of the same civil and social rights as their heterosexual counterparts. This ideology asserts that homosexuality is not a sin and that LGBTQ people are accepted by God just as their heterosexual counterparts are.

Churches have even been created under this egalitarian ideal of full acceptance. Reverend Troy Perry founded the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1968 as a part of his coming out process in his book: The Lord is My Shepherd and He Knows I’m Gay.  The advent of this Church signaled to how inclusive spirituality can be. The Metropolitan Community Church identifies as a “global movement of spiritually and sexually diverse people who are fully awake to God’s enduring love.”4 The language used is clear: God accepts sexual diversity. Since its founding, the MCC has attempted to spread their full acceptance position to greater society, applying it not only to sexual diversity, but also racial and gender diversity as well.

Similar to the Universal Fellowship, most religions have subgroups of queer-identified members. People are able to straddle the boundary between faith and sexuality by building a community and participating in support groups within each faith that acknowledge gay identities and affirm the normalcy of religious queer people.

Discrimination Against Homosexuals

For centuries, legislation has tried to restrict sexual acts like sodomy and polygamy. The United States, for example, had laws against sodomy in most states up until the 20th century and still outlaws polygamy.2 Such harsh ordinances often stem from strict religious practices that advocate celibacy, monogamy, and heterosexuality. This emphasis on piousness has consequently created a hierarchy of purity where normal and healthy sex is defined as heterosexual, married, monogamous, and intended for reproduction. As a result, polyamorous and homosexual sex, as well as sex outside of marriage, have been labeled as abnormal, repulsive, and something that should be punished by law.  These notions of “normalcy” are based on documents written centuries and millennia ago when mankind lacked a complete understanding of the wide spectrum of sexuality. As our world progresses, more people now appreciate that all forms of sexual orientation, gender identity, and relationships are natural and healthy, and that they should be treated equally under the law. Unfortunately, many people and governments still fail to accept this, leading to the continued discrimination against LGBTQ people. Although many religious groups have negative attitudes toward homosexuality, some people use their religious beliefs as an excuse for their own homophobia. These people are intolerant of homosexuality regardless of their spiritual views, but their religion can provide justification for their hateful and discriminatory attitudes against LGBTQ people.

Some ministries offer prayer-based conversion, or “praying the gay away.” This strategy asserts that meditation, prayer, and repentance can change one’s sexual orientation. However, in 2009 the American Psychological Association concluded that there is zero evidence of success of any conversion treatment and that many may actually be harmful, causing increased signs of depression and thoughts of suicide).5

Individuals who fall outside of this traditional box —including unmarried, polyamourous, or queer-identified people—may feel anxious about the fact that their sexuality does not perfectly align with these spiritual mandates. Some individuals feel torn between the morals and rules they were raised with and who they are. When a great deal of one’s ethics are based on their faith, it may directly conflict with their identity as a nonvirgin, queer, or polyamorous individual. Mitigating tensions between religion and sexuality can be difficult, but knowing that gay and religious identities can coexist in harmony can be helpful. It is completely possible to be devout and sexually active, queer, or polyamorous. Though an individual may not follow their religious doctrines down to the last word in terms of sexuality, one can still structure their life around the premises of respect and love that are the foundation for many faiths around the world.

Major Religions’ Approaches to Homosexuality

Different religions have taken a wide range of perspectives on sexuality. Here, we explore some of the most well-known religions across the world.

Christianity

Christianity is one of the religions that has had the most prominent and outspoken views on homosexuality. A letter from the Corinthians taken from the New Testament of the Bible succinctly sums up how some Christian denominations choose to view sexuality: “Because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband” (7:2).6 This conservative discourse has brought about a large part of the limitations and stigmas that revolve around sexuality in many Western societies today. Christianity has emphasized a need to be chaste and has labeled those who do not abide as sinners. Homosexual couples, therefore, are excluded from the sacrament of matrimony. In spite of this, Christianity encapsulates a wide variety of views. There are many diverse groups and individuals who belong to the Christian faith and they all have their own views. For example, the highest authority of the Catholic faith, the Pope, has opinions that are distinct from his predecessors. Pope Francis has publicly stated that he does not judge gay people if they maintain their faith, despite the Catholic Church’s history of disapproval of homosexuality.7

Judaism

Jewish views on homosexuality are found mainly in the Old Testament of the Bible. Sexuality is portrayed as “a gift to be used responsibly and in obedience to God’s will.”3 Pervasive themes include the importance of intimacy and procreation in a relationship between a male and a female. Infidelity and polygyny (when a man has more than one wife) are scorned. This is because the Canaanites, an early sect of Judaism and rival of the Israelites, openly practiced mating rituals and temple prostitution in their culture. Considering that the Canaanites and Israelites were enemies, Jewish law began to regulate any foreign sexual behavior like homosexuality. Sexual variation was seen as a threat to group harmony. Queer individuals still struggle with full acceptance in this faith.8

Islam

There is a great deal of variety in the Islamic faith regarding homosexuality, mainly due to the fact that Muslims do not have a single, central source of authority (like the Pope, for example). As a polylithic (consisting of many different facets) faith, it allows for a diverse range of beliefs. In general, Muslim texts take a much more sex-positive stance than most. Sexuality is first and foremost a mechanism for pleasure, and secondarily a means of reproduction (which is quite the opposite of Catholicism). Intercourse in marriage is considered the highest good of human life.3 Both polygyny (marriage between a man and multiple wives) and concubinage (the practice of having a woman who lives with a man but has lower status than his wife) are sanctioned by Islam; even the Prophet Muhammad had several wives. Muslims do not follow celibacy, or refraining from sexual activity until marriage.9

Unfortunately, this sex positivity does not extend to queer Islamic people. The central religious text of Islam, the Quran, alludes to homosexuality in the form of a biblical story of the “people of Lot.” The people of Lot engaged in homosexual behaviors and were punished by a natural disaster that destroyed the entire group.9 Beyond this biblical tale, the Prophet Muhammad was known for his disapproval of homosexuality, although he was never documented as punishing anyone for it.10  

Hinduism

Hinduism, on the other hand, does not treat homosexuality as a sin. It recognizes that each human has their own individual romantic and sexual attraction, and does not discriminate based on same-sex partnership. In Hindu society, homosexuality is regarded as one of many possible expressions of human desire.1 This refreshing take on sexuality has empowered many who believe in a higher power but have not felt that their religion adequately encompasses their orientation. There are four themes that permeate the religion. Kama, the pursuit of pleasure, is one of these. This is where the origins of the Kama Sutra lay, which is a piece of literature written on the achievement of sexual pleasure. The Kama Sutra demonstrates the sex-positive nature of this religion.2 Many Hindu temples display carvings of both men and women engaging in homosexual sex. Furthermore, Hindu philosophy recognizes the existence of a third gender, one in which people embody a mixture of masculinity and femininity. This third gender, or hijra, is granted semi-divine status and epitomizes the tolerance that permeates Hinduism.11

Buddhism

There is little discussion on the matter of sex in the teachings of Buddha; instead, most publications focus on enlightenment. There are several paths to enlightenment and sexual expression constitutes one of these. Tantric Buddhism, one of the three primary branches of the faith, says that “Sexual union epitomizes the essential unity of all things by the joining of energy.”1 It does not specify the gender of each partner and thus does not explicitly condemn homosexuality. Rather, it merely preaches against sexual misconduct such as adultery and nonconsensual acts.

Classic Greek Philosophy

In classic Greek philosophy, sex was not viewed as inherently evil. In fact, it was an activity celebrated amongst the gods in ancient texts. Pederasty—a sexual relationship between an older gentleman and a younger man—was celebrated in ancient Greece and well-represented in the culture. It was seen as a rite of passage to military life. A myth from classic Greek philosophy tells the story of how Zeus abducted Ganymede, a hero from Troy, and engaged in homosexual relations with him. Both Aristotle and Pindar recognized pederasty as a way of mentorship for young boys in becoming a man. Homosexual behaviors like pederasty are documented as early as the 5th and 4th century BCE, highlighting how natural and accepted these acts were in society.3

Increasing Acceptance of Homosexuality Within Major Religions

Despite many religious groups’ institutional disapproval of homosexuality, there has been major progress in increasing acceptance of homosexuals and homosexual behavior, particularly in the Christian and Catholic faiths. Current trends in Christianity point toward homosexuals becoming more accepted and included in the community. These trends are the result of behavioral science and society re-defining what is normal and natural (i.e. homosexuality is a perfectly normal and healthy sexual identity and form of expression).3 Although the Church still views sex as a means of procreation first and foremost, ideas of sex as a means to pleasure and intimacy have been surfacing, leading to Christianity accepting more diverse forms of sexuality.

The Catholic Church has also undergone some changes leading to an increased acceptance of homosexuality namely due to the influence of Pope Francis. In September of 2013, Pope Francis stated “If someone is gay and searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”7 This statement stands in direct contradiction to the Church’s previous attitudes toward homosexuality. In fact, the previous year, Pope Benedict XVI publicly announced that gay marriage was a threat to global peace.7 Pope Francis’ relative lack of judgment of homosexuals is the largest stride toward full acceptance the Catholic Church has ever made, and hopefully will only lead to more accepting attitudes in the future.

The Episcopal Church has moved to allow its clergy to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies after modifying the church’s definition of marriage by changing the language from “man and woman” to “couple.”12 Additionally, the Presbyterian Church voted to formally sanction same-sex marriage in 2015.13

Concluding Remarks

Just as there are countless diverse religions and belief systems, there are also countless different religious outlooks on homosexuality. Although many of these outlooks may seem to be discriminatory or “anti-gay,” many religious institutions are re-examining and modifying their stance on homosexuality in order to be more inclusive and adaptable to modern sexuality in all its expressions.

Integrating gay identity with other intersectional identities like religion and culture may require some time, but it can be an extremely fulfilling and successful process. Slow but steady progress is being made as the relationship between sexuality and religion continues to evolve. A person does not need to choose between their faith and their religion. Religion and sexuality are two extremely important facets of an individual’s identity and the two can coexist peacefully and provide immense personal fulfillment and satisfaction.

References

1. Baldwin, Janice and Baldwin, John. Topics in Sexuality: Advanced Studies. McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., 2012.

2. Bearak, Max and Cameron, Darla. Here are the 10 Countries Where Homosexuality May Be Punished By Death. The Washington Post, 2016.

3. Levay, Simon, Baldwin, Janice and Baldwin, John. Discovering Human Sexuality Second Edition. Sinauer Associates, Inc., 2012.

4. Metropolitan Community Churches: Vision Statement. MCCChurch.org, 2013.

5. American Psychological Association. Resolution on Appropriate Affirmative Responses to Sexual Orientation Distress and Change Efforts, 2009.

6. The Holy Bible: King James Version. Hendrickson Publishers, 2004.

7. Hale, J. Christopher. The Pope Francis Statement That Changed the Church on LGBT Issues. Time Magazine, 2015.

8. Rich, Tracey R. Jewish Attitudes Toward Sexuality. JewFAQ.org, 2011.

9. Bouhdiba, Abdelwahab. Sexuality in Islam. Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1985.

10. Akyol, Mustafa. What Does Islam Say About Being Gay? The New York Times, 2015.

11. Khaleeli, Homa. Hijra: India’s Third Gender Claims Its Place in Law. The Guardian, 2014.

12. Conger, George. The Episcopal Church Approves Religious Weddings for Gay Couples After Controversial Debate. The Washington Post, 2015.

13. What Same-Sex Marriage Means to Presbyterians. Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 2015.

Last Updated: 17 February 2017.

Category: 

          Now's Your Chance to Get Into SZA Before She Completely Blows Up   

Image Source: Getty / Frederick M. Brown

Neo-soul singer SZA released her debut studio album, Ctrl, earlier this month, and in my eyes, it's already one of the best of the year. SZA sings about things every young woman can relate to: being young, being a woman, being the other woman, owning your sexuality, being insecure, falling for f*ckboys, trying to get over said f*ckboys - the list goes on and on. You may recognize her voice (which is raspy, lilted, and sounds like it's dripping in honey) from Rihanna's "Consideration" or her own 2014 EP, Z. Her lead single, "Drew Barrymore," became such a hit that the actress shared an Instagram of herself singing along and made a cute cameo in the official video. If you haven't yet familiarized yourself with the lyrical genius that is SZA, here's your chance to get to know her before her career completely blows up (and you just look like a bandwagoner).

  1. Her real name is Solána Imani Rowe. She was born on Nov. 8, 1990, in St. Louis, Missouri, and was raised in New Jersey.
  2. It's pronounced "sizz-uh." SZA has said that the name is an acronym derived from the Supreme Alphabet, which is "a system of interpreting text by assigning meanings to the letters of the Roman alphabet" in the religious belief system of the Nation of Gods and Earths. S-Z-A stands for "sovereign," "zigzag," and "Allah."
  3. She's labelmates with Kendrick Lamar. SZA was the first woman signed to Top Dawg Entertainment in 2013, and she collaborated with Kendrick on her single "Babylon" the following year. The rapper is also featured on "Doves in the Wind" from Ctrl.
  4. She was raised Orthodox Muslim. SZA has talked openly about her religion and feeling bullied after the events of Sept. 11, after which she stopped wearing her hijab. "It got weird," she said in a 2015 interview. "I was already getting picked on for other reasons and I just couldn't take another, so I think I just kind of walked away from myself. I just wanted to blend in."
  5. Her strict upbringing influenced her music. Growing up with "conservative, traditional" parents, SZA generally listened to classic jazz like John Coltrane and Miles Davis and "never had a real connection to what was hip." Her first introduction to contemporary music was through her older sister and best friend, who played Wu-Tang Clan, Aaliyah, and Cash Money. She also cites Common, Björk, and Jamiroquai as major influences.
  6. She's got the stamp of approval from another iconic soul singer. SZA's music has garnered comparisons to that of Erykah Badu, and the two had a supercute Twitter exchange in which the soul legend called her "my little hitter."
  7. She's also got an amazing, envy-inducing head of hair. SZA began wearing her hair bigger in middle school, "before big, natural hair was even popular." She told Vogue in 2014: "My mom was adamant about not doing anything to my hair. The only girl that I could look to for natural-hair inspiration growing up was Lauryn Hill." Of her huge, natural curls, SZA said, "My hair is definitely my saving grace where femininity is concerned."

