Sunday, May 25, 2008

Getting Our Attention

It always seems like bad news comes all at once. It can never just be one thing that's hard to handle, oh no. Multiple things have to suddenly explode or implode and make your life REALLY complicated. More often than not, I think it's the whole composite of bad things that makes a particular time of life so bad, not one thing in particular. I was talking to one of my friends about this last night who is going through a really hard time right now, and she mentioned that she felt like she had strayed a long way from God and that this was His way of getting her attention, and that for that reason it might all turn out to be a good thing.
I think she has a point. I don't believe that God creates the hard times for us to experience-- God has plans for our lives to "prosper you, and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future" [Jeremiah 29:11]. But I think that God allows the hard times to happen and uses them to bring us closer to get our attention, if you will. Face it- humans are really hard-headed. It takes a lot to get our attention when something isn't quite right. That's been true throughout history. A passage in the Bible that I like on the topic comes from Isaiah 30. Israel, according to the Bible, was one of the hardest-headed nations of all time. God had to do a lot to get their attention, but He did it out of love. Because of His love for them, He persevered and pursued them, to a greater or lesser extent. In the end, according to verses 20 and 21, the tough times served to give them guidance: "Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it.""
It's hard to go to God and allow Him to work through tough times in our lives, because our instinct is to yell at God, to run away and push at Him. But when, in the end, you've had your temper tantrum and run out of things to scream and places to go, and God is still there...well, as C.S. Lewis said, "To what will you look for help if you will not look to that which is stronger than yourself?" God loves you. You can accept it or ignore it or run away from it, but you can't change it, no matter what you do or how hard you try.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

In My Thoughts

My thoughts and prayers continue to go out tonight to Sen. Ted Kennedy, as his brain tumor battle continues; to Christian singer Steven Curtis Chapman and his family, who lost their 5-year-old daughter in a tragic accident; and to the people of Windsor and Fort Collins, Colorado and other towns hit by the tornado tonight (I particularly think of my former roommate April and her family, who live in Fort Collins, and hope they're all right).

Opinion du Jour: Hillary & McCain

Today Marie Cocco published an opinion piece in the Washington Post entitled "The 'Not Clinton' Excuse" and asks the questions: "If not now, when? If not Hillary, who?" about electing a female leader, a milestone for which the US is woefully overdue. Cocco examines other potential candidates, and lists reasons why it is unlikely that any of them would succeed in a presidential bid. She also brings up the interesting point that it has been 24 years since a woman ran for "national office on a major-party ticket." With Clinton all but out of the race, this is an interesting question to consider-- when will the US finally elect a woman president?

Also take note of Robert D. Novak's Op-Ed in the Post, "McCain Stakes His Turf." This piece examines John McCain's likely strategy for waging this general election campaign. It is one that is familiar from past campaigns, and (probably wisely) avoids for the moment directly engaging Obama on two issues that he is sure to win on (health care and the economy). Novak also mentions that, "While on this attack, Obama also rails against any responsive fire from McCain." This is something that bothers me about Obama. He talks about taking the high road and waging a positive campaign, then he turns around and goes on the attack. And THEN he takes the opportunity to talk MORE about waging a positive campaign and "changing the system" whenever his opponents strike back. This is, in my eyes, contradictory and rather childish. If you're going to give criticism you better be ready to get some back, and you better be able to take it. It's politically juvenile to expect a totally positive campaign with no criticism, and even more so to expect to be able to criticize and not be criticized.

I think a piece of my soul died tonight.

Tonight I was working in the kids' section at Barnes & Noble. It's a great gig late at night because you get maybe two customers every hour. Maybe. This leaves lots of free time for wandering around the section looking at picture books...ahem, I mean, putting books away and straightening up the section. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed reliving my childhood through *straightening* such books as Miss Rumphius, Strega Nona, The Bunyans, and Stone Soup, as well as my lifelong favorite Dr. Seuss books. I also found many of my favorite books from elementary and middle school, such as Where the Red Fern Grows, Caddie Woodlawn, Johnny Tremain, and Mr. Popper's Penguins.
But I was also thoroughly disturbed by what I am daily finding out is the state of reading today. It seems that for many of my generation and of younger generations, the thing to read is not something that you actually (in my opinion) really read at all. It's all about manga. Anime. Graphic novels. Whatever you want to call them. They're long Japanese comic books. There are more pictures than words and the binding is on the right-hand side of the book, and people (generally people under 30 or so) eat them up. I know many people for whom the only book they will pick up is a manga book.
Now, it's one thing if this happens when you're 15 or so and have been exposed to actual books already. Maybe reading normal (real) books isn't really your thing. Then, for your viewing pleasure, you can find manga Hamlet, manga Romeo and Juliet, a manga Bible, even a manga guide to raising autistic children. You think I'm kidding. Anyway, once you've tried actual books and decided it's not as much your thing, then manga might be moderately acceptable. What I find incredibly disturbing, however, is the presence of manga in children's literature.
I blame Captain Underpants. I'm pretty sure he (okay, his author) started manga for children with the books made up of half comics and half text. Those books were and are tremendously popular. I suppose I can see why-- most kids of the young elementary school level love superheroes and "gross" or semi-inappropriate things like underpants. But ultimately, what really caught on, was the style of book. And here we go into manga for kids.
There are many series of books that are designed to be just manga, of course. But what I discovered tonight that killed off yet another little piece of my soul is that there is also a manga version of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain and a manga Dracula by Bram Stoker. They've also made Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and Artemis Fowl into manga. This, in combination with the classic literature made into manga for adults, is pretty much enough to make me want to cry or bang my head against a solid object, not hard enough to give me a concussion but hard enough to make me forget that I found out about all this. Mark Twain and William Shakespeare are not only rolling over in their graves, they're doing somersaults, and not the happy kind either.
No doubt some people will try to defend manga to me by saying that at least it gets kids into books and away from the computer and TV. Well, to that I'd have to say that of course I partially agree. At least this version of manga doesn't have a screen at which to stare. But that is the only extent to which I agree. Any further would require a belief that manga does, in fact, involve quantities of reading that total to more than the amount you get from a cereal box.

