Tuesday, June 29, 2004

All About the Hate II

A man's memory is a strange and independent force, resisting all efforts to be dismissed by both the cacaphonous events that demand our full attention in the moment, and the ever-looming concerns over the future. Despite such competition, your memory fights ceaselessly, and although at times it appears vanquished, it is never down for good.

In some cases, of course, this is a good thing, but in others not. The elder and wiser man would like to think that he is better for having abandoned the passion of feeling once felt for a certain person in his life, settling instead for a stable watered-down emotion that, even if less exciting, is at least more predictable. But his memory plays cruel tricks that undermine that conceit. He becomes like the manic depressent submitting to medication, and giving up the "highs" in exchange for not having to bear the "lows." But for some reason, he can't put the highs out of his head - out of his memory - they stay there fixed, while the lows seem to recede into the distance.

Sometimes it is as if all of this takes place without volition, as if every time the man's eyes shut for rest, the memory revises his picture of the past. But then something triggers him to recall these re-written memories, and though he trusts them, they are not worthy of it. It is almost like having read a book years ago, and re-reading it again in the present, only this time each page has been altered slightly in a way that does not alter the look or feel of any given page, but changes the whole meaning of the book, making it seem more significant.

And so it was that I was recently awakened to a particularly passionate feeling for someone from my youth. Having convinced myself that I preferred the mirror-like calm of the still lake over the towering waves of a turbulent sea, one simple event made me crave again for the crest of that youthful wave.

You tell yourself you can live without that intensity of feeling, but your memory makes a liar of you. With one image, scent, or forgotten song, all of the things that attracted your passion to that one person come flooding into your consciousness. And the pale substitutes for that intensity of feeling that you have chosen are revealed to you in their emptiness.

The book launch for Bill Clinton's My Life made me realize that I will never hate anybody with that same dedication I reserved for him from 1992 thru 2000. John Kerry can throw other people's medals over the White House fence and straddle every political fence from thereon, but I cannot muster the same degree of disgust. Al Gore can foam at the mouth in a pale imitation of Howard Dean, and I can barely frown. Ted Kennedy could tour the country lecturing on how to escape a car sinking into a river, and I would barely notice. I tell myself that I have used it all up, that I'll never hate this way again, but I keep hoping. With apologies to Dionne Warwick, a slight alteration to her lyrics sum up the way I feel:

I’ve kept the memories one by one
Since you took me in
I know I’ll never hate this way again

I know I’ll never hate this way again
So I keep holdin’ on before the good is gone
I know I’ll never hate this way again
Hold on, hold on, hold on

A fool will lose tomorrow
Reaching back for yesterday
I won’t turn my head in sorrow
If you should go away

I’ll stand here and remember
Just how good it’s been
And I know I’ll never hate this way again

I know I’ll never hate this way again
So I keep holdin’ on before the good is gone
I know I’ll never hate this way again
Hold on, hold on, hold on

What hope keeps me holding on? Hillary in 2008!

Monday, June 28, 2004

All About the Hate I

I am dedicating the posts for the week to the virtues of hatred. Just be gald I am only doing 1 weeks worth, as the crack young staff at the Hatemonger's Quarterly dedicates every post to things they hate.

I was reminded about the virtues of hate when an old childhood friend sent me the following remarks after reading my posts: "I can't belive that you are actually writing these articals.
I am almost inclined to actually become a Reublican, except for the fact that within 5 miles of my palacial estate resides the largest group of registered Republican (Cuban) voters in the country....but....I hate them all."

To which I replied: "Ahh yes, hatred is the only reason I pay attention to anything anymore. In younger and more idealistic days, I held on to certain things that I thought I loved – like Phila. Sports teams and the GOP. As you age, you find that these things do not necessarily merit such blind infatuation, and you become cynical. But rather than give up the ghost, you refocus your attention on things that you hate, because generally these things will not disappoint you by being unworthy of your scorn. Rather than root for the Phils, you root against the Yanks. Rather than root for Bush, you root against Kerry. Etc. Etc. No hatred is 100% rationale, but if a man can’t be true to what he hates, then what does he got? I have no idea why you hate Cuban Republicans, but I respect it nonetheless."

I for one love Cuban-Americans - they are the one ethnic minority that really pisses off Democrats - and I like that about them. (You see - even those things I love are defined by their relationship to things I hate.) But though my friend and I do not share the same hatreds, I think we share the sentiment that hatred is an important and undervalued emotion. Yankees fans hate the Red Sox, and Red Sox fans hate the Yankees, but in reality the fans of both teams are more similar than not despite hating polar opposites.

It is very similar in politics - I have no problems with people on the streets of DC telling me proactively not to vote for Bush (and there are many who do); I do have problems with people who tell me to vote for Kerry. Puleeese! Vote for Kerry? I might be motivated to vote against someone if his odious qualities fit into my list of things to hate (Bush's, as you can guess, don't). But you cannot motivate me to vote for practically any presidential candidate - the ego required to make the run practically disqualifies them from respect. "Up with Dole!" rang hollow, even as "Down with Clinton" reverberated down to my bones. This is why attack ads are so valuable - give me a tenuous charge that is about 15% true to hang my hate on - and let me be on my way!

Friday, June 25, 2004

Memo to Al Gore's Secret Service Agents

To: Al Gore Secret Service Detail
From: Concerned Citizen
Date: June 25, 2004
Re: Location of Tipper's Medications

In the guest bathroom of the second floor, you will find Tipper's prozac on the second shelf of the medicine cabinet, behind the echinacea. Prozac looks remarkably similar to tylenol. Replace a handful of prozac pills with a like number of tylenol. Each morning, volunteer to prepare Al's environmentally friendly Rain Forest Coffee Blend. Grind one prozac pill, mix with sugar, and insert in coffee. The nation will thank you!