A post shared by SZA (@sza) on


          Predictions for 2008   
As it is the start of the year, I thought I would put down a few predictions for the year ahead. I am no Mystic Meg, and most of it is pretty much guesswork so I don't know how accurate I will be.

Football
  • Premier League winners: everyone seems to think it will be Man Utd or Arsenal. I don't know though, I can see Derby having a good run of form. Failing that and a few intimidated referees later, Chelsea do have an outside chance out of the remaining 2 in the top 4. So, let's go with Arsenal.
  • FA cup winners: I would like to see an outside team win it, but I think Chelsea may have the edge as they tend to do well in tournaments.
  • Champions League: I will say this much, it won't be an English team.
  • England team: a year of optimism for future will be brought to a stuttering halt by a few players continuing to not find form. Rooney to become a super sub, Lampard to dropped completely after a dismal performance against Switzerland.
Politics
  • UK election: not while Gordon Brown is in power. If one is called, a slim majority for the Conservative party (maybe a hung Parliament?) with Labour losing out to both Tories and Liberals.
  • US election: isn't there one due soon? Don't know if it is this year or not, but if so, expect the Republicans to retain by 1% again, after multiple recounts, suing of the balloting machine developers and within 2 months everyone complaining that they didn't vote for them. The Democrats will blame Michael Moore for losing them votes.
  • Middle East: more of the same, I'm afraid.
  • Australia: they have just had an election, so they will be happy for a bit longer.

Economy:

  • Housing: prices down, then up, then down, then up. Then everyone will realise that Halifax's economic predictor is suffering from a previously unseen Y2K bug.
  • High-street spending: more on-line spending leads to less high street spending. By the end of the year, queues at on-line checkouts match high street stores.

Technology:

  • Facebook: mass desertions as everyone gets tired of being poked, bitten by Vampires and receiving dubious "do you find me hot?" requests. That, and people read the privacy statement.
  • iPhone: new one introduced, the world goes crazy. Steve Jobs has more followers than Ghandi, is canonised by the Pope, starts managing the US Football team, forms a US cricket team, cures cancer, etc...
  • Next big thing: not sure. Last year it was Facebook and the year before that You Tube, as a guess I will go with an application that syncs all your contacts, emails, instant messages, calendars, etc across work and home, mobile phone, etc. There are a few options already available in this field, but none of them have really taken off yet.
  • This blog: sporadically updated ;)

I will try and remember to check these out at the end of the year.


          What will he have to say for himself?   
The Telegraph is giving readers the opportunity to pose questions to David Cameron, leader of the Conservative party. Reading through the questions posted so far, there seems to be a pretty common theme: immigration, EU and crime.

After gaining some good momentum while Blur ran the country into the ground, Cameron has lost it all and is allowing Brown to take the upper hand. There seems to be a genuine fear in the Tory ranks of "lurching to the Right", which is complete nonsense. The simple fact is that the UK's resources in all areas are stretched way beyond capacity, and a firm line must be taken. Brown produces the rhetoric and is lauded for it, Cameron does it and is accused of being Right wing (as if it is a crime). It's something Nick Robinson of the BBC has also observed.

In my opinion, Cameron has to stop being Blur-lite and make some definitive policy statements on some of the harder issues to tackle. At least that way, people can either get on board or jump ship. The lack of anything of substance is going to be damaging as nobody will not what he or the Tories stand for. The incumbent government have many areas where they are prime for attacking: violent crime is rising, unions seem to be getting their edge back (a new winter of discontent?) and the Health service is failing with more administrators than there is capacity to treat patients. Sadly, Cameron and the Tories are failing to voice these - they must do if they want to be a credible opposition.
          My Paris Fashion Week diary   

As I mentioned in my previous post, I attended Paris Fashion Week for the first time last week. It was wild. For the first time in a long time, I was flying solo while attending the shows. I didn't really know where the venues were. I was mainly allocated standing tickets as I didn't really know the PRs. It was all brand new. I'm in a fairly privileged position in London, I've been blogging and attending the shows for a long time so I haven't really experienced any of these things for a long, long time.

I felt somewhat like the new kid in class, slightly awkward and unsure. And you know what, I really enjoyed it. There was something really liberating and grounding about being new and starting from the bottom. My time in Paris was a blessing and I really enjoyed going along for the ride. Here are my highlights from Paris Fashion Week:

Lutz Huelle AW17
I was super stoked to attend Lutz Huelle's AW17 show, my first in Paris. If his name seems familiar, it's because Huelle has been putting in work at Margiela's Artisinal label and at Max Mara Group as a consultant, winning the ANDAM award twice and winning the Ackermann Pret-a-Reporter prize at GWAND.

His AW17 collection built on his decontextualised aesthetic; some pieces were heavily deconstructed and some looks mixed grunge sportswear with evening wear. The shoulder was his flourish, oversized, puffed or rolled, as long as it was a voluminous statement. The puffer reigns supreme next season, cut very slim with an unexpected combination of fabrics from houndstooth to Fair Isle. The Margiela connection was easy to see and executed beautifully.


Veronique Leroy AW17
Taking place in the iconic Palais de Tokyo, Veronique Leroy's show was a hot ticket. The show opened with an incredible amber crushed velvet jumpsuit. Experimenting with velvet and denim was a fresh direction for Leroy, who's name is more synonymous with knitwear albeit with a touch of eccentricity. earthy abstract prints and gunmetal lamé with dirty pastels in ruched minis and tapered trousers contested with teddy bear shearling for a super chic, covetable collection. 


Agnes B AW17

Set in the iconic Les Invalides, resting place of Napoleon, Agnes B's show had a very grand feel, preempting a journey though women's fashion over the last 100 years. The show opened with long, conservative, utilitarian wartime silhouettes in muted colours and the odd jewel tone. The fabrics were heavy and luxurious, contrasting with the feeling of liberation for women in the interwar period - women in the workplace was a huge step forward for women's rights.

The interwar period was followed by boyish looks in will trousers paired with chic loafers and Italian suits, which contrasted with the the more feminine side of the period, gorgeous cashmere gloves and a beautiful velvet dress dress with an arm shawl.

And then the music changed, the time period was fast forward 60 years. A feeling of Carnaby Street in the 60s with leather trousers, cute combers, and geometric prints felt very punk and mod. The 70s followed, with burnt oranges, chevron prints and a touch of suede.

The show felt like a true celebration of women, and of course, I loved it.


The showrooms

The Paris showrooms are extremely different to London. In my beloved London, fashion week is squeezed into just 5 days between New York and Milan. The pace is relentless and 12+ hour days are the norm. Some days, it feels like I'm ping ponging across the city between shows, presentations and showrooms like the Road Runner from the Looney Tunes. I only get a glimpse of each collection.

Paris, by contrast, stretches over a week and is much more commercial in nature. This is where all of the selling and buying takes place, which is why visiting showrooms is key for the international buyers who flock to Paris. All of the London designers and PRs decamp to Paris for this season. I didn't have time to pop into the BFC London Showrooms but I did spy some of my favourite London designers in other showrooms alongside some incredible designers from the likes of Canada, Russia and Korea, which gives you a flavour for how international Paris Fashion Week is.



The food

While I was visiting Paris for fashion, I obviously indulged in some delicious food too. My Air Bnb was situated in Pigalle, my favourite neighbourhood which has a ton of amazing places to eat, including Buvette, Hotel Amour and Rose Bakery. I got a super early Eurostar over to Paris and headed straight to Hotel Amour for brunch in their conservatory, which is the prettiest space in Pigalle. I also discovered a new bar to add to tried-and-tested favourites in the area. Le Mondian is a cute little neighbourhood bar with a great rum selection AND the most beautiful cocktail in all of Paris.

Away from "my neighbourhood", I also had the BEST vegetarian grilled cheese sandwich at Mabel, a grilled cheese sandwich shop at the front and a kick ass bar at the back. A favourite with Parisians, it's only a hop and a skip away from Bourse metro station.

For more comprehensive recommendations, check out my Ultimate Guide to Paris post.




          Third Conference of Sports Medicine   

Moreover, with the participation of renowned experts in the field, such as Dr. Sakari Orava, Finnish surgeon who heads the unit Neo Sports Traumatology Hospital, in the city of Turku (Finland) and is collaborating physician Xanit Hospital Internacional. The conference will take place in the hall of the hospital from 16.00.

Dr. Sakari Orava, surgeon who has treated many elite athletes and top level on the international stage, will speak at the conference on the pectoralis major muscle rupture.

The event, moderated by Dr. Fran Moya, Chief of the Emergency Department of Xanit International Hospital, is addressed to practitioners regarding the management of patients who perform a routine sports and professionals related to the world of sport and its refresher course objectives pathologies associated with common sports, both professional and amateur.

Also present will be Dr. Herminia Alvarez Luque, International Hospital Xanit doctor, medical specialist for Physical Education and Sports, will offer a presentation on the initial conservative treatment of muscle injuries, Dr. Antonio Narvaez, Chief Orthopedic Surgery, Traumatology and Sports Medicine Hospital, will speak about sports injuries rotator cuff, Dr. Juan Manuel Alonso, Head of Medical Services of the Royal Spanish Athletics Federation, which will explain the hamstring muscle problems in the athletes and their conservative treatment and rehabilitation, and Dr. Lasse Lempainen, orthopedic surgeon and orthopedist Neo Hospital and University Hospital of Turku (Finland), who will present the surgical treatment for ruptured rectus femoris.

The day will end with a panel discussion with the participation of athletes and former athletes, as Adolfo Aldana, former player of the Spanish team, Real Madrid, Deportivo La Coruna and Barcelona Spanish or Ivan Medina, consultant physiotherapist and FC Malaga Professor of Physical Therapy at the University of Málaga, among others. It specialists discuss possible forms of presentation and management of injuries among professional and amateur athletes.

People who are interested in attending this event, free of charge, must confirm such assistance through the following mail: marita.ekman @ xanit.net.


          Slimgenics Take Two: 10 lbs down!   
I stepped on the scale this afternoon, and it read roughly 182.5.  I rounded up to 183 to be conservative, but I’m super excited because that means that I’ve lost 10 lbs! 11, even! Guess what else this means!  It … Continue reading
          What's Happening? Fremont County Republicans offering sponsorship to attend YCCLC and more   
Fremont County Republicans offering sponsorship to attend YCCLCThe Fremont County Republicans will once again this year be sponsoring a young Christian conservative between the ages of 16 and 20 from Fremont County to attend the Young Christian Conservatives Leadership Conference at the Colorado Christian University in Lakewood from July 16-23.
          CBO: Senate health bill would lead to 22 million fewer insured   
The Senate health care bill introduced last week would lead to 22 million fewer Americans having health insurance by 2026, while reducing the federal deficit by $321 billion, according to an analysis released Monday by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Like the House bill, it would eliminate the requirement for individuals to buy insurance and repeal the taxes on corporations and wealthy Americans that paid for the expansion of coverage to millions of people since the law took effect in 2014. On Monday, GOP Senate leaders added a so-called “continuous coverage” provision that would require people who had gaps in insurance coverage of at least 63 days the previous year to wait six months, after signing up for insurance, before their new coverage kicks in. The Senate bill, called the Better Care Reconciliation Act, would end the increased federal funding to state Medicaid programs that began under the ACA. [...] it would change the way Medicaid — called Medi-Cal in California — gets funded in the long run by capping the amount of money the federal government provides states each year, and tying that number to a growth rate that is slower than the growth rate of health care costs. The subsidies under the Senate proposal would be linked to a less generous insurance plan with a higher deductible — meaning even those who would continue to receive assistance would probably shoulder higher out-of-pocket costs. Older Americans, regardless of whether they receive subsidies, could pay much higher premiums under the GOP plan because both the House and Senate bills would allow insurance companies to charge older people up to five times more than what they charge younger people. Changes to the Senate bill are anticipated this week, as several GOP senators — from both the moderate and conservative wings of the party — have expressed reservations about the measure and could lobby for amendments.
          'This Changes Everything' tackles global warming   
<>"This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate" (Simon & Schuster), by Naomi Klein

Cutting the vast amounts of man-made pollution that feed global warming is an enormous challenge for societies that gobble up coal, oil and gas. But in "This Changes Everything," Naomi Klein argues that those fuels aren't the root problem — capitalism is. That message is likely to motivate fans of Klein's earlier books, such as "No Logo" and "The Shock Doctrine," but it also leads to a tough question.

Is blaming capitalism for climate change just rhetorical hot air — or a brutal and uncomfortable truth?

Whatever side you take, Klein deserves credit for not sugarcoating the problem. She writes that limiting global warming won't be quick, easy or without disruptions, yet holds out hope that the end result will be better for people, the environment and even the economy. But make no mistake: "This Changes Everything" argues that we don't just have to cut carbon pollution. We have to change society, and our own lifestyles. Klein writes: "Our economic system and our planetary system are now at war."

And while Klein is predictably hard on big business and conservatives who deny climate change, she doesn't spare environmental groups or liberals. Klein pointedly shows how easy it is to ignore global warming, noting that until recently she "continued to behave as if there was nothing wrong" with the "elite" frequent flier card in her wallet.

