Saturday, April 30, 2016

Netflix Queue: E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial

Three thoughts about E.T., coming up after the trailer....

1. My family watched E.T. tonight — for me, the first full sit-through since I originally saw the movie as a 9-year-old in 1982. Back then, popular movies stuck around in the theaters for a few months; they didn't do all their business the first week or two. So after months of increasing word-of-mouth, my parents took us to see. I remember crying when E.T. died and shouting with joy when the kids took off into the air on their bicycles.

My 7-year-old son didn't get teary-eyed tonight. But the adults did. And when Elliott and ET took the air and sailed "across the moon," my boy did, in fact, shout out with delight. What can I say? It made me happy the movie can still connect, and it made me happy that my blockbuster-blitzed son isn't already jaded.

2. One thing Spielberg does in the movie is create the world as a children's world. Something I'd never noticed before: Except for Dee Wallace, as E.T.'s mother, you never directly see an adult's face for the entire movie until Peter Coyote shows his, three-quarters of the way in, after the family's house has been sealed off and quarantined.

3. Henry Thomas as Elliott: Gives an amazing performance by a child actor, actually. So does Drew Barrymore. They feel real, not like kids acting. Some of that, I'm sure, has to be Spielberg's directing.

Bonus point: Since I obsessively re-watch movies I love, why no return visit to E.T. until now? I'm not sure. I think I was afraid I'd find it overly saccharine as an adult. That didn't turn out to be the case. But it might be also true that I did revisit E.T. obsessively when I was a kid: My uncle owned the movie's novelization — do they still do that? — and I read and re-read that paperback until it literally fell apart. The movie I created in my mind's eye was as rich as what had appeared on screen, and for a long time, it served my purposes.

And yes: For several years, I fantasized about finding my own extra-terrestrial. Never happened.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Netflix Queue: No, Punisher isn't "Daredevil's" most moral character

I actually enjoy Marvel on Netflix better than most of what the company brings to the big screen. So this piece at The Federalist caught my eye:
The Punisher, who murders dozens, if not hundreds, of people in the second season of Netflix’s “Daredevil,” is actually the most moral character on the show. 
Daredevil, who’s willing to break every law and ethical rule on the road to putting villains in useless prisons but unwilling to go any further, willingly participates in a vicious cycle that makes a mockery of justice. Allowing the revolving door of crime to continue ad infinitum is naive at best and immoral at worst. The Punisher realizes this and attempts to end the cycle instead.
Through murder, of course.

Now, we're talking about comic book characters here, so this probably isn't a topic worth dwelling on too long but a counterpoint is needed here. If your viewpoint is that there's good and evil and evil can only be overcome by being destroyed, maybe the writer — Stephen Gutowski — has a point.

But if your moral framework includes the possibility of redemption — of being lost, then found; of making the journey from darkness into light — then the Punisher's ethos has to be reconsidered.

Gutowski all but calls Daredevil a "wimp" in his piece here, and it's true that Matt Murdock's angst in the Netflix show can get a bit overbearing sometimes. But it's interesting that Gutowski never quotes Murdock's defense of his "take them off the streets but let them live" approach:
DD: What about hope? 
P: Oh, f*ck. DD: Come on, Frank... 
P: You wanna talk about Santa Claus? 
DD: You wanna talk about Santa Claus? I live in the real world too, and I've seen it. 
P: Yeah? What have you seen? 
DD: Redemption, Frank. P: Ah, Jesus Christ. 
DD: It's real. And it's possible. The people you murder deserve another chance. 
P: What, to kill again? Rape again? Is that what you want? 
DD: No, Frank. To try again, Frank. (panting) To try.
I'm lapsed in my own faith, but I'm reminded (as I so often am) of John 8:
8 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees *brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, 4 they *said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” 6 They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. 7 But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court. 10 Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” 11 She said, “No one, [a]Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”]
If Jesus wanted to guarantee the woman sinned no more, of course, he could have stood by and watched as the Pharisees killed her. Instead, he reminded everybody of their own moral failings, and admonished her to do better.

Morality untempered by humility, given the power over life and death, is often twisted into something ugly and, frankly, immoral in and of itself. It's a tension that makes for great storytelling — the Punisher is a great character, and so is Javert, and hell, so is the John Lithgow character in "Footloose." Frank Castle might be "Daredevil's" most interesting character this season, but most moral? Nah. That's too easy.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The NYT says American productivity is stagnant. Here's a theory why.