The man has clearly gone insane. As Lileks informs us this morning, "he coined a new term for the Internet critics of his positions: digital brownshirts." Calling his critics Nazis! It sends a chill down my free speech-loving spine. He came up with his new term of affection for us bloggers in a speech accusing W. of lying about the connection between al Queda and Iraq:

"Beginning very soon after the attacks of 9/11, President Bush made a decision to start mentioning Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein in the same breath in a cynical mantra designed to fuse them together as one in the public's mind."

But wait a minute, it seems only 12 years ago, I can distinctly remember the day, I was watching Larry King Live (fade to dream sequence):

IN 1992, AL GORE ATTACKED PRESIDENT GEORGE H.W. BUSH FOR IGNORING IRAQ'S TIES TO TERRORISM. SEN. AL GORE: “[W]hen George Bush took office, he should have reevaluated what our relationship was with Iraq ...” CNN’S LARRY KING: “Well ...” GORE: “Let me finish, just briefly. Instead, he stepped up the foreign aid to Iraq, and he looked the other way when there were repeated incidents of terrorism in which Iraq had a part, terrorists operating openly in Baghdad, and repeated warnings from our national security people telling the Bush administration that Saddam was on a crash program to develop nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, and other weapons of mass destruction. And he overruled a lot of his advisers and extended another billion dollars of foreign aid, and the U.S. taxpayers are right now having to bail out Saddam Hussein for almost $2 billion. Just like the savings and loan bailout, now it’s the Saddam Hussein bailout, and it shouldn’t have taken place.” (CNN’s “Larry King Live,” 10/5/92)

IN 1992, GORE SAID BUSH ADMINISTRATION WAS “CODDLING” SADDAM AND IGNORING HIS PURSUIT OF WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION. “Democratic vice presidential nominee Al Gore Tuesday attacked what the Bush campaign views as its strongest asset, as he charged the president caused the gulf war by ‘coddling’ Saddam Hussein. … He said recent evidence - including published reports and documents from congressional hearings - contradicts Bush’s assertions he did nothing to enhance Saddam’s development of weapons of mass destruction before Saddam invaded Kuwait. Gore said both the Reagan and Bush administrations received regular intelligence ‘warnings’ that Saddam was aiding terrorists and was bent on building such weapons.” (Sam Vincent Meddis, “Gore Assails Bush On Iraq Policy,” USA Today, 9/30/92)

Substitute any Democratic critic of the claim that Iraq and al Queda were in cahoots with each other for Al Gore, and I'll bet you can find their Larry King moment in about two seconds with Google. They ought to make a board game out of matching contradictory quotes to the liberal. Hopefully the prozac will help. I live in Gore's neighborhood (about a half a mile away - its an economically diverse neighborhood, trust me), and it is really hard to sell a house when your neighbors are visibly insane. Good thing he never got his hands on the nuclear football!

Thursday, June 24, 2004

The No Coherence Blog

There is no unifying theme to today's blog. Just a couple of random thoughts, and the testing of actually setting up a link to other blogs on the internet so that I can direct you to people who can actually write, and who even get paid for it.

* First, a reader writes to suggest that today's blog should be dedicated to the 90210 reunion that aired on VH1 last night. Unfortunately, as much as this topic interests me, yesterday I was living the Life or Reilly (or Hageman, if you know him); I played hookie from work so I could go tackle the links of Bretton Woods (a private golf course owned by the IMF), and followed that up by drinking copious beers at an outdoor bar until after the 90210 special had ended. I lack Tivo, ergo my only comment is that, if Shannon Doherty was not there, it was no reunion! I welcome commentary from anyone who did see it.

* Second, judging by the comments received to past blogs, it seems that my Lakers hating article was the only one that sparked great interest. It makes me think I should write more about sports, but somehow I doubted that a celebration of Reteif Goosen's victory over Phil Mickelson would not generate the same visceral reactions that expressed hatred in the Lakers seems to. Aside from the man breasts, I couldn't think of compelling reasons to hate Phil Mickelson and revel in his defeat.

* Third, no blog is complete without some politics. Here I will address the logic of the "not enough troops on the ground" argument in Iraq. The argument is self-explanatory, but the logic that underlies it is never questioned. It amounts to the same old liberal piety that is applied to domestic issues, such as education - more is always better. It would seem to me that this would make sense if there was an Iraqi army holed up in one spot and ready to go at us, but we pretty much demolished that Army in all of ten days.
The opposition we now face is geographically very dispersed, and none of it is wearing a uniform. It is a far different challenge. Because we have bent over backwards to limit the collateral damage of tyring to vanquish such elements, we have limited our ability to go where these guys are and route them out. But whether or not we choose to do that, I don't see how more troops is the answer. If you've seen the movie Black Hawk Down, ask yourself the question of whether more troops for that specific mission would have led to anything other than more American deaths. In that case, more troops would have only meant more targets for enemy combatants, and no greater probability of success.

