Friday, March 31, 2006

The September 11th 911 Calls

I heard a few of the tapes. My reaction is over at Donklephant.

Lobby Reform Passed by Senate

Yesterday the Senate passed legislation aimed at reducing the influence of lobbyists. Charging RINO has all the details.

And I agree with Jeremy. It's a good start but the bill should have gone even further.

The Rise of the Man-Child

In an editorial for tThe Washington Post physician and author Leonard Sax brings to light an interesting and disturbing cultural phenomenon: the increasing listlessness of young men.

According to the Census Bureau, fully one-third of young men ages 22 to 34 are still living at home with their parents -- a roughly 100 percent increase in the past 20 years. No such change has occurred with regard to young women. Why?

Sax has no answers, but he has a few threories.

Maybe the problem has to do with the way the school curriculum has changed. Maybe it has to do with environmental toxins that affect boys differently than girls (not as crazy an idea as it sounds). Maybe it has to do with changes in the workforce, with fewer blue-collar jobs and more emphasis on the service industry. Maybe it's some combination of all of the above, or other factors we haven't yet identified.

Sax notes that this trend cuts across all socio-economic lines and all races. To me that says this is almost certainly a cultural shift born more of changing customs and expectations than of any easily identifiable catalyst like our educations system or environmental toxins.

My theory is this has to do with the decline of marriage. Within the last 30 years, marriage rates have been sinking and those getting married are doing so later in life. So, whereas young men in their 20s used to get married and then need a good job to support their family, now they don’t get married and thus don’t need a good job. Young men today simply do not have the responsibilities young men used to have.

But why hasn’t the decline in marriage also led to many more woman living at home? I think this has to do with the continuing effects of the feminist movement. Men who are not married are permitted by our culture to be boyish and directionless. But unmarried women are expected to rise above and claim their independence.

This cultural incongruity is readily seen within our modern movies. Actors like Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughan, Owen and Luke Wilson, Steve Carell and others make movie-after-movie that portray grown men as nothing more than overgrown children who find happiness in their boyishness. But actresses like Sarah Jessica Parker, Chalize Theron, Reese Witherspoon and most other popular Hollywood actresses are not playing roles that celebrate girlishness. Instead, they take on roles that demonstrate the virtuousness of independent women who either don’t need a man to be complete or are the rock in a directionless man’s life.

So, suddenly, we have a culture that seems to be shifting towards recognizing women as the stronger sex, the responsible ones, the earners. But how long before women in their 20s realize they’re getting a raw deal here? The current disparity between lazy young men and eager young women may only be a stopping point on the slide to a final cultural resting point. Twenty years from now we may observe young people of both sexes acting directionless and unmotivated.

Whether our economy and culture can support such a change in unknown. But unless marriage suddenly becomes popular again, or responsibility becomes hip, I foresee more and more young people waiting longer before plunging into the real world.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Not a Good Sign

Within the next two years, the US National Debt Clock located near Times Square will run out of digits. That's right, we're approaching the 10 trillion dollar debt mark.


At some point this will be an issue again. Hopefully some point very soon.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Is a Sex Offender Living Near You?

You can find out at this site. Enter your address and it pulls up a map that pinpoints all the sex offenders near you. Roll over the points and you can see their picture and get their criminal history.

I find the existence of these sex offender lists to be an interesting commentary on our culture. Clearly we as a society do not believe such criminals can ever be fully trusted again. Yet we release them from jail which means we believe that they can be mostly rehabilitated. Or at least we believe that they will be so scared of going back to jail that they'll not commit anymore crimes.

But are these lists worthwhile? Some argue that on-line publication of such lists violate privacy rights and sometimes list people as sex offenders who do not belong on such a list. Others have pointed out that many of these lists are not updated properly and it’s easy for an offender to fall out of the system.

But are there privacy issues here? And do a few people wrongfully placed on the list invalidate the entire system? I don't know. I don't know how much more dangerous a sex offender is as compared to any other violent ex-con. Certainly sex offenders sound scarier but if they're so dangerous that we need to post their names, photos and addresses on the web, should they really be out of confinement?

In the end, I don’t think these lists are as much about protecting ourselves as they are about policing our culture. I think these lists satisfy our cultural desire to cast out those whose actions are wholly against the society in which we wish to live. Rape, child molestation and other sexual crimes are so abhorrent to our sense of what's good and proper that those who commit them simply cannot be allowed back into society as full members. Even if they buy the home next to us.

Democrats Announce National Security Plan

Democrats have apparently decided to try to run at least partly on national security issues and have come up with a plan. The highlights? Capture Bin Laden. Get out of Iraq. Specifics on both are a little hazy.

I wonder if this is a good strategy. We all know that national security is the Democrats' bum knee. Trying to stand on it is risky business. But what domestic concerns can they run on? The economy is fine, or at least perceived to be fine. The healthcare crisis isn't making it to the front page. The Dems already won the Social Security battle. Immigration is a mixed bag.

The Democrats could run on fiscal responsibility and reducing the size and reach of the federal government. But that's just not in their DNA. So they're left with national security, an issue over which a lot of Americans are truly frustrated. But when push comes to shove, will enough people trust the Democrats on national security to vote for them in November?

Hard to know this far out. But consider me skeptical.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

When There is No Common Ground

Richard Cohen of The Washington Post has an excellent essay on Abdul Rahman, the Afghani Christian convert who was nearly executed as punishment for converting away from Islam. Cohen says:

The murder of a person for his religious belief ought to be inconceivable. It is something we in the West stopped accepting hundreds of years ago...the right of the government to take a life on account of religion has not even been argued in the longest time. We are way beyond that.

Then, after pointing out that there was no worldwide Muslim condemnation of the planned execution, Cohen concludes that the silence must be because a lot of Muslims agreed with the punishment. To this, Cohen says:

The groupthink of the Muslim world is frightening. I know there are exceptions -- many exceptions. But still it seems that a man could be killed for his religious beliefs and no one would say anything in protest. It is also frightening to confront how differently we in the West think about such matters and why the word "culture" is not always a mask for bigotry, but an honest statement of how things are. It is sometimes a bridge too far -- the leap that cannot be made. I can embrace an Afghan for his children, his work, even his piety -- all he shares with much of humanity. But when he insists that a convert must die, I am stunned into disbelief: Is this my fellow man?