Oh, and just for another interesting note, did you know that the John Deere company is now publishing kids' books on backhoes, tractors, dozers, etc.? With the company logo right on the front of the book? And they're making books that come with little "Disney Princess My Pods" (shameless spinoff on ipods, of course), and little "Sing Along Idol" books. Talk about getting started on consumerism at an early age.

Politics Today: Joe Lieberman

On May 21, 2008, an op-ed piece by Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut appeared in the Wall Street Journal. It is entitled "Democrats and Our Enemies" and includes criticism of Barack Obama's foreign policy and an endorsement of the policies of John McCain. Sen. Lieberman is, of course, noted for having been one of the few Democrats who continues to support the Iraq War, and though once a Democrat, he was forced (after having lost in the Democratic primaries in Connecticut in 2006) to run as an Independent, which is what he is currently. Anyway, the piece contains some very interesting points about the historical stances of the Democratic party, and since it is causing a bit of a stir, at least among bloggers and pundits, is worth reading. You can read the article here, and, just for a change in the perspective, I would also encourage you to read Steve Benen's response to it over at The Carpetbagger Report.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Oh, She's Just Being Miley...and Toystory

Above and below: Miley (born ~4/30)

Above and below, Toystory (born ~5/12)

Leaving the subject of politics for the first time in many posts, above are some pictures of my two favorite calves at the dairy barn where I work: Miley and Toystory, both of whom I wrote about here.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Today in Politics

Before I get into the 2008 election, I want to take a moment to wish all the best to Sen. Ted Kennedy for his struggles ahead. Sen. Kennedy today was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, which could "affect Kennedy's ability to speak and understand speech, as well as the strength on the right side of his body," according to CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta. This will be a difficult time for the senator and his family, and I wish them all the best, and will keep them in my prayers.
Unfortunately I couldn't blog earlier as all this was initially going on because I was at work, but this late hour does give me the opportunity to review what has gone on in the past few hours.
Aaaand...basically, everybody who yesterday predicted the approximate outcome of today's primaries was right.
With 100% of precincts reporting in Kentucky, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton won decisively, 65% to 30% over Sen. Barack Obama. Exit polls suggest, as you might expect, that HRC trounced Obama in almost every category, including lower-income workers, college graduates, and suburbs, small towns, and rural areas. More analysis on the impact of this to come in the next couple of days.
In Oregon, with 50% of precints reporting, Sen. Barack Obama won by a fairly significant margin-- currently, 58% to 42%, but frequently being updated. Not too much to be said yet on what's happened, since not all the numbers are in, but expect more information and analysis over the next couple of days.
Tonight in speeches: Hillary Clinton thanks Kentucky voters for their "overwhelming vote of confidence" and declares that she'll "never give up on you." In Iowa [??], Barack Obama declares that the nomination is within reach. I'll post links to the full speeches as soon as they're up on YouTube.
So, no major surprises tonight, but what has happened is significant to both candidates still in the race. Barack Obama moves closer to the nomination, but some significant voters move farther away from him; conversely, Hillary Clinton is garnering some important Democratic votes, but her chances of defeating Barack Obama and getting the nomination still clock in at "slim to none." Current state of affairs for HRC: she has no real motivation to get out; but there's not much in the way of practical reasons to stay in either. Current state of affairs for Barack Obama: full speed ahead to the nomination...but better start working to get back in the good graces of the working class.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Reminiscing Already

It's not too early to start looking back and smiling and/or shaking your head. Slate has a video up already reviewing in seven minutes the Democratic race from the beginning 8 candidates to very recently. Check it out here-- it's funny, accurate, and generally awesome.

Kentucky and Oregon

Looking ahead to the contests tomorrow in Kentucky and Oregon, it seems possible that, assuming a wide enough margin, Sen. Obama will reach the needed number of delegates to end the primary season and become the presumptive Democratic nominee. Several questions lurk at this stage. First, of course, is: will Obama's margin of victory in Oregon (combined with whatever delegates he can scrape in Kentucky) be enough to put him at the 110 delegates needed to reach 2,025 total? 52 delegates are up for grabs in Oregon, and 60 are available in Kentucky. That's a grand total of 112, not including superdelegates, of which there are 9 in Kentucky and 12 in Oregon. The polls suggest an Obama win in Oregon, with an American Research Group poll putting his lead at 50% to 45%, but other more recent ones making it a more decisive Obama victory. On the other hand, in Kentucky, some of the most recent polls suggest a Clinton victory on the order of West Virginia, with a new SurveyUSA poll clocking in at 62% Clinton to 31% Obama. It seems obvious that the race won't officially (numerically) end tomorrow, but what we really have to wonder is, will the numbers tomorrow convince Hillary Clinton that it is in fact feasible for her to stay in the race? Or will she face the odds, whatever they may be, and back down and get out of the race?
Meanwhile, thoughts turn to the running mate question. Who will be McCain's VP? Who will be the Democratic nominee's (presumably Obama's)? Taegan Goddard of Political Wire notes a few thoughts from potential VPs. More speculation to come...

