aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Sunday, March 20, 2005
The Tyranny of Choice
Virginia Postrel (who’s got the best looking blog I’ve yet to come across), has a piece in Forbes on a subject my friends will tell you I’ve been ranting on about for years and years: Choice. Virginia says: I’m Pro Choice.
Well me too. (And in more ways than one, by the way.)
Too much choice may cause regret, but no choice is worse. Subjects who ate a chocolate selected by the experimenter, rather than the one they’d picked, were much less satisfied.
The topic is Barry Schwartz, who wrote the book The Paradox of Choice. Published last year, I’ve been marginally aware of it and am inclined to believe its conclusion: the more choice the more unhappiness.
Saturday, March 19, 2005
Raise taxes!Raise taxes!
Although it is politically taboo today, there was a time when government didn’t flinch from raising taxes, just so long as there was a legitimate need to finance new spending. This would seem to be just such an occasion, thanks to three increasingly urgent claims on federal money: protecting Americans from terrorists, providing the aging population with retirement benefits, and patching up (or replacing) the employer-based health insurance system. These are all vital public needs that only the government is in a position to meet, either because they require collective, coordinated action (like maintaining an army) or because they provide a service that the free market won’t (like giving the elderly health insurance)…The relative U.S. tax burden--measured, again, as a percentage of the overall economy--is the lowest in the developed world. And, while high taxes in Europe have sometimes choked economies there, there is an enormous middle ground between the United States, where taxes are 25 percent of gross domestic product, and Sweden, where taxes are 50 percent of gross domestic product. (Besides, Sweden’s economy has actually been performing pretty well lately.)
Wal-Mart and WarThis morning, in the parking lot of our town's Super Wal-Mart, the "War is Not the Answer" bumper sticker on my car was vastly outnumbered by "Support Our Troops" and "God Bless America" (even combinations of the two)magnetic "ribbons".
GUEST: JEN email: jen AT atypicaljoe DOT com
They are the largest employer in 21 states. This morning, in the parking lot of our town’s Super Wal-Mart, the “War is Not the AnswerÃ¢â‚¬Â� bumper sticker on my car was vastly outnumbered by “Support Our Troops” and “God Bless America” (even combinations of the two) magnetic “ribbons”. I wondered if the magnets’ owners heard yesterday’s news about the store they patronized. According to the Washington Post,
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the nation’s largest retailer, agreed to pay $11 million to settle a federal investigation that found it used hundreds of illegal immigrants to clean its stores, government and company officials said today. U.S. officials described the settlement’s dollar figure as the largest of its kind.
Today, two years after the Coalition of the Willing began its democracy-building mission in Iraq, I hope all yellow ribboners take time to reflect on the conflict between their economic habits (shopping at Super Wal-Mart) and their self-proclaimed support for troops (which NPR’s Bob Sommers says signals implicit support for the Iraq war). Perhaps pro-troops Wal-Mart shoppers heard about the settlement but were reassured by Wal-Mart’s soothing press release:
“The government can now use the funds for training and other initiatives that lead to better detection and prosecution of individuals and companies that prey on undocumented individuals,” said Tom Mars, Wal-Mart’s general counsel. He went on to emphasize that all businesses have a responsibility to remain vigilant.
“This is a milestone for corporate responsibility,” said Michael J. Garcia, assistant secretary for immigration and customs enforcement at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
It was entertaining to see Dobson look foolish and become the butt of jokes because many of us more or less assumed their complaints were too absurd to be taken seriously. But while we were laughing, Dobson’s supporters were keeping the pressure on - and they got everything they wanted. As a result, the tolerance video makes literally no effort to extend those lessons to kids of gay families or gay kids themselves.
From Focus on the Family:
A public school curriculum tied to the much-publicized “We Are Family” video featuring SpongeBob SquarePants and other children’s characters contains no overt references to homosexuality - quite a change from what was reported to be in earlier versions of the document.
It appears the teachers guide produced in partnership with the maker of the video, the We Are Family Foundation, was cleaned up after the media reports earlier this year about the group’s ties to homosexual advocacy groups.
What’s actually cause for concern is that Dobson and his group are still kvetching after winning a fight many of us thought they lost weeks ago.
We’ve got to learn how to fight!
A friend who lives in the neighborhood has been singing the praises of Babu since it opened. He neglected, however, to mention this:
The menu came without prices...guests were invited to eat, enjoy, and then, at the end of the meal, pay what they thought it was worth. “I’d rather work out the kinks in the kitchen first,” Payal Saha, the restaurant’s owner, explained the other day, sitting at a corner table of Babu, which was about a quarter full of couples quietly eating and mentally calculating the value of their experience.
She’s since worked out the kinks so now guests pay, but what a wonderful way to start out. That kind of thing just wouldn’t work here.