Klein is dismissive of environmentalists who say better technology can limit climate change, yet she doesn't resolve some of the contradictions in that position. China, Germany and other countries have used capitalism and mass production to turn out vast quantities of better and cheaper solar panels and wind turbines. In the U.S., Texas has become the national leader in wind energy by treating it as another business for people to make money on.

Yet worldwide carbon emissions are rising, not falling.

And like everyone else, Klein struggles with perhaps the toughest global warming challenge: how to cope with the explosive growth of newly capitalist economies.

China is now the world's largest emitter of carbon pollution, but only 30 years ago Beijing was filled with bicycle-riding workers dressed in Chairman Mao tunics. Today there are BMWs and clouds of pollution generated by vast numbers of people who are embracing capitalism, not revolting against it. And after the recent huge climate march in New York City, India's environment minister responded by saying that developed countries such as the U.S. need to cut emissions, not developing ones. He told The New York Times that "India's first task is eradication of poverty" and that "we will grow faster, and our emissions will rise."

Klein is calling for a global social revolution to combat global warming, but many countries don't much like it when Westerners who have long benefited from cheap fossil fuels try to tell them what to do.

Yet China and India's runaway growth also makes clear that Klein's core point has merit. She writes that "we know where the current system, left unchecked, is headed." The vast majority of climate scientists say global warming is here, caused by humans, and probably already dangerous, and that the world needs to start significantly reducing carbon pollution. If it doesn't, scientists predict that in a few decades, much higher temperatures and more acidic oceans will start to cause "severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems."

"This Changes Everything" isn't all doom and gloom. Klein notes that an aggressive new movement of climate activists has emerged in the last few years. As a mother, she writes passionately about the need to consider the impact on future generations, and she gives many examples of places where wind and solar energy is dropping in price and becoming a cleaner and more realistic alternative to fossil fuels.

"This Changes Everything" may motivate more people to think and act on climate change, and that's good. Yet capitalism isn't the only problem. The old message from a 1970 cartoon on the first Earth Day still hangs in the air: "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

___

Online:

http://www.naomiklein.org/main


          After Orlando, a Long War   

The massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando—the worst act of terrorism on American soil since the attacks of 9/11—had barely ended when the debate over its significance began. As usual, the political class divided into competing camps, with liberals predictably claiming that the real issue is gun control and conservatives just as predictably claiming that the real issue is radical Islam. There wasn’t even agreement over whether this was a hate crime or an act of terrorism. (Why couldn’t it be both?)


          Posterior indirect adhesive 
restorations: updated indications 
and the Morphology Driven 
Preparation Technique   
Veneziani, Marco
Page 204 - 230
The aim of this article is to identify the indications for adhesively cemented restorations and to provide a correct step-by-step protocol for clinicians. New cavity preparation principles are based on morphological considerations in terms of geometry (maximum profile line and inclination of cusp lines), and structure (dentin concavity and enamel convexity). In this article, we discuss previous preparation concepts that were not designed purely for adhesive restorations and were therefore not conservative enough or suitable for adhesive procedures. The novel cavity shape consists of continuous inclined plane cavity margins (hollow chamfer or concave bevel) on axial walls, whenever they are coronal to the equatorial tooth line. A 1.2 mm-thick butt-joint preparation is performed in the interproximal box and on the axial walls when the margins are apical to the equatorial line. The occlusal surface is anatomically prepared, free of slots and angles. The author's suggestion is to avoid shoulder finish line preparation around cusps, occlusal slots, and pins, as they are less conservative, incompatible with adhesive procedures, and involve unnecessary dentin exposure. The clinical advantages of this new "anatomic" preparation design are 1) improving adhesion quality (optimizing the cutting of enamel prisms, and increasing the available enamel surface); 2) minimizing dentin exposure; 3) maximizing hard tissue preservation (the cavity being designed for cementation with reinforced composite resins, improvement of flow, and removal of excess material); 4) optimization of esthetic integration due to the inclined plane design, which permits a better blending at the transition area between tooth and restoration. These preparation principles may be effectively used for all adhesively cemented restorations, both according to traditional concepts (inlay, onlay, overlay) and new ones (additional overlay, occlusal-veneer, overlay-veneer, long-wrap overlay, adhesive crown). Thus, a balance between restoration and prosthodontics is created, which is characterized by a more conservative approach.
          May's Conservatives sign power deal with Northern Ireland's DUP   
May's Conservatives sign power deal with Northern Ireland's DUP"An agreement has been signed," May's spokesman told AFP without revealing the details.
          Major Conservative Media Outlets Are Now Promoting Satanism As The Future Of The ‘Right Wing’   

Posted in FeaturedGeneral

Lauren Southern, formerly of Rebel Media and now operating as an “independent journalist,” has worked closely with Breitbart News, the National Socialist Martin Sellner who we famously exposed on Shoebat.com, and other “alt-right” groups that are little more than a cover for the National Socialist movement that has been prepared for a long time and […]
          Where are Bennett and Liberman?   

In this issue of the newsletter we consider two pieces of legislation introduced by the religious parties in the Netanyahu coalition. One of the bills would cancel the compromise that provided a space for women’s prayer groups and non-halachic groups (NHG) – such as egalitarian, conservative and reform – to pray at the Kotel. Discussing […]

The post Where are Bennett and Liberman? appeared first on The Blogs | The Times of Israel.


          Why We Must Must Hold The Line On Intermarriage   

By declaring their readiness to officiate — in a limited way — in intermarriages, and preparing to resign from Conservative Judaism’s Rabbinical Assembly, whose policies prohibit such a practice, Rabbis Amichai Lau-Lavie and Roly Matalon have thrown down the gauntlet to American Judaism’s religious center (Jewish Week front-page articles, June 16 and June 23). In […]

The post Why We Must Must Hold The Line On Intermarriage appeared first on The Blogs | The Times of Israel.


          Supreme Court Allows Trump Travel Ban to Take Effect   

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The U.S. Supreme Court is allowing parts of President Donald Trump’s ban on travelers from six mostly Muslim countries to be enforced.

The court said Monday it will consider the case in October after its summer break. The Trump administration had requested that the ban be put in place while the case is considered in the courts.

The restrictions halted travel from Libya, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days. It also barred all refugees from entering the United States.

The latest travel ban came about through an executive order signed by Trump. But it was blocked by lower courts.

Protesters hold signs during a demonstration against President Donald Trump's revised travel ban, May 15, 2017, outside a federal courthouse in Seattle. Protesters hold signs during a demonstration against President Donald Trump's revised travel ban, May 15, 2017, outside a federal courthouse in Seattle.

In its 6 to 3 ruling, the Supreme Court made an exception for one group of foreigners. It said the travel ban cannot be enforced against any 'foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity” in the U.S.

The court also said it would allow a 120-day ban on all refugees entering the United States to go into effect with the same exception.

Three of the court's conservative justices said they would have allowed the full travel bans. Justice Clarence Thomas said the government's interest in ensuring national security should outweigh any hardship to people denied entry into the U.S.

The court’s decision was seen as a victory for Trump, who had repeatedly criticized federal courts for blocking his order. He has said the temporary travel ban was necessary to keep dangerous people out of the country while stronger vetting policies were created.

Trump praised Monday's Supreme Court decision, calling it a “clear victory for our national security.” In a statement, he said his “number one responsibility” is to keep Americans safe.

Some immigration lawyers said the limited nature of the ban raises questions about how much impact it will have. They noted that most people coming to study, work or visit family members in the U.S. already have sufficient relationships with others already in the country.

Protesters gather before marching through the streets in Portland, Ore., Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016. Approximately 100 students at Portland State University joined a nationwide campus walkout to protest President-elect Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Don Ryan) Protesters gather before marching through the streets in Portland, Ore., Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016. Approximately 100 students at Portland State University joined a nationwide campus walkout to protest President-elect Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)

Even though the Supreme Court is expected to hear the travel order case in October, it noted that the case could be moot at that time. This is because measures in the order are meant to be temporary, while the government reviews its security procedures.

Trump said last week the travel ban would take effect 72 hours after being cleared by courts.

A statement by the Department of Homeland Security said the order will be implemented “professionally, with clear and sufficient public notice, particularly to potentially affected travelers.”

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from VOA News, the Associated Press and Reuters. Hai Do was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.

Words in This Story

credible – adj. reasonable to trust or believe

bona fide adj. real or genuine

entityn. something that exists apart from other things

exclusionn. leaving out

ensure v. make certain something happens

vettingn. thorough investigation of someone or something

impact n. major effect on something

moot n. no longer important or relevant

implement v. put in place


          The Closer Versus the Strategist    

Mitt Romney spent the better part of this presidential campaign criticizing Barack Obama's foreign policy. He characterized the President as weak, ineffective, and lacking in leadership. But when given the opportunity to debate the President on foreign policy last night he engaged in a surprising amount of “me-too-ism.” All of a sudden, with the election on the line, Romney decided to make another one of his now famous flip-flops and found, when given the occasion to show what he would do differently, he chose the more prudent course of agreeing with the President's main foreign policy initiatives. He even went so far as to agree with 2014 as a hard deadline for withdrawing our troops from Afghanistan, a position for which he had previously derided the president for.

By now, nobody should be surprised with the flexible Romney who has pivoted from being a “severe conservative” in order to best his conservative rivals in the Republican primary to being a “moderate” in order to win the presidential election. In Ted Kennedy's immortal words, “I am pro-choice, and Mitt is multiple-choice.” That leaves the American public and the entire world, however, in doubt about what would a President Romney in fact do if elected. He has changed positions so many times on so many topics that voters could be excused for being somewhat confused as to what the Republican candidate stands for. For a man who makes a point that the business world needs consistency and certitude in order to conduct business, he has offered us neither.
There was one major point where Romney departed from the President on military policy, however. He made clear once again his desire to spend significantly more money on defense. He is always careful not to say exactly how much more, so as not to scare the average taxpayer already weary about our substantial debt, but the implication is clear, that a massive, Ronald Reagan style military buildup is in store if Romney gets the commander in chief job. There was a point in the debate that was almost comical when he stated that the US Navy had less ships today than before 1917 in an attempt to show that Obama had neglected his defense obligations. The President responded with:
“You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets — because the nature of our military’s changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.”
Judging by the laughter in the audience, the President drove home the point that Romney was hopelessly out of touch with how the modern military actually works, that sheer numbers is not what makes our military strong. It is all about capabilities, deployment, and strategy. Obama last night clearly demonstrated his command of military strategy and Romney sounded like a student who had been cramming for an exam.
Even though the President clearly won the foreign policy debate last night, the election will most likely not be won or lost based on foreign policy, which is why Romney ceded the point. He knows he won't best Obama on foreign policy so he is counting on the economy as his strong suit. And that's where it gets interesting.
As pointed out in earlier articles, Romney is a formidable closer. He has made millions convincing skeptical investors to plunk down their millions in business schemes that offered high risk and potential high profitability. He won the first debate hands down exhibiting these closing skills. He lives in the moment and knows how to maximize opportunities. This is how he has run his campaign and it has, by and large, worked if you are inclined to believe the polls. Many people see him as a credible alternative to the cooler, more deliberate Obama who can be frustratingly opaque at times.
When Obama got us involved in the murky war against Muammar Gaddafi, it was not clear what the President was up to. Was he leading? Following? Hence the celebrated phrase “leading from behind.” The phrase was not intended as a compliment, but looking back, he got the job done with a fraction of the cost and no American loss of life, unlike the plodding effort in Iraq. As an added bonus, Obama got the French to conduct airstrikes alongside our pilots. Unlike Iraq, the Libya action was a truly allied effort that led to the elimination of a dictator. Best of all, it happened without thousands of American soldiers dead and injured, not to mention another mega-increase in the deficit. This was truly smart power at work. If this is leading from behind then let’s have more of it.


if you ask any general worth his or her salt, 
they will tell you that strategy 
wins over tactics almost every time.

Mitt Romney, the consummate business tycoon, is all about quick results -- the quarterly report -- and in his profession, it is essential. A venture capitalist does not have time to waste on unnecessary items such as developing long term relationships or projecting too far in advance. The turnaround expert is quick to act, get the job done, and walk away as expeditiously as possible. As a matter of fact, expediency is a virtue in Romney's world of business closings.
Governing a complex country with a deeply divided population while dealing with responsibilities all over the world requires patience and lots of it. Romney has shown us time and again that he is not a patient man. He grew tired of governing the infinitesimally smaller territory that is Massachusetts only two years into his governorship. By the time he finished his first and only term he was fed up with governing and allowed Massachusetts to slip to 47th in job creation among our 50 states. His approval rate was in the 30's and he was deemed unelectable for a second term. This is what happens when people are convinced by a quick turnaround artist to govern their state. There is nothing quick about governing. Governing is a marathon, not a sprint. Romney, for example, would make an excellent consultant on a commercial deal with Bolivia, but as CEO of the whole enterprise that is the United States of America he would be a flop, even though he would no doubt shamelessly take advantage of the groundwork prepared by the current President.
Barack Obama, on the other hand is the consummate strategist. He showed us in his primary battle with Hillary Clinton back in 2008. Hillary had all the advantages. She was considered almost the prohibitive favorite and had a hard core of dedicated fans. She had Bill Clinton campaigning for her. Mark Penn, her campaign manager, was one of the best in the business. But unfortunately for her, she was pitted against a real strategist. Obama's supporters kept their hearts in their mouths the whole time, not knowing where Obama was going. He kept things close to the vest much to the consternation of his supporters. He kept everyone in suspense and pulled it out with forward thinking and a superior strategy. The Hillary camp had tactics, Obama had strategy. And if you ask any general worth his or her salt, they will tell you that strategy wins over tactics almost every time.
Barack Obama is one of our first truly strategic Presidents. Richard Nixon was also a strategist but was also a victim of his own self-doubts and paranoia. What is frustrating for many voters, including some of Obama’s most ardent supporters, is that there are always questions about what exactly his strategy is. That’s all part of the plan since a strategic thinker rarely conveys his strategy, because that is the nature of the master chess player. You are not sure how he does it, but he gets it done with little bombast and fanfare.
It has taken a few years for the Iranian leadership to figure this out. Which is why they are willing to negotiate, albeit in secret. I'm sure the President would love to share what he is doing behind closed doors to bring Iran, kicking and screaming, into dropping their plans for a nuclear weapon, but he can't. That is the nature of power politics. We only get to see the tip of the iceberg. We can only guess what goes on under the surface.
Americans will have a major choice this November. And the choice is not between fake issues like Socialism versus Capitalism. (Hint: both candidates are pro-capitalism.) Or Liberal versus Conservative. (Hint: both candidates are moderates.) No, the choice is more profound and personal.
We have in Mitt Romney, the classic business closer. The king of the deal. The super salesman. The guy you want to convince people to give him their hard-earned cash and sink it into something they never heard about. Those qualities come in handy at times and it would be an intriguing idea to hire Mitt as a consultant on tangible and complex deals.
We have in Barack Obama, on the other hand, the classic strategic thinker. Calm, cool, and collected. The guy with the steady hand on the tiller of the ship of state. The guy who does not get rattled easily. The guy who is not just thinking short term, but long term as well. The man who will bring this country back slowly, but steadily.
It remains to be seen which quality will prevail among a most volatile electorate.