Question Time

Dana Goldstein of the blog Tapped brings to our attention an interesting idea that John McCain has suggested: bringing the British tradition of "Question Time" to the US. For those who don't know, in Britain this is the required time once a week in which the Prime Minister appears before Parliament and takes questions (read: gets interrogated) about his/her policies from the opposition. In essence this would force the prime minister (or president) to defend their policies off the cuff and before a likely hostile audience. This could be a very good idea for our system, because it would of course be carried on C-SPAN and probably reach the public eye, and would therefore create a more public sense of accountability for the president. The president would not be able to get away with just suggesting a policy (i.e., in the State of the Union) and then that's the end of it for the president. If they want a policy, they would have to go to bat for it, which would require greater engagement and knowledge of the policy ins and outs. It'd be almost like a presidential campaign debate, except in a much more real context, because the things they'd be debating would be actually in the process of happening already. I think this would be an excellent idea for the US, especially after the disengagement of the Bush era.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

This Week on the Campaign Trail (Part II)

My friend Bobby responded to my earlier post with his own thoughts on what I wrote about, so I thought I'd keep the discussion going and respond again. He wrote,
I agree with a lot of your analysis, including your piece about Hillary Clinton. Hillary is getting shafted and will most likely not be chosen for Vice President. I think she should jump on the McCain bandwagon because it gives her a better chance of running in 2012. I think the Democratic Party has royally screwed up their entire nominating process. If they had Republican rules, Hillary would have won. If Republicans had Democratic rules we would either have Mike Huckabee or Mitt Romney. Crazy how that works.
I really have a problem with how Hillary is being treated though. How do you lose a blue collar state by 41 points and have that boost your chances of winning the nomination! The one thing I disagree with your analysis is about this week’s primaries. Hillary will most likely take Kentucky in comparable margins to West Virginia. The demographics are very much alike and the latest American Research Group Poll has Hillary up 65% to 29%. I think the internals of exit polling in West Virginia are very troubling for Obama. He lost significant portions of college educated voters, richer voters and youth voters. Three categories that he has been crushing Clinton in over the past several months.
I think Democrats are getting a little cocky in all honesty. There seems to be this we can win so were going to spin everything in our direction. Take the Mississippi election last Tuesday. The Republican lost to the Democrat 54-46. Therefore, the media went wild that this is the end of Republicans and they will be drubbed in the fall. Childers (D) was endorsed by Barack Obama, but was running as a conservative Democrat so spent weeks before the election trying to distance himself from Obama. Look, I know Republicans have a lot of work to do to salvage seats in the House. However, the fact remains special elections are like primary elections. The really charged up Dems are coming out more than Republicans. In the general election you can toss that out. People that don’t normally vote, vote in those elections. So work is cut out for the Republicans, but taking special elections as in indicator is naive. Republicans know this very well. They won a string of victories before the 1996 election, and Clinton still managed to get re-elected in 1996, so this is just spinning as far as I am concerned.
I personally think we need a grown-up in the White House who is going to get things done. I think that person is John McCain. I think Obama hit the circuit too early. He made it too easy to target him. He runs his campaign on the basis of transcending politics, and he just does not. He is a politician, with a rather shady past. Supposedly Republicans have a video of Michele Obama at Rev. Wright’s Church railing against “whitey”. This is not going to be used by Republicans, but 527’s will be all over things like this. As far as I am concerned, coming back home, I notice that the tolerance for Obama’s remarks about small town are just not winning the hearts of middle America.
I hope this sums up my positions, let me know what you think about the special election and Michele Obama comments. Talk to you soon!"