* Lastly, a test to see if I can actually create a link. I am linking to Lileks.com, a Minnesotan who actually lives in my old neighborhood in Southwest Minneapolis. He is a reformed liberal living in a neighborhood that sported more "No War in Iraq" yardsigns than trees, and the neighborhood has lots of trees. Today, apparently, those signs have been replaced with "Get Halliburton Out of Iraq." His daily posting is rather quixotic; a mix of everyday life observations and a few political rantings, or which todays is typical. Hope you enjoy.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Inspirational Reading

I suppose it was highly presumptuous of me to provide a 4 paragraph summary of Clinton's memoirs that precludes the need for you to read 900 pages of his lip-biting blather, without leaving you with other reading alternatives to carry with you to the beach. Let me now ammend that discourtesy.

For those of you looking for a good read this summer, I highly recommend The Perfect Mile, the story of Roger Bannister's pursuit of the sub-4 minute mile fifty years ago. Bannister was in a virtual race with an Aussie, John Landy, and an American, Wes Santee; I say virtual because Santee never faced either Landy or Bannister head to head, and Bannister and Landy, aside from racing against each other in the Helsinki Olympics of 1952 when Landy was a nobody, didn't race each other until shortly after each had broken the 4 minute mile. Landy did it six weeks after Bannister ran 3:59.6, eclipsing Bannister's world mark by 1.6 seconds. Landy came to Finland that summer to escape the Australian winter because he knew he wouldn't be able to wait out another season without either Bannister or Santee going sub-4.

Bannister trained with two Brits who rabbited him through the first 3.5 laps, at which point he brought it home himself. Santee, in contrast, was told by the AAU, the governing body of amateur athletics at the time in the US, that if there was any hint that someone was rabbitting him, they would not recognize any American record. Landy, like Santee, never ran with a rabbit, and ran about 6 sub 4:02 miles, leading each from start to finish, prior to Bannister reaching the coveted milestone. When Landy finally did break the record, it was when Bannister's primary rabbit, Chris Chadaway, traveled to Finland to race Landy; though Landy led from the first lap on, Chadaway stayed on his heels for 3+ laps, which was enough to push Landy. Santee never broke 4 minutes in the mile, as his running career was cut very short when he entered the Marines shortly after college. He had a devastating kick, and many believed at the time that he would have won any head to head race with his 2 international rivals.

The singular pursuit of the distinction of running the first sub-4 minute mile made for a riveting story. Another book (far less light), that deals with similarly amazing human efforts is entitled the Riemann Hypothesis, subtitled the Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics. In A Beautiful Mind, the movie about John Nash, there is a scene where he incoherently lectures to a hall filled with mathematicians, after having claimed that he would prove the Riemann Hypothesis. He was institutionalized shortly after that lecture, and some speculate that he was driven mad by the effort to prove Riemann.

The author also tells the recent story of the 1996 solving of what was considered the second greatest unsolved problem in mathematics, called Fermat's last theorem. The mathematician who solved it is Andrew Wiles, of Princeton University. He toiled away on the problem for years, making progress, but never discussing his efforts, or even that he was making efforts, to prove a theory that eluded the best efforts of mathematicians for over a century. When he was convinced he had finally proved it, and came out with his proof, many mathematicians who had been toling on the proof for years resented his isolated efforts. They knew that progress he had made six years ago was ahead of where they stood even in 1996, and resented the fact that they spent so much time on dead-ends they could had avoided had they known of his progress.

There is a similarity to the stories - Bannister and Wiles had the faith in themselves that allowed them to attempt to overcome challenges that had eluded the best efforts of many fine men who came before them, and in the face of many who no doubt said such feats were impossible. But there is also an interesting difference - Landy could still try to eclipse Bannister's world record, even if he couldn't be the first to run sub-4. In contrast, there is no satisfaction in being a mathematician who fails to prove the Reimann Hypothesis, but sees it done by another. Unlike Landy, proving the same hypothesis a month later in a slightly more elegant manner brings no accolades. That makes for interesting competition - it is the intellectual equivalent of the primitive form of basketball played by the Aztecs, where the loser, rather than being able to go back and sharpen his game in preparation for the next, got his head chopped off.

The name Bannister is well known among most sports fans, and perhaps always will be. Wiles, as a mathemetician, enjoys less general fame, but believe it or not, his efforts led to an off-Broadway musical entitled Fermat's Last Tango, wherein the following immortal lines are spoken:

"In order to transform your elliptic curves into Galois representations so they could be counted against the set of modular forms, you assumed they met the requirements of an Euler system, when in fact they do not!"

Not exactly Shakespeare, but of course Fermat's Last Theorem (let alone its proof) doesn't pre-date Shakespeare, so who knows - maybe with different timing? The good news for you is that you don't have to read the book - just go see the musical. And the same goes the Perfect Mile, which reportedly is being made into a movie by the makers of Seabiscuit.

My Life: The Modern Book of Job

"I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my justice was like a robe and a turban. I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame. I was a father to the poor, and I searched out the cause of him whom I did not know. I broke the fangs of the unrighteous, and made him drop his prey from his teeth."

I don't plan to read My Life, the memoirs of our lip-biting former president, because I think I can guess the story. The above lines are from the Book of Job, that famous biblical character who lived righteously, but got little earthly good fortune in exchange. These lines no doubt capture Clinton's self-perception (although one shouldn't take the "father to the poor" part too literally, as I am sure he lived by the bumper sticker adage not too bed a pro-lifer), and as such probably summarize the entire pre-impeachment portion of his memoirs.

When he tackles impeachment, the story will no doubt again closely parallel Job's soliloqy:

"On my right hand the rabble rise, they drive me forth, they cast up against me their ways of destruction. They break up my path, they promote my calamity; no one restrains them. As through a wide breach they come; amid the crash they roll on. Terrors are turned upon me; my honor is pursued as by the wind, and my prosperity has passed away like a cloud."