The New York Times observes that American productivity is stagnant, and considers three theories why.
During the 2008 recession, labor productivity soared. Was this because employers laid off their least productive workers first? Because everybody worked harder, fearful for their jobs? Or was it a measurement problem as government statistics-takers struggled to capture fast-moving changes in the economy? We don’t know for sure.
None of the Times' three theories use this armchair psychoanalysis to consider one obvious reason American workers aren't more productive these days:

It isn't friggin' worth it.

Since the end of the Great Recession, Americans have become more and more aware — aided by growing discussion of income inequality and movements like Occupy Wall Street — of two very salient points:

• For decades, American productivity has soared.

• During those same decades, worker wages have stagnated.

Here's The Atlantic, reporting in February 2015:
Though productivity (defined as the output of goods and services per hours worked) grew by about 74 percent between 1973 and 2013, compensation for workers grew at a much slower rate of only 9 percent during the same time period, according to data from the Economic Policy Institute.
That increased productivity has been good for the bottom line of a lot of businesses, but it hasn't meant boo to most workers. (Top earners, though, have seen their income and wealth soar.) Why have Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump been so successful this  election cycle? Because a fundamental American promise — worker harder, you'll probably do better — seems to be broken.

I come from the news industry, where we've spent most of the last couple of decades under constant pressure to do more with less, more with less, more with less. At some point, there's no more to be wrung from less. And if giving more won't gain you more, why not just put in your time, clock out at the end of the day, and stress out a little bit less?

This isn't the kind of thing that economists measure, I don't suppose. But maybe productivity is declining because workers are tired of the cycle. Maybe they need incentives.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

How can you vote for Hillary Clinton and call yourself progressive?

Good question. Easy answer. I voted for Ralph Nader in 2000. I think we all remember how that worked out.

OK. Time to go vote.

Gonna cast a ballot for Hillary, hope she defends the progressive gains of the last eight years, and pray she doesn't choose to needlessly invade a Middle Eastern country.

It's a gamble.

What Vox gets wrong about Mississippi's anti-LGBT law.

Vox's explainer gets a little too cute today in discussing state-level LGBT laws:

What if I told you Mississippi's law doesn't actually allow anything new?

Now, the new law does technically allow discrimination against LGBTQ people: It lets bakery owners, for instance, cite religious beliefs to deny services to same-sex couples seeking to buy a wedding cake. 
But even before the new law was passed, this type of anti-LGBTQ discrimination was entirely legal in the state, because neither Mississippi nor any municipality in the state included sexual orientation or gender identity in its nondiscrimination protections. So it was already legal for Mississippi businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ people, whether they cited religious beliefs or just said they don't like gay or transgender people.
This is both true — and good on Vox for helping readers understand that gays don't have protection in many places — but also kind of missing the point.

No, gays didn't have that legal protection in many states. But it's also a relatively new thing to write into the law that certain types of discrimination will be explicitly protected by the state.

As much as anything, laws have signaling functions: In this case, they allow a specific group (Christians) to deny services to a specific group (gays) in a way that's pretty rare in the rest of our laws.

I'm on record saying I'd rather my gay friends and Christian friends find solutions that avoid big fights like this — there ought to be room for both sides to exercise their rights without it becoming a zero-sum game that nobody really wins — and Vox is right that discrimination against gays is often legal.

But the law was silent before. It now affirms the discrimination. The effect may be moot, but the signal is not. That's new, and it's troubling.

Friday, April 22, 2016

No, Curt Schilling is not a free speech martyr.

Some angry talk these days from my conservative friends about ESPN's firing of famed pitcher Curt Schilling after Schilling posted some anti-transgender comments to social media the other day. "Progressive America is sending a message," National Review's David French wrote. "In the institutions it controls, there is no distinction between the personal and professional. Keep dissent to yourself. All your words belong to your boss."

I don' think that's quite the lesson to draw here.

This is what Curt Schilling posted:

It's a distasteful, near-pornographic image — one that, even if it said something like AMERICA IS THE GREATEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD or VOTE FOR BERNIE SANDERS might've caused most people a bit of faint-heartedness.

Now, understand too: Schilling had already been suspended last fall for THIS post:

Too me, the sentiment is objectionable without being pornographic. This is the incident I might've criticized ESPN about. But Schilling, at the time, very much affirmed ESPN's right and wisdom to take him off-air.