There are many cultural rifts between the West and the Muslim world. Some can be closed or at least bridged. But in cases like Abdul Rahman, we in the West cannot find common ground. Killing a man for converting to a new religion is wholly unacceptable. There is no compromise. They are wrong. We are right.

Yet there is nothing we can do that will radically change the deplorable aspects of many Muslim cultures. Those changes will have to come from within Islam and from within nations of the Middle East. All we can do is focus on finding common ground where there is common ground to be found, while making sure our own sense of right and wrong are not compromised in vain attempts to build bridges where no bridges can be built.

Looking to Die?

Is it just me or is Zacarias Moussaui trying to get the death penalty? Why else would he state that he was supposed to hijack a 5th plane on September 11th and fly it into the White House? Whether or not he's telling the truth doesn't matter. He clearly wants the jury to know depth of his evil.

But this raises a question: if the man is so desperate to die (no doubt so he can be a martyr), should we kill him? The question isn't whether or not he deserves to die, it's whether killing him is the worst punishment we have to offer.

There is a good argument to be made that we would be doing more justice if we just let him rot in jail for the next 30 years until he died pitiful and anonymous. After all, there is no amount of justice in this world that could make up for even a fraction of the horror of 9/11. Perhaps denying this beast the dramatic death is so clearly desires is the greatest punishment we could mete out.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Invasion of the McMansions

Over the last few years, one of the more interesting trends in real estate has been the increasing number of affluent professionals moving back into the city. Some choose ritzy downtown condos but many end up in the old neighborhoods situated just outside of downtown areas—the ones with classic homes built before the era of cookie-cutter housing developments.

But now it seems that some of these new urbanites want to bring the cookie-cutter homes of the suburbs to these old neighborhoods. Old homes are torn down and in their place the owners build so-called McMansions, those bloated single-family homes that cram small lots with as much square-footage of home as possible.

While every city and municipality is obviously free to handle this situation however they see fit, I have to admit that, as a resident of one of these old neighborhoods, I’m no fan of the teardown. I love all the old houses with their unique styles and classic feel. Such homes bring a gravity to a neighborhood, a depth of character born through time and through the many embellishments generations of homeowners have added to each home.

When one of these old houses is destroyed, a bit of that character is lost. And while some of these new homes are truly beautiful in their own right, too many are built as behemoths, their frames out of proportion to the surrounding homes and their exteriors bland and unwelcoming. Why not fix up the house that was there? Why not find a way to survive with a few hundred less feet of space?

Of course, it is better that a dilapidated, vacant home be torn down in favor of a new home than it remain a blight on the neighborhood. And, at least in my neighborhood, we have some stunningly ugly homes (built in the slap-dash era of homebuilding known as the 70s) that would upset no one if destroyed. So there are no absolutes here. Competing interests do exist and must be weighed.

But there is a principle. And it is this: these older neighborhoods have kept their vitality not just because they are so close to the city’s center but also because they are so close to the city’s true character. Cities have personality and that personality is revealed in its architecture as much or more than it is revealed in anything else. No home that can rightfully be said to represent that deeper character should be casually destroyed just so someone can have their suburban palace closer to downtown.

As I said, each city clearly has the right to do as they please, but should the issue come up for a vote in my city, I’d vote in favor of a board tasked with preserving all but the most unsalvageable and most insignificant homes.

Blogiversary Reflections

One year ago I began blogging. My first home was The Yellow Line, a blog I left when I became disenchanted with the whole blogging experience. After a few months decompression, I returned with this blog and also began contributing to the excellent centrist-oriented Donklephant.

Blogging has been a bizarre, thrilling, frustrating, emboldening, enraging, enlightening experience. I would have never guessed that so much could come from the little act of hacking out short, often half-formed essays and placing them on the Internet. In the last year I’ve had my words quoted many times by mainstream media sources. I’ve met through correspondence a large number of intelligent, worthwhile people whose words have often enlightened me. And I’ve become actively involved in a netroots Centrist movement that is actually gaining some steam.

Of all that I have learned (and I’ve learned a lot) the biggest lesson has been this: it is far easier to anger others than it is to connect with them. There are many whose minds are so closed-off that, when they disagree, they will refuse to treat you with even a modicum of respect or dignity. Such people are the midges of the world, constantly irritating and sometimes drawing blood but never amounting to much. They must be suffered if you want to make a difference in the world.

When I walked away from blogging, I did so out of frustration over the midges. Hurricane Katrina had just struck and I was disgusted with the swarms of people whose first reaction was to protect their political party or blame the other party—even before they had shed a tear. The Katrina spin game really upset me and I decided that I no longer wanted to be a part of an environment that fostered such small-mindedness.

But I was wrong to place the blame at the feet of the blogosphere when the blame belonged only to those who had the sparseness of heart and shallowness of mind to spin tragedy. There were many who did not and never do engage in such puerility. I should not have taken my blog and gone home. That was an overreaction and it wasn’t long before I missed being a part of the centrist/moderate/passionate-yet-reasonable community. So I returned, thicker of skin and clearer of vision.

For me, blogging is about connecting. I don’t often check my traffic stats (although I used to be obsessed) and I don’t often market myself to others (although I used to e-mail articles around). I just write and debate and know that even if only 100 people are reading, that’s a hundred people who I would not be reaching without this blog.

When I started a year ago, I wanted to be the biggest, best Centrist blogger around. And while it would be wrong to say I am now devoid of such ambitions, I am much more reasonable with my expectations and accepting of my status as a small voice fighting against the animosity, partisanship and spin of our times.

Thanks to all who read me and all who link to me. Hope you keep hanging around.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Illegal Immigration Conflicts Heat Up

One of the bigger issues we will be debating over the next few years is immigration. See what I have to say about the issue over at Donklephant.

The Meaning of Civil War

Charles Krauthammer thinks Iraq is in a civil war and that it has been a civil war for a long time.

By definition that is civil war, and there's nothing new about it. As I noted here in November 2004: ``People keep warning about the danger of civil war. This is absurd. There already is a civil war. It is raging before our eyes. Problem is, only one side'' -- the Sunni insurgency -- ``is fighting it.''

Indeed, until very recently that has been the case: ex-Baathist insurgents (aided by the foreign jihadists) fighting on one side, with the United States fighting back in defense of a new Iraq dominated by Shiites and Kurds.