As one writer as already pointed out, the book will clearly omit any admissions of wrong-doing in connection to matters where there are no dress stains that have established the undeniable facts. There'll be no mention of Kathleen Willey or Paula Jones or Juanita Broderick. And this is where one could argue My Life diverges from Job. Job, in the course of his soliloquy, says that he could understand the miseries that God has bestowed at his feet if he had not lived righteously, listing out the sins that would have merited the fate that has befallen him:

"I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I look upon a virgin?"

But even here, Clinton clearly broke no such covenant with himself unless the definition of virgin has been vastly undermined in recent years. He gets into trouble, however, a few lines later:

"If my heart has been enticed to a woman, and I have lain in wait at my neighbor's door; then let my wife grind for another, and let others bow down upon her."

Any takers? I didn't think so.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Michael Moore's Contribution to the War on Terror

Late last week it was reported that Hezbollah, the people that bring you the exploding Palestinian suicide bombers, are offering to help Michael Moore distribute his latest film, Farenheit 911, in the United Arab Emerites. As much as you may think that Moore is against the war of terror, the willingness of Hezbollah to aid Moore might suggest otherwise.

You see, it takes money and other resources to do anything, including getting a film that lionizes the terrorists that the Bush administration is oppressing distributed in Middle East countries teeming with such oppressed terrorists. And those resources, once diverted to playing movie deal-maker, reduce the pool of funds available for paying the families of suicide bombers $25K per each mentally retarded teen-age son they convince to blow up a bus in Israel, preferably one with many women and children.

It could be argued the other way, so that it is not clear that Moore is really reducing the supply of suicide bombers. Clearly Hezbollah is making an investment - if enough people see this movie, goes the logic, we may be able to lower the per-suicide bomber family stipend to $20K, without reducing the supply. If the resources invested in movie distribution are less than the aggregate savings brought about by knocking $5K off of the going rate for hastening young teen-age boys to a paradise that will greet them with 70 (count them, 70!) virgins for killing infidels, Hezbollah might get a pretty decent return on its investment. And with interest rates as low as they are these days in the U.S., there may be no better investments available for Hezbollah.

But I doubt this is the case. Hezbollah would be much better off pressuring some mullah to issue a fatwah that ups the number of virgins from 70. My bet is that the supply of suicide bombers is much more sensitive to the "virgin" price offered directly to the bomber than to the American dollar price offered to his family. And surely it wouldn't take much to convince the mullahs.

So let me be the first to thank Michael Moore, the exception to the rule that Europeans hate Americans because we are fat, rude, and obnoxious. His standing ovation at the Cannes film festival gives hope to all fat, rude, and obnoxious Americans that have feared travel to the continent. As long as you are a left-wing nutbag with a propensity to make movies that spell out the c-o-n-s-p-i-r-a-c-y that is the Bush administration, you don't even have to speak French while loudly ordering and insisting upon an off-the-menu cheeseburger in a Parisian cafe. Merci monsour, right away!

I'd recommend Moore for the Nobel Peace Prize for the beneficent effect of his movie - diverting Hezbollah from more lucrative investments in terror. But then again, my priorities are not those of the Nobel committee - they might do the same, but for different reasons. If Farenheit 911 has any negative effect on the Bush administration, surely Moore would merit deep consideration from the committe. If Jimmy Carter can win it for criticizing Bush, why not Moore? But if the committe recognizes the unintended consequences of Moore's movie suggested here - that Hezbollah will be distracted - it could work against him. Because a blow against an organization deeply loved by Yassir Arafat, another proud Nobel Winner, cannot be a feather in Moore's cap.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Unceremonial Passage Into Middle Age

A reader writes to give me comments on the dedicated purpose of the website, and its connection to my midlife crisis. Being of similar age, said reader took umbrage at the notion that the middle age tag applies to our age cohort. It got me thinking back to the print version of Ideas Hatched, when I recounted when I first realized I slipped the bonds of youth. Here it is, from the archives, specifically August 1999 ...