"I understand and accept my suspension. 100% my fault. Bad choices have bad consequences and this was a bad decision in every way on my part," he wrote.

So Schilling knew there was a line, and had affirmed his employer's right to hold that line.

I have no idea what Schilling's contract said, but if you're ESPN, you're not just paying Schilling for his opinions, but to express himself in a manner that's entertaining, insightful -- and, because it's a business, doesn't turn too many customers away at the door. Cause people to want to actually turn away from your product, and, well, you have a problem. ESPN is not in the business of supporting expression that makes it *harder* for the company to do business.

Listen: ESPN knew — everybody knew — that Schilling is a conservative when the network hired him. If it hated conservative expression so much, that move is impossible to imagine. It knew what it was getting.

So if Schilling had said something along the lines of: "I have concerns about sending my daughter to bathrooms with people who are born men and I support the North Carolina law," most likely he'd have his job, without changing the underlying substance of what he said. He might've caused an outcry; ESPN would've distanced itself from his remarks; maybe he'd have been given a warning of sorts. Bad enough, certainly. 

Instead, he chose to say it with one of the more grotesquely offensive, off-putting — and, yes, outlying — images possible. That there are consequences from his employer does not make him a free speeh martyr.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

How to solve the problem of bathrooms and gender: Privacy for everybody!

My memories of sixth grade: Moving to a new town, starting middle school, and being herded into group showers with a bunch of naked boys I’d just met.

It’s not a pleasant memory. After a lifetime of being educated on modesty, I suddenly found myself thrust into the most immodest of situations: The requirement that we take showers at the end of our P.E. classes. The boy’s locker room at my new middle school was cramped and had one big shower with a half-dozen nozzle for considerably more than a half-dozen boys. Exacerbating the discomfort? Some of us were hitting puberty faster than others.

Some of us, like me, were hitting it a little later.

That wasn’t the only upsetting feature of the experience. There was the kid who, after showering, put his socks on before putting his underwear. Who does that? Worse yet: My experience with an older kid — I think he’d been held back at least once — who had, to my tender eyes, the body of man: He loomed over me, freakishly hairy in all the spots you’d expect, with muscles that God never quite chose to bestow upon me. Whichever nozzle I managed to claim, even briefly, was the one he decided should be his own.

Ever had to fight naked in the showers? There’s nothing good about it.

All this makes me think that we’re trying to answer the wrong question in the current debate over what bathrooms should be used by which people of which gender identities. The real question is this: Why do we expect people of any gender or orientations to place themselves in a situation where they might be regularly expected to see somebody else’s genitals — or be seen?

Why should anybody have to give up that privacy?

"How Hillary Clinton Became a Hawk": Why I hope Bernie stays in the race a little longer.

The decision between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton in next week's Pennsylvania primary has been a tough one for me — though my heart says "Bernie," my head says "Clinton," largely because I believe he can't deliver on his vision but that she can, at the very least, defend and cement Democratic gains of the last eight years.

But NYT Mag's story, "How Hillary Clinton Became a Hawk" reminds me that I think she's shown some awful judgment on the foreign policy front, and it includes this — to me — chilling sentence:

Well then.

Here's my problem: That awful summation doesn't change my earlier assessment. But I'm not interested in supporting her hawkishness. What's a dovish lefty to do?

Root for Bernie to hang around a little longer, I think.

There's been some talk this week, after Clinton's win in the New York primaries, that Bernie should bow out for the greater good of the Democratic Party. I don't think that's true: Hillary stuck around in 2008 long past the point it seemed clear that Barack Obama would win the nomination, and he did fine in the general election.

The dynamics aren't quite the same this year, but: The longer Bernie sticks in the race and continues to attract significant support, the more Clinton gets the message — not all of us are on board with your entire agenda. It's something she needs to hear, I think.

In 2008, she lost the nomination when Obama ran to her left. Bernie's done the same thing this year and made securing the top spot more difficult than she imagined. Will that make a difference if she gets to the White House? I don't know. But it can't hurt.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

About Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill....

Dems: Hey, you know, all the people on our currency are dead white dudes. Maybe we should put  a woman or somebody of color on the $10 bill.


Dems: OK.

Rs: ....