First of all, let me say that I'm pretty sure Hillary Clinton won't jump on the McCain bandwagon. As smart as it might be in some regards, given the bipartisan symbolism and the similarities in several of their philosophies, she's too much a good Democrat and I suspect that she will, as she says, fight for the Democratic nominee, even if it is Barack Obama. And a Clinton run in 2012 would of course depend entirely on who wins this election. If McCain wins I wouldn't be surprised if she ran again (I suppose that would be a decent reason for her to back McCain in the election, but it's also a huge gamble), but if Obama wins I seriously doubt she'd challenge him for the 2012 Democratic nomination. And I don't think she'd run in 2016 unless it was for reelection-- the age factor comes into play. Although McCain seems to have overcome that fairly well, so who knows?
I agree that the current nomination process is pretty messed up. It's a problem that the two parties don't have a uniform system, although I suppose it's not surprising. It's strange but it's the way it works with the two very separate entities. I tend to think that the processes should be uniform and thus (somewhat) simplified in the minds of the voters, and that at least half of the races should be winner-take-all, so we can avoid a complex, dragged-out race like this in the future. Perhaps most important, however, is that the parties come up with a workable penalty for states that break party rules, like Florida and Michigan did this year. [Personally, I will vouch for the GOP strategy of cutting the number of delegates in half. Every state deserves a voice at the convention, and that certainly includes significant states like FL and MI. Just cut the representation in half.]
Suffice it to say that if West Virginia and (the numbers that Bobby pointed out suggest) Kentucky are at all representative of what blue-collar voters and even some of Obama's usual demographic are now thinking, then he's got his work cut out for him if he's going to win this thing. Now of course it could be that the problem in West Virginia was a race-based problem (I've seen some stories that suggest that that was the case), but regardless the numbers are there. And most stories about the West Virginia primary suggest that the voters there simply didn't trust Obama. That is a huge problem, and scary that the margin is so significantly against Obama in West Virginia, a state that's voted Democratic for I believe about 20 years now. Who knows if it could swing to McCain if Hillary is the nominee? That would be something else.
As far as the special elections go-- of course it's mostly media hype saying that the Republican reign is all over. It is quite remarkable that the Republicans were defeated in Mississippi, but I think it's more a sign of the change in the political dynamic away from the extremist right that previously dominated, to a new, moderate conservative element, such as a more conservative Democrat. Likewise I think the moderate liberals will prove to prevail. The days of the wingers are far from over, but the voice of the middle is growing louder and louder, which as a confirmed moderate I personally view as a positive event. But really, neither party has Election '08 sewn up, either at the local level, the Congressional level, or the presidential level. They are both going to have to work really hard and try not to do anything stupid in order to win. Which is the way it should be, in the end.
Michelle Obama's comments about being proud of America for the first time in her adult life were not necessarily politically intelligent or politically expedient for her husband. They were much too ambiguous, but with a more naturally negative connotation. I've read several articles about it (on, Blogger News Network, and the AOL News Political Machine Blog) and I'm really not sure what to think about the charges brought up in one of the articles that she is in essence her husband's brain and his set of values. Likewise I don't know much about the accuracy of the charges about her even closer ties to Jeremiah Wright and what he preached. If she does subscribe so heavily to what Wright preached, and if she is that influential with her husband, that could be problematic and actually dangerous. But there's a lot of uncertainty there. Politically, this really doesn't seem to have gotten too much play, and a lot of the country is still on an Obama high. It probably won't dent him in the slightest, and he could even play it to his advantage-- sort of an FDR "how dare you attack my little dog Fala" kind of deal-- and get some sympathy votes off of people who resent the mean ol' Republicans going after his wife. And in all fairness, the Tennessee GOP was probably pretty out of line in going after her like that. It would have been better to focus on Barack Obama and other things about him, rather than stooping to the fairly low blow of going after a comment made by his wife. But such is the way of the business. And at any rate, like I said, I doubt it will have a huge impact, if any.

This Week on the Campaign Trail

A week of fascinating political news has just passed us by. To review:
-Hillary Clinton won the West Virginia primary by a margin of 41 points.
-John Edwards endorsed Barack Obama.
-Bush made a genuinely stupid comment about appeasement, and McCain and Obama got into a heated debate about foreign policy, largely leaving Hillary Clinton out of the limelight.
-Mike Huckabee made a genuinely stupid joke about Barack Obama getting shot.
-Barack Obama made a couple of stupid but entertaining geographical gaffes. Back to fourth grade for you, sir.

I've written about the Edwards endorsement a couple of times already-- you can read my posts here and here. There's not much left to say about that except that the only real place I think it's going to be significant is in the delegates and superdelegates that will go to Obama as a result. But the number isn't huge, so it won't be a deal maker or breaker. It's symbolically significant, though, because Edwards is yet another well-known national Democrat who is backing Obama. And I don't think Edwards would have endorsed him if he wasn't certain he was going to be the nominee. It was almost a declaration of victory for Obama, more than anything else.
There's not too much to say on the Clinton victory. It doesn't have much real significance for her, I'm sorry to say. She's pretty much lost the nomination no matter which way you swing it. I'm sorry that it's ending this way for Clinton, but I think it is over. She'd probably have to win all the remaining primaries, and maybe even get Florida or Michigan back in order to get the nomination. Right now she's just losing money and making herself look worse. Her constant push for the Florida and Michigan delegates to be counted is pretty hypocritical and tacky, which really only gives her rival points for class. It is with great sorrow that I say: Get out of the race, Hillary. Go back to the Senate and do good there.
That comment that Bush made in his speech before the Israeli Knesset was a really, really bad idea. Of course, pretty much anything that Bush says is liable to be attacked, and he's generally a liability for the Republicans and fairly helpful to the Democrats, who just go attack him instead of each other for a change. On the other hand, it did spark an interesting exchange on foreign policy between Barack Obama and John McCain. At least temporarily, foreign policy as an issue is back at the forefront of the campaign, having taken a back seat to the economy for a while. And foreign policy is very clearly McCain's forte, so this might wind up being good for him if he is careful with what he says and expresses and defends himself clearly and articulately.
I will take a side note here on one particular aspect of this exchange between McCain and Obama. McCain said Obama was "reckless"; Obama said McCain offered "bombast, exaggerations and fear-mongering." First of all, I think that all (or most) politicians are full of bombast and exaggerations. It's how the game works. And I readily acknowledge that the Republicans have been primarily using a strategy of fear-mongering. And it works. Again, it's the way the game is played. It's this comment about recklessness I'd like to focus on. And I think that they are both reckless on foreign policy in different ways. Obama is smart but naive, of which the latter is inherently reckless. He seems to me less likely to take real threats as seriously as they should be taken, and I am not convinced that he would know what to do besides be a national cheerleader in a crisis. McCain, on the other hand, has a well-deserved reputation as a hawk. He would probably be more inclined to overassert U.S. military capabilities. Not acknowledging the present challenges of our overextended military (and military budget) and a willingness to "go it" in combat alone is also inherently reckless. For this reason above all, both Obama and McCain scare me a great deal.
The joke made by Mike Huckabee was both inherently and politically stupid. It was, however, meant as a joke (albeit a very bad one) and he has apologized several times, so I don't think it's really a big deal. Likewise the stupid geographical gaffes Obama made were not a terribly big deal, but it is surprising that they haven't gotten more play in the media. As several of my friends have pointed out, if President Bush or John McCain said something like that, it would be all over the place as evidence that that individual was stupid and unfit to lead. That's the media for you, though, I suppose. Selectively picking and choosing what to focus on. And there was a lot to talk about this week. Stay tuned- more news to come.
This Tuesday, May 20-- Kentucky and Oregon primaries. Projection: Obama wins Oregon by a landslide; Clinton takes Kentucky but by a much smaller margin. Basically probably a Indiana-North Carolina situation again.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Obama's Short List

