Monday, October 5, 2009

Unvirtuous Patience

I have to say that when I consider that Obama said he was driven by Martin Luther King Jr's "fierce urgency of now" I assumed now wouldn't last forever. Obama said to South Carolinians
I am running because I do believe there’s such a thing as being too late. And that hour is almost here.

The hour is here on issues of gay rights. I may not yet feel the need to lash out like Andrew Sullivan does when he writes

So spare us the schmoozing and the sweet-talking and do it. Until then, Mr president, why don't you have a nice steaming cup of shut-the-fuck-up?

But then, Mr Sullivan is in a position to feel the urgency much more than I feel it. Many are in the position to feel it more than I do. They've felt the limitations imposed on them that I have not. And I imagine that feeling would quickly push me to speak in terms stronger than I currently do. Without apology.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

"I want to translate this happiness"

From an essay by an 18 year old planning to tell his parents that he's gay. I found this paragraph interesting.

The biggest argument that I see from pro-marriage-equality folks is "we don't want to change your life, we just want to be equals." I disagree. I do want to change other peoples' lives. The political and social spectrum in this country is wrong. Other people DO need to change. I shouldn't have had to live the first 17 years of my life as a secret. I dream of a day when a person of any age could be gay and never have to "come out". There is no guilt or shame in who we are, the only guilt comes from our surroundings. So yes, I do want to change those surroundings -- and if that means telling someone that their views are wrong, then so be it. If that means teaching kindergarteners that a prince can marry a prince, so be it.

It's true that the goal is a culture that embraces something that many find frightening or repellent. This reminds my of Casey's recent questions about the tension between accomplishment and ethics.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Let's remember the real victims

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Just How Misled is New Hampshire?

I think I missed this sermon.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


To close a window you either click a button with the mouse, or you hit command/control-W on the keyboard. You don't hit the delete key unless you want to go back a page, or you're deleting a file you've already saved on your computer.

What Would Puerto Rican on the Bench Do for Us?

Most of the criticism I've seen aimed at Sonia Sotomayor has struck me as simple, petty, childish, and baffling. Arguments that she's not smart enough or frugal enough don't interest me much past a headline. But one criticism is worthy of attention. That is the claim that she's a racist for making the following statement:
I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life.

Well let me first say that I don't see how this statement places one race above another as more deserving, powerful, moral, or wise. Let's not overlook the importance of "I would hope" in that sentence.

Of course not everybody cares about that little detail. And some fine readers encounter this statement quickly judge it
1) a bad definition of wisdom, 2) evidence that she's lacking a certain degree of wisdom, and, 3) racist.

In his predictable rant, Casey does rightly ask for a "richness of experience [hierarchy] list."

Tho, I'm almost certain that no matter what that list looks like he'll reject it as flawed and insignificant. And he writes
Soon we will return to epistemology, and the question will be: can you transcend your racial determiners when it comes to knowing reality? I will side with those who say 'Yes, you can.'

See what he did there? Casey's a cheeky bastard.

The first question I would have for Casey is if he read the entire lecture from which Sotomayor's statement was taken. Here is my reaction to Casey's three judgments above.

I'm not sure what he believes Sotomayor's definition of wisdom is, and so I can't defend what he attacks. But I actually appreciate her discussion of wisdom, brief as it is. Her lecture spends a good amount of time addressing the progress towards a judicial branch that more accurately represents the American identity. The progress is recent and still moves slowly, and as I read her statements, it is in comparison to the history of wisdom on the bench and in office that she believes a Latina would offer an improvement to the white males that have a legacy of disproportionally delaying and blocking the appointments of women and minorities to serve on the highest courts. She says:

In at least the last five years the majority of nominated judges the Senate delayed more than one year before confirming or never confirming were women or minorities.

That record can be defended I'm sure. But if it is the result of ignoring or rejecting the value of equal consideration, just like Sotomayor, I too would hope that a wise Latina would do a better job of treating all groups with the same respect.

Her wisdom is increasingly clear to me as I read her work. If the "certain wisdom" that she lacks is merely that specific wisdom with which Casey can agree without reservation, then I'm sure he would agree that it's not much of a criticism. In fact, she addresses this very issue in her lecture, agreeing with Yale professor, Steven Carter's argument "that in any group of human beings there is a diversity of opinion because there is both a diversity of experiences and of thought."

Most importantly on this point, she quotes Martha Minnow, who argues that there is "no escape from choice in judging."

I suspect this is what Casey sees as a racist view. Perhaps he sees it as resigned prejudice. What he believes we can somehow transcend, Sotomayor (and I) see as the reality of a life's experience. Sotomayor, in her lecture, refers to such transcendence as an "aspiration", but she's not sure it's possible to achieve. What Casey hopes we can disguise, and what she and I are comfortable with, is that diversity of conclusions. Because each judgment is a choice, we cannot escape the influence of experience. And should we? Is it the role of the courts to offer opinions that are held not by people, but by some unknown Platonic judge? But even if that impartial ideal is to be sought, Sotomayor's "hope" is a fair one: that a wise Latina would introduce an improvement that is needed.

"Let us not forget," she writes immediately after the quote that Casey calls racist,

that wise men like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination in our society. Until 1972, no Supreme Court case ever upheld the claim of a woman in a gender discrimination case.

I hope the future is an improvement too. And with the progressively representative bench I also hope that the experiences of minorities are increasingly helpful.