Now all of a sudden everyone is shocked, shocked to find Iraqis going after Iraqis. But is it not our entire counterinsurgency strategy to get Iraqis who believe in the new Iraq to fight Iraqis who want to restore Baathism or impose Taliban-like rule? Does not everyone who wishes us well support the strategy of standing up the Iraqis so we can stand down? And does that not mean getting the Iraqis to fight the civil war themselves?

Hence the gradual transfer of war-making responsibility. Hence the decline of American casualties. Hence the rise of Iraqi casualties.

Krauthammer supports the war. As does Callimachus over at Done With Mirrors. But Callimachus thinks there isn’t a civil war in Iraq. Yet, he makes an interesting point:

Is it really a civil war? First, the media doesn’t care. It’s latched on to those two words and started the tug-of-war, and eventually it will win. Because it cares more about claiming the word than anyone else does.

O.k., so if this is a game of semantics, we can conclude that Krauthammer, knowing that the term civil war is going to stick, is using his time to redefine civil war so that it is a good thing.

But is it a good thing? Hard to say. It’s very likely that we have passed the tipping point where mass sectarian violence was preventable (if it ever was preventable). At this point, the violence will end when one side subdues the other. Either the Iraqi people will rally behind the central, democratic-oriented government or they will rally behind religious and ethnic leaders seeking total dominion over a specific region or the whole nation.

Our job is to give as much support to the central government as we can because, in the long run, a unified democratic Iraq is far preferable than a splintered Iraq incapable of keeping out and perhaps even welcoming in terrorists. Problem is, for a certain number of Iraqis, our very alliance with the central government is reason enough not to support it.

Unfortunately, if we were to pull out we would be all but ensuring the collapse of the central government. Our choices here are not exactly perfect even as they are incredibly important. We certainly have not yet failed. But victory is not yet close. In the end, whether or not we call the current violence a “civil war” is far less important than how we handle the situation.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Future of Television

A new survey of advertisers indicates that television advertising is losing its effectiveness. This is primarily blamed on the prevalence of Digital Video Recorders that allow viewers to skip commercials. But it’s also due to the continuing drop in network viewership.

For a number of years, those of us in the advertising industry have been finding new ways and places to hock our clients wares. A decline in the effectiveness of TV advertising won’t stop advertising. In fact, it’ll just expand the places you find ads. If you’re one of those people who hate being bombarded by ads everywhere you turn, brace yourself. It’s going to get worse.

But that’s not the interesting part of this story. What’s interesting is that television is going to have to adapt or die. If we’re all going to fast forward through the ads, networks are going to have to find new revenue streams to survive. HBO has already proved that people will pay a monthly fee to see programming. Can more pay-to-view shows be far behind?

Or, how about shows that you can download straight to your DVR for free that require you to watch commercials before viewing. For a premium, you can get the non-commercial version.

Of course, that’s a solution that’s probably pretty far off. Most likely we’ll first see a large increase in product placements including shows using an entire episode as a commercial-within-a-show. This will of course kill the creativity of those shows and lead to lower ratings, but the advertisers won’t care. They’ll just move on to the next desperate network.

No matter the course taken, the end result to all of this will likely be a radical transformation in how we watch television. The final episode of Seinfeld may be remembered as the last, great national television moment when we all (or at least a significant portion of us) tuned in at the same time for a non-sporting event. And while that feels unfortunate on some level, it really just means that our choices for entertainment are on the rise. Increasingly, we will no longer have to depend on just a few content providers to create shows we want to watch. They’ll come from more sources, in more formats, more frequently.

Some might say that this will leave us without shared cultural touchstones, but I doubt that’s true. We will still find events and movies and other moments where we all can share in the same experience. That’s just a natural part of society.

As far as I’m concerned, the death of traditional television is not something to mourn. It’s something to look forward to.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Return of Al Gore?

I have never particularly liked Al Gore and it's hard for me to quantify why. Perhaps it's simply his mannerisms, that intellectual elitism he seems so comfortable portraying. Not that I have any problems with intellectualism. But I prefer it wrapped in a less condescending package. Bill Clinton was and still is masterful at being both smart and down-to-earth. Al Gore has never had that gift.

But, as an article in The American Prospect describes, Al Gore is reemerging on the political scene and is setting himself up as the darling of the left wing.

In an era where condescension and moralistic lectures are regularly heard from partisans of both parties, perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that Al Gore's style is a good fit with a section of the electorate brimming with indignant anger. There are very few on the left wings of the Democratic Party who won't openly say that they are more clear-headed, more aware and just plain more intelligent than the brainwashed buffoons and their manipulative masters on the right.

Al Gore, with his past political success and style of intellectual superiority is perhaps even more perfect to lead the left wing than is Howard Dean. Dean, after all, never won the popular vote in a presidential election. And Dean comes off as much more a man-of-the-movement kind of guy. Gore is a general.

I would not be surprised if Gore mounts a run for the Democratic nomination. And I would not be surprised if he does quite well, although not well enough to win. He, better than any other politico, represents the passions and mindset of the modern Democratic left wing. And he brings a level of gravitas no one else in the Daily Kos-reading, belonging set can hope to offer.

It'll be interesting to watch what happens.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Bush: America Could be in Iraq for Long Time

In a news conference today, President Bush said American troops would likely be in Iraq for a long time.

Actually, that'll only happen if things get better. Let's not forget that we still have bases in Germany and Japan. We arrived in those nations as conquerors, became humanitarians and helped both nations build stable democracies. Our military is still in those countries not because we have to be but because they permit us to be. Our enemies became our allies.

My point isn't that the occupation of Germany and Japan should or even could be a model, only that a long-term presence in a foreign nation is, for us, generally a sign of success. Notice that we do not have any troops stationed in Vietnam.

So the question with Iraq shouldn't be "how much longer will we be there" but, instead, "how do we go from being perceived by many as an occupier to being permitted by the vast majority as an important part of a strategic alliance." Because, in reality, if we end up leaving Iraq anytime soon, it'll be because we failed to erect the kind of nation for which we fought.

Swing Voters are Changing American Politics

Writing for the Washington Post, pollster Mark Penn argues that the nation isn’t rigidly divided and, in fact, swing voters are more numerous and important than ever.

These voters are untethered to either political party. While it's become conventional wisdom to say that voters' minds are firmly made up, and that certain candidates can or cannot win, it's just not true. The growing bloc of swing voters takes a hard look at candidates much later in the process, and they adjust and shift as they gather information. They may seem like wallflowers in the political process right now, but they are the ones a successful campaign eventually needs to cross the finish line.

