Tuesday, May 27, 2008

America solidly divided on issue of gay marriage (response to a response)

A local reader of the Tribune Star sent me this (see below) in response to my essay on gay marriage. I found this essay interesting as the writer, Mr. Turek, decides to play amateur sociologist. Just for fun, I thought I would treat it as an assignment I received from a student and share my comments back to that student. My comments will be italics and in bold

Gay Marriage: Even Liberals Know It's Bad
Frank Turek
Monday, May 26, 2008

Why not legalize same-sex marriage? Who could it possibly hurt? Children and the rest of society. That’s the conclusion of David Blankenhorn, who is anything but an anti-gay “bigot.” He is a life-long, pro-gay, liberal democrat who disagrees with the Bible’s prohibitions against homosexual behavior. Despite this, Blankenhorn makes a powerful case against Same-Sex marriage in his book, The Future of Marriage.

He writes, “Across history and cultures . . . marriage’s single most fundamental idea is that every child needs a mother and a father. Changing marriage to accommodate same-sex couples would nullify this principle in culture and in law.” This is contrary to most social history. The states' interest in marriage emerged in agricultural societies as wealth became based on land and less in "status." Indeed, poor people often didn't have to marry, it was a practice begun by the rich and more powerful in order to maintain an orderly transmission of property. Women always know who their children are, but men do not. In a situation where biological parternity cannot be ascertained, the notion of legitimate (children of legal wife) and illegitimate children (of mistress) are created. Property only flows to the legitimate children. But today, paternity is easy to ascertain. Even legitimate children are sometimes challenged by their "father." So, the importance of the marital relationship is diminished today by the primacy of biological relations. Marriage was far more about property than the 'best interests of children."
How so?

The law is a great teacher, and same sex marriage will teach future generations that marriage is not about children but about coupling. When marriage becomes nothing more than coupling, fewer people will get married to have children. You should cite some research by family sociologists who already argue that marriage is more of a lifestyle choice than a normative obligation as it was in the past. This is not new. Many people marry with no thought of children. See marriages between people who are past child bearing age or who opt to remain childless. Europe is so depopulated with children, that some governments are looking to create incentives for people/couples to have children.

So what?

People will still have children, of course, but many more of them out-of wedlock. That’s a disaster for everyone. Children will be hurt because illegitimate parents (there are no illegitimate children) often never form a family, and those that “shack up” break up at a rate two to three times that of married parents. Society will be hurt because illegitimacy starts a chain of negative effects that fall like dominoes—illegitimacy leads to poverty, crime, and higher welfare costs which lead to bigger government, higher taxes, and a slower economy. This same outcome also occurs when children are legitimate but a divorce occurs later.
Are these just the hysterical cries of an alarmist? No. We can see the connection between same-sex marriage and illegitimacy in Scandinavian countries. Norway, for example, has had de-facto same-sex marriage since the early nineties. In Nordland, the most liberal county of Norway, where they fly “gay” rainbow flags over their churches, out-of-wedlock births have soared—more than 80 percent of women giving birth for the first time, and nearly 70 percent of all children, are born out of wedlock! Across all of Norway, illegitimacy rose from 39 percent to 50 percent in the first decade of same-sex marriage. 39% was the rate before the acceptance of gay marriage? That is remarkably high. In the US, currenlty it is about 25% overall, much higher among some groups than others. What caused the original 39%? Couldn't be gay marriage, perhaps the original causes are still in effect?

Anthropologist Stanley Kurtz writes, “When we look at Nordland and Nord-Troendelag — the Vermont and Massachusetts of Norway — we are peering as far as we can into the future of marriage in a world where gay marriage is almost totally accepted. What we see is a place where marriage itself has almost totally disappeared.” He asserts that “Scandinavian gay marriage has driven home the message that marriage itself is outdated, and that virtually any family form, including out-of-wedlock parenthood, is acceptable.” In liberal Scandanavia, that is probably the case. Also the cradel to grave welfare state makes it much easier to have children without the economic advantage of marriage as is found in the US. By the way, is crime and all the other social ills also occuring in Norway. No, they are not. Anthropologist Kurtz's assertion is not evidence.
But it’s not just Norway. Blankenhorn reports this same trend in other countries. International surveys show that same-sex marriage and the erosion of traditional marriage tend to go together. Traditional marriage is weakest and illegitimacy strongest wherever same-sex marriage is legal. And where would this be? The other Scandanvian countries? Holland? What other countries? Those other countries also are what we could call post-industrial countries. Perhaps that has something to do with it. Indeed, many anthropologists and sociologist have argued that an industrial and post-industrial society are more similar than the agricultural societies that we are just emerging from. "Traditional" marriage is an agricultural society phenomenon. In hunting and gathering societies, marriages are much more fluid than in agricultural societies..again, that property thing.
You might say, “Correlation doesn’t always indicate causation!” Yes, but often it does. Is there any doubt that liberalizing marriage laws impacts society for the worse? You need look no further than the last 40 years of no-fault divorce laws in the United States (family disintegration destroys lives and now costs tax payers $112 billion per year!). Tsk, tsk...didn't I teach you anything in that research methods class. In order to even begin to claim causation, three criteria must be met: 1) correlation (which we have here); 2) temporal ordering, the cause must occur prior to the effect; and 3) ruling out of spurious relationships, in other words another cauase that might be controlling both phenomenon. Unfortunately, your assertion of causation faisl the temporal ordering criteria, because, as this charts shows, the divorce rate was rising overall in the US and in California well before the Family Law Act of 1970, signed into law in September 1969 by, of all people, Ronald Reagan. While "no fault divorce" might have accerlerated the rate, it did not cause the "problem" of an increasing divorce rate. Indeed, the rate, as the chart shows, had already almost doubled from its low in 1960. Something else was going on, which also suggests that the third criteria of ruling out a spurious relationhip is at work.