          Joe Scores a KO   

It was Joe Biden's night. Those of us who have followed Biden's career knew he had it in him. When paired against the light-weight Palin four years ago they tied one hand behind his back and gave him strict instructions not to manhandle his opponent who had a glaring glass jaw. We have come a long way in gender relations, but there are still many who don't like the sight of a man of the caliber of Joe Biden beating up on a relatively defenseless woman. So fightin' Joe was reduced to a shadow of himself during that bout with the challenged ex-governor of Alaska. It was an awkward moment in American politics.
Last night, no such restrictions were placed on the Vice-President. His opponent this time was the darling of the conservative set -- a legitimate intellectual leader of the Republican Party. A man of bold ideas we have been told. President Obama had even said before the 90 minute session that “Joe should be Joe.” And Joe he was, warts and all.
Joe Biden and Paul Ryan
It was not all smooth sailing, however. Ryan had a few sucker punches planned much like his running mate had against the President. But unlike the CEO of Bain Capital, Ryan is no closer. In his debate with Obama, the world saw what a first class closer Romney is. You could tell why he was a successful businessman. It is not hard to imagine, that after the staff at Bain worked painstakingly to explain the intricacies of a complex deal to potential investors the seasoned Romney would appear and put it all together and forcefully close the deal. The great WC Fields summed it up many years ago with his famous quip, “Never give a sucker an even break or smarten up a chump.” Romney was not in the business of smartening up anyone. He knew that many of the deals he was promoting were risky, but he knows how to sell iffy to sophisticated investors. That is how he made his living and that is how he beat the intellectually superior Obama. Brawn, when properly applied, can sometimes best brains.
But much as he tried when it was his turn, Ryan was bested from the outset. He did find some weak spots and scored some good blows, but on the important matters he was just outmatched. The murky situation in Libya worked to Ryan’s advantage, for example. Being a Monday morning quarterback (if you pardon the mixed metaphor) was relatively easy since the tragic loss of our Ambassador was a result of much confusion on the ground. Romney, in real time, didn't even wait for Monday to commence his second-guessing. He was already pontificating at half-time when we didn't even know what the final score was. It is always unseemly when our people are in harm’s way overseas and politicians score cheap political points at their expense. When our soldiers or diplomats are victims of an operation gone wrong, that is not the time to second guess the operation. In the case of the events in Benghazi, considering the intelligence was dicey at best, the prudent (dare I say say conservative) course would have been to stay silent until all the facts were in. But Mitt, always the businessman looking for opportunities, couldn't resist taking advantage of the tragedy to score points against the President. He has been so offensive that the mother of one of the slain Navy SEALS told him to stop using her son as a prop in his campaign. But clever Ryan, with little substance to offer, took the cheap shots against Biden and scored early.


 “Folks, use your common sense, who do you trust on this? 
A man who introduced a bill that would raise it 
sixty-four hundred dollars a year, knowing it, 
and passing it, and Romney saying 
he would sign it, or me and the President?” 
- Joe Biden -

However, when the topics turned to substance and matters of concern to the American voter, Ryan was no match for the well versed Biden, who finally, after waiting four years, could deliver his jabs on substance. On weighty matters such as Medicare, Social Security, the Economy, and the war in Afghanistan, Ryan was taken to school. At one critical point, the Vice-President had to explain the military strategy in Afghanistan to the clueless Ryan, and in the process, educate the American people. Yes, there is a strategy in place, and the reason that fewer American soldiers were engaged was that the Afghan troops we trained were getting more and more involved in securing their own country. And yes, the Taliban are so desperate that they have been able to recruit a few Afghan soldiers to their cause and a few American soldiers tragically lost their lives. Biden correctly pointed out that these were the exceptions, not the rule and the overriding factor was that, imperfect as they are, the Afghans are slowing taking over the responsibility of defending their own country. Unlike the old Soviet Union, America is not out for territorial conquest, just providing a vehicle for the Afghans to create a society where terrorism will have a harder time getting organized to threaten the world.
It is not the intent of this article to go into the whole Vice-Presidential debate blow by blow and document the ups and downs of the clash of the two candidates for the job as a potential Presidential replacement. There will be plenty of commentary examining the details including the equivalent trivial points made about the Presidential debate concerning facial expressions, posture, demeanor and other matters unrelated to governance. I doubt if the American public is that interested in measuring how many seconds Joe Biden smiled, or was that a grin or a smirk on Paul Ryan's face. I leave it to others to discuss these non-issues.
Biden talks directly to the Nation
The American voter is more interested in the future of his or her country and whether the teams vying for the privilege to lead this great nation have what it takes to tackle the big issues. On that score the Vice-President showed us all that, unlike Mitt Romney, he won due to his command of the facts and better policies, not due to his superior business closing skills. But he showed us much more. We saw a man whose whole career has been dedicated to defending ordinary Americans. Biden showed us real passion when it came to defending the middle class, seniors, students, women, working people. Ryan, on the other hand was the consummate policy wonk, a cold numbers calculator.
Joe scored the knockout blow when he looked into the camera, referencing Medicare and said “Folks, use your common sense, who do you trust on this? A man who introduced a bill that would raise it sixty-four hundred dollars a year, knowing it, and passing it, and Romney saying he would sign it, or me and the President?” This statement alone distilled Biden's direct appeal to the Nation. He forcefully illustrated his passion to defend the ordinary citizen. Ryan could only counter with more policy options, more numbers.
Joe Biden showed why in spite of his reputation for speaking off the cuff he has the confidence of the President. Biden did what he had to do. He forcefully defended the interests of most Americans and did it with passion and humor.
President Obama, please take note.

Link to C-SPAN for debate archives and more.


          Voodoo Two   

When candidate George H. W. Bush ran against Ronald Reagan he coined a phrase which became synonymous with the economics policy of the Reagan administration and could easily be applied to Republican orthodoxy since then: “Voodoo Economics.”
Mitt Romney
Bush, the last moderate Republican president, was appalled that Ronald Reagan was proposing to increase federal spending, cut taxes, and balance the budget, a feat that in fact turned out to be impossible. Reagan characterized Jimmy Carter's economic deficits as “obscene” and promised his Presidency was going to erase Carter's deficits and balance the budget.
Bush 41 stated that Reagan's economic views were nonsense and correctly predicted that, if implemented, they would drive up deficits substantially. Calling the Reagan economic proposals, “Voodoo Economics” was his way of alerting the voting public that Reagan’s policies were a type of “magical thinking” and had no basis in reality. Just a quick gaze at a chart provided by Wikipedia illustrates the consequence of Reagan's policies on deficits. In comparison, Carter's deficits look downright puny, although compared to Richard Nixon, they were much larger, leaving Carter vulnerable to the charge that he was increasing the debt more than the frugal Nixon.
(source: Wikipedia)
Unfortunately for the nation, Reagan's flirtation with supply side economics led to deficits the likes of which America had never seen before. How and why Ronald Reagan is still considered a hero to conservatives to this day in light of his pursuit of extravagant government spending is beyond my comprehension. The only explanation I can come up with is that in the conservative world, military spending does not count -- as by some twisted logic, the Defense Department is not really part of the Federal Government.
Of course, most of us remember that the Soviet Union collapsed during Reagan's term, so he received credit for containment policies dating back to the Truman Administration. If there was one consistent bipartisan thread in American foreign policy since World War II it was an implacable opposition to the Soviet Union. Actually, it was the much maligned Jimmy Carter who stood up to the Soviets the hardest, not with just rhetoric but with bold action. First, he dealt the Soviets a humiliating blow to their collective egos by boycotting the Moscow Olympics, ostensibly for their invasion of Afghanistan. But the most consequential action Carter took was to halt precious shipments of grain to the Soviets, an action that disrupted their food supply chain and led directly to food riots in Poland which marked the beginning of the end of the Soviet empire. But no matter, Reagan uttered those memorable words, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” in Berlin and almost by magic the wall came down. Voodoo indeed.
The Reagan legend was cemented and all the spending was forgiven since Reagan single-highhandedly brought down the despised Soviet empire. Even New York's Mayor Giuliani, running for President himself kept repeating the anecdote that Ronald Reagan had such magical powers that the day he was inaugurated the Iranians released all the hostages from the US Embassy in Teheran. Never mind that the Carter administration had been working feverishly for over a year to negotiate their release, working with as diverse countries as Switzerland and Algeria (the final go-between) to secure the release of the Embassy personnel. No siree, according to the good Mayor of New York City, the mere walking into the White House of the Voodoo Master himself was sufficient to scare the hell out of the Ayatollah, who, out of fear that Reagan might utter magic words like, “Let my people go!” and the hostages would mysteriously disappear from Iran, released them before lunch. It is astounding that there are people who would believe such a fantastical yarn, even devoid of the embellishments I added for effect. Reagan, for the diehard Republicans (and a few Democrats), was the proverbial knight in shining armor and everything he did turned into gold, even when he was selling missiles to the Ayatollah.
Such is the power of magic that Mitt Romney, who in an earlier incarnation put as much distance between himself and Ronald Reagan as he could, has now seen the light and is promoting another version of wizardly wisdom, call it Voodoo Economics 2.0. For brevity sake, let's call it Voodoo Two.
Voodoo Two, or the return of Voodoo Economics, is essentially warmed-over Ronald Reagan. If you listen carefully to Mitt Romney (and it is my job to listen carefully to the would-be President) you will get to the essence of what Romney is proposing. He is telling us that he would increase defense spending, lower income taxes for everybody, keep most of the safety net for the poor, save all the entitlements for future generations, and (wait for it) balance the budget. Of course, the main difference between suceeding Obama and suceeding Carter is that between George W. and Obama (mostly George W), the debt has exploded right through the ozone layer. Obama likes to blame Bush for the debt, but he increased the debt by 10% himself, although 90% of it is George W.'s accomplishment.
So Magical Mitt, as we should probably be calling him, together with his wonder-boy Ryan are going to perform a Reagan encore act on an exploding deficit and they expect the American public to believe that Reagan's tripling of Carter's deficit is in no way related to Romney's new voodoo. There are plenty of people who wish to believe. Faith, they call it. But faith in the divine is one thing. Many people believe that faith in the divine is a good thing and who is to say they are wrong? Faith in something we cannot see or comprehend can be construed as optimism, of belief in life with purpose. But confidence in a politician who is doing a bad impersonation of another politician who was responsible for huge deficits is not the kind of faith that can be said to be optimistic. That is just gullibility.
As George W. famously said, "There's an old saying in Tennessee – I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee – that says, fool me once, shame on – shame on you. Fool me – you can't get fooled again."
Or something like that.



Link to C-SPAN for debate archives and more.


          Bopp 'til you Drop   

James Bopp, is a rather obscure lawyer from Terre Haute, Indiana. I say obscure, because he is not known by the general public, but to the anti-abortion crowd he is kind of a hero. He has served as the general counsel for National Right to Life since 1978 and as the special counsel for Focus on the Family since 2004. Bopp was the editor of Restoring the Right to Life: The Human Life Amendment. (Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1984)
James Bopp
This story is not, however, about Bopp's abortion bona fides. He is better known as the guy who brought us rivers of money to political campaigns as he argued successfully for Citizens's United in front of the Supreme Court.
His success had a improbable start. He was literally laughed out of court when he had the temerity to state that the hit piece on Hillary Clinton, Hillary: The Movie, was legitimate news and should be allowed to air on TV as would any news piece. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) told Citizens United that it couldn't air the film during primary season, because it amounted to a 90-minute campaign ad. In court, Bopp argued that the movie wasn't so different from what you'd see on 60 Minutes, and its creators deserved First Amendment protections. At that point, US District Court Judge Royce Lamberth laughed out loud. "You can't compare this to 60 Minutes," he said. "Did you read this transcript?"
But funnier things happened on the way to the Supreme Court since the justices saw fit to overturn the FEC's decision, thereby ushering in a new age of unlimited campaign spending whereby billionaires could contribute unlimited cash – anonymously if they wish – to support the candidates of their choice, virtually annihilating the years of campaign reforms that had been painstakingly achieved on a bipartisan basis over many years. One stroke of the pen eliminated years of legislative work. President Obama famously predicted that the decision would go down in history as a terrible experiment much to the visible disapproval of justice Alito during a State of the Union address.
The assumption, of course, by both Democrats and Republicans, was that the Republicans, with their billionaire minions would have a huge advantage and that cash advantage does seem to have materialized in that candidate Mitt Romney, the self-confessed candidate of the plutocrats, has been awash in campaign cash, much of it of dubious origin and difficult to account for. He used his cash advantage to blow away his Republican primary competition which is certainly evidence of poetic justice since Republicans generally welcomed the Supreme Court decision with open arms, not to mention open wallets. The Romney rivals never had a fighting chance as they were severely outspent by the faux conservative Romney and, in an ironic twist worthy of an Agatha Christie novel, the more conservative candidates were pulverized by the very money they worshiped, allowing the moderate and more “flexible” Romney to win the nomination. Never was the saying, “Be careful what you wish for...” more true.