Penn is correct. And yet both parties seem to be more interested in mobilizing their base. Problem is, neither political party actually has a broad, unified base. Instead, the parties are coalitions of many bases with many different interests and goals. When a party “plays to its base” it’s really just playing to one or two specific special interests while ignoring or only mildly acknowledging other interests within the party’s coalition.

This strategy can work if one group within the coalition is particularly large and active (as are the social conservatives). But it can’t possibly be a long-term strategy. For example, the only reason social conservatives are a unified Republican force is because Democrats played to the interests of social liberals for far too long and lost the portion of their coalition that was made up of social conservatives. People who once would have eagerly voted Democrat because of economic reasons now vote Republican because the Democrats, in an effort to mobilize their so-called base, disinvested themselves from their socially conservative allies.

Now Republicans risk making the same mistake. Playing to the social conservative base is slowly alienating the libertarian and fiscal conservative aspects of the Republican coalition. These traditional Republicans may not become Democrats, but it’s likely they will become swing voters and seriously consider any Democrat who offers up a message more in-tune with their beliefs.

In many ways, we’re all potential swing voters. With only two parties to choose from, we can’t possibly find all our interests covered in one platform. We vote for the party that best represents our own interests. But if that party starts dismissing us and turns instead to another portion of the party’s coalition, most of us are going to start considering voting for the other party. This rise of swing voters that Penn writes about is almost certainly due to the fact that both parties have simultaneously narrowed their focus. Many of us no longer feel represented by either party and will thus cast our votes based on the specific positions of each candidate.

The more voters willing to swing their votes, the more both parties will have to take note and take action. Democracy might be slow and frustrating, but it does work. And the rise of swing voters is certainly democracy in action.

Monday, March 20, 2006

It Should be Easier to be Self Employed

This past weekend, I took part in the wonderful yearly ritual of paying my taxes. I do them myself with the aid of a computer program. I’m too proud (and cheap) to hire an accountant and I stopped going to H&R Block when I realized their tax preparers are just glorified typists using a tax program I could buy for myself.

As a freelance marketing and advertising writer/consultant, my taxes are particularly fun to complete. And particularly costly as I have to pay both my contribution to Social Security/Medicare and the portion usually paid for by an employer (those who are self employed must pay 15.3% of earnings as compared to just 7.65% for traditionally employed workers). It’s called the self employment tax and its very existence is a weight around the neck of all entrepreneurs.

In fact, the entire way taxes are calculated and collected is a burden to the self employed. Not only do the self employed pay more in taxes than those in traditional employment but the self employed are also responsible for saving up their earnings, figuring out their tax liability and mailing-in their payments to the IRS. An employee of a company has money automatically deducted from their paycheck but us self-employed have no such system. We’re left to fend for ourselves or face late fees and penalties for underpayment.

This, I believe, is a significant problem for our economy. As globalization takes hold, we’re going to need a flexible workforce. One of the ways Americans can keep ahead is by going to work for themselves, leaving the middleman of traditional employers behind and selling their skills and services on the open market. But the ability to go-it-alone is hampered by the tax burden placed on the self-employed.

We should either eliminate the self employment tax or allow up to half of it to be placed in a private, IRA-style account. And we should stop penalizing the self employed for not filing quarterly taxes. Anyone who makes under a certain amount (say, $150,000) should be allowed to pay their taxes in one lump sum rather than having to figure out their liabilities every three months.

Those steps would immediately make self-employment more feasible and thus help keep our workforce fluid and our economy humming. Of course, to make self employment truly viable, we also must fix our healthcare system. Decent healthcare is nearly unaffordable to the self employed and that too is a major reason why many Americans who want to work for themselves are unable to do so. But the burden of healthcare on our economy is a post for another day.

Oh No, Here Comes T.O.

I am a huge Dallas Cowboys fan. Multiple-jersey owning, every-game watching, dressing-my-two-year-old-in-Cowboys-colors fan. And I gotta say, the signing of superstar wide receiver Terrell Ownes leaves me feeling both thrilled and a little bit sullied.

On the one hand, the team desperately needed a game-breaking type player. Owens was by far the best offensive talent available in free agency. And his addition immediately makes the Cowboys a playoff contender. But at what cost? T.O. is a mercenary. The guy isn’t a team player—he’s a hired gun you bring in with the hope that’ll he’ll do more damage to your opponents than to your team.

So here’s the deal. I’ll root for Owens. I’ll cheer when he breaks one of his crossing patterns for a big score. But I’m not going to like the guy. Not unless he shows up to be a real part of the team. Wearing silver and blue isn’t enough. Us fans want our Cowboys to bleed silver and blue as well.

The first time Owens is wide open but doesn’t get the ball because Bledsoe can’t escape the pocket, I’ll be watching. Will Owens get angry? Or will he suck it up and go out and make sure he gets wide open again? I can’t say I’m optimistic that we’re getting a “new” Terrell Owens. But he is a Cowboy now. So I’ll afford him the benefit-of-the-doubt. At least until his first temper tantrum.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Luck of Being Irish

I am a Western European mutt. Best I can tell, my genes include a little English, some Danish, a hint of German, a dose of Scottish, a slice of Irish and God knows what else. But it has always been my Celtic roots, the Scots-Irish in me that I’ve felt most connected to.

This is partly because my mother’s maiden name is Stewart, a good Scottish clan name that she has always proudly carried and taught me to proudly carry as well (and now you know why I use three names). I spent several summers of my youth traveling Scotland with my family and always felt a strong affinity for the land and the people.

Until I was in my early twenties, I would answer the question of “what’s your heritage” with “I’m Scottish.” But then came my first St. Patrick’s Day while living in New York City. A friend of mine commented that St. Patty’s was always a wild night and only those with Irish blood dared to venture out. Well, being all of 22 and rather fond of wild nights, I came to the sudden realization that, in reality, I wasn’t just Scottish. I was Irish too.

My paternal grandmother’s maiden name was Sullivan, which is as good an Irish name as Stewart is a Scottish one. So I ventured out on that St. Patrick’s Day night. Decked in green, I ended up in Fiddlesticks, a West Village Irish bar where a Guinness is poured properly and dancing a jig is not an embarrassing act of drunkenness but a rite of passage.

Since then my identification with the Irish has only grown stronger as I’ve studied my ancestor’s many travails and their many accomplishments. There is pride to be found in what those who lived before us were able to overcome. There is pride in being Irish. And a good dose of fun too.