No-fault divorce laws began in one state, California, and then spread to rest of the country. Those liberalized divorce laws helped change our attitudes and behaviors about the permanence of marriage. There’s no question that liberalized marriage laws will help change our attitudes and behaviors about the purpose of marriage. The law is a great teacher, and if same-sex marriage advocates have their way, children will be expelled from the lesson on marriage. Or the attitudes and behaviors had already changed and law/policy changed to follow. The chart above suggests evidence supporting the alternative view, not the one asserted by Mr. Turek or Blackenhorn.
This leads Blankenhorn to assert, “One can believe in same-sex marriage. One can believe that every child deserves a mother and a father. One cannot believe both.”

Blankenhorn is amazed how indifferent homosexual activists are about the negative effects of same-sex marriage on children. Many of them, he documents, say that marriage isn’t about children.

Well, if marriage isn’t about children, what institution is about children? And if we’re going to redefine marriage into mere coupling, then why should the state endorse same-sex marriage at all? Marriage does tie adult responsiblity to children. But nothing stops, unless it be law, gay couples from adopting children.
Contrary to what homosexual activists assume, the state doesn’t endorse marriage because people have feelings for one another. The state endorses marriage primarily because of what marriage does for children and in turn society. Society gets no benefit by redefining marriage to include homosexual relationships, only harm as the connection to illegitimacy shows. But the very future of children and a civilized society depends on stable marriages between men and women. That’s why, regardless of what you think about homosexuality, the two types of relationships should never be legally equated.

One could make this argument, but one does not have to be married to take the tax deduction for contributing to the raising of a child. So, the law, recognizes parenthood quite apart from the marital relationship. One could argue perhaps that should be changed, that one could only get their tax deductions and exemptions IF THEY WERE MARRIED, but I don't think you are trying to make that argument.

That conclusion has nothing to do with bigotry and everything to do with what’s best for children and society. Just ask pro-gay, liberal democrat David Blankenhorn. Except Mr. Blankenhorn and Mr. Turke are poor sociologists. The paper gets a C.

Copyright © 2008 Salem Web Network. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

America solidly divided on issue of gay marriage

Previously published in Terre Haute Tribune Star, 5/25/08

Finally, gay rights advocates and conservative and religious groups have something in common: a week both could describe as “the best of times, the worst of times.”

On May 7, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled “that the state’s ban on gay marriage makes it illegal for public universities and other entities of state government to provide domestic partner benefits to the partners of gay employees.” Stung/elated from that ruling, a week later, the California Supreme Court “struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage … in a broadly worded decision that would invalidate virtually any law that discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, “Conservative and religious-affiliated groups denounced the decision and pledged to bring enough voters to the polls in November to overturn it. Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, called the decision “outrageous” and “nonsense.” Staver continues: “No matter how you stretch California’s Constitution, you cannot find anywhere in its text, its history or tradition that now, after so many years, it magically protects what most societies condemn.” (Strange that a group with “Liberty” in its name denounces a ruling that increases personal liberty.)

Those displeased with the Michigan ruling sounded similar themes starting with the dissenting justices: Marilyn Kelly and Michael Cavanagh wrote, “it is a perversion of the amendment’s language to conclude that, by voluntarily offering the benefits at issue, a public employer recognizes a union similar to marriage.”

These contradictory rulings might suggest a deepening division in the country over the issue of “gay marriage” in particular and the civil rights of gays and lesbians in general. Is this another wedge issue for the United States similar to the way abortion has been for several decades?

I raise the example of abortion because, in many ways, pro-life activists stem from similar groups as do activists defending marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Surveys of public opinion, however, suggest that the status quo for abortion is likely to continue while the status quo for gay rights is likely to move toward greater acceptance and reduction in status discrimination.

Public opinion on abortion has changed little since the first surveys following the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. There are passionate minorities on both sides of the abortion divide. The majority, however, is muddled, stuck in the middle, trying to find the right balance. I see the U.S. as maintaining the right to choose but with restrictions, which is fitting given where public opinion has been on this issue for the last 35 years. People’s views on abortion do not vary much by gender or by age.

Public opinion on “gay rights” is different. The acceptance of gay people in all walks of life is increasing. In fact, about the only status gays are not overwhelmingly accepted as is “legally married.” The Gallup Organization has been surveying public opinion on these issues for decades. In 1977, 56 percent of adults responded “should” to: “In general, do you think homosexuals should or should not have equal rights in terms of job opportunities?” Responding to the same question, 89 percent of adults responded “should” in a poll taken May 8-11, 2008.

Sizable majorities of Americans support legally protecting gays in contested areas of society. In another Gallup Poll, 68 percent of adults favored including sexual orientation in federal hate crimes legislation. Last year a CNN/Opinion Research Poll found that 79 percent of adults indicated that openly gay folks should be able to serve in the military. In the same poll, 57 percent said gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to legally adopt children.

However, between 51 percent and 63 percent opposed granting legal marriage to gays and lesbians. When the options of “legal marriage,” “civil union,” or “no legal recognition” are offered to respondents, 40 percent choose “no legal recognition.”

There is, however, a very meaningful demographic divide on the issue of legal recognition of gay marriage/civil unions: age. Younger people are more likely to support legal recognition of homosexual unions than are older people.

Typical of such patterns can be found in a CBS News Poll from 2004; 53 percent of people 65-plus favored “no legal recognition of a gay couple’s relationship compared to just 25 percent of 18-29 year olds. And there is no evidence that as one ages one’s opinion changes on this.

The full acceptance of gays and lesbians into civil society in the United States, including legal recognition of a gay couple’s relationship, will eventually occur, despite the efforts of contemporary opponents.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

David Brooks, yeah right...

Is David Brooks on Sen McCain's payroll? His editorial in the NYT, entitled "Talking versus Doing" is an artfully written argument for why Sen McCain should be president, unfortunately for Sen McCain, Brooks' claims are inaccurate.

Brooks compares Sen Obama's support for the bloated Farm Bill to McCain's opposition to it. Well, neither Obama nor McCain voted ... period. So, neither thought it was that important to take them off the campaign trail.

When I first read Brooks' column, especially this gem:

McCain has been in Congress for decades, but he has remained a national rather than a parochial politician. The main axis in his mind is not between Republican and Democrat. It’s between narrow interest and patriotic service. And so it is characteristic that he would oppose a bill that benefits the particular at the expense of the general.