Just yesterday, it was easier for me to count working days than vacation days, I could pass entire summers wearing short pants, I spent at least 200 hours per year arguing that the 1983 Philadelphia 76ers were greatest team ever, and I was well informed of most drink specials for bars within a reasonable radius of my digs.
Today, almost inexplicably, I awoke in the top floor of a townhome that has a thirty year mortgage attached to it, next to a wife who is two months from delivering twins. She rushed me out the door to board a train that carries thousands of faceless commuters into a major city where I sit at a desk all day long, five days a week, 48 weeks a year. I wear ties more often than shorts, and I couldn't point out the nearest bar.
Until now, I could handle all of these lifestyle changes and new- found responsibilities, and still cling to the delusion that I am in the prime of my youth. But there is one piece of evidence that serves as a mild slap in the face: the brand new Ford Windstar minivan that sits in my garage.
It is the first brand new car I have ever purchased, and its not exactly the one anyone dreams of having in high school. The minivan is the modern day equivalent to your dad’s old station-wagon, which was fine for a dad, but isn’t exactly a boon to the social life of someone in his youth. I am left with either the vain hope that the minivan will become fashionable among young jet-setters, or the harsh realization that I am now middle-aged.
It is an irreversible course, I am afraid, and can lead to only one thing – old age, marked by the purchase of a Lincoln (which I am actually looking forward to owning). Of course, the reality of one’s situation is always independent from one’s perception of the same. I was in fact middle aged the day before I bought the minivan, but it never quite hit me. I could perhaps have delayed the realization as so many others try to – by purchasing a sport utility vehicle instead. But the minivan is far more practical, and practicality is the hallmark of being middle aged.
I negotiated the price of the car in what I believe was an effective manner. The salesman and I went back and forth for a few days before we settled on a price. I could tell you I got a great deal on the car, but who have you ever met that has confessed: “I got taken to the cleaners on this one – the salesman must have seen me coming from a mile away.”
Only the salesman himself will ever know if I did well in comparison to other negotiators, but whether I got the best of him or not, he at least had the masochistic consolation of witnessing me forever giving up my youth. Or maybe he let me off easy with the knowledge that by the time I come back for a new car, the fight will be so beaten out of me that I will readily pay the sticker price.
I think back to all other major life events – baptism, first communion, confirmation, various graduations, and marriage. All of them mark the passage from an old life to a new one, and all do so through two central mechanisms: ceremony and celebration. But in each of those occasions, though we generally leave the old life behind with some sadness, there is much to look forward to in the new one. And we usually have alcohol and the presence of family and friends to smooth over the transition.
But passage into middle age is conspicuously lacking in both ceremony and celebration. We are simply left to slide into it, perhaps under the hope that we simply won’t recognize the incremental difference. Just as in any other passage that proceeds it, there is a lot to look forward to, but middle agedness alone requires the purchase of life insurance, forcing some of us to confront our mortality for the first time.
Now maybe this is nothing to celebrate, but a few friends and a few beers would make it a lot easier to ignore the whole aging process. And who knows, maybe a month could be set aside for men and women passing into middle age to live as they did in their early twenties. We are made immune to diseases like polio with a small dose of the disease itself – why not cure the midlife crisis in the same way?
It is high time for some sort of ceremony and celebration for middle aged people. It is too late for me. It was too late for most of my friends years ago. But it’s not too late for the children! Lets do it for the children!

The Expendable Father

For those few of you who once upon a time received the print version of Ideas Hatched, this, like yesterday's post, is a re-run. But now that at least a billion people could theoretically log on to this site, don't you think it would be selfish of you to demand a ban on material that is only stale to you? This appeared in the June 99 edition. Consistent with the theme below, which family do you think Jesse Jackson is spending Father's Day with?

About one year ago, Al Gore took the opportunity during a speech to announce the latest finding from high-tech social science: that fathers are actually an important element in the proper development of children. Mr. Gore is not the only one who requires some scientific backing to feel safe in making such statements. Remember that it was only seven years ago when liberals howled with indignation when Dan Quayle criticized the fictional character Murphy Brown for deliberately having a child with no intention of providing it a fatherly presence. That controversy actually stimulated work for sociologists who wanted to find out if fathers actually did matter. Only in pseudo-scientific sociology, and among liberals bent on trying not to offend feminists, does common sense become a debatable topic to be resolved by scientists.

There is much to lament this Father’s day for the respect society accords to fatherhood. While Dan Quayle was reminded patronizingly that Murphy Brown was a fictional character, the show was nevertheless reflecting a disturbing reality. Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell, and most recently Jodi Foster, represent some of the more high profile cases of women selfish enough to purposely deprive a child of the love of a father. These women are all certainly capable of providing materially for their children, unlike the countless cases of young women who have not planned their pregnancy, and whose boyfriends do not face up to their responsibilities. The poverty that so often goes along with illegitimacy is not a concern for millionaires having illegitimate children, but there is ample reason for as much moral concern. Unlike the Jodi Fosters of this world, most single mothers do not anticipate the father’s abandonment of themselves and their children; they have not necessarily chosen knowingly to deprive their children of fathers.

Children are born every day with birth defects and disabilities, and most are still lovingly received by their parents. The child’s physical problems rarely affect the love accorded by a parent, but still there is not one parent alive who would willfully choose that fate for a son or daughter. Why is it any more justifiable to willfully burden a child with the potential emotional problems that so often are present in fatherless children? We should recognize the choices of these women as embodying the crassest form of consumerism (notice that it is not an option for women of average income). The very act of conception for these mothers is a taking from their child, placing the mother’s needs first. Granted, not every child is born into the ideal circumstances of knowing two parents who conceived the child out of their love and commitment for one another, but this is usually not by design, and was always looked to as the ideal.

One need only look to the inner cities to see the devastating effects of absentee fathers, though in this case, it is primarily the refusal of fathers to accept the consequences of their behavior. Many of these young fathers unfortunately know that life guarantees no one the gift of a loving father, and they, like so many men, walk in the footsteps of their own fathers. We ignore the fact that this is the central problem in these communities, where the dirge of opportunity can never be remedied without the every day presence and influence of mothers and fathers, both of whom are necessary for the real education of children.

Perhaps the failure of so many fathers to love their children, and the mothers of those children, has led us as a society to shrug our shoulders when affluent single women reveal by their choices that fathers do not matter. But for every father who has failed his son or daughter, there are thousands who, in the eyes of their children, are one of only two people in the world who can truly never be replaced. For this most recent father’s day, I offer my best wishes to all the men who know this to be true, and who treat their children to their unique love. You’ll never have a more important job.

Pay Thanks to the Sports Gods

The joy of June matched the elation of October - seeing the Lakers fall badly was as pleasurable as seeing the hated Yanks fall to the most successful post-season team in the history of baseball, the Florida Marlins. And the losses of both were made all the sweeter by their prior heroic victories - in Game 7 for the Yanks against the Socks, and in Game 5 for the Lakers against the Spurs, when Fisher made that ridiculous 3 pointer. After knocking off the Sox and the Spurs, respectively, surely the Marlins and the Pistons would be a walk in the park.