I ended up marrying a woman who is fully half Irish and now we have a son with a good Irish name and a little Irish face and there isn’t a St. Patrick’s day that goes by that I don’t don the green and raise a toast to all the many, many Irish all across the world.

But St. Patty’s Day has never been just for those of us who can trace our blood back to the Emerald Isle. It’s a party where all are welcome.

So I say to you:

Go gcuire Dia an t-ádh ort!

May God put luck on you.


Now that's a bad idea. But it turns out some people see no real problem with polygamy. I try to set them straight over at Donklephant.

Yes, I know I have two posts in a row directing readers over to my second home of Donklephant. But since the polygamy debate started there, I thought it best to continue it there.

I'll have some original content soon, I promise.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Influence of Blogs

Bush Doctrine Could Apply to Iran

In a new security report, President Bush has reaffirmed that the so-called Bush doctrine remains in place, particularly with regard to Iran. Basically, Bush is saying that if diplomacy doesn’t stop Iran’s plans to develop nuclear weapons, we would be justified in attacking.

Interestingly, I think we would be more justified in attacking Iran to stop their development of nuclear weapons than we were in attacking Iraq. But I think there would be less national will to take that course. We could certainly manage an air campaign, but if ground troops are required, I think Bush will have an extremely hard time finding broad national support or even getting congressional approval.

Hopefully this current diplomatic conflict will not collapse into a military crisis. But if it does, I think our ability to respond with adequate force could be compromised by the war fatigue many Americans feel. Let’s pray this situation is resolved peacefully.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Wrongful Assassination of the DPW Deal

It's only March, but one of this year's worst political moves will certainly be the killing of the Dubai Ports World deal. While there were a few principled voices expressing concern over this deal, the vast majority of negative reaction was based on ignorance, bigotry and/or political opportunism. A real low point.

Don't believe me? Read this post at Done With Mirrors and read the articles linked there.

Those who killed this deal have no reason to be proud.

Fighting the Weakness Within

At The Mighty Middle, Michael Reynolds sees the Bush administration as weakened and primed for the kill. At Ambivablog, Amba sees our entire political structure as weakened to the point that another terrorist attack could very well bring us to our knees.

Yes. These are dangerous times not just because of the enemies without but because of the weaknesses within. In times of great strife America has often been blessed with great leaders. Where are those leaders now? Where are the men and women who can combine candid yet powerful rhetoric, decisive yet competent action? Where are those with the strength of character and force of will to reject the divisive games of petty politics? Where are those who know how to unite?

In the years since our entire nation wretched at the horror of 9/11, we have failed to elect leaders capable of navigating this new terrain. Instead of turning to those who acknowledge hard truths and offer realistic actions, we have too often fallen for the childish rhetoric of those who want us to believe in a simplistic world where “Bush is evil” or “dissent is unpatriotic.”

And perhaps we have fallen for these mediocrities because real leaders are in such painfully short supply. In an era where spin is the accepted substitute for truth, how does an honest man or woman get elected? In an age where the worship of perfectly beautiful celebrities and the quest for eternally healthy lives dominate our culture, how can a leader find success with a message that acknowledges the hard realities of our day and the hard choices we must make?

I think these thoughts and I feel the creep of despair rising through my veins. I worry that we are deeply vulnerable, that another attack will not unite us but instead rip us apart.

But such pessimism does little good. Those of us who perceive the weaknesses of our nation have an obligation to work for change. We cannot afford to say “it is what it is” and slouch back into our chairs. We must instead speak up, change minds and refocus energies. We must support candidates who seem capable of providing real leadership. And we must reject those who want only to preserve their own personal power.

I do not know what the next few years will bring. But I sense there is a swelling frustration out here. I sense more and more people are growing weary of the charlatan acts of those who claim to lead and inform us. And I hope someone will rise to unite this growing group of honest yet discontented Americans. It is past time for real leadership.

Student Editor Fired over Mohammad Cartoons

The editor of the University of Illinois’ student newspaper has been fired for running the controversial Mohammad cartoons that sparked recent protests and violence throughout the Islamic world. Technically, editor-in-chief Acton Gorton was fired because he did not seek proper advice before running the cartoons. But that just sounds like a dodge by the board that governs the Daily Illini newspaper.

As a former editor-in-chief of a university newspaper, I have a lot of sympathy for Gorton. Running a school paper is not an exercise in professional journalism. It’s a learning experience. It’s a means by which future journalists and leaders can hone skills and test boundaries. As such, school newspaper editors should have greater leeway to make errors of judgment.

That’s not to say it was wrong to publish the Mohammad cartoons. It wasn’t. But it was foolish of the editor to think he could get away with it without angering others. When I was a student editor, I spent the entire year under fire for the various editorial decisions I made. Someone was always demanding an apology or calling for my resignation.

The lesson I learned was that it’s incredibly important to understand the ramifications of your actions before you take them. You have to know when you’re going to upset people and you have to decide whether what you’re about to say is worth the consequences. Sometimes upsetting people is unavoidable and absolutely necessary. Sometimes it just isn’t worth it. And sometimes the harshest of reactions can be tempered by seeking advice and, if possible, obtaining consent beforehand.

In the University of Illinois case, the editor seems to have erred by not warning enough people before publishing the cartoons. He simply failed to grasp the full ramifications of his actions. Had he consulted more people, he would either have avoided much of the ensuing conflict or he would have known beforehand that he was putting his job on the line.

But a failure to understand the ramifications of your actions is not cause for dismissal—not when we’re talking about a student editor. The board governing the Daily Illini was dead wrong to fire Gorton. Doing so sends the message that the Daily Illini is not a place where students are expected to learn journalism. It is instead a place where students are expected to obey a specific ideology that values a useless form of hyper-tolerance over the age-old rights of free speech.

What a poor lesson to be teaching.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Rift on the Left

Neo-neocon examines the very real divide on the left between those who blame America for all the world's problems and those who take a more, shall we say, clear-headed view.

I have often noted that there are major differences between what, for lack of better labels, I call the left and the far-left (and we do need better labels). The left is merely critical of the handling of the war on terror but is more than willing to acknowledge that we have very real enemies and must confront them with very real actions. The far left sees only one enemy: ourselves ... or, rather, our government and its supporters.