I thought to myself, yeah, Arizona is not exactly the biggest ag state. So, I looked them up in the last Agriculatural Census for 2002. There are only 17 other states whose value of ag products is lower. That puts Arizona well in the bottom half of Ag states. So, not supporting, by not voting, is not that a big a deal back home.

Obama, on the other hand, though he supported it by not voting for it, is from Illinois, where 41 states are lower in terms of ag value.

My point is to use the Farm Bill as evidence of McCain setting aside narrow interests is a laugh.

By the way, there were 15 Nay votes in the Senate on the Farm bill. 11 of those Senators were from states with lower valued ag production than Arizona.

I wish I could get a job writing fiction for the NYT editorial page.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Even I Could Write Zingers for The Daily Show With This Stuff

I thought I was reading a comedy spoof when I read this WaPo article. The article focuses on Sen. McCain's increasing attacks on Sen Obama's foreign policy credentials, mostly on Sen Obama's stated willingness to talk to America's enemmies. For instance:

Sen. John McCain stepped up his assault on Sen. Barack Obama's foreign policy credentials at a rally in Miami yesterday, criticizing Obama's willingness to talk to Cuban President Ra¿l Castro and other hostile foreign leaders without preconditions

Imagine Jon Stewart's contorted face as he then looks into the camera and asks, was Ronald Regan's Secretary of State an appeaser? As a video of Sec. Baker appears:

But McCain's argument was undercut when a 2006 video emerged of former secretary of state James A. Baker III, a prominent McCain supporter, saying that "talking to an enemy is not in my view appeasement."

Remember McCain was the one who confused the players in the Middle East and needed Sen Leiberman whispering in his ear all the time. Imagine those videos with McCain saying this:

...Obama fails to understand "basic realities of international relations." McCain said Obama's willingness to talk with Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without preconditions during his first year as president would only embolden "an implacable foe of the United States."

Sen McCain's senior strategist Steve Schmidt said

John McCain is ready to be commander in chief. Barack Obama is not, because of his inexperience and poor judgment," Schmidt said. "Inexperience and poor judgment in the president of the United States makes the world a more dangerous place."

Imagine a perplexed Jon Stewart rubbing his chin and saying: Yeah, inexperience (Texas governor who couldn't find several foreign countries on a map) and poor judgement (invade Iraq) in the president make the world a more dangerous place. Slowly nodding, nodding, nodding. Then asking, why then would we want to continue the same policies? As a dumb picture of Sen McCain looms on the background.

To be far, we have to skewer Sen Obama, too.

Obama, meanwhile, has stuck to his position that the president should be willing to talk with enemies of the United States as part of a return to a more open and ambitious use of diplomacy, though last week he clarified that there would be lower-level contacts and "preparation" before any presidential meeting. On the campaign trail, Obama cites President Richard M. Nixon's opening of U.S. relations with China and President Ronald Reagan's negotiations with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev as examples he would emulate.

Jon Stewart vigorously nodding, saying, Nixon's stupid foreign policy brought us cheap goods from China and has devastated our manufacturing base and negotiating with Gorby brought down communism and the newly capitalist Russia are outcompeting us on the capitalist market, too.

But Obama doesn't just cite Republican foreign policy success, he also quotes that foreign policy magician, John Kennedy:

Obama also frequently quotes President John F. Kennedy's position during the escalating nuclear arms race that the United States should be willing to meet with its adversaries: "Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate," Kennedy said in his 1961 inaugural address.

Can you say "Bay of Pigs?"

It is just too easy.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Post-modern Conservatives

I always thought that post-modernism was a failing of the left, but i guess the romantics are also found on the right wing, too. Over at Newsbusters, they are crowing about a petition to be unveiled tomorrow at the National Press Club of over 31000 people with science degrees who say that anthropogenic climate warming is wrong.

Just because you can find people who are misinformed doesn't change scientific fact. The petition is the work of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine. According to their website this is what the OISM is about:
Research in the Institute's laboratories includes work in protein biochemistry, diagnostic medicine, nutrition, preventive medicine, and aging. The Institute also carries out work on the improvement of basic education and emergency preparedness.

Yup, climate science all the way.

Now, there is another group of folks, the American Association for the Advancement of Science who issued a report in December of 2006, even ahead of the IPCC report. Here is the first paragraph:

The scientific evidence is clear: global climate
change caused by human activities
is occurring now, and it is a growing
threat to society. Accumulating data from
across the globe reveal a wide array of
effects: rapidly melting glaciers, destabilization
of major ice sheets, increases in
extreme weather, rising sea level, shifts
in species ranges, and more. The pace of
change and the evidence of harm have
increased markedly over the last five
years. The time to control greenhouse
gas emissions is now.

Why is the right wing so worried about taking responsibility for altering the environment? What are they afraid of? Buy trees, sell carbon sequestration units. Make money.

By the way, there is a difference between the science and what "scientists" say.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Now, How Is It that Republicans get the Military Vote?

It seems to be a political truism that the military supports the GOP. Truisms are often false, however. Overall, polls show the military reflects America as a whole. But, there does seem to be a divide. Officers support the GOP while the rest of the military is more likely to support the Dems.

So, that the GOP doesn't support the new GI Bill, which would provide generous college monies to returning soldiers makes perfect sense. The officers already are college educated, while those who volunteer to start at the bottom, who may well have entered the military as a means to mobility, which many do, will benefit from the new GI Bill.

The best argument listed in the WaPo story, to oppose the bill was from Presidential hopeful John McCain:
presumptive Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), who worry that its benefits might entice service members to leave the strained military rather than re-enlist.

I like Sen. McCain's logic. Instead of college money, what we should do is offer really low cost loans to our soldiers, get them deep into debt, so they can't leave the military because they have to pay off their debt--just like the company store.