Book Meme update
Friday, March 18, 2005
With my new guest blogger, Jen, I gain on two fronts: a woman blogger and a liberal blogger. There’s been so much going round the blogosphere lately on these fronts that it’s hard to find a starting point.
On blogging and women. Kevin Drum the other day:
On a lazy Sunday several weeks ago I wrote about the dearth of women among the ranks of the most highly trafficked political bloggers. I suggested the reason was partly because high-traffic men don’t link much to women and partly because fewer women than men write political blogs in the first place. But why do fewer women blog about politics than men?
In my initial post I wrote this: “My guess...is that men are more comfortable with the food fight nature of opinion writing - both writing it and reading it....I imagine that the fundamental viciousness and self aggrandizement inherent in opinion writing turns off a lot of women.”
Two days later I added this: “Men are so routinely dismissive of women and so fundamentally dedicated to playground dominance games that many women decide they just don’t want to play.”
Read the whole thing. Thoughtful and with good links. Then today he added more.
‘Attack of the Clones’ made me cry
It was that bad. Now, from Outside the Beltway:
Star Wars creator George Lucas, foreshadowing his plan to suck the last bit of life out of the franchise, announced that the final film in the series will be a “tearjerker”—a “‘Titanic’ in space.”
GQ: Hot for Gay Republicans
Raw Story has a piece on the GQ feature story about outing gay Republicans that appears in this month’s issue, available on newsstands now but evidently not online.
The piece, which includes a first-ever denial that the chairman of the Republican National Committee Ken Mehlman is gay-a fact contested by many reporters and others close to the Mehlman himself-is sure to spark a new firestorm of debate over whether outing those who oppose gay civil rights is appropriate.
Seasonal varmint under attack
Three malls in the Palm Beach area are calling their seasonal varmints by names other than the Easter Bunny, so as to get all parents, not just the Christian ones, to bring the tikes to the mall to get some chocolate eggs and then buy a bunch of stuff from Toys ‘R Us.
After Hannity & Colmes feature the Easter Bunny under attack, World’O’Crap looks up the history of Easter Bunny abuse.
Thursday, March 17, 2005
Log Cabin skullduggery
A lot of people thought that Log Cabin’s refusal to endorse George W. Bush during the election campaign was some sort of turning point for the group...I rolled my eyes, knowing that any spine on the part of Log Cabin was a mere aberration. And here we are, just few months after Rove and Bush used the federal marriage amendment to gay-bash their way to re-election, and the Log Cabinites have announced they’re offering to help Bush push through his draconian social security privatization plan - perhaps because they’re quietly on the dole from the multinational corporations that would benefit under the plan. The Bushies are so desperate to light a fire under their dud of a “reform” plan - with Bush on a 60-day, 60-stop tour - you’d think they’d take all the help they can get. But so far, the only use they’ve had for gays in this effort has been to once again make them into Willie Hortons, using images of gay men to smear groups that oppose Bush. And that underscores how absolutely devoid of integrity and starved for validation the Log Cabinites really are.
And that’s just the beginning.
John and Arnold talk gay marriage
Fox’s John Gibson says gays and lesbians can’t get married because they can’t have kids and answers those who wonder then, what of those heterosexual couples who have paassed the age of procreation?
Gays can’t have kids...so by definition they’re out of the marriage game. In theory, so would couples who get married in their eighties. Chances are good that no kids come out of that holy union. But it is at least theoretically possible. Not so with gays.
Let’s all take a deep breath and change the channel. Earlier this week over on MSNBC Arnold Schwarzenegger said:
MATTHEWS: Are you happy with it if they decide to say it’s OK to have gay marriage in the state?
SCHWARZENEGGER: Absolutely. If the people decide-I’m the people’s representative. I am perfectly fine with that. The important thing that’s it’s the people that vote on it. The people have spoken before.
SCHWARZENEGGER: If they speak again and if they have changed their mind, because, remember, things change all the time. I think that as we go on, I think people will be feeling more comfortable with the idea of domestic partnership and also marriage.
I bet that didn’t make the Fox News crowd happy.
I rail against anonymous sources because they tend to degrade the information content of news stories in which they’re quoted. Most anonymice spin and leak selectively for political, personal, or institutional gain, and all the “balancing quotations” from other sources can never erase their taint. Nowhere is this more evident than in “official background briefings,” where government spokesmen put a flattering gloss on events for the captive press corps.
But he’s “not a fundamentalist about the issue” and points to criteria:
1) the reporting is so detailed as to be undeniable; 2) the public’s urgent need for the information trumps the petty objections of anonymice-haters such as me; and 3) the account exposes official wrongdoing.
Then applauds USA Today:
The idea that the enthusiastic slaughter of anonymice-especially the swill-serving ones who give official briefings-will somehow bring quality journalism to a standstill is disproved five days a week by USA Today, which operates under some of the toughest anonymous-source guidelines in the business. (See below for the paper’s guidelines.)