The left I agree with about as often as I disagree. The far left makes my stomach turn. But the far left has been very vocal these last few years and has too-often out-shouted the reasonable voices of the left. This has not been a positive development.

Neo reprints a very telling debate between a member of the left and a member of the far left which shows there are very stark differences of opinion between those who call themselves liberals. Read the post.

Are Liberals Going Extinct?

Phillip Longman of The New America Foundation has written an essay claiming that liberals are breeding themselves into extinction. Based on a study of birthrates, Longman has identified a correlation between progressive ideologies and low birthrates. While more conservative and religious people tend to have much higher birthrates.

Longman hypothesizes:

This dynamic helps explain the gradual drift of American culture toward religious fundamentalism and social conservatism. Among states that voted for President Bush in 2004, the average fertility rate is more than 11% higher than the rate of states for Sen. John Kerry.

It might also help to explain the popular resistance among rank-and-file Europeans to such crown jewels of secular liberalism as the European Union. It turns out that Europeans who are most likely to identify themselves as "world citizens" are also less likely to have children.

But for the analysis to work, one must believe that the children of conservatives will grow up to be conservatives. To that, Longman says:

Tomorrow's children…unlike members of the postwar baby boom generation, will be for the most part descendants of a comparatively narrow and culturally conservative segment of society. To be sure, some members of the rising generation may reject their parents' values, as often happens. But when they look for fellow secularists with whom to make common cause, they will find that most of their would-be fellow travelers were quite literally never born.

Maybe. But ideology is not genetically predetermined. And while many people’s opinions are informed by their parents and the community in which they grew up, most people deviate from their roots. And that’s the problem with analyses like Longman’s. It assumes that we’re dealing with two monolithic belief systems. A or B. But that’s just not the case.

The future beliefs of our nation and our world will be primarily driven by major events and the ideas of the great men and women who lead us. I seriously doubt that liberalism will rise or fall based on birthrates but instead I think its longevity will be determined by how relevant and useful liberal ideals are to our changing world.

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Rich Get Poorer and the Poor Get Richer

After decades of a widening income gap between the poorest and the wealthiest in America, the trend may be reversing. Recent studies indicate that since the turn of the new century, the wealthiest Americans have seen a slight decrease in their earnings while the poorest have seen a slight up tick.

If this is not just a statistical aberration, what does it mean? One theory:

Perhaps so many lower-skilled jobs have now left the U.S.--or have been created elsewhere to begin with--that today's high school grads are left doing jobs that cannot be easily outsourced--driving trucks, stocking shelves, building houses, and the like. So their pay is holding up.

College graduates, by contrast, look more outsourceable by the day. New studies from the Kauffman Foundation and Duke University show companies massively shifting high-skilled work--research, development, engineering, even corporate finance--from the U.S. to low-cost countries like India and China. That trend sits like an anvil on the pay of many U.S. college grads.

While it is fundamentally unfair when the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, we also gain little when the middle and upper-middle classes grow poorer. America has always been defined by a self-starting, upwardly mobile middle class and the last thing we want is for our middle classes to lose their financial security.

I don’t think any of us can fully predict what globalization will do to our economy. I’m fairly certain the American people are capable of adjusting. I just hope our system is also nimble enough to change accordingly.

The Problem With Chain Restaurants

Currently in San Antonio, we have a controversy brewing over the corporatization of the River Walk. For those not familiar, the River Walk is a beautiful expanse of hotels, dining and shopping along a narrow river in downtown San Antonio. It is the second most visited destination in Texas (the first is the nearby Alamo). So it’s a big deal to the city.

The problem is, the River Walk is so successful that large corporations have been taking over the restaurant space and filling the river with the kinds of chain eateries more commonly found in suburban strip malls. And while authentic local places still far outnumber the chains, a lot of people are concerned that the River Walk is in danger of losing its unique flavor.

San Antonio is hardly alone in debating this issue. The proliferation of chain restaurants has concerned everyone from urban Manhattanites to small town New Englanders. San Francisco has even passed laws meant to restrict the development of chains, including chain restaurants. In all these cases, the chains are viewed as spiritless interlopers that drive out small businesses and drain the area of its local character.

Personally, I do not care for chain restaurants. The food is marginal at best and the atmosphere is either bland or contrived. I much prefer local restaurants where the dishes are less predictable and the ambiance more authentic. But I didn’t always feel this way. There was a time when I purposefully sought out Olive Gardens or Chilis or T.G.I. Fridays because those were the restaurants with which I was most familiar and most comfortable. Never underestimate the power of the safe, known commodity.

And I imagine it is the “safe, known commodity” aspect that keeps people coming back to chain restaurants. In fact, that’s why I think these restaurants have worked on the River Walk. After all, once a conventioneer or a family has been in San Antonio for a few days, they’re probably tired of all the locally owned Tex Mex and Southwestern cuisine restaurants and just want a plain ole’ hamburger from the Hard Rock Café.

There’s nothing wrong with that. And there’s nothing wrong with the chain restaurants on the River Walk—because I tend to think these mass-marketed restaurants are not a replacement for but merely a supplement to all the great local places that give the river its character. I would be shocked if national chains ever became more than 30% of the River Walk. The vast majority of tourists are looking for new experiences, new tastes. Thus it will be the free market, not restrictive laws, that will provide the real cap on the expansion of chains on the river.

The animosity towards chain restaurants is understandable, but they’re only successful because people eat there. They fill a need. But they can never fill every need.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Cuellar Wins Primary

I'm a few days late on reporting this, but last week, Representative Henry Cuellar (D-TX) won his hotly contested primary. Cuellar, an independent-minded, center-left Democrat had been challenged from his left in a race that attracted national attention, particularly from far left activists who branded Cuellar a traitor to the party.

Fortunately for Cuellar, the final decision was up to his constituents. I would like to know how much time, energy and money the far left wasted on trying to oust Cuellar. Time, energy and money that would have been far better spent trying to get more Democrats in congress (rather than trying to purify the ones that are already there).

Congratulations, Representative Cuellar. You're continuing to prove that Democrats come in many forms and don't have to conform to the agenda of the far left.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Some Great Links While I'm Away

I will be on vacation for the rest of the week. I'll be back next Monday but I wanted to leave y'all with some great reading material while I'm away.


Charging RINO has some thoughts on President Bush's push for a revamped line-item-veto.

Ambivablog has found a new admiration for Wes Clark.

Shay at Booker Rising has some harsh words about Three 6 Mafia's Oscar win.