Never was the saying, “Be careful 
what you wish for...” more true.

Romney has demonstrated that the well-heeled are the ones in the best position to rake in the cash, not necessarily the ones with the most conservative ideas, which is why we have a Romney/Ryan ticket and not the converse. There is even loose talk among the conservative claque that Romney should step aside and allow for the ideologically more “pure” ticket of Ryan/Rubio.

But it is too late.

Romney, the poster child of unfettered capitalism, has won the money race fair and square under the new Bopp rules, and Bopp, as a modern Dr. Frankenstein, has joined his newly created monster who turns out to be exactly what the system created. He is an unfeeling money hound with no scruples or core principles aside from a strong desire to win at any cost, much like the mythical Gordon Gekko, that fictitious lizard of Wall Street fame.
The final irony is this. All that humongous horde of cash cannot hide the fact that Romney is a deeply flawed candidate and the instincts of the American people are proven correct once again. Romney is perceived as the phony he is by friend and foe alike. The only thing keeping his campaign even remotely competitive is that 1) there are people who genuinely dislike the President and would vote for Joe the Plumber before voting for Obama, and 2) the economy is in a sluggish recovery so therefore there is more pain out in the country than usual.
If it wasn't for these two factors, all the money in China wouldn't be enough to save Mitt's candidacy. What will be interesting to see is after the Bopp experiment has run its course, and the big money fails to win, what will the Congress do about campaign finance reform? To quote the great poet ee cummings,
“how do you like your blueeyed boy
Mister Death”


Link to C-SPAN for debate archives and more.


          America's decline?   
Gabby Douglas (gymnastics)
After watching the Olympic Games on TV it is hard to conclude that America is in decline. If it is, somebody forgot to tell our young Olympian athletes. Watching them perform was a treat that every American should have savored. From the hard-boiled professionals of the NBA to the pre-collegiate athletes like our female gymnasts, they all showed us what talent, dedication, and hard work can accomplish. Only the megasized Chinese athletes, a product of a Soviet-style massive government program, came even close in medal count to the Americans.
Michael Phelps (swimming)
Except the Americans are not part of a gigantic government experiment, much to the chagrin of the conservative critique of contemporary America. President Obama has not turned the Olympic movement into another government project. He clearly has no intention to. There are some who delude themselves into thinking that our President is actively conspiring to turn our country into an oppressive central government-run state even as there is little evidence of that. Our Olympic athletes are a product of the best America has to offer: privately run professional leagues, collegiate organized sports, public and private school organized sports, with a smattering of diehard individuals perfecting their special talents. No centralized control necessary because freedom, combined with a strong work ethic and a strong desire to succeed is all we need.
Ashton Eaton (decathlon)
Our Olympic athletes embody the best of America, something that has not changed since the first Olympiad of the modern era in 1896.
During the Cold War there were the titanic struggles between the US and Soviet Union, which used the power of its massive government to create a program designed to foster its image as a super power. The Soviets used the Olympics to show the world they were at the same level or better than the dreaded capitalistic flag bearer that was the

Our Olympic athletes surely 
represent the best 
our country has to offer 
and they have shown the world 
that American values are alive. 

United States. For them the Olympics was just an extension of their foreign policy much like the Chinese today. They have emulated the West in just about everything except their version of the Olympics which is a carbon copy of the old Soviet system.
Jordan Burroughs (wrestling)
America stood fast during the Cold War, preferring to stick to its ideals of personal liberty even when it was tempting to opt for a massive government program to promote success at the Games watched by the entire world.
The Olympic revival, starting with the 1896 games in Athens, Greece, was conceived by Baron Pierre de Coubertin and was initially an all-male affair. Coubertin's vision was that nationalism would play a minor role and that only amateurs would participate. The Games have greatly expanded since then and the ideal of minimizing nationalism has all but evaporated, even though there is no official mention of which country “won” the Games. However, the daily medal counts reports belie the spirit of anti-chauvinism, although only China has a serious government program (along with a few diehard communist countries like Cuba and North Korea).
Kayla Harrison (judo)
Every country on the planet takes pride in the successes of their compatriots, including the USA, which proves that there is no need for the government to be involved to produce a sense of patriotism.
Judging by the performance of our athletes in London, it is difficult to make the argument that the United States is a country in decline, that our values of self-reliance, hard work, and success-oriented behavior are compromised. Our young people are still the envy of the world.
Missy Franklin (swimming)
I always suspected that most of the hand-wringing about America's decline as a country and a culture has a mostly political agenda behind it. There are people with a vested interest in accusing our President of curtailing our Constitutional freedoms, and adopting a “statist” style of governance which in turn is leading us down a ruinous path. No matter that there is little truth to this assertion and the best example the President's critics can come up with is his health care reforms which are based on a private sector model and not a “government takeover” model as is falsely alleged.
If you believe the President is a closet Socialist, hell-bent on eroding our freedoms, turning our government into a gigantic leviathan that will control every aspect of our lives, then I have to admit he has been a colossal failure.
Vincent Hancock (shooting)
But if you believe the President is a democratic reformer working within the limits of our Constitution, who represents the best of our country, then I believe he has been largely successful.
Our Olympic athletes surely represent the best our country has to offer and they have shown the world that American values are alive. America is hardly in decline. You can even make the assertion that American values and America itself is as strong as ever.
We have a lot to be proud of and thankful for.



Link to C-SPAN for debate archives and more.


          The Ugly American   
Most Americans only get interested in foreign policy when either a) someone bombs us or b) we bomb someone. I realize this is a bit of oversimplification but the average American is just not interested in world affairs or the fact that as the world's superpower, we have daily dealings with countries and people across the entire globe. Americans just don't think that our presence in the world is all that important.
Of course, that changes from time to time as when the Olympic Games roll around and all of a sudden our competitive juices get revved up. Suddenly it matters a lot that a small group of female gymnasts besting all the world's other gymnasts becomes all-consuming and all-important. There are other times, on smaller scales, when Americans care about what happens in the world, but on the whole, the average American is not terribly interested or informed about world events.
However, our presence in the world matters. A lot. America has commercial interests all over the world and not just limited to oil or iPod sales, to name two obvious concerns. America is a true world leader and whether we care or not, the whole world looks to America for leadership.
Governor Mitt Romney
Which is why Mitt Romney's uninspired tour of three of the most American-friendly nations, Great Britain, Israel, and Poland does not bode well for the Republican prospect. The press has had its fun with the many gaffes and missteps by both the presidential candidate himself and his closest aides, but the whole is more important than its parts. Sure, blaring headlines in the London papers announcing, “Mitt the Twit” are not helpful, but the image of a would be world leader incapable of navigating friendly waters should give Americans pause.
Headline in Rupert Murdoch's "The Sun" newspaper
More egregious, however, was Romney's blatant disregard of the delicate and tricky role America plays in the Middle East. In his zeal to contrast himself with President Obama, shore up support with Jewish voters back home, and assist his unquenchable thirst for campaign cash, he threw caution to the wind by adopting an uncompromising pro-Israeli government stand. I say Israeli government because his chummy relationship with Bibi Netanyahu, the current Prime Minister should not be confused with a pro-Israel position. Netanyahu represents a conservative government, which in a parliamentary democracy such as Israel could change in a blink of an eye.
Much more important is the delicate balance America has to achieve between being a supporter of Israel the country and its true interests, while maintaining a position as an honest broker between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Maybe posturing with his buddy Bibi will score him points back home with the yahoos and fool some Jewish voters into believing Romney has Israel's back, but Israel is not simply defined by its current government and its current policies. Israel is a complex democratic society similar to ours with many points of view and it is clearly in the country's interest to co-exist peacefully with its Arab neighbors. Putting down Palestinian “culture” as Romney did does not help Israel in any way.


If a handful of illegal immigrants voting in our elections 
is supposedly a travesty so terrible that we are willing 
to thwart thousands of American citizens from voting 
in order to prevent that possibility, how can we ignore millions 
in foreign cash finding its way to political candidates? 



Every American President, liberal or conservative, understands this delicate balancing act and none has ever lowered himself to being merely a blatant cheerleader for Israel. Most Israelis understand this simple fact. By ignoring the true interests of the Israeli people in order to score cheap campaign points, Romney is not only showing his lack of mastery of the complex art of diplomacy, but also putting his immediate personal needs ahead of Israel. Jewish voters should not be fooled.
So far, the most under-reported story of Romney's latest international tour is his shameless fund-raising on foreign soil yet the press reported his ability to raise millions from foreigners in the most nonchalant way. Is is not enough that the Citizen's United Supreme Court decision opened the floodgates of money pouring into our elections? The Supreme Court declared that corporations are equivalent to people and as citizens have the right to donate money to influence elections, in unlimited ways and in secret. That is a travesty that the Congress is trying to address, but since when is it OK for foreign interests – big foreign interests – to participate in our elections with cash? Where is the outrage from the people who are trying to make voting in elections as difficult as possible in order to prevent foreigners from voting? I think everybody agrees that foreigners voting in our elections is a no-no, but how about foreigners giving cash to presidential candidates? Are we so blasé and cynical that raising millions in foreign cash hardly raises an eyebrow? If a handful of illegal immigrants voting in our elections is supposedly a travesty so terrible that we are willing to thwart thousands of American citizens from voting in order to prevent that possibility, how can we ignore millions in foreign cash finding its way to political candidates? I am reasonably confidant that Romney broke no laws when he collected millions from foreigners. I don't believe Romney is careless enough to openly break such a law were it to exist. But, one might ask, how is it possible that foreigners can legally influence our elections with cash and what does this say about a candidate willing to take large sums from foreigners?
Romney supporters like to say that his trip abroad was a resounding success. I guess it all depends on what his goals were. Based on the results, we can be confident in assuming that foreign policy was not his main priority.



Link to C-SPAN for debate archives and more.


          The Dysfunction Myth   

Democracy is not pretty to look at. It's messy. It was always messy from the very formation of the United States. The Founding Fathers argued about everything but ended up with great compromises like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
And now we have the Affordable Care Act, a badly needed beginning of healthcare reform almost one hundred years in the making.
Underscoring this historical moment is the myth of American dysfunctionality. Every major accomplishment has been fought tooth and nail and that is when statesmen step up to the plate. Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt, JFK, and LBJ were among the many who moved the ball forward. Too early to say about Obama, but in the case of healthcare reform the statesman this time around is Chief Justice John Roberts.
Chief Justice John Roberts
Roberts confounded everybody. The Liberals thought he was a lost cause, a hopeless partisan in the same league as the most partisan Justice on the Supreme Court, Antonin Scalia. But the Liberals were wrong. When Roberts famously said, “My job is to call balls and strikes and not to pitch or bat,” many Liberals did not really believe him. Since he was appointed by a Republican President, the nefarious George W., it was feared he was bound to be another partisan judge like Scalia, Alito, and Thomas. But something mysterious usually happens on the way to powerful positions. People become more realistic and more importantly, more responsible. It is one thing to be on the outside, throwing rocks; it is another thing to accept a position of great responsibility and have the fate of one's fellow citizens in one's hands.
Conservatives also got Roberts wrong, much like they did Earl Warren. Conservatives thought that Roberts was going to be a “team player” and play for their team regardless of what was in the interest of the Nation. But Roberts surprised the Conservatives too. We may never know what Roberts' personal view of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is, but that does not matter because he correctly understood that his job is to find a way to validate the will of Congress and the President.

America has much to celebrate. Not only has healthcare 
taken a big step forward, but the political system 
has been proven to work as the Founders intended.

Predictably, the right-wing noise machine is going to go into overdrive and badmouth Justice Roberts. They will call him traitor and worse. There will undoubtedly be calls for his impeachment from the Tea Party types and their sycophants. These extreme ideologues claim to be patriots but do not really understand how our country works, how democracy works, or even what the meaning of the Constitution is. Then there will be the inevitable conspiracy theories, casting Roberts as a stooge or an evil genius. There will be much cynicism spread because so many of us cannot believe that honorable men still exist.
America has much to celebrate. Not only has healthcare taken a big step forward, but the political system has been proven to work as the Founders intended. Justice Roberts showed us all that he has a deep understanding of American history, that he understands the great responsibility that comes with being Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, that it is not a trivial job for trivial people. That he, along with the President, does not have the luxury of letting his emotions get the better of him. That he is not part of some ideological “side” which if it doesn't get its way will stamp its feet like a three-year old. No, Roberts showed us that along with Obama, he was one of the few adults in the room and rose to the occasion.
This is the stuff of history! It is not the time to play a sleazy game to get a great headline in the Drudge Report or praise from the professional bloviators. This is America at its finest, when people from different backgrounds, different philosophies come together for the benefit of all of the American people. It is so rare these days that too many people will miss it, which is why it deserves a special mention.
And, to paraphrase the great Mark Twain, “Reports of the death of American democracy are greatly exaggerated.”



Link to C-SPAN for debate archives and more.