The newspaper doesn’t ban unnamed sources from its pages, but it does require the rigorous scrutiny of top editors whenever reporters include them in stories. The managing editor must know the identity of the source. He must believe the information provided by the source and have faith that it is authoritative and first-hand. Only rarely does an anonymous source clear those high bars at USA Today.
RELATED UPDATE From Romenesko:
A panel at the National Press Club discussed ways to deal with White House demands that background briefers not be identified by name...Washington Post executive editor Leonard Downie says his paper won’t play along.
Michael Powell’s replacement
Although a Republican, [new FCC chair Kevin] Martin has also been described as a “swing vote” on the current FCC which is divided between both Democrats and Republicans.
Martin had been rummored to be at odds with outgoing Chair Michael Powell and had indeed defected on some key votes joining the two current Democratic members on the influential committee.
That’s hopeful. This, less so:
Broadcasting & Cable says new FCC chairboy Kevin Martin “does not believe that last year’s record-setting indecency fines did enough to discourage stations from airing shows inappropriate for kids.” He also wants to “use the agency’s pulpit to persuade broadcasters to voluntarily dedicate an hour of prime time each night to family-friendly programming.”
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
Remember David Horowitz (of scary “Academic Bill of Rights” fame) flacking the made up story regarding a student’s purported allegations of political bias against her criminal justice professor at the UNC? Turns out she’s real and has been found!
...while a Northern Colorado spokeswoman acknowledged Monday that a complaint had been filed, she also said that the test question was not the one described by Horowitz, the grade was not an F, and there were clearly non-political reasons for whatever grade was given. And the professor who has been held up as an example of out-of-control liberal academics? In an interview last night, he said that he’s a registered Republican.
Horowitz now admits that Media Matters got it right.
UPDATE: Then takes it back.
A new Mac mouse?
How’d she find me?
Read your wed site [a Freudian sic] - pretty nice. The pictures very good. But, I must tell you that the word before has an e on the end. That is the only correction I noticed. Otherwise, good job. Why don’t you think about writing a book? I think you would be good.
Hm. Maybe. If Wonkette can do it...
Make a living will
Not so Michael and Terri Schiavo.
The wisest words in the piece last night came from Kay Obara [sp?], whose daughter has been in a diabetic coma for 35 years:
Jeffrey Kofman: Despite her devotion to her daughter’s life and her devout religion, Kay refuses to take sides in the schiavo case. She will not criticize michael schiavo for fighting to remove his wife’s nutrition tube. “I respect his feelings and I respect the parents feelings. I think it’s a no win situation. Too many people got involved.”
I’ve avoided it too. Nightline and the furious rush by state lawmakers and Gov. Jeb Bush to intervene via this bill pushed me to post.
Truth be told, the rhetoric on the left is no match for that on the right. James Dobson last night:
It’s Nazi-esque. It’s what the Germans did in 1939, 1940 and on through the war. It’s where they started.
Who should have
Would you want
to be kept alive?
My heart goes out to all involved.
And Majikthise points out that Terri Schiavo will be subpoenaed to testify before Congress.
Bill Frist, Republican of Tennessee and the Senate majority leader, issued a statement saying that the woman, Terri Schiavo, and her husband, Michael, were being invited to testify in a Congressional inquiry into the matter later this month.
SEE ALSO: Make a living will II
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
China & Russia: lessons in economic v political reform
From Fareed Zakaria’s The Future of Freedom, page 91:
Russia and China are the two most important countries in the world that are not liberal democracies...China has moved to reform its economy and, very slowly, other aspects of its legal and administrative system, but it has taken few steps to introduce democracy. Russia, by contrast, moved first and most quickly on political reform. Even under Gorbachev, there was more glasnost (political openness) than perestroika (economic restructuring)...To oversimplify, China is reforming its economics before its politics, whereas Russia did the reverse.
Today Russia is a freer country than China. It has greater respect for individual rights and press freedoms, and even its economy is in theory more open to competition and foreign investment. China remains a closed society run by the Communist Party, but it is being steadily liberalized along several fronts, chiefly economic and legal. Which will ultimately prove to have taken a more stable route to liberal democracy? If economic development and a middle class are keys to sustaining democracy, China is moving in the right direction. Its economy has grown dramatically over the last 25 years. Russia’s gross national product by contrast, has shrunk almost 40% since 1991 and has begun to recover only in the last few years, largely because oil prices moved higher. If China continues on its current path and continues to grow, further develop its rule of law, build a bourgeoisie, and then liberalize its politics - and these are huge ifs - it will have achieved an extraordinary transformation toward genuine democracy.
If Russia continues down its path-and this, too, is a big if - of slipping toward an elected autocracy with more and more of its freedoms secure in theory but violated in practice, with corruption embedded into the very system of politics and economics, it could well remain democratic and illiberal.