But The Mighty Middle thinks Three Six Mafia doesn't deserve such harsh criticism.

Neo-neocon has a great post on why she blogs what she blogs.

Dean Esmay gets into the game with his own post on blogging.

The Moderate Voice discusses the Democrats struggle at finding a strong message and Bush’s new attempt to open the Artic to drilling.

NeoMugwump writes about Brokeback Mountain and what the film means to the gay community.

Richard Lawrence Cohen has a new book out and explains why you should buy it.

And don't forget to visit Donklephant. Some of the best writing in the blogosphere goes on at Donklephant and there's always a great post or two or three to read.

Just Repulsive

In one of the most disgusting displays of hate and anti-patriotism I’ve ever heard of, an extended family of Christian zealots has been heckling the families of fallen soldiers at those soldiers’ funerals. The Phelps family shouts at the families and wave signs that say such things as “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” and “God Hates Your Tears.”

Their complaint? That the soldiers are fighting for a nation that accepts homosexuality. That’s right. These despicable people are so filled with hatred for homosexuality that they are cheering for the deaths of our soldiers. Obscene. Beyond obscene.

There are not words to express how repulsive I find these people. They may call themselves Christians and Americans, but they make a mockery of all that both Christians and Americans stand for. And while it may seem silly for me to devote space to renounce such obviously out-of-the-mainstream crackpots, I have criticized far better people for far less egregious transgressions. It is only through shining a light on the cruel ideologies of our most disturbed citizens that we can hope to keep our moral footing in these difficult times.

Yes, the Phelps family is far outside the mainstream. And there they should be forced to stay.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Honest Debate About Iraq

Over at A Little Left of Centrist, Robert Rouse has an excellent post detailing why he believes the Iraq War was and continues to be wrong for America.

Too often in debates over the Iraq war people fall into entrenched positions and tired rhetoric, when the truth is: both sides have valid points. I don't always agree with Robert about the war, but I always respect what he has to say. Talking, not shouting, is the only way we can work through this deeply complex issue.

Crunchy Cons Might Be the Ones to Reign In Big Business

The newly identified cohort of conservatives known as Crunchy Cons share a mistrust of multi-national corporations. Could this group push us towards more reasonable policies aimed at curtailing the excesses of big business? Read my thoughts over at Donklephant.

Oscar Gets It Right

In what is being dubbed a major upset at the Oscars, the movie Crash beat out favorite Brokeback Mountain to win best picture. Even to a casual observer like myself, this is a surprise. Brokeback Mountain seemed to be one of “those” movies, critically acclaimed, culturally significant and artfully made—the kind of movie known as “film.” The kind of movie Oscar likes to reward once a decade or so as a kind of penance for its usual habit of giving the award to box office schlock like Chicago, Gladiator and Titanic.

Of course, Crash also meets the critically acclaimed, culturally significant criteria. Perhaps even more so. While Brokeback Mountain became known as the “gay Cowboy movie” it was really just an interesting and timely twist on the old story of forbidden love. Crash, on the other hand, was about race. That’s not just its theme, that’s its plot synopsis. And in a year that Hollywood seemed almost desperate to remind us that they still matter, what better movie to award Best Picture than the one that unapologetically tackled a story centered around America’s greatest asset and its greatest cause of friction?

I could easily bash Hollywood for being pretentious, moralizing and elitist. After all, most movies with such a blatant theme are horrid. But the thing is, I enjoyed Crash. In fact, it is one of the best movies I’ve seen in the last few years. Rather than being moralizing, it is contemplative and layered, the characters real and multi-dimensional. And race is not depicted as just an identity or an obstacle. It’s given a far more sincere treatment, a much more authentic representation.

In the end, Crash lives and breaths not in the two-dimensional rhetoric of racial politics, but in the very real grays of America where racism exists among all races but where race is, even to the most racist, only one factor in life—a frame of reference much more than a frame of existence. In this nation, we are often defined by race and yet we also transcend race. Crash does a superb job of making that point while still telling an engaging even gripping story.

I’m sure others will disagree, but I think the Oscars got this one right. The best films, like great art, must be able to hold deeper meanings. Crash does that better than any movie I’ve seen in quite awhile.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Michael Brown: More Scapegoat than Hack?

After reviewing the newly released tapes that revealed the behind-the-scenes Katrina preparations by the federal government, Joe Gandleman of The Moderate Voice has concluded he was wrong to so harshly criticize FEMA Director Michael Brown. On the tapes Brown is seen working hard to marshal enough resources and will to adequately respond to the hurricane.

Joe is right. He was wrong and so were most of us. While I have always tried to make clear that I think blame should be spread over all levels of government from Mayor Nagin to Governor Blanco to President Bush, I have referred to Brown as a hack. A hack is someone who fails to grasp the importance or responsibility inherent in their position. It is clear now that Brown was not a hack. Whether he did a “heckuva job” is still in serious doubt, but he’s looking more like a scapegoat than the main perpetrator.

Ultimately, this was not the failing of one man but of an entire system from the local level on up. But most disturbingly, the Department of Homeland Security failed in its first major test. Yes, government has a tendency to be slow but the DHS was created for the very purpose of streamlining our security and safety apparatuses. Katrina revealed that we still have a long way to go before we can trust our federal government to provide the kind of immediate and meaningful assistance necessary in the aftermath of a catastrophic event.

Perhaps now that we know Michael Brown isn’t a hack, we will take more seriously his analysis of what went wrong and how we can improve the system.

Also commenting on this story: Donklephant and The Mighty Middle.

The Problem with Bush

President Bush’s approval ratings continue to fall and this time it doesn’t seem to be one big, bad event that is fueling the decline. Instead, I think a certain degree of Bush-fatigue has set in.

The frustrations with this administration are coming from two directions. The first, and most common critique is that Bush and his team are incompetent. The second and less heard critique is that Bush has lost his way primarily on the War on Terror and spread of freedom. What this tells me is that Bush is losing his grip on both pragmatists and idealists. If that trend continues, he’ll be left with nothing but the lapdogs.

I think the problem is that this President has too long relied on rhetoric over substance to move his agenda along. This is the marketing presidency where “the sell” is given a lot more attention than the product. Of course, government is not a marketing campaign. People expect real results, whether they’re pragmatists or idealists.