(The end.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Air from Kobe Bryant's last game is being auctioned.

Shake. My. Head.

But that reminds me of an interesting factoid: "Every time you breathe, there’s a good chance that at least one of those molecules was exhaled by Julius Caesar in the throes of death."

The lesson: If you want some Kobe air, just ... wait awhile. You'll get it sooner or later.

Conservatives, cops, and crime: Three questions

Why do conservatives think it's contradictory to want police to both enforce the law and obey it?

Why do conservatives refer to Obamacare in the language of "tyranny" while rooting on the excesses of police?

Why do they think we refer to authoritarian regimes as "police states" and not as "universal health care states?"

Philly Bucket List: The Rocky Steps

We’ll be leaving Philadelphia to return to Kansas this summer: “Philadelphia Bucket List” is an occasional series of posts about what we’ll miss about this great city.

Everybody knows the Rocky Steps. Everybody who visits Philly has to visit the Rocky Steps. Why?

Do I really have to say? Because of this:

We visited soon after arriving in Philadelphia, of course. Everybody does. There's always somebody — often multiple somebodies — charging up the steps, then raising their fists in triumph at the top. Homeless guys hang out and offer to take pictures; there's a guy in a sweatshirt and porkpie hat, slightly Stallone-ish, who offers to be in the pictures.

None of that is why the Rocky Steps are on my list.

This is why:

Two months after my mom died in 2013, my dad came to visit us for the first time without her.

He and I walked and talked for a few days, stopping every now and again to sob. As deeply as I felt the loss, his pain (I know) was absolutely searing. One of our walks took us to the Philadelphia Museum of Art — we circled from the Schuylkill River Trail, on the back side, around to Benjamin Franklin Parkway and the steps in front.

I looked him, whipped out my cell phone, and told him to go.

And my father, deep in the earliest stages of widowerhood, bounded up the steps to the top, then raised his fists in triumph.

 That's when I knew we would survive.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

This is what America is coming to: Our bullying douchebags versus their bullying douchebags.

This is being presented by some of my lefty friends as good and laudable:

Here's an explanation from Tulane's "The Tab":

Members of the Tulane football team were seen removing the sandbags as frat members yelled at them 
This past week Kappa Alpha fraternity placed a wall of sandbags around their house as part of their annual fraternity tradition. 
A member of the fraternity then defaced the wall, writing “Make America Great Again” on it.
I'm no Trump fan, but this stinks. Let's be clear: It's not freedom of speech to tear down somebody else's property because it says something you don't like. If this is the road we're going down, democracy is screwed. Football players versus frat boys? Forget principle, we're just seeing who can turn out the biggest douchebag bullies. Guess what liberals? That's a battle you're probably going to lose. Don't go down this road.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Is Bruce Springsteen's Boycott of North Carolina the Same Thing as a Baker Refusing Service to Gay Couples?

No, but a lot of people seem to think so.
A petition on has garnered nearly 500 signatures in support of Bruce Springsteen’s decision to cancel an April 10 concert in Greensboro, NC. 
“Bruce Springsteen has a right to his deeply held beliefs. He has a right to control his business and refuse to do business with those he disagrees with,” the petition reads. 
Additionally, the petition author Dennis Burgard argues that like Springsteen, “every business person” is entitled to the right to deny services where and when it violates their beliefs.
Get it?

OK, so here's the difference between Bruce and that Christian baker, florist, whatever: 

If North Carolinians come to a Bruce concert in any other state, they won't be refused at the door while everybody else is let in. And in North Carolina, he's not refusing to play for any specific portion of the population  while playing others — he's withdrawing his services entirely within the state. The differences are clear, unless one wants to be ostentatiously ignorant of them.

Listen: I'm torn on the whole idea of whether Christian florists and bakers should be required to provide services. As a lapsed Mennonite — one who has a number of Christian conservative friends — I'm a big fan of conscientious objection, and that probably has to remain true even if I don't appreciate what's being conscientiously objected.* Then again, there's an argument that if you're going to provide services to the public, you provide your services to the public, end of story. My preference? Would be for everybody to avoid a confrontation on the issue. But I don't get that preference, and I do think there are competing claims to be weighed.

*Theologically, were I still a practicing Christian, I'd probably heed these verses:

27"But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
29If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.
30Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.

...but I think the actual Gospel tends to involve a lot more turning the other cheek than actual Christians do.