Not so. And, in contrast to the Yanks, who I hate as a matter of principle, I had more personal reasons for hating the Lakers this year. Here are a few:

1) The Zen Master - I hate Phil Jackson. This guy has made a career out of coaching superstars who get nearly every call, and yet after any playoff loss he lays into the refs. Even his new-agey nickname makes me sick. It was great to seem him out-coached by Larry Brown. We should have seen it coming - if Brown could squeak out even one win with the Sixers against the Lakers three years ago (when the Lakers were much better than they are today), the smart money would have been on a Pistons sweep, prevented only by Kobe's clutch 3-pointer in Game 2.

2) Karl Malone - I always liked Karl Malone ... until he signed with the Lakers. Gave up all of that money, unselfishly we were told, in order to win a Championship. Turns out he was overpaid. Memo to Karl Malone: Mark Madsen won several championships with the Lakers - it didn't make him a champion. It made him a lucky guy whose presence had no effect for good or ill on the Lakers season. You should have been content with the knowledge that the Jazz won two championships with you as their leader against the Bulls (factoring out the 10-point per game spot the refs gave Jordan in every game of the playoffs). Joining the Lakers was equivalent to a general who lost a battle against a powerful foe resurfacing years later as an enlisted man looking for glory in the invasion of the Falklands.

3) Kobe Bryant - if I were accused of rape, and if I were beyond a doubt guilty of adultery against the Mother of my new born son, I wouldn't wear such a smug self-satisfying arrogant look on my face everytime I dunked a basketball. Actually, if I ever dunked a basketball, I might wear a smug self-satisfying arrogant look on my face, no matter what I was guilty of. But that is beside the point - I still hate this guy. The only guy I like on the Lakers is Shaq, and that is mostly because it is obvious that he hates Kobe even more than me.

4) Gary Payton - I always liked Gary Payton ... until he signed with the Lakers. Gave up all of that money, unselfishly we were told, in order to win a Championship. Turns out he was overpaid. Memo to Gary Payton: Mark Madsen won several championships with the Lakers - it didn't make him a champion. It made him a lucky guy whose presence had no effect for good or ill on the Lakers season. You should have been content with the knowledge that the Sonics won a championship with you as their leader against the Bulls (factoring out the 10-point per game spot the refs gave Jordan in every game of the playoffs). Joining the Lakers was equivalent to a general who lost a battle against a powerful foe resurfacing years later as an enlisted man looking for glory in the invasion of the Falklands.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

The Psychology of Political Conservatism

Did you know there is a wide body of academic literature concerning the psychology of political conservatives? I kid you not; as I write, there is probably some professor up for tenure with a very weak publication record, and his saving grace will be that in one particular study he had the "courage" to harp on the psychological problems of Republicans, which is a very brave thing to do on college campuses. If he wants to make the vote a cinch, he would be wise to show up at his tenure review in drag. You can't buy diversity like that on the faculty.

Curiously, even as the "couching" science has blossomed within the academy, the actual couching of conservatives in the public square has slowed considerably. At one time, scientists could openly couch conservatives. The most famous and thorough couching of all time took place prior to the 1964 election, when 1,189 psychiatrists declared Barry Goldwater mentally unstable and paranoid. One can assume that these psychiatrists presumed such attributes made Goldwater unfit for office. None of these shrinks had met Goldwater, which provided them the added bonus of not being liable to a malpractice suit for their armchair diagnoses. Unfortunately, that same fact left Fact magazine, the public benefactor responsible for informing the voting public of Goldwater’s instability, liable for a libel suit from Barry himself, which he handily won. So much for freedom of the press, free speech, and the moral imperative of an informed electorate! (I’ll just bet that John Ashcroft has a picture of Goldwater in his office.)

The libel suit that stemmed from Barry’s couching may have had a chilling effect on scientific inquiry in the field, or at least on efforts to apply the science of couching to everyday paranoid conservative politicians. But I think there is a larger reason the practice fell out of favor. When 1,189 psychiatrists peered into the convoluted workings of Goldwater’s brain, conservatism was no threat to the ruling liberal orthodoxy. That of course has changed, and with it couching has taken a back seat to other political strategies, which consist principally of claiming that conservatives possess the IQ of amoebas, and that we don’t wear facial hair because we are only capable of growing Hitler mustaches, and that would reveal what we really think.

Liberals no longer have the luxury of couching conservatives in real time - it can only be done on a post-mortem basis. Indeed, in an environment where they have helped define virtue as chiefly consisting of the quality of having been a victim, the practice of couching may elicit sympathy for us conservatives as the victims of authoritarian fathers. (Picture millions of Great Santinis raising little Young Republicans - the horror!) We might even add to our plurality through the misplaced sympathy of liberal voters who hope that voting us in will help to cure us by allowing us to “grow” in office (and there is some precedence that such growth does happen).

So deeply entrenched is the more effective dual strategy of painting every conservative as Hitler with a lobotomy that you could probably bring on your own assault by randomly approaching a student at Cal Berkeley and stating that you think George W. Bush is a compassionate and intelligent politician. With your arms covering your ears in a feeble attempt to protect your head, you may not hear her grunting between blows: “Take that for the Patriot Act and that for Guantanamo Bay and that for Blood for Oil.”