And Bush is not delivering results. He’s told us that we’re committed to spreading freedom across the globe. But other than our continuing efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, what are we doing? This administration has done a very poor job of explaining the War on Terror outside the context of military action and has thus allowed its critics around the world to wrongly but effectively paint our efforts as nothing more than blatant imperialism.

On the domestic side, its hard to find many positives. Social Security reform was a disastrously bungled affair. Katrina exposed the administration as a hotbed of hacks. The Medicare prescription drug plan is proving itself to be ridiculously overcomplicated. And, on the issue of warrantless wiretapping, the administration decided it was easier to ignore the law rather than work with Congress to make appropriate and necessary changes.

Take the foreign and domestic together and the administration really seems lost in a bog, not knowing which direction to go and unable to move even if they could choose a path. An approval rating below 40% seems about right for a situation like this.

As for me, I’ve never been a big Bush supporter but I’ve never been much of an opponent either. When he’s been right, I’ve supported him. When he’s been wrong, I’ve criticized him. But I do hope he gets his mojo back. The radical Islamist threat is not going away. And we have domestic problems that will take a lot more than another tax cut to fix.

We are in no position to be spinning our wheels for the next two years.

The Good Side of Evangelicals

Recently, American evangelicals have been increasing the pressure on the United States to do more to help the Darfur region of Sudan. This increased pressure has been cited as the main reason why Bush recently called for stepped-up action to stop the ongoing genocide in Darfur.

This is hardly the first time that evangelicals have embraced decidedly liberal international causes. Evangelicals have been instrumental in increasing awareness and providing assistance to African AIDS victims. They have fought against Chinese religious oppression. And they have worked toward improving human rights in North Korea.

For anyone who uses “evangelical” as a pejorative and reflexively thinks of this diverse group as gay-hating, abortion-clinic protesting, Creationism-pushing wanna-be theocrats, it is important to remember that people are never so black-and-white. At the heart of Christianity rests a great and noble compassion. And while many of the so called Christian Right are wrongly focused on attacking homosexuality and breaking the barriers of Church and State, many, many Christians still hold in their hearts a desire to bring grace and mercy to the world's least fortunate.

That is why it is no surprise that Christians have been at the heart of many great causes, including the abolitionist movement, women’s suffrage and the civil rights movement.

All this is not to say Christians have a monopoly on compassion. Nor do I seek to minimize the many wrongs that have been committed in the name of Christianity. My point is simply this: Christians can be powerful allies in the promotion of social justice. And anyone interested in issues like stopping the genocide in Darfur or ending the AIDS epidemic in Africa would be wise to make common cause with evangelicals and other Christians.

Too often in my dealings with those on the secular left, I find great contempt for Christianity and religion in general. As a church-going Christian who is very far from being part of the Christian Right, I am saddened to see so many on the left losing touch with religion. I hope this is just temporary, an understandable reaction to the rise of religious zealotry; because the Christian call to help the sick and poor can be a powerful motivating force in bettering the world.

Christianity and traditional liberal values have a lot in common. Just something to think on.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Condoleezza Rice: Secretary of Fitness

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is currently appearing in a three-part interview centering on her exercise regimen. That’s right, one of the most powerful women in the world is taking a page from another of the world’s most powerful women: she’s pulling an Oprah.

For a nation that is growing increasingly fat it really can’t hurt to show someone as incredibly busy as Rice finding the time to stay fit. Then again, given that she gets up at 4:30 a.m. to workout, I can’t imagine a lot of people thinking “you know, I could do that!” Heck, there is nothing in this world short of a fire actually consuming my bed that would make me get up at 4:30 in the morning.

Nor do I think testimonials from the trim and fit really convince the pudgy and unfit to go to the gym. Staying in shape is really a matter of personal discipline and if you have the will, you have the will. If you don’t, the will is more likely to be found in your own shapeless reflection or that pair of jeans that no longer fits than it is in the images of the Secretary of State isolating her abs.

Still, I don’t think Rice’s appearance on TV hurts. At least it has people writing about fitness. Typing is exercise too. Right?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

A Little Good News on Redistricting Reform

Charging RINO brings us the news that Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) has become the first Senate sponsor of a federal bill designed to fix the corrupt redistricting system found throughout the U.S.

Good to see this issue is gaining a little steam.

Talking About My Generation...

The other day I saw myself described as a Gen Y writer. This disturbed me because I always thought I was Gen X. I mean, I was a big fan of Grunge music, wore flannel and affected the proper attitude of detached angst. I even had a goatee and grew out my hair.

Looking into the matter, I was relieved to discover that the generally accepted bounds of Gen X extend until at least 1976, while Gen Y is considered to have begun absolutely no earlier than the same year. My birth in ’74 puts me right towards the end of Gen X.

So I’m glad to know I haven’t been a generational poseur all these years. But all this got me to thinking, what is my real generation? The one not constructed by marketers. The answer, I think, is that I belong to a generation born after Nixon’s reelection and before Reagan’s first election, when all politics centered on the trifecta of government failings: a corrupt office of the President, a lost war and a suffering economy.

Those of us born in that eight year span have lived our lives completely connected and yet utterly disconnected from the 1970s, a decade that saw both the baby boomer’s idealism and the American machine of progress become bogged down and nearly suffocate in the quicksand of reality and human weakness. And while my memories of the 70’s consist mainly of The Muppet Show and Star Wars, I’ve always wondered what effect growing up in those times has had on my worldview and perception of our nation.

In some ways, I think my generation is an experiment, the cultural wars fought out through the raising of children, some indoctrinated in the 1970s liberal vision and some indoctrinated in the conservative counterpunch to that vision. The baby boomers have never been united and their children, I think, are less so. We boomer children play out our mother’s and father’s battles—only unlike our parents, we didn’t grow into these belief systems, we were born with them like one is born with a religion. As such, I find many in my generation to be less engaged in their views and yet more sure in the rightness of those views than are (or were) their parents.

Maybe it’s because of this, or maybe it’s because of reasons I have not uncovered, but my generation has never gone through a great awakening as the baby boomers did in the 1960s through the struggle for equal rights or as the WWII generation did during and after their struggle to preserve the free world. My generation convinced a lot of y’all to invest in spurious Internet ventures but, culturally speaking, we haven’t yet had our moment.

I hope we do. I hope we soon climb out from beneath the imposing shadow of the baby boomers, embrace the many great ideas and causes of that generation but discard the divisiveness and end the “culture war.” Call me an idealist, but I think we can do just that.