That said, the implicit comparison between Bruce and the baker here is silly. If a Christian baker wants the same freedom Bruce has, they too can stop providing services altogether in an entire state whose policies they they find objectionable.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A note to my friends about our differences in the Democratic primary

I've spent the last decade arguing — vociferously at times — with conservatives over the right policies and principles by which to govern our country. By virtue of some twists of fate, some of those conservatives have ended up among my best friends.


Monday, April 11, 2016

Is Bruce Springsteen "Illiberal" Not to Play a Concert in North Carolina?

Since we're in the season of flinging charges of "illiberalism" around, let's take a look at the latest — a screed against the so-called "LGBT Mafia" by Daniel Payne in The Federalist:

Aided by media that are both incompetent and often transparently biased, along with a burgeoning corporate culture that has discovered the economic benefits of public moral preening, we have what Stella Morabito aptly terms the “LGBT mafia:” a profoundly illiberal social movement rather single-mindedly determined to stamp out even minor and inconsequential dissent from its orthodoxy. It’s not going anywhere. In fact, it’s getting worse. 
(Snip, regarding passage of "religious liberty" bill in North Carolina): 
In response to this incredibly reasonable and commonsense bill, Bruce Springsteen cancelled a concert in Greensboro; dozens of corporations signed a protest letter; PayPal withdrew plans for an operations center in Charlotte; the composer Stephen Schwartz vowed that his productions—among them the Broadway hit “Wicked”—will not run in North Carolina; A&E and Lionsgate declared they will not film any productions in the state; and the federal government is deciding whether it can withhold billions and billions of dollars in highway, housing, and education funds.
A few months ago, we were saying it was "illiberal" of social movements to try to strongarm the public out of public places, as happened at Mizzou. Sounds right. More recently, we're labeling protests against Donald Trump to be "illiberal" — and that sounds slightly less right, but to the extent they were trying to drown him out, sure.

But now: Now the act of not holding a concert or signing a letter or deciding not to hold a play — that's an illiberal quashing of dissent. Well, no. That just seems like dissent to me. Covered by the First Amendment. And they're using the First Amendment the way it's commonly understood that we should: To try to peacefully create change.

There's nothing authoritarian about that, is there?

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Hey Bruce Arians: I'm a Dad Who Won't Let My Son Play Football

This guy:
Arians came to football’s defense yet again on Friday here at the Cardinals training facility. He delivered the keynote address to over 130 high school football coaches at the “Arizona Cardinals High School Football Coaches Clinic,” and, as always, Arians was full of passion and energy for the sport, and he didn’t hold back any punches when speaking on stage in front of the men. 
“We feel like this is our sport. It’s being attacked, and we got to stop it at the grass roots,” Arians said. “It’s the best game that’s ever been f—— invented, and we got to make sure that moms get the message; because that’s who’s afraid of our game right now. It’s not dads, it’s moms.”
Well. It's not just moms.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Philly Bucket List: The Philly Orchestra

We’ll be leaving Philadelphia to return to Kansas this summer: “Philadelphia Bucket List” is an occasional series of posts about what we’ll miss about this great city.

The first time I heard the Philadelphia Orchestra was in September 2008, on Dilworth Plaza — now Dilworth Park — at City Hall. My son had been born weeks earlier and we were crazed with a lack of sleep; an outdoor concert seemed an appropriate way to allow us to have a cultural experience in our new city where an infant would be appropriate.

My son at his first orchestra concert, September 2008.
I remember a couple of things about that night. First: It was kind of chilly. Second: An officer had been killed in the line of duty that day. Mayor Nutter took the stage and said the death nearly caused him to cancel the concert. Instead, the orchestra opened with addition to the evening’s program: Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings.”

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

An affirmative reason for voting for Hillary.

I don't mean to be ostentatiously ambivalent, here. I'm trying to work this out, and doing some thinking by writing.

But my reasons for voting for Hillary tend to be defensive: I think she's better-positioned to beat a Republican candidate and has a better temperament for leading despite the obstacles of a Republican Congress than does Bernie.

That raises a question, though: Is there a good, affirmative reason to vote for Hillary?

I thought about it. Started a  list. But most of the reasons I'd affirmatively vote for Hillary Clinton could be applied to any generic Democrat. (I.E. Supreme Court appointments.) But affirmative reason to vote for Hillary over Bernie?