          Vigilante Justice   
Still from the Oxbow Incident
This is the first time in the history of this blog that I present an entire movie for people to watch. But the Oxbow Incident is not just another movie. Nor is it just another western. This movie does the best single job of explaining where America's dark history with vigilantism comes from. It is rooted in the “wild” West and is a product of an immature nation which in those days had a less than effective system of justice. Policemen were rare if existent at all and in small towns in the West, the law, or what passed itself for law, was typically in the hands of a sheriff who was either corrupt or hopelessly out gunned. Sheriffs had precious few resources at their disposal, and the itinerant judges that meted out justice led to the phrase “kangaroo court” which referred to judges hopping from case to case in an effort to dispense quick justice so they could make as much money as possible.
The law, if you want to call it that was basically in the hands of the public, and usually the loudest and most aggressive segment of the populace. The Oxbow Incident illustrates that in glorious detail. This 1943 classic is all you need to know about the sad history of vigilantism in America. That is the power of great art. The Oxbow Incident illustrates the issue of citizen policing in the same effective manner as the Grapes of Wrath did the plight of the Depression era families. And it is no coincidence that the great Henry Fonda was the lead actor in both of these films. This is American film at its best – unafraid to expose the shortcomings of our great nation. Only great nations have the self-confidence for self-examination and self-criticism.
That is why examining the Florida law that permitted George Zimmerman, a self-appointed “neighborhood watchman” to gun down Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager, is important. We need as a culture to take a very hard look at the “stand your ground” law that permits people to auto-define when murder is an appropriate course of action. This incident, instead of being a “teachable moment” where we should be examining our culture, has turned into another shouting match between liberals and conservatives. There is really nothing inherently liberal or conservative about the killing of a teenage boy, but we as a country have been stuck in this paradigm too long and now we have a hard time getting out of it.
Only great nations have the self-confidence for 
self-examination and self-criticism.
Trayvon Martin
Nobody has a full command of the facts in this case, as in the very relevant and still timely story of the Oxbow Incident. We all project our fears and hopes into what should be exclusively a law enforcement matter and not a political free-for-all. In this case, we have all become vigilantes. The Martin supporters and the Zimmerman supporters are engaged in a battle royale which sheds more heat than light. The police chief whose duty it is to investigate the case steps aside, unwilling or unable to conduct a credible investigation. All manner of celebrities go on TV pontificating as if they had any clue what happened. So this sad affair has become about a wannabe vigilante who is now the object of other vigilantes.
George Zimmerman
Justice? Hardly. Just another circus in town and the 24/7 media is eating this up. Opinion upon opinion and opinions about opinions, And yes, I guess I'm piling on as well.
My opinion, however, deals with how are we going to continue self government when everything becomes a shouting match and facts be damned? The Oxbow Incident is a stark reminder about where our sense of “popular justice” comes from. Justice by acclamation. Justice for those who shout the loudest.
This is what our public square has turned into. Who cares about facts anymore? We just want to be “heard.” The Tea Party folks want to be “heard.” Minorities want to be “heard.” Everyone wants to be heard so much that facts are relegated to minor props in this soap opera.
Remember when the Clinton campaign postulated it was all about the “economy, stupid?” Perhaps we should all be ready to say, “It's about the facts, stupid.”

Post Script: I take on the taboo subject of the Second Amendment on Salon




          The McConnell microcosm: why it’s hard to change the Beltway    

Kentucky's Republican senator Mitch McConnell has come out strongly against proposed climate change legislation at a time when real progress on the issue in Congress seems probable. In a piece written for The Hill he argues that:

Now is the time to be considering, and approving, legislation that would allow Americans to increase energy production within our own borders, and to accelerate the process of moving to clean nuclear energy. Now is the time to do something about $4.00 a gallon gasoline, not something that would cost us $6.00 a gallon gas down the road.

McConnell’s objections are interesting not only because they appeal to populist resentment about gas prices and job-losses, but because as an Appalachian Republican senator up for re-election, McConnell must grapple with the many new challenges facing American lawmakers as they seek to act on this issue.

Despite proclaiming himself the "godfather of green", McConnell has a lifetime score of 7% with the league of conservation voters. He favours building new coal gasification plants in Kentucky, in the face of the significant depletion of coal resources in the region and the severe carbon consequences of continuing to use coal-fired power. It also happens that there are some rather nasty environmental side-effects that come with "Mountaintop removal" - a technique often employed now for the discovery of remaining coal in Kentucky - namely the destruction of ancient hard-wood forests which also act as carbon sinks.

McConnell rightly fears the loss of coal industry jobs and the support of energy companies which have been major political financiers in the region. He is also struggling to outline a specifically conservative position on an issue which southern Republican senators have safely ignored in the past.

It will be interesting to see how successful he is in fostering populist resentment about climate legislation and whether this boosts his chances of re-election in the face of an incoming Democratic congressional tide. Climate change has seemingly come of age as a political issue and is likely to shape the 2008 election in unexpected ways.


          Oliver Letwin becomes first senior Conservative to call for tax increases in order to ease 'strain' on public services   
'People were much more concerned than they had been at the previous two elections about spending on schools, spending on health, spending on social care'
          Preoccupied   
Am I the only one who has noticed how effeminate that pastor is - the one who said that Mormonism is a cult and then went on to throw his arms out toward Rick Perry in a gesture that must have been the envy of drag queens everywhere.  I am guessing we are just about one lacy ruffle from our next clergyman scandal; I only hope drugs are involved.  It's just more fun that way.
I listen less and less either to the news or to any of the talking heads, but there are a few things I have noticed lately from the little I have seen.  One is that those who are not raging against the Occupy Wall Street folks with small flecks of foam flying from their lips, are nonetheless baffled at what it is, exactly, that "those people" want.  I have also heard comments that ranged from gleeful gotcha-type snark to rueful bafflement as to why these folks who "can't be that poor" because they have iPhones or iPads (or both) seem to have so little resentment of Steve Jobs since they are "against the wealthy".  
It is clear to me that first of all, the idea that they are against not the wealthy per se, but rather against those wealthy people who have not earned their wealth, or those who use their wealth to unfair advantage.  Steve Jobs is eminently not among those.  Old Habakkuk said it well in his own little book of the bible: "Woe to him who builds his house by unjust gain".  Looks like Habakkuk had more going for him than a cool name.
In general there is now, as there always has been in the USA, three things going on.  There is the legitimate disagreement about social issues - the place of religion, abortion, gay rights, marriage, parental rights and responsibilities, crime and punishment, gun issues, the role of schools and so forth.  Secondly, there is the issue of spending - how much and whence the money to pay for it, and on what to spend public money.  These are two separate issues - fiscal and social - which are constantly being conflated so that many people who have strong feelings about social or 'moral' issues find themselves willingly or otherwise, allying themselves with people who have a particular stance on the spending issue, and vice versa.  Anyone who is socially liberal but fiscally conservative or socially conservative but fiscally liberal is reviled as a moderate, a fraud, or what have you.  Many people who feel strongly about social issues but less so on fiscal issues, or those who feel the reverse, must actually become frauds to be heard or elected by espousing strong positions they do not actually care about as much, in areas they find secondary in their beliefs about how to 'fix things'.  
As I said there are three, not two, things going on all the time.  The third thing is the growing power of those who win either way and who make every effort to keep the public focussed on emotional issues and acrimonious debate: the gotcha commentary, the 'assault' upon 'our rights' or upon the poor or upon those who 'earn their money and don't go looking for a handout' or the decline of the middle class or whatever resonant phraseology is current.  If every single congressman and senator were replaced by his or her chief opponent in the coming election, the effect would be miniscule.  There is no difference, really, between George Soros' political spending and that of the Koch brothers.  
In the antebellum South a small group of landowners oppressed both the poorer whites and the enslaved black population.  After the Civil War, this group - with a few desertions by leaders who fell from power and a few additions from both Southern and Carpetbagging Northern opportunists - pivoted smoothly into the Jim Crow era, where the poor whites were kept in line by threats of what would happen if blacks got rights and the blacks, poor or otherwise, were kept in line by what they had to lose from the little they had if the 'poor white trash' gained control.  The degree to which the poor whites had some awareness of their lack of real commonality with the aristocracy is reflected by the number of poorer mountain folk from slave-holding states who chose to join the Union army - there were rather a lot of these.  In Virginia, the poor mountain people seceded from the Secession majority in the state and formed the state of West Virginia, which remained with the North.  The passionate hatred between the "white trash" and the blacks was subtly stoked by those few who profitted either way; these poorer folk found themselves consistently supporting the lesser of two evils, as indeed we all find ourselves doing today with almost every vote we cast.  The problem is that the lesser of two evils is increasingly not all that much different from having to decide whether you'd prefer to be murdered by a serial killer or by a guy who just lost his head that one time.  Hmm; still dead.
It matters who wins an election in regard to the outcome of social issues, in regard to fiscal issues it matters somewhat also, in terms of where the money will come from and where it will go - although things will be far more the same, no matter who wins - than the rhetoric implies. However, it makes much less difference - almost none - in terms of how much money will be at issue.  In order to support our social beliefs we are sadly forced to accept the status quo politically and fiscally.  People who vote Democratic lose, people who vote Republican lose, and people who proudly proclaim that they never vote because it makes no difference lose.  
There is only one thing that would make any difference. It is something that the wealthy government officials - which includes every Justice on the Supreme Court, all the decision makers in the White House and Cabinet and all of the Congress - (although a few of the newer Congressmen may not be wealthy yet, their future wealth is guaranteed by their ability to slide smoothly into lobbyist firms or to start charging four, five or even six figures for a single hour of speaking at various venues for the rest of their life).  And that one thing is to add an amendment to the constitution divorcing the idea of spending unlimited money from the right of free speech.  There is no seat in Congress that isn't beholden to some wealthy person(s) or other.  None.  We all know this.  These wealthy few may be disguise themselves as interest groups or PACs or charities or any number of things, but in the end the money comes from people who had money to spare.  It is obscene how much it costs to run for office, and how much time most office seekers and office holders must spend seeking funds.  So much time is spent thusly that even the most conscientious of men or women must leave their research or decision making to a staff that has been largely chosen on an ideological basis or to a friendly lobbyist who will help him or her out by writing the legislation which he or she is to present or vote on.  
There will always be crooks in government but increasingly everybody is forced, by the cost of running for office and of countering expensive misinformation campaigns, into compromising independence and integrity if not into flat out dishonesty.  Whether it is hope and change or 9-9-9, no candidate for President will ever deliver, because Presidents do not make law, Congress does; and Congress won't because no Congressman is entirely free of indebtedness to the wealthy, and by wealthy, I am not talking of those who have five or ten million socked away, I mean those few families wealthy enough to buy a state.  Term limits don't help because two crooks are not better than one.  Campaign reform laws are useless, even in the rare case where they are meaningful, because the wholly-owned Supreme Court routinely overturns any real reform.  The one hope is a Constitutional amendment, because (so far) even the Court cannot declare an amendment unconstitutional. Unfortunately no amendment can be passed because the legislatures which would have to ratify it consist of men and women who are also beholden to the same wealthy few.  
What the Occupy Wall Street people are reacting to is the complete powerlessness of most of us to get out of this awful bind.  One of the last times such an all-powerful establishment was truly reformed a guillotine was involved.  The longer reform is suppressed, the more cataclysmic the reform will eventually be.  That is the way it has always been. 
It is not envy of the wealthy that is fueling this latest protest.  As I said, I have heard of few who begrudge the wealth of Steve Jobs, or Bill Gates, or any of the others who actually DID something to earn what they have.  It is the CEOs who get seven, eight or nine-figure bonuses and payouts when they ran their firms into the ground, or wealthy people who are using money they never earned to demonize poor people for using, or trying to use, wealth they never earned - i. e. welfare.  People who do nothing but live well off the money some ancestor made should not be so quick to castigate people who receive medical care they cannot actually afford.  It is disheartening that those who rob a bank of billions are all over the society pages while those who rob the same bank of a couple of hundred dollars are, if caught, doing hard time.  
Poor people are notorious for not bothering to vote, but for whom should they vote?  They should, perhaps, run themselves, but they'd only be spending money to do so that they don't have or can't spare - and if they raise the funds to run, they will be raising them from rich or at least richer people, and then here we are: back at square one.   
I don't expect any improvement; I think it quite possible that we have passed the point where real reform can occur.  But I shall be watching the protest movement with great interest.
By the way, the Blogger KING OF NEW YORK HACKS has talked to a lot of different folks in the Occupying crowd and has published some excellent pictures and commentary showing who's there.

          Wilt Thou...?   
I am actually seated at my computer a little earlier today than usual.  I have fallen into the habit of watching Morning Joe which seems less polemic and a bit more even-handed than other cable shows which deal with politics.  I cannot stand bumptious rhetoric whether or not I agree with the speaker.  I want to hear right wing pundits who will admit that Obama does some things well, and left wing pundits who admit that there is merit in the argument that there are some beneficial programs that we cannot afford, or that conservatives are not just a bunch of crazy people.  I usually complete my morning TV viewing with a bit of the Live show with Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa – or more than a bit of it, if the guests look like people I want to hear from.  But this morning, there was a guest host in Regis’ place and after a bit of badinage, we were forced to see a video of this man’s marriage proposal.

This trend toward choreographed and over-the-top marriage proposals is one more sign to me of the trivialization of marriage, and of pretty much everything else.  Whenever I see a public wedding proposal, I always know that the lady to whom it is aimed would be wise to respond with a resounding, “NO!”  A public proposal is manipulative and the men who make them are precisely the kind of man who can and will manipulate friends and family of a woman who is fleeing an abusive situation into disclosing her whereabouts because he is SO sorry and loves her SO much and will never, ever do it again.  These women are being placed in a position where saying anything except a happy and thrilled, “Oh, yes! will publicly humiliate the would-be groom.  Despite this being exactly what he deserves for placing her in this position, one assumes that she feels some affection for the poor jerk and doesn’t want to add humiliation to an already hurtful response, if her wish is to refuse or to request more time as a dating couple.  These proposals are acts of aggression and I think the smart woman will recognize that.   It might ease the lady’s conscience were she to reflect that in these situations, she is not the focus, HE is.  In these self-absorbed times, this alone should be enough to give her pause: "What?  This is not all about me?". 

A columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle during the 70s whom I liked very much named Charles McCabe once wrote that those who can write great love letters are not capable of great love.  I have often thought about this, and I am inclined to agree, although I suppose there could be exceptions.  A truly great love letter in my mind would not be one which trumpeted great sentiments in beautiful language, but a simple one which spoke in words that meant a great deal only to the recipient.   Similarly, is there someone in your circle who constantly takes pictures of every event to which he or she is invited?  Regardless of how valued these pictures may be later, isn’t it also true that this person is never really participating in these events, but is far more consumed with recording them?   One reason I have much valued and long-lasting friends of whom I now have not a single photograph is that I just cannot step outside happy moments and record them on a camera, and I confess a frisson of irritation passes through me toward those who do so.  It makes everything seem not real for that moment, but just a performance.  Although I own a camera, I rarely take any pictures with it, and on my three or four week trip to my niece’s wedding on the train, a trip that seguéed into Thanksgiving with my best friend, I took exactly two photos, both of a lake that the train passed by in the Sierra Nevada Mountains (which I took mostly because the some announcer on the train suggested we passengers might like to do so) and I have never looked at these photographs since, nor do believe I ever will bother to do so.  If I do see them again, they will mean nothing to me at all. 

I am, as usual, straying from my point, which is, insofar as I have a point, that we are moving toward aggrandizing events and rituals at the expense of actually experiencing the human transaction that is taking place.  Call me a Romantic, but I think that when two people love each other enough to marry, it should almost go without saying that the marriage will take place.  I don’t recall Tumwell and me talking about IF we’d move in together, but only where we’d move (we each had room mates) and how soon we could do it.   Now that marriage seems to be just a phase in a life of serial monogamy, or a right to be demanded or defended, all the little rituals seem to have metastasized.  It is so often all bark and no bite, smoke without fire.

I have never placed any value on someone making any special effort – or even noticing the date – for St. Valentine’s Day.  (Does anyone even acknowledge that it is the feast day of a Catholic saint – one who is probably as fictional as most of them?)  And I have cherished forever those little impulsive gifts or gestures that come now and then just because someone has seen something and thought of me.   I think that part of any pre-nuptial agreement should be a clause specifying who will get the wedding album.   My suggestion is that it go to the one who doesn’t get custody of the kids; this will accord nicely with the current feel-good sentiment in children’s competitions that the loser should also get a trophy.   This is a great concept when we are speaking of the Special Olympics – but the benefit of everyone getting a trophy is doubtful when the people involved are not “special” in the sense implied by the term 'Special Olympics'.  People of average intelligence or better know when they have lost, however much we pretend otherwise – and they should.  It is called “learning” – a concept that has long since departed from anything that we currently term “Education.”

In general people do not think to insist they are telling the truth if, in fact, they are, because it doesn’t occur to people stating a fact that this fact is in question.  I have never felt any pressure to make an official show of love toward those whom I actually love, because I am pretty sure we both know it.  I need no public demonstration or concrete proofs from those who love me.  If I doubt anyone’s sincerity, a public performance will not do anything but increase my doubt.  When someone says, “I’ll be perfectly honest with you,” my one sure belief is that he won’t be. 

While I am on the topic of overdone and relatively insincere ritualization of life’s little ups and down, I wish to ask the question, why is a wedding day so often referred to as “her day” or “her special day”?  Isn’t the event supposed to be a union of two people?  Just thought I’d ask.  

OK, now I am done.

          Starting all over again ~ Fresh start to the rest of your life.   
Not all marriages last forever. Reason being that not everyone marries out of love. Some marry because they were forced out of some circumstances which they found themselves in.

Some marry out of pity. Some marry because they were indebted to the family of the husband or the wife. Some were duped into marrying on false promises.

Staying married but not in love:

Couples who live together but not in love do so for the sake of their children if they have them. Each would swallow whatever heartache and misery they were going through in a loveless forced union just for the children's interests.

If such a union was to be symbolised, you could equate it to a leaking boat caught in a doldrum waiting for a sudden tempest to break loose out there in the dark stormy ocean of marital chaos.

Reason for Depression:

Either way you are going down into the deep, dark depths of doom and gloom of the broken human heart. Depression and despair can overcome even the brightest of personalities and the smartest individuals that ever lived.

Unless.. just unless the couple breaking apart have it in them to stay afloat, rising from the gloomy depths of heartbreaking day to day conflicts and confrontations that eventually does take place between the two that finally drives the wedge through the union rendering it apart!

Not everyone has it in them to survive a breakup, separation and eventual divorce. 

Unless one has some stash of reserve spirit to be used in times of the most devastating calamities such as the moment one has no choice but to pull the plug, a divorce can knock the wind out of you and that dear brothers and sisters has in many cases driven quite a number of persons to take their own life.

Driven to suicide:

Commit that irreversible act of ending their existence here on Earth by choice. End it all. To hell with it. They lost hope. So be it. 

Depending on the weakness or strength of conviction of the person's sense of awareness of his or her religious beliefs, taking their own life has been the choice of the disillusioned few. 

Luckily for those of us who are Muslims, Islam strongly forbids suicide and anyone who does so will go straight to hell. No if's or but's about it. 

Surah An Nisa Chapter 4 Verse 29, Al Quran Al Karim:


And do not kill yourselves [or one another]. Indeed, Allah is to you ever Merciful.

I know it is easy for me to say so because maybe I am a tough cookie and quite weathered over the years having gone through the 'School of Hard Knocks' and in a way graduated from the 'University of Life'.

Not everyone has it in him or herself to be able to weather the storms that life throws at you. Even those whom we all thought were quite successful in their careers and life at times have taken the easy way out by ending their life.

Example: 

 A case in point is the suicide of actor comedian superstar Robin Williams. He had everything that anyone can wish for but he wasn't happy in his life. 

He was the world's best comedian and we all enjoyed his amazing ability to liven up every show, event or movie that he starred in. Little did anyone know how miserable he was inside until he was found after having choked himself to death!

Way out:

Whether you like it or not, the only way out is Divorce.

You get a chance to start afresh albeit you might have to give up all your hard-earned wealth or title rights to jointly acquired properties or real estate.



You may even lose your rights to your children [if they are under-aged] because the Divorce courts always grants the mother custodial rights over you.

Except in special cases where the children might be in danger IF the mother is a drug addict, convicted felon, psychiatric patient, mentally disturbed, etcetera.

Thus, it does require you to give up on what you own and maybe your rights to your own flesh and blood ~ your children but for the sake of you to get a chance to live in peace and remain sane, sometimes you just have to bite the bullet so to speak and get out of that hellish marriage in order to be able to be free once again.
There is no other way. Divorce is at times better than to be bogged down in a loveless marriage full of strife and mayhem. 

Yes, you lose your children but the fact remains that they will forever be your own flesh and blood is irrefutable. See to it that their welfare is taken care of by surrendering whatever earthly material @ sustenance that you can afford to provide for their upkeep and maintenance is given to them.

It is true that they will miss out on your being there to love and care for them. It is true that they will not have you to comfort them and give them your fatherly support unlike their friends whose parents were not separated and were living in peace together in matrimony.

No one likes to be forced to leave their children but if it is the only way out for the father to remain sane and alive, then that is the sacrifice that they have to do.

The hurt is felt by both the father and the children but there is no other way to escape the situation where quarrels and fights take place almost daily or every other day due to the incompatibility between the unhappy couple.

Estrangement is the subsequent situation that comes into being as a result of the divorce but eventually the children will grow up and turn into adults themselves and maybe..just maybe they will have it in them to understand why their father was forced to leave them?

Nothing is more precious to a divorced parent than to have his children forgive and understand him for having to leave them but if he didn't, maybe they would have lost him forever for he might be forced to end his life and leave this life forever.

Islam forbids suicide but there have been cases where even Muslims chose to call it quits and do the unthinkable because they did not have the commonsense to end their unhappy marriage and start all over again..albeit lose their hard gained earthly material possessions and beloved children just so that they can start life all over again.

To those to whom this article might concern, do know that your father loves you forever and that he did so in order that he might get a second chance to live in peace and tranquility. He has suffered enough. 

Give him a chance to spend the remaining moments of his life with a better more understanding wife than having to suffer to his last breath with someone who doesn't appreciate him despite all that he had done for the family.



He deserves that.  


          They Brought This on Themselves   
Leftists have created their own abortion nightmare. They can whine all they want to about the eeeeevil pro-life movement and those aaaaawful conservatives, but the truth is that the Stupak amendment was only made possible by the liberal obsession with government-run health care. Consider this, Planned Parenthood and NARAL: Under any of the various Republican […]
          The Blueprint   
If you’re a regular reader of the blog, you’ve read my rants about how I hate reading political books. I promised myself I wouldn’t rant about how awful all political books are (as I did plenty here and here). But Ken Blackwell and Ken Klukowski’s book The Blueprint: Obama’s Plan to Subvert the Constitution and Build an Imperial Presidency got me riled again. Another rant is forthcoming, and you are warned.

Like I’ve said before, I am on the liberal end of the political spectrum. However, I have plenty of friends and relatives who are conservative, and I like to think that reading books like The Blueprint will give me some insight into these friends and relatives viewpoints. I know that these books won’t change my mind or my political slant, but its always good to be exposed to multiple viewpoints. Unfortunately, political books are really terrible way to get reasonable arguments (and I mean political books written by both conservatives and liberals). In these books, authors will manipulate facts and quotations to serve their argument. These authors will demonize their opponents and discredit any point-of-view that doesn’t match their own. It’s awful. Usually, though, these tactics will ease in: the hatred will build up as the book continues. With The Blueprint, though, it began on page two. And I knew it was going to be a painful read.

In The Blueprint Blackwell and Klukowski (or “The Kens,” as I like to think of them) argue that President Barack Obama is manipulating (and ignoring) the constitution to build more power for his party and himself. Separated into eight chapters—the subjects of which range from the appointment of czars to gun control to the bias of the media—The Kens lay out a string of actions Obama has taken (or will take) to grab as much power as he can.

One of the things that bothered me most about The Blueprint was its hypocrisy. Many of Obama’s actions that Blackwell and Klukowski had problems with were things conservative presidents had done in the past (and will do in the future). Take, for example, their complaint that Obama will have the opportunity to appoint multiple justices to the Supreme Court, and that the justices he appoints will be liberal. Of course they will be liberal. Just as the three justices appointed by President Ronald Reagan, two justices appointed by President George HW Bush, and two justices appointed by President George W Bush were conservative. It’s just how the system works. Would it be better if presidents selected moderate appointees rather than those that match their political party? Probably, but that’s not what happens.

What was the worst, though, were the offensive, borderline-hateful statements the authors occasionally made. Things like the insistence that illegal aliens must always be referred to as such (and never “illegal immigrants,” or “undocumented workers”) or that schools that acknowledge homosexuality are “toxic learning environments.” There were multiple times I found myself wanting to rip the pages of the book, and it was a library book! (Since I am a year away from becoming a librarian, understand the gravity of that statement).

I could go on listing my problems with The Blueprint (like how any book attempting to be serious should never compare the President-- any president-- to Emperor Palpatine), but enough is enough. It gets a 1/5.

Watch Jon Stewart's interview with Ken Blackwell

Buy the Book

          CONSERVATIVE MP MICHAEL GOVE AND CHRIS PEARSON PAYS US A VISIT   
MP Michael Gove and the Halifax Conservatives including Chris Pearson paid us a visit to see all the hard work Mick and the team are doing at the club and the new Gym Facilities.
          A Season of Change?   

Barry,

You?   One of "Satan's imps" ???    No way.  More like a....witty, fearless - yet misguided - member of the Religious Left. 

Barry, no one is trying to redefine those precious terms of "liberty" and "freedom."  Why is it when conservative Americans step forward and express concerns about the direction the country is taking - demanding more family-friendly and pro-life policies - there's a rush by you and others to marginalize...

Read the full post here »

The post A Season of Change? appeared first on Lynn v. Sekulow.


          Wrong Move: Obama's Liberal Agenda   

Following Obama during the New Hampshire primary, I saw a candidate who -- though I disagreed with him on many issues -- defended idealism and rhetoric against the supremely cynical Clinton machine, who brought a religious sensibility to matters of social justice, who took care to understand and accommodate the arguments of others, who provided a temperamental contrast to culture war politics.

After just weeks of governing, that image seems like a brittle, yellowed photograph, buried at the back of a drawer.

Obama's proposed budget shows all the vision, restraint and grace of a grasping committee chairman, using the cover of a still-unresolved banking crisis to push through a broad liberal wish list before anyone notices its costs and complications. The pledge of "responsibility" has become the massive expansion of debt, the constant allocation of blame to others and the childish cultivation of controversy with conservative media figures to favorably polarize the electorate. The pledge of "honesty" and "sacrifice" has become the deceptive guarantee of apparently limitless public benefits at the expense of a very few. The pledge of "bipartisan" cooperation has become an attempt to shove Republicans until their backs reach some wall of outrage and humiliation.

None of this is new or exceptional -- which is the point. It is exactly the way things have always been done.

Obama's stem cell decision was worse, because it is a thing that has never been done before. "Obama," explains Yuval Levin of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, "is willfully ignoring the moral complexity of the subject. He says he understands the views of his opponents, but he never addresses or answers them. He seems to have adopted the premise that the stem cell debate presents a choice between science and ignorance, when in fact the debate requires the kind of weighing of competing goods which we elect presidents to contend with."