Taxing the high income brackets spreads the pain for the war. The lower and working classes have been bearing the brunt now, what longer than WWII?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Is America's Most Overrated Product the Bachelor's Degree

Yes, claims Marty Nemko, a former career counselor, writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education
I have a hard time telling such people the killer statistic: Among high-school students who graduated in the bottom 40 percent of their classes, and whose first institutions were four-year colleges, two-thirds had not earned diplomas eight and a half years later. That figure is from a study cited by Clifford Adelman, a former research analyst at the U.S. Department of Education and now a senior research associate at the Institute for Higher Education Policy. Yet four-year colleges admit and take money from hundreds of thousands of such students each year!


I don's disagree with the author. He goes on:

Perhaps more surprising, even those high-school students who are fully qualified to attend college are increasingly unlikely to derive enough benefit to justify the often six-figure cost and four to six years (or more) it takes to graduate. Research suggests that more than 40 percent of freshmen at four-year institutions do not graduate in six years. Colleges trumpet the statistic that, over their lifetimes, college graduates earn more than nongraduates, but that's terribly misleading. You could lock the collegebound in a closet for four years, and they'd still go on to earn more than the pool of non-collegebound — they're brighter, more motivated, and have better family connections.

The author goes on to eviscerate what colleges and universities are doing. Nothing really new here; yup, teaching is not really rewarded; in fact, it is detrimental. The author goes on to suggest what all colleges should be required to report. I don't disagree at all. But, I do take exception to a couple of things.

He seems to have special enmity for the large state universities. They were founded as "research" schools, especially in agriculture and engineering. It is part of their mission to do research that benefits society. I'm not suggesting that they actually do this, but it is wrong to suggest that their original goals should be held against them today.

Mr. Nemko also doesn't say a thing about the overall lack of motivation on the part of today's students. Sure, as he notes, many are highly motivated and bright, but many are bright have great test scores, and just underachieve all over the place. is that really the fault of the universities? This is a cultural problem. Universities and colleges are not high schools.

Now, I don't blame Mr. Nemko for not being the most well read and I'm sure he thinks he has "discovered" something here, but "credentialism" has been a phenomenon noted by sociologists for some time. Much of today's situation with higher ed can be attributed to the GI Bill. by making it so easy for so many to attend college after WWII, and the public schools really expanded and the growth in human capital really created a vibrant middle class, ..., most of these would be viewed as good things, but it also created the requirement of a college degree for scores of jobs that had not before needed one, and one could argue, do police and correctional officers need college degrees? What evidence is there that college grads make better officers? is there any? how would one measure that anyway?

College is still needed for doctor's lawyers, the professions, teaching, and other ocupations which have managed to use the state to close boundaries on the occupation, like teaching, social working, and financial consultants.

Credentialism works really well for business and many public service organzations. Arguably you get better educated folks, overqualified, for the same price.

Of course, credentialism may benefit colleges because they are the providers of the credential, but corporations that make a degree an absolute requirement, regardless of whether their is specialized knowledge involved, are as much to blame. the trnucating of corporate ladders from the bottom to the top, with the requirement to have a college degree.

And the requirement of a college degree has been a real boon to the maintenance of the class structure. When it is not just academic achievement or motivation that is operative, the cost is what I am referring to, then as long as it is the more priviliged groups that have the access, then it helps to reduce competition from lower status groups who dont have the same access.

But now, that access is almost universal, though remarkably expensive, but with easy financiing, there are increasing people who question whether a college degree is worth it; I find this especially interesting as white males, especially, are abandoning college.

I do agree with the author, too many unqualified people go to college; too many graduate from college having learned nothing because they were not at college to learn. But the phenomenon is not entirely, or even primarily, the fault of the colleges and universities.


This summer I am conducting research on a very new area for me. I am diving headlong into the question of adaptation to climate change. This is, for a sociologist, a fascinating area. And, one that is going to be crucial for our "survival" in the future.

From time to time, I am going to blog on some ideas I am reading in this area, this summer. Maladptation is one such concept I have been reading about. Maladaptation refers to decisions/actions taken today that contrain our ability to adapt in the future. A decision today, for example, to rip out all the railroads in favor of cars and trucks, would be a maladaptive decision. Actually our relatively poor public transportation infrastructure is a "contraint" for adaptation in the future.

Of course, what seems like an adaptive behavior at one level, say, for the individual, might be maladaptive at another, like the societal level. Want an example? Okay, with warming, there will be more demand for air conditioning, which is going to add to greenhouse gases which will increase warming that much more. Many maladptative decisions are probably exactly like this: a vicious circle because the effects cross different scales. What makes sense for the individual doesn't make sense for the larger society.

So, as I come to understand this, I think we can already see some maladaptive decisions: first one is corn based ethanol. We are now putting pressure on food prices to produce rene wable sources of gas, and it takes more energy to produce ethanol and it requires a lot of fuel to transport. Makes sense only within a very narrow focus....no one is looking at the unintended consequences.

Another one would be the trend toward larger and larger homes. Cost much energy to heat and cool, but we keep building them to satisfy our insatiable wants for consumer status.

As much as I like imported foods, both because of the relative cost and exotic qualities, there is a real crummy trade off. that so much I buy is made/grown elsewhere has been a terrific anti-poverty program. But the transportation costs (externalities) are maladaptive.

What about nuclear power? have we created a maladaptive situation by making it nearly impossible to utilize today...of course switching to nuclear power is not so much adaptive but perhaps mitigating....

Although, more reliance on renewable forms of electrical energy would reduce the maladaptive behavior related to using more air conditioning feeding back on adding more greenhouse gases thus increading the warming of the climate. This is what is so interesting about this stuff, everything is connected to everything else. Systems theory at its best!

What are these folks clinging to? Religion? Guns?

This remarkable article in WaPo. If you haven't read it, plesae do so now. It is about the racism that Obama field workers have encountered on the campaign trail. And be sure to read the 3000+ comments the article has generated on WaPo website and it is unbridled, much of it.

While I know politicians want people to vote for them, which poiticians want to court the vile racist vote?

I was disappointed in Sen. Clinton for trafficing in this. And McCain? Those types are mostly likely to vote for him anyway. I hope he is proud of that.