But there is also a slim chance that you may be spared the beating of your life (and it’s probably not your first, due to the likelihood of your authoritarian upbringing) at the hands of our young pacifist coed, if she has been schooled in the science of couching conservatives. As a student at Berkeley, she may have chanced upon a course or two taught by either Jack Glaser or Frank Sulloway, two Berkeley professors that are very recent contributors to the science. Glaser and Sulloway recently co-authored an article in the Psychological Bulletin along with John Jost of Stanford and Arie Kuglanski of the University of Maryland. Apparently the complexity of the topic requires four co-authors. We’ll call these guys the Four Freuds for simplicity.

The involvement of any Berkeley professor in this research area, let alone two, is worthy of note. That a man can walk the campus of Berkeley day in and day out for years, and each day arrive at his office thinking about the psychological oddities of conservatives is no small wonder. Have these guys ever even seen a conservative outside of the occasional Connie Chung interview of some 70 year-old neo-Nazi who lives 200 miles from his nearest neighbor? Paleontologists arguably have more first hand experience with live dinosaurs then a Berkeley professor is likely to have with conservatives.

And if these guys were faculty at Berkeley 35 years ago, they may have found themselves held at gunpoint by some of your average psychologically well-adjusted Berkeley students. That was when the quaint practice of our best and brightest students holding their college administrators hostage at gunpoint was in vogue. These rational idealists would demand changes to the curriculum in exchange for the safe release of the administrators, and did so at Cornell and Yale, among others. You might think that such happening would have spawned a psychology of the extreme left that sought to explain why some would risk lifelong incarceration in exchange for the promise of easier college classes. But quite the opposite probably occurred.

Picture the scene: Glaser and Sulloway as human bargaining chips for the students’ demands to add a litany of courses that have as their common theme the corruption of all those stodgy institutions that have led to their receiving an advanced education free of charge. Glaser and Sulloway, in the five tense moments it takes for the administration to capitulate to the demands of the terrorists (and thank them for adding diversity to the curriculum) independently and simultaneously envision their next great research project. “I will establish the perverse psychological motives of conservatives!” A turning point in the history of science! A few semesters later, they are co-teaching a course entitled “Conservatives - Still Crazy After All These Years”, listed proudly in the coursebook alongside other classics born that same day, such as “Marriage as Modern Slavery” and “How White Men Ruined the Utopian State of Nature.” Maybe Jost and Kuglanski were dilated-eyed Berkeley undergrads who happened to show up for Glaser and Sulloway’s lectures, and the rest is history.

Monday, June 14, 2004

The Reagan Legacy: All Hope is Not Lost

I sneaked across the street and picked up my neighbors Washington Post this Sunday. I had a guilty feeling - not because I was stealing - my neighbors were on vacation and they asked us to grab their morning daily. The guilt stems from my loyalty to the Washington Times, which is unabashadly conservative. The Post, and other like newspapers, hire 1 conservative columnist per 20 (roughly proportional ideological representation in the industry) and act like they are non-partisan. Not so for the Times.

Three essays caught my gaze - two in the Style section and one in the Commentary - all dealt with Reagan. For those Post readers (and writers and editors for that matter) left glum by the outpouring of effection for Ronald Reagan, the opinion page gave us the encouraging reminder of an historian from the University of Texas (apparently freedom of speech has returned to Texas now that Bush has larger fish to fry at the national level) that the final judgment of historians has yet to be made in regard to Reagan. Similar outpourings of effection greeted the death of Warren G. Harding at the time of his death, despite what came to be his enduring legacy of scandal. Without any apparent sense of irony, the author continues to remind us that those students now entering college have no real personal remembrances of Reagan's times, and so how they will view the former president depends upon how the historians of the universities tell their little charges to think.

So there is hope. Because historians are the only ones with a passionate and enduring interest in defining Reagan's legacy, and your everyday man on the street who lived through those times and regarded Reagan as a great president will move on to other interests, the readers of the Post can rest certain that Reagan will join Harding as a president whose post-mordum accolades were ill deserved and short-lived.

And the Style section provides a logical call to arms that follows from this opinion piece. First, we are told of the fact that Reagan drew the ire of rock stars from Sting to the Dead Kennedy's, as well as most former members of the Eagles. With the exception of LBJ, who had to deal with the anti-war counter-culture, no President has drawn as much ire from those who have made careers out of harnessing their teen-age angst into their old age (but we are told that Bush, if re-elected, may rival Reagan). Of course, Reagan always had the good sense to treat the counter-culture and its rock-n-roll descendents with all the seriousness they deserved, which is to say none. Professional teen-agers can sometimes broach open disagreement, but if you ignore them entirely, you may end-up being the subject of their encore performance at the next Rockers for Pro-Choice rally.

Next, we are reminded by the members of the gay community, on the day following their annual display of pride on our national mall, that Reagan was silent in the face of the rising AIDS epidemic. There is eveidence to refute that, of course, but why bother? Instead, let us point out the propriety of judging a man's presidency according to his response to a disease that affected a small subset of an even smaller portion of the population. Presumably, Reagan should have thrown billions of dollars into researching a cure that would make the bathhouses of San Francisco safe again for anonymous and promiscuous sex. Funds should have either been raised through higher taxes on traditional families, or through cutbacks to other social programs. Like the rock stars, what hurt most was the fact that Reagan didn't seem to "feel their pain."