How effective are our economic development plans for Iraq and Afghanistan? How will we sustain them?
SEE ALSO: Democracy and GDP.
There’s a Book Meme making the rounds, and phin has tagged me with it. phin got it from Oddybobo of Bobo Blogger who got it from Harvey of Bad Example who got it from Contagion of Miasmatic Review who got it from Boudicca of Boudicca’s Voice who got it from Eric of Straight White Guy who got it from Reilly of Uptown Girl who got it from Grumpy Bunny who got it from Kandice of Kandy’s Dish who got it from Amanda of Human Oddities (and Mishaps) who got it from Barrie from The Pink Bee who swallowed the spider to catch the fly and I don’t know why she ...
Er, I’m lost. I don’t know what a Book Meme is and though a Google search got some hits, Wikipedia failed miserably. Apparently there are some questions involved, so I might just as well go ahead and answer them…
Another step closer
I had dinner last night with a gay couple who will celebrate 30 years of living together, 32 years as a couple, come spring. They don’t much care about and are only marginally aware of the gay marriage movement. Even as they and couples like them have become the poster people for the cause, the majority of those I know have made their peace with the second class societal status they’ve lived in all their lives.
This is not about them. It’s about a better future for those who are young today so that they can be fully integrated and healthy members of our society with the same rights and responsibilities, benefits and obligations, trials and tribulations that everyone else has.
Last week I had lunch with a colleague here, a woman I’d call my friend. She voted in favor of Georgia’s anti-gay marriage amendment. As did my partner’s cousin in Mississippi. She too is close to us, a friend, even as she says, “I’m sure lots of folks voted ‘no’ but weren’t being judgmental.”
These friends and family all live in a moral blindspot. There is an emerging majority who know that. And decisions (PDF) like yesterday’s in California make that majority stronger and move them another step closer to persuading the rest.
Why? Because the ruling, by a Catholic judge appointed by a Republican governor, looked at virtually every argument against same sex marriage and concluded that “the denial of marriage to same-sex couples appears impermissibly arbitrary.” It dismissed tradition as the basis for denial of marriage rights noting that similar arguments had been made in favor of laws banning marriages between people of different races. On Civil Unions he wrote, “The idea that marriage-like rights without marriage is adequate smacks of a concept long rejected by the courts: separate but equal.”
The more these arguments get out to the general public, the more they sink in. The more they sink in, the better. Today the news is getting out there:
To cite just a random few.
Monday, March 14, 2005
Kos has Bushes approval ratings on Iraq:
AP/Ipsos poll. 3/7-9. MoE 3.1%
Gallup. 2/25-27. MoE 3%
And Social Security:
Washington Post. 3/10-13. MoE 3%. (1/31 results)
Do you approve or disapprove the way Bush is handling social security?
Approve 35 (38)
Disapprove 56 (55)
Those numbers are surprisingly similar to the most recent AP/Ispos poll.
Ipsos. 3/7-9/ MoE 3.1% (2/22-24 results)
Do you approve, disapprove or have mixed feelings about the way George W. Bush is handling Social Security?
Approve 37 (39)
Disapprove 56 (56)
David Ewing Duncan, who reported the first piece, has an article on the same topic, Implanting Hope, on TechnologyReview.com. Wired has the Mind Control story too. The brain-computer interface in the story is the BrainGate Neural Interface System developed by Dr. John Donoghue of Cyberkinetics, Inc.
I still don’t know which I’d prefer, to port my brain over to the Web, or have enough augmentation that I become more machine than man. Either is a brave new evolutionary frontier that suits me just fine.
Estrich v Kinsley
I like them both and wish they weren’t fighting, but the problem is real:
In the first nine weeks of this year, women penned 20.5% of the [LATimes] op-ed columns, not including staff editorials, which do not carry bylines. That compared to the New York Times, with 17% women writers on its op-ed pages and the Washington Post with 10%.
Her reference to Kinsley’s Parkinson’s disease ("people are beginning to think that your illness may have affected your brain, your judgment and your ability to do this job") is not the only thing that pushed her across the line into caricature.
She seemed near tears in an interview, saying she never intended the fight to get so personal. She blamed the operators of her website for improperly posting comments about Kinsley’s mental health and contended she didn’t think e-mails to Drudge and others in the media would get into the public domain.
Fodder for a South Park episode if you ask me.
At a weekend dinner, President Bush…
...offered a new reason for overhauling the Social Security system. Raising the name of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Bush said, “We have to fix it or Rumsfeld may never retire.”
Oh. A joke? Never mind.
“This is an impressive crowd. The haves and the have-mores. Some people call you the elite. I call you my base.”
~ George W. Bush at the Al Smith Dinner, New York City, Oct. 19, 2000.