Now that it looks quite certain that Barack Obama will be the Democratic nominee for president, attention turns to who the likely vice-presidential candidate will be. To inform us on this important issue, Lee Camp of the 23/6 blog shared a copy of Obama's VP Short List.

Summer Reading

One thing I learned this past year is that pleasure reading in college? Yeah, it doesn't happen much. Sure, you might have a little bit of time in which you pick up a book for fun, but it's rare. I managed to finish a couple of books this past semester-- Frank Peretti's Piercing the Darkness and C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity are the ones I remember-- but the only other books I've finished really just happened over breaks. Why the sudden dropoff in reading? I'm really not sure. I think it has something to do with the fact that so much time is absorbed in readings for classes that once that is done most people just want to watch a TV show or a movie or go do something else that doesn't involve books.
So, anyway, this summer I consider myself to have 3 jobs: the barn, Barnes & Noble, and reading. Barnes and Noble is, as you might expect, highly conducive to reading. If you walk into the break room at B&N, chances are high that you'll find all the employees that are on break sitting around the table with their noses stuck in their books. And if you think I'm kidding, think again.
I'm going to try to work my way through the stack of books that is presently sitting beside my bed, get as far as I possibly can. These books are:
  1. God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It by Jim Wallis
  2. What Color Is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers by Richard Nelson Bolles
  3. Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality by Donald Miller
  4. The Source by James A. Michener
  5. The Gift of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels by Thomas Cahill
  6. Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus by Thomas Cahill
  7. March by Geraldine Brooks
  8. Churchill: A Biography by Roy Jenkins
  9. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
If I make it through five of those I'll consider myself to have done well, but I'm going to try to finish all of them. Four months in which to do it...GO!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

More on the Edwards Endorsement

As expected, Edwards' endorsement of Obama is now all over the media, and probably will be for some time. Edwards is trying to look like the Democratic Kingmaker, declaring the victor. Also as expected, today his delegates and superdelegates have been starting to trickle over to the Obama camp.
-Chris Cillizza, for the Washington Post Politics Blog: The Edwards Endorsement: What It Means Clinton Win Leads to Obama Boost Breaking News: Edwards Endorses Obama Part I and Part II Edwards Plays Kingmaker Card
-BBC's Matt Frei's Washington Diary: Edwards Endorses
-The Carpetbagger Report: Day After Edwards' Endorsement, Obama Support Surges
Also be sure to check out the coverage in the Washington Post and the New York Times.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Silence is Golden?

An article written by a friend of mine from the United Methodist Student Association at AU for the newsletter of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society about the need for conversation in the church, particularly on the rights of GLBT members: Keeping quiet is not always golden.

Edwards Endorses Obama

CNN has just announced that former presidential candidate John Edwards will endorse Barack Obama for the Democratic nominee for president. Edwards' endorsement and delegates, combined with the recent events of most primaries (West Virginia yesterday being the exception), almost definitely seals Obama as the nominee. I am fairly certain it is now close to mathematically, not to mention politically, impossible for Hillary Clinton to win the nomination. Not that she won't stay in it- even today she told CNN's Wolf Blitzer in an interview that she's "not going anywhere except to Kentucky and Oregon and Montana and South Dakota and Puerto Rico." Those five states (and territories) are the only remaining primaries, and as of now Obama leads in pledged delegates, superdelegates, the popular vote, and money. He'll undoubtedly win at least two of the remaining primaries. Clinton supporters, keep trying, but I hope you and your candidate are prepared to lose the nomination. It's highly, highly likely at this point (unless FL and MI are suddenly put into play, that might change things a little) that Obama will win. More thoughts to come on my views on the McCain-Obama match-up coming our way this fall.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Cow Stories

OK, this isn't either of the calves I mention below. This is a picture from last summer. The calf is named Patches, and I was very happy the other day when I found her up in the heifer barn. And I swear she recognized me, too.