In a nation that is about choice, in a nation that would find the Muslim beliefs that you are born a Muslim and can't ever leave the religion (if you do, you can be executed as we have seen already), that we don't look at Sen. Obama for his accomplishments. I think he is surprised more people don't see it.

Of all the racist remarks I have heard, and I live in Indiana, one of the towns where a bomb threat was phoned in for the Obama HQ, is the one that if Sen. Obama wins, African Americans will be given everything and Whites will suffer. What has Sen. Obama been given? Isn't his path, through education, through merit, achievement, what is the American ideal? Oh, yeah, there is hte anti-intellectual aspects of the US, our current President probably being one of the best examples. Anyway, what a role model for anyone...Sen. Oboama, but especially for African American men. Egads, imagine what "Barack Obama" had to put up with. Yet, he persevered. That is a remarkable characteristic. Just as Sen. McCain has shown. And Sen. Clinton.

Read the article.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Making a choice had never been so complicated

Previously published in the Terre Haute Tribune Star, May 11, 2008

May 4. In less than 48 hours the polls open for the much anticipated Democrat Presidential Primary. As has been pointed out endlessly, Hoosier votes count in this one.

Although I am not a lifelong Indiana resident (this is my ninth Presidential vote, fifth in Indiana), I have lived in states that had late primaries, so I am used to having my choices for the November ballot selected by others. That fact never bothered me. I just shrugged my shoulders and went about my business. The eventual nominee has never been my primary choice. In the past I would naively cast a vote for a candidate who could not win the nomination hoping to influence the platform. As I said, “naive.” Were I still so na├»ve I would ask for a Republican ballot and vote for Ron Paul.

As I write this I do not know who I am going to vote for. A couple of weeks ago I decided that I’d probably just flip a coin the morning of the election. I mean, why not? The policy differences between the two Democrat hopefuls are slight. My list of pros and cons for each candidate balance each other out, closer than the Guam caucuses.

The narrow test of who is offering “me” the best deal, has never been my test. No, I embraced those high school citizenship classes too eagerly, I really think we should be choosing who is best for the nation, and what is best for the nation is not necessarily always the best for me. At the same time, the historic and sociological implications of this election are not lost on me. In one sense, any vote contributes to an historic outcome. We are either going to elect the first African American, the first woman, or the oldest to the Presidency. One the other hand, I’d like to contribute, to be part of, in my small way, the historic outcome. Hence, I want to vote for the eventual winner.

Normally, endorsements mean nothing to me. I think they say more about the endorser than it does the endorsee. Endorsers are more odds makers than anything else; until Lee Hamilton endorsed Sen. Obama. That endorsement made me pause. Never before has any endorsement had such an impact on me.

I think Sen. Obama is what I want our president to be. I like his current advertisement where he characterizes Washington as unwilling to take on the hard questions and solve them, instead opting for political gimmicks like the gas tax holiday proposed by Sens. McCain and Clinton. At the same time, Sen. Clinton is a fighter and is willing to do whatever it takes to win. I understand that is part of why Republicans best Democrats because Democrats are often too idealistic. “Too idealistic” or “unrealistic’ is what many see in Sen. Obama. I share some of that skepticism, too. Argh!!!

Election day. As I drove into Roselawn Cemetery to vote early this morning, I thought to myself, “how fitting for what has become a “grave” decision for me.” I had an easier time proposing marriage! When asked which ballot I wanted, I replied “Demopublican or Republicrat.” I was told they would have those in November but right now, only the donkey or elephant. Along with everyone else, I asked for a Democrat ballot. I took my ballot over to the little stand and there it was, the “choice.” I quickly ran through the others races and in a minute or so am back to the “choice.”

I noticed others come in and get out pretty quick, while I stared and pondered the “choice.” I began to worry that there might be a time limit on how long I could stare at my ballot.

Finally I made a choice. I decided to pretend that Indiana was the first primary; that the previous elections had not happened. Who would I vote for if I got to be one of the first to make a choice instead of one of the last. And sure enough, as my past favorites end up, I voted for the Indiana loser (though, strangely, Sen. Obama seemed to win Tuesday overall--his narrow defeat in Indiana viewed as something of a win.) Democrat politics are more complicated than Republican politics; though 24% of Republicans still voted against Sen McCain.

I thought both Democrat victory speeches Tuesday night went a long way toward building a united front for the eventual Democrat nominee. I hope Indiana doubles the number voting in the November election.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Last year's Mother's Day essay to be discussed on LA talk show

Surprised was I to find an email last night from "Neshia's Radio Show" a radio call in talk show from LA. Tonight, 10PM Pacific, she is going to discuss part of an essay I wrote last year for mother's day. Neshia has invited me to call in, but I'll likely be asleep as I am on the road gathering up my daugher from college. She did send me a link so I could listen, as you can too. www.klasfm.com.

Below I reproduce the essay which appeared last year in the Terre Haute Tribune Star

Thomas Steiger: What is it that we celebrate on Mother’s Day?
By Thomas L. Steiger
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE Sat, May 10 2008

— Officially, today is the 93rd Mother’s Day. Unofficially, this is perhaps the 150th Mother’s Day in America. Based on my 15 minutes of Internet research, celebrations of mothers can be traced back to ancient Greece and Rome. Both sound to me like fertility rites. Ancient Christians began to celebrate the fourth Sunday in May to honor Mary, Jesus’ Mother.

The origin of Mother’s Day in the United States is credited to Anna Jarvis, who organized a day to raise awareness of poor health conditions in her Appalachian community. She thought mothers would be natural advocates. Fifteen years later, Juliet Ward Howe, a poet and activist, organized a day for mothers to rally for peace (today’s celebration won’t carry any political overtones I’m sure).
Then in 1905, the daughter of Anna Jarvis, began organizing a memorial to her mother’s work. Many of today’s symbols of Mother’s Day originated in the memorial to Anna Jarvis. In 1914 Woodrow Wilson signed a bill to recognize Mother’s Day as a national holiday on the second Sunday in May. I thought it was a “Hallmark Holiday.”