Reagan drew the ire of the music world and the gay community in much the same way fathers draw the ire of their sons - by not granting their emotionalism any degree of seriousness. Indeed, it is said of Reagan that his relationship with his children was somewhat distant, although in their maturity each of his kids have come to realize that a father is not defined by the indulgences he grants his children. Fortunately for the readers of the Post, rock stars and gay activists generally don't mature, and will cling to overwhelming importance of their own overwrought emotionalism. They will never forgive Reagan - the distant father. Now all that is needed is for gay rock stars to become prominent university historians, and the legacy of Reagan will be corrected for the ages.

Friday, June 11, 2004


My four year old twin boys are very fond of Superheroes. To them, there can never be enough of them, and the current supply is found wanting. But they also realize that a Superhero needs a foe. So they make up their own superheros and foes, defined by three things: 1) a name; 2)whether he or not the aforementioned is a good guy or a bad guy; and 3) a modus operendi. The MO doesn't always appear on the surface to serve the superhero in any real capacity, but in the imaginations of my boys, I am sure there is an underlying rationale to the skill set they endow their make-believe heros with. "Steadyman", for example, is a good guy, and he can stay still for four weeks at a time.

It may not be clear what purpose that serves - the ability to stay physically still, but as a metaphor for sticking to right convictions, it is spot on. A close metaphorical cousin of Steadyman must be Reaganman - a good guy - who never wavered in defense of freedom and in opposition to tyranny. I'll teach my boys about Reaganman.

Damned if You Do, Damned if You Don't

Is the irony of the current 9-11 commission inquiry apparent to anyone but me? Here we have a commission charged with determining exactly how we could have prevented the 9-11 attacks. Now of course they are asking the question from an intelligence/military/defense standpoint, rather than saying - if we had only pulled our troops out of Saudi Arabia, left Israel to its own devices, converted to Islam (and not just plain vanilla Islam - the kind where we would swear to kill infidels). That is good, of course. So the question of the day is: what could we have done unilaterally, with the force at our disposal, to prevent the 9-11 attacks from occurring?
The answer, if we follow the arguments against the Iraq war, is that whether or not it was feasible to do something, we had no right to do anything! Sure, Osama had created a little trouble here and there, perhaps no more or no less than Saddam (even putting aside the first gulf war). But had we pre-empted, wouldn't that just make us bullies, unwilling to heed the advice of the French? Wouldn't such actions have led to easier recruitment efforts for the terrorist organizations? Apparently we need to be devastatingly attacked before we merit any sympathy from France and others in our efforts to protect American citizens. And until we have such sympathy, we are supposed to just stand by and let a cancer grow. I'm sure you see some difference here, but I guarantee you if Bush (and I wouldn't make the same claim about Clinton) had gone into Afganastan prior to 9-11 to wipe out a few terrorist camps, we would have been treated to daily pictures of moral idiots protesting with signs that portray Bush as Hitler. And John Kerry, the French, the Germans, etc. would have been decrying the move right up until today.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

When Reagan Left the White House, He Left the Scene

When Reagan left the White House, he left the White House. No clinging to the scene. No acting as kingmaker in the Republican Party. No taking potshots at his successors. And when he left the White House, Bush Sr. didn’t have to re-order fine china and silverware. Bush Sr. has followed largely the same course, and I am confident Bush Jr. will as well, but hopefully not for another four years.

What explains the fact that Clinton and Carter feel the need to wear out their welcome? OK, admittedly, at least Clinton wore it out for me a long time ago, so I am not without partisan bias. (Being all of eight years old when Carter took office, it took a little longer for me to be sickened by him.)

Carter’s greatest contribution to humanity was curing the “malaise” he had diagnosed his subjects with in the course of his dismal presidency by getting trounced in his re-election bid. It’s an inadvertent contribution, but is no less praiseworthy for that fact. Why not rest on his laurels and leave it at that? Clinton’s greatest contribution was easing the workload for late night comedy writers, who are usually under great stress to produce decent material. It puts him on par with O.J. Simpson, but you don’t see O.J. thinking that accomplishment worthy of having him in the public eye every second of the day.

Maybe the fact that these two guys cannot simply leave the scene is attributable to their comparative youth when they left office, but I think Bush Jr. will prove that thesis wrong. But if I am wrong, and youth is the common denominator, then I would seriously consider voting for the older candidate, or the one of more frail health, if only so that (like Reagan) they can be gone when they leave.

I think the explanation really is quite simple. Reagan and Bush know that the American people do not need them, which is a testament to their comparative humility. It is pure hubris to think oneself the “indispensable” politician in this country, as some are no doubt prone. And they have the class, wisdom, and requisite level of self-assurance to know that they themselves do not need the American people - they don’t need the validation of the chattering classes or of history. They didn’t self-consciously fret over how history would one day view them, perhaps because they know the judgment of history is the judgment of man, and whether or good or bad, it is not the judgment that ultimately matters.

It was said of Bush Jr. during the 2000 election that, in contrast to Gore, he didn’t need the presidency – life would go on for him, whereas for Gore the loss would take a far greater toll. Certainly the prediction for Gore now wrings true. He needed the presidency, much as Clinton and Carter needed the presidency, and the latter, having had it, clearly became addicted to it. There is something unseemly about the ego required to even aspire to the office, and the founding fathers used to routinely express disinterest in holding such power. Even if only feigned, their protests at least recognized the dangers inherent to vesting power in the hands of a powerful ego. Unseemly or not, the job has to be filled by someone. What is far more disturbing is the ego that not only aspires to and attains the office, but hangs on to the scene as if all hope will be lost without its presence. The self-justification is always that the country needs me, but the truer cause in the case of some is that they need the country.

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