I decided it last summer, and I believe it true to this day: some of the cows I work with are brattier than most two-year-olds that I know. Seriously. Today at the barn, I was walking out from the calf barn, and there was a cow loose that was definitely not supposed to be. Number 393. Madison. She slipped out of her collar and ducked under the chain gates and wandered down to the other end of the less than three times. Then when we found her and tried to lead her back to her stall, she'd plant her feet and not budge until at least two of us were there to push and pull and escort her back. I am so tired tonight from trying to push and pull a 2,000 pound bovine from one end of the barn to the other. She was a brat today. Checked me into the wall too. Ow.
On a brighter note, yesterday two calves were born. One was a bull calf, which means he's going to be going somewhere else and doesn't get a name from us, but the other was a girl, who some clever person named Toystory. I had the pleasure today of watching her try to teeter around on legs that weren't quite used to walking (which meant they occasionally all skittered out from under her), and of trying to teach her to drink milk from a bucket. This was done by putting a little milk on my fingers for her to suck on, and then guiding her head toward the bucket. I'm not sure how well it worked, given that the effort seemed to wear her out so she went and took a nap afterward, but maybe. And either way, it was fun and adorable. I also love Toystory's neighbor in the next stall, Miley. Supposedly she was originally to be named Haley, but someone decided to change the name to Miley, presumably after Miley Cyrus. She was born a couple of weeks ago, and she's very bouncy, energetic and affectionate. She's one of the ones who always tries to lick me all over and nuzzles my leg when I go in to shovel out her stall. Very cute.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Bang-ups and Hang-ups

To this day I still believe it: there are few authors I've encountered that are more deep, layered, wise, and entertaining than Dr. Seuss. These "children's books" have more wisdom for adults than some self-help books. Perhaps the most obvious and most famously wise book by Dr. Seuss is his very last work before he died, and a popular graduation gift: Oh, the Places You'll Go!. It resonates with people because of its straightforward but optimistic style, written as only Seuss can do it. I love the whole book, but tonight, I love this part most:

"I'm sorry to say so
but sadly, it's true
that Bang-ups
and Hang-ups
can happen to you.

You can get all hung up
in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on.
You'll be left in a Lurch.

You'll come down from the Lurch
with an unpleasant bump.
And the chances are, then,
that you'll be in a Slump.

And when you're in a Slump,
you're not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself
is not easily done."

And later...

"On and on you will hike.
And I know you'll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.

You'll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You'll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life's
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)


Saturday, May 10, 2008


Above: My summer job. Below: My peers' internships.

I like my job. My job is unusual, atypical for someone of my major. Or at least so it would appear. Political science majors don't usually work in university dairy barns. Well, this one does. I spend my time at work doing odd jobs around the barn (changing light bulbs, cleaning walls, doing paperwork) or helping with research and observation in the lab (usually stuff to do with the cows' food) or working on shift. Working on shift means, for me, moving the cows from their stalls to the milking parlor to be milked, cleaning out stalls (of both the normal cows, the calves, and the maternity cows), and generally spending most of my time ankle-deep in cow crap. I enjoy it, strangely enough. It's physical labor (at least being on shift is) and requires little active thought beyond doing the task at hand and staying on your toes so you don't get stepped on. Kinda therapeutic in a way. Anyway, it occurred to me today that there's little difference between what I do at my job and what my friends back in DC who have internships do. I spend my time up to my ankles in cow crap; they spend their time up to their necks in bullshit. The only real difference is that mine is literal and does some good-- fertilizes flowerbeds. Ha ha.
[Editor's Note: Of course I don't actually think that politics is nothing but B.S. I figure it's only gotta be, what, 60% B.S.? There are good people in political office working for good things. Just had to add that because how would it look for a political science major to be so jaded about the system she's studying already?]

Thursday, May 08, 2008

There might be more than you can see

It's challenging and humbling and depressing all at the same time when you realize that you gave your very best in the circumstances you were in, and it just wasn't quite good enough.
Even my (relatively) short-term future is now being tossed back into turmoil, and it's frightening and annoying. My parents and I are starting to talk about the "what ifs" and make contingency plans.
I thought we were done with this.
I thought I could manage whatever happened this past year.
I thought a lot of things.
I was wrong.
I hope there's more than I can see in this. There must be a reason. There's a plan for my life. I don't know what it is. That's aggravating. I wish I knew why this has all happened. I want to know what more there is that I'm not seeing. Guidance, Lord. I need a lot of it. Please.

This life we live, it's not what we have-- it's what we believe.