And I'll leave the final words on this point to Sotomayor, whose wisdom I believe is exceedingly clear in the following remarks:

I am reminded each day that I render decisions that affect people concretely and that I owe them constant and complete vigilance in checking my assumptions, presumptions and perspectives and ensuring that to the extent that my limited abilities and capabilities permit me, that I reevaluate them and change as circumstances and cases before me requires. I can and do aspire to be greater than the sum total of my experiences but I accept my limitations.
There is always a danger embedded in relative morality, but since judging is a series of choices that we must make, that I am forced to make, I hope that I can make them by informing myself on the questions I must not avoid asking and continuously pondering.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

You Give Me a Waterboard, One Hour, and Dick Cheney And I'll Have Him Confessing to the Sharon Tate Murders

One of Al Qaeda's goals, it's not just to attack the United States. It's to prove that we're hypocrites—that we don't live up to American principles.

I can't say that I agree with his claim that torture is enough to create an enemy. The issue of torture as a damnable act—as clearly as I stand where I do—is debated for a reason. Because all sorts of behavior can be damned and justified by those who are usually more interested in damning and justifying the people who engage in the behavior.

If the question is simply what would be American? then the argument of torture can be lost as easily as Cheney makes his arguments. Because when enough Americans accept the trajectory of his morality the value is American. Let's be honest. This country is not a sanctuary of moral clarity. And we don't want it to be, because that requires puritanism.

The harder argument to make is about the efficacy of torture. Because results have to be there. And while Cheney likes to speak as an authority on the wisdom of torture, his only credential is faith. Those who are trained and experienced should really provide a sober counter if they have one. And my only credential is faith that they have one.

I'm kinda hoping that the strongest and clearest sober counter doesn't have to be Jesse Ventura.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Proposition 8 Upheld

This could be a very disappointing decision. But it's not for a pretty important reason. The ruling was on a technical decision regarding the passage of proposition that was voted on at the California ballot. It's not so much about an interpretation of the state's constitution. The constitution was interpreted a certain way last year and the proposition was a small-minded and fearful response. There aren't laws against small-mindedness and fear. And so the vote stands.

What's much more discouraging than the court decision is the determination of some voices to spread the desire for inequality:

Jorge Riley, 31, of Sacramento had to get up earlier to make the drive to San Francisco to hoist his sign reading, " 'Gay' = Pervert."

"I don't know how many times it's going to take for the judges to listen to the will of the people," Riley said.

And so we're back to why this isn't so hopeless. Because the wheels are still spinning where the important changes are taking place. Mr Riley is blissfully ignorant of the shifting will of the people. In more and more minds homosexuality is not a perversion, and it's not even taking a 'liberal' court to recognize rights in some states. Legislators are listening to the will of the people. And they're pushing hard to pass respectable laws and barrel past governors' vetoes when necessary. Not with 100% success. But with more and more strength. And more and more support.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The GOP: Smart as a Whip

It's amazing to me how determinedly daft the Republican rhetoric has been. This interview with Eric Cantor is about two months old. But it holds up. What three things other than tax cuts would he do if he were president? I'll sum up his answer with quotes.

We've all got to work together.

Yes. I agree.

What is needed most right now is focus on getting the job done.

That's almost as good as his first suggestion.

We've got to do all we can to address this situation [of jobs being lost].

He must be reading my mind!

Not to think about a 20-year Great Society redux program.

Wait -- so just not thinking about it will help?

Narrow the focus.

Hold on a minute. Not only does he want to focus but he wants it to be a narrow focus? Man, this guy is got some revolutionary thinking!

Get this economy back on track.

You know. I think that might work. I'd put that in the top three too.

And he adds that he wouldn't pass Obama's budget if he were President because it's taxing the job creators. Does that count as something other than a tax cut? I guess technically he's suggesting a tax avoidance rather than a tax cut because if he was president he wouldn't have instituted the taxes in the first place. Cantor is sneaky sneaky.

So he finishes with his big three.
  1. Need some focus.
  2. Stop the politics.
  3. Start working together to get this job done.

This is not only the GOP that talks and argues like this. It's not even only politicians. But the GOP is flailing and they all need to address the palpable weakness of their philosophy soon.

Michael Steele is supposed to be guiding them, but what does he have to offer?

He wants the Republican party to convince America that the Right Wing view of spending, taxes, freedom, "responsive and responsible government", and defense are best for the country.

To accomplish this goal Republicans are turning a corner in three important ways:

First, the Republican Party will be forward-looking – it is time to stop looking backward … I believe it is now time for Republicans to focus all of our energies on winning the future by emerging as the party of new ideas.

Second, the Republican Party will not shy away from voicing our opposition to the president’s policies.

Third, the Republican Party will seize upon momentum for a GOP resurgence that is already under way in states and local communities.

In this same short essay he argues that looking forward is what Reagan would have done, and he offers no idea more concrete than the principle of small government. He opposes Obama's policies only based on the assumption of righteous principles. Where's the momentum in that?

A better word than momentum would be inertia. The GOP is an object at rest, staying at rest.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Let Him Who Hath Understanding...

A few years ago our friend Casey had a 'different' blog. I was browsing through the archives and found this gem from S11 Republican, who chimed in to dampen a "leftist" thread, offering up this criticism of a article:

The truth is that (1) there is zero evidence of authorized torture (2) the wiretapping in question isn't illegal, and (3) winning the war in the Middle East just might save Western Civilization.


Friday, May 8, 2009

Is This Becoming a Metaphor?

There's something heartening about these kids. There's also something canned about their responses. They sound a little too ready to attack the questions. But that might be a good thing.