Early on, Mother’s Day was celebrated by going to church. Pretty quickly gift-giving and more secular activities began. Anna Jarvis’ daughter, the founder of our Mother’s Day, didn’t care for the materialistic turn of Mother’s Day and actually sued to try to stop a Mother’s Day festival. Before her death in 1948, she expressed regret at what the holiday had become.

I found some statistics related to Mother’s Day. According to the U.S. Census Bureau there are more than 80 million mothers in the U.S. According to Hallmark, about 96 percent of consumers take part somehow in celebrating Mother’s Day. Cards are popular. So are telephone calls as it is a peak day for long distance service. I know that on more than one occasion over the years I have gotten the recording telling me “all circuits are busy.” Mother’s Day is the busiest day of the year for many restaurants. After Christmas, Mother’s Day is the biggest gift-giving holiday of the year. I didn’t see any statistics for church attendance on Mother’s Day. Perhaps it follows Christmas and Easter.

Now what I am going to write next will seem just downright odd, but give me to the end of the paragraph. What exactly are we celebrating? Are we celebrating fertility like the ancient Greeks and Romans? Or are we celebrating the work of mothering children? I wonder because as an adopted child, I have a “birth mother” and my mother, the one who raised me. All these years, I’ve never given any thought on Mother’s Day to my birth mother. Have I been disrespecting her all these years?
As a kid, other kids used to give me grief about not living with my “real” mother. I thought that was nonsense then and still do. I only know one mother. Yet, what if the telephone rings today and the voice says, “I gave you life nearly 49 years ago.” Should I buy that woman a card and invite her out to dinner?

About now, my mother is probably beginning to shake because she thinks this has actually happened. “No Mom, I’m just writing an essay. Nothing like that happened.”

What about kids who are conceived using donor eggs, dad’s sperm, but implanted in mom’s uterus? One mom or two on Mother’s Day? I know a young woman who gave up her son for adoption, but it is an open adoption and she knows the family and gets regular updates on her “birth son”(?). Does he buy two Mother’s Day cards? I should check more closely the card selections to see if they have cards that differentiate the birthing from the raising portions of motherhood. Maybe they are color-coded.

What about those folks walking around with a donor heart, lung, liver, or kidney from someone other than a sibling? Without another mom, they’d not have life now. Does one send a card to the mother of the donor? How about moms who abandon their kids? Do they still get an invite to Olive Garden today?

I take for granted my entry into this world. As I suspect most do. What I celebrate today is not the giving of life but the sustaining of it, not the biological role of reproduction but the social role of mothering, not the genetic material but the support, the guidance, the love, and never ending parenting.
Thanks, Mom, and happy Mother’s Day.

Thomas L. Steiger is a professor of sociology and women’s studies at Indiana State University. E-mail tsteiger@isugw.indstate.edu.

Copyright © 1999-2008 cnhi, inc.

UPDATE (5/11/2008). After driving for several hours, stopping in to see a colleague and friend, I decided to join the radio call in show. Only to discover, that the mother's day segment was cancelled. Turns out Neshia's show focuses on music, she was to have a rapper on who was having all kinds of domestic troubles, he canceled and my article was a fill in. I'm guessing the rapper returned. Anyway, kind of cool to be thought useful for such an endeavor. Who knows, sometime in the future.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Operation Chaos Shows Rush Limbaugh's Cynical View of Democracy

One needs to remember that Rush Limbaugh likes others to think he is a kingmaker and a player in national politics, but when pressed on that, he will fall back that he is just an entertainer, really.

So, there is Operation Chaos, his plan to encourage Republicans to crossover and vote for Hillary Clinton to beat "Barack Obama up." According to news reports, now Limbaugh has called it off because he thinks Sen. Obama is the weaker candidate anyway. (And there won't be any more evidence to see if he can influence an election or not).

While I think his influence was probably nil in Indiana, there is some evidence to suggest Operation Chaos was influential, the best evidence was anecdotal, however, what about the other races, the races that were really undermined by Republican "dittoheads" following Limbaugh's suggestion?

How about Republican challenge to Dan Burton in the 5th Indiana CD? If a Republican is going to cross over to try to create "chaos" in the Democratic Primary, what does that leave the Republican primaries? McGoff, Burton's challenger, attributed Republican crossover to his defeat. "McGoff says the Republican crossover vote was probably the biggest factor in his loss.

Even Burton thought the crossover voting hurt him, he even attributed the narrower margin to Operation Chaos:
"I think the crossover vote today hurt us quite a bit. The conservatives that Rush Limbaugh asked to vote in the Democratic primary, they did, and an awful lot of those conservatives were my voters, I believe, and it cost us several points," Burton said.

I don't know anything about McGoff, but I suspect that Burton is likely more conservative, so wouldn't it have been ironic if Operation Chaos costs "real conservatives" an election? How many might this have affected? How many might have lost their election bids due to that crossover margin?

Limbaugh doesn't care a wit about local races, only the national stuff, but to suggest to crossover to craete chaos for Democrats means to abdicate one's support for local pols, conservative or otherwise.

Rush Limbaugh demonstrates what he really has, which is contempt for the democratic process. I also bet he laughs at his dittoheads who followed such a corruption of what voting is all about.

Monday, May 5, 2008

How Racism Affects Those Who are Not Racists

Here is an insightful article from WaPo that is drawing exactly the kind of criticism I figure it would. The article is worth reproducing in full here.

The Willie Horton of the 2008 Campaign?

Monday, May 5, 2008; A02

Conduct a thought experiment: Imagine that the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, former pastor to presidential candidate Barack Obama and preacher with controversial views, was not an outspoken black man but a white woman who penned her controversial ideas in a scholarly journal. If Wright's views were the only thing that mattered, his race, sex and public style ought to make no difference. Assuming she held the same views and shared a lengthy history with the presidential candidate, a white female scholar ought to damage Obama's popularity in the same way the pastor has done recently.