Obama's approach is ethically simplistic -- the kind of argument that gets nods at a fashionable cocktail party instead of engaging and respecting serious disagreement.

One tragedy of these polarizing moves is that they obscure elements of Obama's agenda that deserve praise and support. It makes perfect moral and economic sense to expand child nutrition programs, ensuring that low-income children get breakfast and lunch during a time of economic stress. Also, to expand rental assistance to low-income families. To fully fund the Second Chance Act, which helps ex-prisoners reintegrate into society. To increase funding for domestic AIDS treatment, especially in African-American and Latino communities. To make the child tax credit at least partially refundable. To limit farm subsidies that distort global food markets and hurt the poor. To provide additional support to strained food banks. To make the saver's credit refundable, encouraging low-income Americans to build assets. To maintain life-saving commitments promoting global health and development.

These should be common-ground issues in our politics -- safe havens on the ideological battlefield and sources of genuine consensus. But these issues have been roundly ignored during the ideological death match Obama has encouraged -- a partisan struggle that has made congressional Republicans less likely to support his best initiatives. Obama's overall budget is praised by economist Robert Reich as driving "a nail in the coffin of Reaganomics." Republicans attack the budget for the same reason. And both are correct in their analysis. It is not a sign of post-partisanship when liberals swoon and conservatives seethe for exactly the same reason. It is a sign that our differences have been exploited and deepened.

Some relish this kind of politics. But the false dawn of post-partisanship is no reason for celebration. Ideological war creates an atmosphere in which the angry predominate -- and it can cause anger to rise unbidden within all of us. While in government, I saw the persistent, moaning critics outside the window. Now I have dug my tunnel and joined them. It is not where I want to be -- or where American politics might have been.


          GOP at the Abyss   

First, it is conceivable that conservatives are hyperventilating, as they did in 1993. President Clinton's budget, which included tax hikes, was attacked by Republicans as "grossly, totally, completely irresponsible." Conservatives warned of large job losses. But whatever Clinton's eventual problems, they were not economic. When monetary policy is responsible and federal spending restraint is credible, a continental economy can roll through many obstacles, including a moderate rise in tax rates.

"It's not smart to say this economy can't recover," says economist and author David Smick. If the pipe of credit is somehow unclogged, the Federal Reserve has provided plenty of money for a quick recovery. Americans will eventually need to buy houses or cars again.

Clearly this is what President Obama hopes and expects. It would probably solidify eight years of political dominance. But there is one problem. The markets do not appear to find his economic approach remotely credible. "What we are seeing," says Smick, "is $3 trillion in revenues for $4 trillion in spending. An honest budget? Give me a break." Even more importantly, the markets have little confidence in the administration's sketchy bank bailout plan. It has been the largest, early mistake of the Obama presidency to focus on expensive reforms of health and energy before convincing markets that the financial sector will be fixed -- the achievement on which all else depends.

The second conservative future might be vindication. Even if the banking system returns quickly to solvency, President Obama is proposing an unprecedented accumulation of debt -- just as other countries, to stimulate their economies, are doing the same. Given this glut of global debt, America will have to beg China, Japan and others to buy American bonds. There will also be a strong temptation to print money to buy the debt ourselves, leading to inflation.

Obama can, for a while, blame the financial crisis on the policies of the past. But a stagflation scenario -- combining slow growth with higher prices -- would be an achievement all his own, putting him more in the political category of Jimmy Carter than Clinton. Already the prospect of immense debt is spooking Democratic centrists. It has also begun reuniting the coalition of libertarians and social conservatives that Obama nearly sundered during the last election. As a compassionate conservative, I support focused, effective spending to help the poor at home and abroad. But as a conservative, I cannot support an explosion of debt and the reorganization of large sectors of the economy by federal planners.

There is a third possible future that conservatives do not want to consider. We could be seeing a much more fundamental ideological trauma -- something that enters the realm of psychology, not economics. Franklin Roosevelt used the shocks of the 1930s to discredit the capitalism of the 1920s -- even though the real causes for the Great Depression had more to do with tariffs, monetary policy and bank failures. Conservative economics fell into disrepute, even as many New Deal policies proved ineffective. Republican elected leaders became less-ambitious reflections of the Roosevelt consensus. Intellectual dissent was captured by extremists, from Ayn Rand to the John Birch Society. It took 40 years for the development of an intellectually serious and politically respectable conservative movement.

Are conservatives, once again, heading into the ideological wilderness? I strongly doubt it. The historical analogy to the Great Depression (so far) is strained. In that crisis, unemployment rose to 25 percent, a third of banks failed, GDP contracted by more than 30 percent and the social safety net did not exist. America is a much wealthier nation than it was in 1929, bank deposits are safe, and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, an expert on the 1930s, is expanding the money supply, not contracting it.

Obama is not likely to be a Roosevelt. But conservatives remain in a difficult position. Since they favor economic success, they must root for Obama to be a Clinton -- even as they suspect and predict he will be a Carter.


          A Week of Revelation   

On domestic policy, the revelation was different. Candidate Obama was a tonal moderate -- a pragmatist determined to muddle the old divisions of blue and red into a pleasing, post-partisan purple. His mainstream economic appointments seemed to confirm this intention. His stimulus package and bank bailout proposals were expansive and expensive, but not ideologically radical.

And then the budget came -- ideologically ambitious, politically ruthless and radical to its core.

Obama chose a time of recession to propose a massive increase in progressivity -- a 10-year, trillion-dollar haul from the rich, already being punished by the stock market collapse and the housing market decline. This does not just involve undoing the Bush tax reductions but capping tax deductions to collect about $30 billion a year. Despite all the rhetoric of "responsibility" and shared sacrifice, the message of the Obama budget is clear: The wealthy are responsible for the economic mess and they will bear the entire sacrifice so that government can "invest" in the people.

But governments do not "invest," they spend. Such spending can be justified or unjustified. It is wealthy individuals, however, who actually invest their capital in job creation. Most have much less capital than they used to. Under the Obama budget, they would have less still. This does not seem to matter in the economic worldview of the Obama budget. Equality is the goal instead of opportunity or economic mobility. And government, in this approach, is more capable of investing national wealth than America's discredited plutocrats -- meaning successful two-income families, entrepreneurs and professionals.

This is not merely the rejection of "trickle-down economics," it is a weakening of the theoretical basis for capitalism -- that free individuals are generally more rational and efficient in making investment decisions than are government planners.

This ideological shift is also evident in Obama's treatment of charitable giving. The new budget seeks to raise billions for health reform by limiting the charitable deduction for the wealthy. This is a direct claim that the good done by government spending will be more important than the good done by the wealthy. But it is often wealthy people who make the large donations that sustain colleges, universities and teaching hospitals. If government is inherently superior at making such charitable choices in the public good, why not make our entire education and medical systems public? Which seems to be the goal.

As a practical matter, the promise of expensive, shared public goods entirely at the expense of the rich is a transparent deception. A good portion of the budget's spending reduction is illusory -- based on the phony assumption that Iraq and Afghanistan war outlays would have continued at similar levels in perpetuity. The budget's growth assumptions are not remotely realistic. It does little to address the crisis of unsustainable Social Security and Medicare obligations. And its $634 billion health care reform "fund" is merely a down payment -- perhaps a third of the future cost.

So who is going to eventually pay for this accelerating debt, temporarily held by the Chinese and others? As the national debt's percentage of GDP moves from about 40 percent to perhaps 70 percent, there will not be enough wealthy people left to bleed. Once the economy recovers, broad tax increases will be unavoidable. Or Obama's "once-in-a-generation chance" will actually involve the imposition of massive burdens on the next generation.

Conservatives hope Obama's overreach and Harry Reid's and Nancy Pelosi's arrogance will provoke a backlash -- leading markets to revolt, uniting the Republican base and causing doubts among fiscally conservative Democrats. But as an academic at Princeton recently reminded me, "It is only overreach if you fail."

In the meantime, we have learned some important things. On defense policy, the peace candidate is not a radical. On economic policy, the post-partisan could hardly be more partisan. Obama does not want to cultivate conservatives; he wants to crush them. And that is a revelation.


          The Jindal Phenomenon   

Some have compared Jindal to Obama, but the new president has always been more attracted to platitudes than to policy. Rush Limbaugh has anointed Jindal "the next Ronald Reagan." But Reagan enjoyed painting on a large ideological canvas. In person, Jindal's manner more closely resembles another recent president: Bill Clinton. Like Clinton (a fellow Rhodes Scholar), Jindal has the ability to overwhelm any topic with facts and thoughtful arguments -- displaying a mastery of detail that encourages confidence. Both speak of complex policy issues with the world-changing intensity of a late-night dorm room discussion.

In recent days, Jindal has displayed another leadership quality: ideological balance. He is highly critical of the economic theory of the stimulus package and turned down $98 million in temporary unemployment assistance to his state -- benefits that would have mandated increased business taxes in Louisiana. But unlike some Republican governors who engaged in broad anti-government grandstanding, Jindal accepted transportation funding and other resources from the stimulus -- displaying a program-by-program discrimination that will serve him well in public office. Jindal manages to hold to principle while seeing the angles.

While Clintonian in manner, knowledge and political sophistication, Jindal is not ideologically malleable. His high-pressure Asian-immigrant background has clearly taught him not to blend in but to stand out. He has tended to join small, beleaguered minorities -- such as the College Republicans at Brown University. He converted to a traditionalist Catholicism, in a nation where anti-Catholicism has been called "the last acceptable prejudice." Jindal, sometimes accused of excessive assimilation, has actually shown a restless, countercultural, intellectual independence.

But this has earned him some unexpected enthusiasm. In Louisiana, Jindal is the darling of evangelical and charismatic churches, where he often tells his conversion story. One Louisiana Republican official has commented, "People think of Bobby Jindal as one of us." Consider that a moment. In some of the most conservative Protestant communities, in one of the most conservative states in America, Piyush "Bobby" Jindal, a strong Catholic with parents from Punjab, is considered "one of us."

This is a large political achievement. It is also an indication of what has been called the "ecumenism of the trenches" -- the remarkable alliance between evangelicals and Catholics on moral issues such as abortion and family values against an aggressive secularism. Two or three hundred years ago, the Protestant/Catholic divide remained a source of violence. Two or three decades ago, many conservative Protestant churches questioned if Catholics were properly considered Christians. If Jindal runs for president in three or seven years, he will be widely viewed as an evangelical choice.

Ultimately, however, Jindal is a problem-solving wonk, fond of explaining 31-point policy plans (his state ethics reform proposal actually had 31 points). This can have disadvantages -- a lack of human connection and organizing vision. But this approach also has advantages. Jindal is a genuine policy innovator. "His reforms," says Yuval Levin of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, "are the only constructive thing Republicans are doing on health care anywhere."

And Jindal's resume, intellectual confidence and command of policy make him the anti-Palin. Fairly or unfairly, media and intellectual elites (including some conservative elites) regard Gov. Sarah Palin as the inhabitant of another cultural planet. Jindal, while also religious and conservative, speaks the language of the knowledge class and will not be easily caricatured or dismissed. To journalists, policy experts and Rhodes Scholars, Jindal is also "one of us."

At this point in the election cycle, no Republican can be considered more than the flavor of the month. But this is an appealing one.


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          TRADE #6: Send Something To The Space Station!   

Yes, you read the headline correctly. I just traded the Zero G Parabolic Flight to Jeff Manber of NanoRacks LLC for transport of an object to the space station! This has been a process that has taken me over a year to finally make happen, but it is well worth it. The story is amazing... so, here is goes.

As with everything on this project, I've tried to make the coolest move possible in every situation. Just thinking to myself, what would make the documentary of my life that much more interesting. Last spring I saw the work of a famous graffiti artist and thought "I have to trade with him."

I reached out and was super surprised that he responded to my e-mail, but unfortunately he wasn't interested in the Zero G Flight. But he said if I could get his artwork into space, he would trade me something incredible (can't disclose who he is, or what the trade might be just yet).

I knew I had to get his work into orbit and figured if I could find a satellite launch company, this could help me -- maybe the CEO would want to take a Zero G Flight in exchange for slapping some art on the side of a satellite? Problem was, I didn't even know where to begin to look.

I jokingly told my friend Adrian Winn, founder of FanGarden.com, "I need a space satellite launch company." To which he replied, "I don't know anyone with a launch company." I told him "just find me one!"

The next day I get a phone call and he says "ah, dude, I'm at this bar downtown and there is a guy here who says he can get you a satellite launch company."

Adrian ends up connecting me to this guy he randomly met who works with Near Earth, LLC - a company that invests exclusively in outer space projects. The Universe is a magical place.

I get on the phone with Ian Fichtenbaum from Near Earth and he says to me, "Satellite launch companies are hard to work with, they have lots of security, and are very conservative. But what if I do you one better?", "um, ok". "What if I get you access to The International Space Station?" "Ah.. that would be amazing." "Great, I've already spoken with Jeff Manber, CEO of NanoRacks, LLC and he loves the project and wants to help. His company is the only company in the world under contract to put payloads on the NASA Manifest to the ISS."

Of course, the ISS is actually the coolest satellite in the sky!

Amazing. I talked to Jeff Manber, who it turns out is an OG. Orbital Gangster that is. At one point Jeff's was part of a company that controlled the MIR Space Station. His current company focuses on sending educational projects to the International Space Station.

So, up for trade is the transportation of something* to the International Space Station. (*pending NASA approval -- this means, you have to work with NASA to make sure what you are sending is allowed.)

So far the specs I am told are that it needs to fit inside a 4" cube. It also should have some sort of educational tie-in as that tends to make NASA happy. But this is pretty awesome. I actually now am getting SOMETHING into outer space and onto the ISS!