This is what I came up with:

 She'd be the first woman president: It's not the only thing. It's not even, from my perspective, the most important thing. But it's important. How amazing would it be to get my 7-year-old son, born two months before Obama's election, to the age of 16 — almost voting age — with no memory of a white guy ever running this country? And how might that shape his view of what's possible for himself and for others in the future?

That's about it. Like I said, the rest of the reasons I came up with were generic and could apply to any Democrat. It's why Bernie's still in play for me

Is Bernie More Electable?

From the comments:
The polls I've seen show Trump doing better against Clinton than Sanders. Said another way, people seem to be willing to vote for Sanders over Trump to a greater extent than they are to vote for Clinton over Trump. So in terms of who can win the general, it seems the better choice is Sanders.
I've heard this several times. I'm skeptical.

I think, quite simply, that the GOP has been so hung up on its internal battles that it hasn't turned its attention to Bernie yet. But when it does, I fully expect the full extent of the GOP's "turn the Dem candidate into an America-hating demon" forces against him. It's possible Sanders could still win the election — Obama and Bill Clinton both survived the process and won the presidency. But I'm not sure he'll be much more electable once Republicans decide to target him in earnest.

Sanders could possibly beat Trump more easily than Clinton could today; will that still be the case in November? A lot rides on the answer to that question.

It could be worse. It's not 1968.

A friend posted this at Facebook this morning:

It's is a good reminder to take a deep breath and remind ourselves that as batshit insane as this particular election season seems, this is not 1968, with the country seemingly spinning out of control and major public figures being assassinated. Trump is a threat to good order, but we haven't reached those heights.


Is it cynical to support Hillary in the primary?

Yesterday, I wrote why I am - begrudgingly - leaning toward Hillary over Bernie in the primary. A Facebook friend admonishes me:

We throw around this label "hawk" without much thought for what it means - it's a vaguely distasteful moniker. What kind of body count do you imagine is tied to Clinton's particular "foreign policy experience"? How much suffering? And to what end? Whose ends?  
You usually write as a sort of demonstration of the conscience of the center-left. But in this piece you devolve into the sort of nervous gamesmanship that has for decades undermined progress on issues you obviously care about. 
The suggestion - and lots of Bernie fans are making it - is that Hillary essentially disqualified herself with support for the Iraq War. I'm ... sympathetic to that argument. And I'm even sympathetic to the "nervous gamesmanship" allegation my friend lobs at me.

But I don't think nervous gamesmanship is necessarily a bad thing. A Trump Supreme Court pick really would be an awful thing, one that might not be undone for a generation.

So maybe I'm wrong, but I do think a central question of the campaign is this: Would the primary task of a Democratic president be to defend some gains that have been made over the last eight years, and defend against a Republican agenda? Or is there a chance to go on offense, as it were, and create progress on issues I care about?

If I think we're on offense, I'm more likely to go with Bernie. But I think Dems will be on defense. Perhaps there's a path to Dems regaining control of Congress this election, but I don't see it. And without Congress, a president's agenda will be a limited thing. That's not a dynamic made for Bernie.

On the other hand: Hillary's hawkishness really is a problem for me, and not an abstract one. The Iraq War was avoidable foolishness, the worst foreign policy mistake of my lifetime, and the rest of my lifetime is going to be spent witnessing the fallout from that. It's why I was an enthusiastic Obama cheerleader in '08.

I'm not enthusiastic about Hillary. But on occasion, it can be wise to vote your fears. This seems like one of them.

Monday, April 4, 2016

I'm thinking Hillary over Bernie. Here's why.

I haven't finalized my voting decision yet — I'm still in play — but with about three weeks to go before the Pennsylvania primary, I find myself leaning towards support for Hillary.

It's a close call. Hillary Clinton voted to invade Iraq. And her performance as secretary of state suggests that she's altogether more hawkish than I would prefer. I used to think that her hawkishness was a political pose — meant more to disarm Republicans than as a guide to actual policy. I don't believe that anymore, or at any rate I don't think it matters anymore: She functions as a hawk, therefore her internal beliefs don't matter all that much.

I've said before my heart remains closer to Bernie Sanders, and that remains true. America, I think, is headed for an economic reckoning — the problem of economic inequality is probably the problem of our time, and he's the candidate who seems to take it most seriously.

So why the lean to Hillary?