There is no way to conduct such an experiment in real life, but Arizona State University social psychologist Steven Neuberg believes that Wright has damaged the biracial Obama because, in his public persona -- as much as in his views -- he activates unconscious fears and racial stereotypes that many voters have about angry black men. Black leaders who are popular with white voters invariably find ways to put such fears to rest, Neuberg said.

"Like Colin Powell but unlike Jesse Jackson, the cues that suggest there is someone out there who may want to do you harm are not there" with Obama, Neuberg said. "It is the reason Powell could have won eight years ago and that Obama can win. His bearing is non-threatening."

"What this Wright guy has done is tagged Obama as a black guy," Neuberg added. "He is more aggressive and attacking, and that engages in people's minds and that makes race salient."

If Neuberg is right, Wright might well be the 2008 version of Willie Horton, the black Massachusetts inmate whose case was used against Democratic candidate Michael S. Dukakis in 1988. Talking up the controversy, moreover, gives Obama's opponents a potent weapon: They can hook into voters' hidden fears and racial attitudes without ever saying a word about the radioactive subject of race.

-- Shankar Vedantam

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Uninsured Kids In Middle Class Have Same Unmet Needs As Poor

Uninsured Kids In Middle Class Have Same Unmet Needs As Poor

ScienceDaily (2008-05-03) -- Nationwide, uninsured children in families earning between $38,000 and $77,000 annually are nearly as likely to forgo health care as uninsured children in poorer families. More than 40 percent of children in those income brackets who are uninsured all year see no physicians and have no prescriptions all year, says new research. ... > read full article

What is wrong with these parents? The controlling idea behind President Bush's veto of expanding SCHIP funding into this income group was that middle class parents should be responsible and pay for insurance or pay for their kids' health needs. This research is not just about kids who are not getting health care, but it is about irresponsible parents. What are these middle income parents spending their money on? Are they saving for their kids college? That won't do much good if they are ill. Paying off mortgages for houses that are probably too expensive because they want their kids to go to "good" public schools or even paying for private school tuition so they can get a good education and get into college? Or how about all those costs associated with the highly organized lives of middle class kids these days? All the lessons, sports, enrichment activities? Irresponsible, irresponsible, irresponsible.

Parents who are making the wrong decisions to fund other necessities over your child's health care, forget about saving for college. Just pass that debt on to the kids. What is more American in this age than being in debt up to your eyeballs anyway. (For the record, I have very little debt relative to my income. I will out myself as well out of the mainstream of American behavior. for this, I;m sure I will never be elected to any political position as I am out of touch with normal America.)

Friday, May 2, 2008

Political gimmicks

I can't agree more:

From Thomas Friedmann:

It is great to see that we finally have some national unity on energy policy. Unfortunately, the unifying idea is so ridiculous, so unworthy of the people aspiring to lead our nation, it takes your breath away. Hillary Clinton has decided to line up with John McCain in pushing to suspend the federal excise tax on gasoline, 18.4 cents a gallon, for this summer’s travel season. This is not an energy policy. This is money laundering: we borrow money from China and ship it to Saudi Arabia and take a little cut for ourselves as it goes through our gas tanks. What a way to build our country


Over at Politico I found this:

An Open Statement Opposing Proposals for a Gas Tax Holiday
In recent weeks, there have been proposals in Congress and by some presidential candidates to suspend the gas tax for the summer. As economists who study issues of energy policy, taxation, public finance, and budgeting, we write to indicate our opposition to this policy. Put simply, suspending the federal tax on gasoline this summer is a bad idea and we oppose it. There are several reasons for this opposition. First, research shows that waiving the gas tax would generate major profits for oil companies rather than significantly lowering prices for consumers. Second, it would encourage people to keep buying costly imported oil and do nothing to encourage conservation. Third, a tax holiday would provide very little relief to families feeling squeezed. Fourth, the gas tax suspension would threaten to increase the already record deficit in the coming year and reduce the amount of money going into the highway trust fund that maintains our infrastructure. Signers of this letter are Democrats, Republicans and Independents. This is not a partisan issue. It is a matter of good public policy.
Henry Aaron, Brookings Insitution
Gilbert Metcalf, Tufts University
Joseph Stiglitz, Columbia University (Nobel Prize in Economics, 2001)
James Heckman, University of Chicago (Nobel Prize in Economics, 2000)
Daniel Kahneman, Princeton University (Nobel Prize in Economics, 2002)
Charles Schultze, Brookings Institution (President of the American Economic Association, 1984, Chairman Council of Economic Advisers 1977-1981, Director, Bureau of the Budget, 1965-1967)
Alice Rivlin, Brookings Institution (President of the American Economic Association, 1986, Director of O.M.B. 1994-1996)
Peter Diamond, M.I.T. (President of the American Economics Association, 2003)
Richard Schmalensee, M.I.T. Sloan School of Management (member of Council of Economic Advisers, 1989-1991)
Michael Jensen, Harvard Business School (President of the American Finance Association, 1992)
Clyde Prestowitz, President, Economic Strategy Institute (Counsellor to the Secretary of Commerce, Reagan Administration)
Robert Shapiro, Sonecon, LLC (chief economic advisor to 1992 Clinton Campaign)
Michael Greenstone, M.I.T.
John Shoven, Stanford University
Wallace Oates, University of Maryland
Barry Bosworth, The Brookings Institution
Bob Bixby, Concord Coalition
Alan Auerbach, University of California, Berkeley
Jonathan Skinner, Dartmouth College
Diane Lim Rogers, Concord Coalition
Martin Weitzman, Harvard University
Lawrence Goulder, Stanford University
Gerhard Glomm, Chairman, Economics Dept. Indiana University
Roger Morris, Indiana University
Willard Witte, Indiana University
Elyce Rotella, Indiana University
Eric Leeper, Indiana University
Arlington Williams, Indiana University
Susan Monaco, Indiana University
Robert Campbell, Indiana University
Michael Alexeev, Indiana University
Robert McIntyre, Citizens for Tax Justice
David Cutler, Harvard University
Martha Blaxall, George Washington University
Jeffrey Liebman, Kennedy School of Government Harvard University
Seema Jayachandra, Stanford University
Frank Ackerman, Tufts University
Ken Cordell, University of Georgia
Catherine Wolfram, University of California, Berkeley
Julie Nelson, Tufts University
Nancy King, Yale University
Richard Howarth, Dartmouth College
Jeff Romm, University of California, Berkeley
Joseph Cortright, Impresa Inc.
Beth DeSombre, Wellesley College
David Lindauer, Wellesley College
Jan Kregel, Levy Economic Institute
John Gowdy, R.P.I.
Alan Krupnick, Resources for the Future (director of research)
Winston Harrington, Resources for the Future
Tim Wolf, Global CFO, Molson Coors Brewing Company
Nancy King, Yale University
Gloria Helfand, University of Michigan
Ulla Grapard, Colgate University
Susan Feiner, University Southern Maine
Austan Goolsbee, University of Chicago, Graduate School of Business
Robert Schwab, University of Maryland
Marilyn Power, Sarah Lawrence
Andrea Cohen, Tufts University
Paul Courant, University of Michigan
Chris Avery, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
Robert Stavins, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
Alan Deardorff, University of Michicagn
Rebecca Blank, University of Michigan
James Galbraith, University of Texas
Loretta Fairchild, Nebraska Wesleyan University
Roger White, Frankliln and Marshall College
Anne Mayhew, University of Tennessee
Gillian Hewitson, Franklin and Marshall College
William Waller, Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Adriana Lleras-Muney, Princeton University
Myra Strober, Stanford University
Marcellus Andrews, Barnard College
Noelwah Netusil, Reed College
Yannis Ioannides, Tufts University
Jim Levinsohn, University of Michigan
Richard Thaler, University of Chicago, Graduate School of Business
Chih Ming Tan, Tufts University
Thomas Swartz, University of Notre Dame
Todd Easton, University of Portland
Duncan Foley, New School for Social Research
John Weyant, Stanford University
Charles Wilber, University of Notre Dame
Adam Jaffe, Brandeis University
Ian Parry, Resources for the Future
Dani Rodrick, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
Jon Faust, John Hopkins University
Paul Portney, University of Arizona
Stephen Cohen, University of California, Berkeley
Joel Darnstadter, Resources for the Future
Ilyana Kuziemko, Princeton University
Ron Stanfield, Colorado State University
Paul Davidson, The New School
David Popp, Syracuse University
Haynes Goddard, University of Cincinnati
Robert Gertner, University of Chicago, Graduate School of Business
Stanley Black, University of North Carolina
Patrick Conway, University of North Carolina
Buck Goldstein, University of North Carolina
John Akin, University of North Carolina
Wojciech Kopczuk, Columbia University
Mary King, Portland State University
Jesse Rothstein, Princeton University
Leemore Dafny, Northwestern University
Erin Mansur, Yale University
Jeff Zabel, Tufts University
Gar Alperovitz, University of Maryland
Harley Shaiken, University of California, Berkeley
Michael Haneman, University of California, Berkeley
Jeffrey Perloff, University of California, Berkeley
Sheila Olmstead, Yale School of Forestry and Environment Studies
Edward Barbier, University of Wyoming
LeRoy Hansen US Dept. of Agriculture
Shanna Rose, New York University
John Weyant, Stanford University
A. Myrick Freeman III, Bowdoin College
Michael Bernstein, Tulane University
Richard Revesz, New York University
Immanuel Wallerstein, Yale University
Jonathan Isham, Middlebury College
Wayne Gray, Clark University
Radhika Balakrishnan, Marymount Manhattan College
Charles Kolstad, University of California, Santa Barbara
Erzo Luttmer, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
Randall Dodd, Johns Hopkins University
Todd Schatzki, Analysis Group
Lori Bennear, Duke University
J. R. DeShazo, U.C.L.A.
Hilary Sigman, Rutgers University
Marianne Ferber, University of Illinois
Joshua Fischman, Tufts University
Martha Campbell, SUNY Potsdam
Sanford Jacoby, U.C.L.A.
Bruce Kogut, Columbia Business School
Jaime Ros, University of Notre Dame
Arleen Leibowitz, U.C.L.A.
Daniel Mitchell, U.C.L.A.
Eban Goodstein, Lewis & Clark College

Now, could it be that this is a sham? that like the Heartland Institute which posted the names of 500 scientists who don't agree with global warming only to find out they "fibbed," could it be that Politico is doing the same thing? I see a name or two of faculty I recognize, I'll see if I can verify these.

UPDATE (5/4/08) I heard back Dr. Marianne Ferber and the above letter is the real deal.

Straight talk express running out of gas?

At 2PM today Sen. McCain, living up to his straight talker reputation shares this little bit of conventional wisdom he shared at a town hall-style meeting Friday morning in Denver.

"My friends, I will have an energy policy that we will be talking about, which will eliminate our dependence on oil from the Middle East that will prevent us from having ever to send our young men and women into conflict again in the Middle East," McCain said.

So, this means our forgotten war in Afghanistan, from where the 9/11 attack came and where Osama bin Laden was being harbored, is the war about democracy and Western values, while the war in Iraq is about Western values, our oil intensive culture. Yeah, well, that is a good summary and hearing someone like Sen. McCain admit it, I think is the opening of one hell of debate for this election. Finally, straight talk.

Until he landed in Pheonix. There Sen. McCain's straight talk express ran out of gas and he equivocated, he dodged, he "bent."

According to the Associated Press: "No, no, I was talking about that we had fought the Gulf War for several reasons," McCain told reporters.

One reason was Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, he said. "But also we didn't want him to have control over the oil, and that part of the world is critical to us because of our dependency on foreign oil, and it's more important than any other part of the world," he said.

"If the word `again' was misconstrued, I want us to remove our dependency on foreign oil for national security reasons, and that's all I mean," McCain said.

"The Congressional Record is very clear: I said we went to war in Iraq because of weapons of mass destruction," he said.

Now, one thing I am sure of, there is a lot of oil in Iraq, much more oil than WMDs.

I can't wait until one of our straight talkers admits that we went to war in IRaq to intall democractically installed sharia law.
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