In his book God's Politics, Jim Wallis writes, "I believe there is a "fourth option" for American politics, which follows from the prophetic religious tradition we have described. It is traditional or conservative on issues of family values, sexual integrity, and personal responsibility, while being very progressive, populist, or even radical on issues like poverty and racial justice. It affirms good stewardship of the earth and its resources, supports gender equality, and is more internationally minded than nationalist-- looking first to peacemaking and conflict resolution when it comes to foreign policy questions. The people it appeals to (many religious, but others not) are very strong on issues like marriage, raising kids, and individual ethics, but without being right-wing, reactionary, or meanspirited or scapegoating against any group of people, such as homosexuals. They can be pro-life, pro-family, and pro-feminist, all at the same time. They think issues of "moral character" are very important, both in a politician's personal life and in his or her policy choices. Yet they are decidedly pro-poor, for racial reconciliation, critical of purely military solutions, and defenders of the environment. At the heart of the fourth option is the integral link between personal ethics and social justice. And it appeals to people who refuse to make the choice between the two."
When I read that passage it kind of scared me, because it described almost to a T what I believe and what I would love to see more of in politics today. The fact that both parties are catering so much to the people on the wings in their policies and only to people in the center when they need to win votes bothers me. A lot of people are more moderate than their representatives. The fact that there aren't really many, if any, "pro-life liberals" bothers me. The fact that Republicans seem to have the Christian vote mostly sewn up bothers me. The fact that they claim to be on God's side and hold the moral high ground bothers me. What happened to moderation in politics? Why are so many important issues so polarized? There's no one to vote for if you want to pick and choose on issues. If you're a moderate, you inevitably have to eventually say, well, I don't agree with them on x, y, and z issues, but they're good enough...I guess...
Maybe it's just me, but I feel like we should be able to do better than that.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Politics Now

Last night were the Indiana and North Carolina primaries. Everybody's been predicting that North Carolina would be Obama's by a landslide, and Indiana would be Clinton's by a large margin also. However- surprise, surprise- things changed a little bit. Yeah, everybody was right about North Carolina. Obama took that by 14%. Not as much as some people expected, but still very significant. Clinton won Indiana, too, but only by 2% of the vote. They didn't wind up calling the race until well after midnight EST. As a result, Obama now has about a 240 delegate lead over Clinton- still much too close. Clinton appears to have no plans to step out of the race, pledging as usual in her victory (?) speech in Indiana last night to fight on. It seems clear now that the race will come down to superdelegates and back-room deals. It's highly improbable that either candidate will reach the necessary 2,025 delegates to clinch the nomination based on the remaining primaries. Meanwhile, John McCain is taking the opportunity to solidify his base, campaign in battleground states, and spend time in town hall meetings at home and traveling abroad, appearing thoroughly competent and presidential throughout. The battle for the Democratic nomination continues with its usual intensity, McCain still looks good to those who are looking for moderation, stability, and experience, and there has not been a presidential race so up in the air in many years. Stay tuned...We're now down to 6 primaries (I think): West Virginia (May 13), Kentucky and Oregon (May 20), Montana, New Mexico, and South Dakota (June 3).

Mission Accomplished?

Well, I am finally heading back home for the summer. The academic year is over; finals are done; I've packed up my dorm room into two suitcases, a backpack, and a UPS box (and the six small boxes that went back with my parents two weeks ago). I'm currently sitting in BWI Airport waiting for my flight, which is delayed for about an hour and a half. Yippee. Anyway, thought I'd take the opportunity now to write about the year I am now leaving behind. Many of my classmates from high school, I'm told, managed to pull extremely high GPAs for themselves during their freshman year- in some cases, 4.0 GPAs. I applaud them-- it is a tremendous achievement. My mom told me the other night that at the beginning of the year she had so hoped that I would sail through freshman year with a very high GPA, that I would be incredibly successful.

Well, that didn't happen. If I had to describe my freshman year of college, I would describe it now as nothing less than a battlefield-- a physical, spiritual, mental, emotional battlefield. I count myself lucky to have made it through the entire year in the one place. Many good things happened, of course, but this year has been irrevocably colored by what happened last fall.

I think it was at the very end of August, or maybe it was September. I don't really remember the time line. Nor do I remember the event particularly. My friends tell me that it was fairly early in the evening. The entire floor was in the lounge. I stood up into the TV, which was attached to the wall at about my ear height standing up. Or more accurately, I stood up into the steel shelf holding up the TV. My friend Jess told me that the entire TV moved upward about a foot, and the entire room got silent (that's an accomplishment-- I'm sort of proud of making everybody shut up for once). I didn't get knocked out, but I'm told I staggered quite a bit before waving that I was okay, and wound up with a pint of Ben & Jerry's on my head instead of in my stomach. People tell me I should go to the hospital, but I'm convinced I'm not concussed, so I don't.

A month and a couple of useless trips to Student Health later, I've lost most of my abilities to concentrate, am having trouble reading and looking at computer screens, and can't remember squat beyond a couple of days. So I go to the hospital. The first visit, they put me on Vicodin for the pain in my head. The next trip is the next night around 1 AM, because I'm shaking uncontrollably and my head still hurts even with the two Vicodin pills I have in me. I go see a neurologist about a week later, and she puts me on a low dose of amitriptylene, an antidepressant that often works to help with headache problems.

It works great for a couple of months, but then my headaches come back with a vengeance. I talk to the neurologist, and she ups the dose of the medicine twice. Result: a series of panic attacks, lasting about a month. The worst one lasted for two hours, went away for an hour, and then came back for another hour. As painful as the concussion and post-concussive headaches were, they were nothing compared to the trauma of the panic attacks. I could handle the physical pain, but the panic attacks tore me apart in deeper ways. In the end I decided that, although the medicine was working for the headaches, it was actually doing more harm than good. I was drained, having difficulty working with the constant anxiety, and getting more depressed by the day. I stopped the medication I was on and opted to try a naturopathic approach to stop the headaches instead of another cocktail of psych drugs. This has, thank God, worked so far. At this stage I think I can say fairly confidently that I am well out of the woods in terms of the concussion and its aftereffects.

Retrospectively, however, I in some ways can't believe that I made it through this year. I've battled migraine headaches that made me not see straight, concentration issues, memory loss, panic attacks, emotional instability, nausea, depression. I don't remember the vast majority of the first semester of my freshman year of college. In many cases I know what I did only because someone took the time to tell me. To this day, someone will ask me if I remember such and such an event, and I won't. This was just a few short months ago, but I have no memory of it at all. I went through a period of intense spiritual turmoil, a crisis of faith if you will. I've gained some very close friendships, but some of those close friendships have suffered because of the panic attacks in particular, which changed my entire psyche, a shift that has lasted. I'm more on edge now, less comfortable with myself and less confident because I feel like I've been ripped apart. My grades of course have suffered in both semesters, but particularly this second semester because the classes are more difficult. I managed to do fairly well first semester because I knew most of the material already, but second semester I've still had problems, particularly at the beginning of the semester when I was still struggling with headache problems. As a result, I missed most of the basic groundwork of my courses, which I think has been detrimental to my marks in general, although I guess I won't be able to say that for sure until I see the grades all posted.

Of course the year hasn't been all struggles like those. Many good things have happened. I've met a group of wonderful people, and have gained some great friends that I treasure, and that I largely credit with getting me through the year. This semester, which is the only one I remember, I got reacquainted with an old friend that I hadn't spent much time talking to except on email. The visit to University of Delaware to see him was one of the most enjoyable things I've done this semester. I also had a great time on a day trip to New York City with most of my closest friends at AU, and enjoyed touring the monuments at night several times. The Cherry Blossom Festival, which I had looked forward to ever since coming to AU, did not disappoint. I got more involved in the United Methodist Student Association, and was appointed co-worship coordinator for next year. Many good things happened, things that proved to me that the reasons I decided to come to AU were good ones.

Can I declare victory for freshman year? I'm really not sure. It was a gloves-off fight to get through, and that much I apparently won. Jury's still out on how I did academically. Everything else is split between struggle and success. I suppose it depends on how you define success. In the end, this year, I think I've done as well as I possibly could have given the circumstances I've been operating under. I can only hope that everything will pull back together for next year, given a summer of rest and work at home.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Capital City

I love the national monuments here in Washington. They are always spectacular, noble, and sort of awe-inspiring in many ways. Every time I go I find myself pensive, simply strolling around or sitting and just thinking, letting my mind relax into that zone where you roll from thought to thought with no controls whatsoever. Tonight I visited the monuments for what I suspect was the last time in my freshman year of college. We didn't go to all of them, but we did hit the World War II Memorial, one of my two favorites (the FDR memorial is the other). Night is, I think, the best time to visit the memorials-- after about 9:00 or 10:00 PM, things quiet down a lot. The tours leave, the regular tourists head back to their hotels (or most of them anyway), and the monuments are left to rest. One time I was at the Jefferson Memorial at about 11:00 at night, and no one was there but us and the security guards. It was a weird and wonderful experience.

Anyway, I was really happy tonight. Because the last several times I've gone to WWII, the lights in the fountain have been off, but tonight they were back on. It was gorgeous. I just stood there next to the fountain and stared into it, transfixed by the beauty of the light and the water, behind which was the Lincoln Memorial, and the cool night air. THEN, when we were walking down the Reflecting Pool toward the Lincoln Memorial, we saw some baby ducklings asleep next to their mom. It was so cute, and a nice happy little reminder of springtime.

PS- Benihana in the Georgetown Park Mall = wonderful Japanese hibachi place in DC.

Friday, May 02, 2008


I was watching Frasier tonight and he quoted a poem that I rather enjoyed. It's remarkable how much something you see can randomly and unexpectedly resonate. Anyway, he quoted from Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem Ulysses.

"Come, my friends,
'T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."

Thursday, May 01, 2008


I was thinking today about the summer ahead. Hard to resist doing so, really, it's finals time. This means that the year is over, which means that I am thoroughly interested in procrastination and what I am going to do over the summer, much more pleasant thoughts than Russian history and statistics.

One thing that being in school in Washington has done is taught me, or rather confirmed, my express dislike of fast-lane city living. The idea of spending my entire life caught in a rat race and caught in rush hour traffic is just not fun. While I know that the city has a lot to offer, especially cities like Washington, with all its free culture and beauty and nice weather, I just don't think I could handle the lifestyle. Living here and working here in the capacities that I would be likely to pursue (that is, politics/government type work) requires a lot from you that I don't think I can, or want to, give. The cost of living is outrageous, and...well, all things told, the city lifestyle just isn't for me, long term. I am unequivocally a suburbs, small town person. Nice to be a reasonable drive from a city, but I can't live in one longer term between vacations.

This summer I'm getting, by and large, as far from the city as I can. I'm working at the dairy barn, going between the lab and the cows. I want to sort through the loft of costumes and props and set pieces at my high school. I want to work on sanding and staining the furniture that's been in our basement for three years. I want to hang out at the cottage and read the books that have been piling up. I suppose I also want to sell books for people to read at their cottages...or pile up. But mostly I just want to let the stresses of the year fall away...and rest, heal, and rejuvenate. It's time for this academic year to be done. Time to move forward.