October 2004
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October 2004 Archives

October 31, 2004

What to Expect on Election Day

On Thursday I explained to my Tuesday-Thursday class what they should expect to see on election day. I will explain it to my Monday-Wednesday class tomorrow. I will explain it to you faithful few readers now.

What do we expect at election day?

I know I intend to get up early and head over the the local party's newspaper office to pick up my ballot. I have made plans to meet a few friends there, and after a few drams we will head down to the polls together - about twenty of us. I know we will be singing on the way; those campaign ditties are both annoying and addictive earbugs.

At the polls there should already be quite a crowd, with partisans of both parties watching the polls. I always enjoy casting my ballot - standing up, proving my identity, making my mark on the rolls, and then placing my voting slip into the ballot box. My friends and I always give a cheer as each of us pops the paper in the box - a sort of warm fuzzy.

I know the party tells me that real men vote the straight ticket, and only cowards and scabs will scratch out one of their names and write my own in, but I am not all that happy with the incumbent county commissioners and intend to scratch. I say a real man makes up his own mind, and does not give blind and total allegiance to any party. I have not decided if I will bring a scratched ballot in my pocket, and hide my changes, or if I will make a point of scratching out the offending name. I suspect the latter, but we will see how many whips show up at the polls.

I will be taking the rest of the day off, and plan to spend it down at the polls watching the box, watching for that group of recent immigrants that the other party is going to try to slip past us, and watching out for that mob of goons who stole a ballot box in the next town last year. I am not a violent man, but I can identify people. At the end of the day we will probably head to the tavern for an oyster supper - our own local tradition.

The returns will come in over the telegraph around 10:00, so we will be back to the newspaper office to check the numbers. It should be a full day.

What - we are not in 1850 anymore?

Bother. It was going to be good fun.

Seriously, after going through a variation on the above rant - class is largely improvisatory theater for me - I urged the students to take not of the election day rituals: who is watching, who is checking, who is politicking at the gate, in what ways does the ritual of the vote reinforce civic identity, etc. Many of my students will be voting in Philadelphia, which is expected to be a zoo. I will be voting at the end of the block, 7 houses down. I might vote in bathrobe and carpet slippers just because I can.

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Red Ted
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October 29, 2004

Mother and Daughter

Now this is a dysfunctional family. (Both articles through the Atlanta Journal Constitution - free registration required.)

Mom is head of the Georgia Christian Coalition and is leading the charge to make same-sex marriages unconstitutional.

Daughter is in a long term same-sex relationship, would be married if she could, and writes a response editorial explaining that Mom's anti-gay bigotry has split the family, estranged her daughter, and left her daughter terrified that Mom will somehow claim custody of daughter's child, especially in the window between daughter getting pregnant and daughter's lover fully filing adoption papers - a problem that married couples NEVER have to face.

The great irony is that Mom's rant includes some howlers -- "marriage has always been between one man and one woman" -- with a very good point that divorce has indeed weakened the institution of marriage. Daughter would like to strengthen marriage, but Mom can't see it.

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Red Ted
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Faith Based Parks?

Via Wonkette, I see that there is a group of National Park Service employees who are a mite cranky that the Bush Administration is revamping the informational materials available at our national parks to reflect a creationist understanding of geological processes.

The most recent flap - the Grand Canyon is handing out books saying the canyon was created by Noah's flood and when the Bush adminstration promised to look into the books, they did not and kept them active.

The whole business about "reality-based worldviews" was getting to be a tedious meme, but then I keep hitting things like this that remind me that it sort of fits. Despite its name, creation science is not science.

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Red Ted
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Crawford Weekend?

I believe that GWB is still planning to spend this weekend, the weekend before the election, at home in Crawford. This seems a mite odd, and I know that the lefty blogosphere has been speculating about it. I see three plausible explanations: he is lazy, he is planning a surprise trip, or he is seriously ill. None are likely to change my voting decision.

EDIT - it appears that GWB is indeed campaigning this weekend. Please disregard the following conspiracy theories.

1, He is lazy. This is the least likely of the three. While it is true that GWB is the vacation president (tm), taking more time off than even Chester Arthur (the previous gold standard for lazy), he is also a very competitive person. In fact, if I were to tell GWB as an Aristotelian tragedy I would focus on his competitiveness as his tragic trait. I find it highly unlikely that he would let his laziness take over his competitive streak in a long-planned last minute rest.

2, He is planning something. This is the most popular interpretation among people who remember Bush's earlier Thanksgiving trip to Iraq. That trip left from Crawford, and the thought is that he may have planned something similar as a bit of election-eve grandstanding. If this is the case, I see it as a gamble by BushCo that the symbolism of the moment will resonate immediately while the cynical response will lag a few days. They did, after all, get a nice short-term boost out of the carrier landing, and this is a crowd that will do almost anything for a short-term political gain.

The smart money seems to be on a trip to Afghanistan, which just completed elections, rather than a trip to the far more dangerous Iraq. In either case, it will be interested to see if he gets a short term boost, or if the earlier carrier landing and Thanksgiving dinner have primed us to read his actions as expensive abuses of taxpayer money for political junkets. Still, they say that the point of flattery is not that the person believes what they are telling you, but that they care enough to go to the trouble to find a lie you will like. Enough voters may feel flattered by the gimmick to vote for GWB, and in a close election that might just do it.

3, The most disturbing option is that Bush is actually very ill. People have been speculating about the bulge in Bush's suits and the harness he appears to wear at all times. It may be a wire and earpiece, or it may be a medical device. The fact that Bush deferred his public checkup until after the election, despite having had several off days during the cycle, makes folks wonder if he is hiding some sort of health problem.

If he has been hiding something, and lying about wearing a device, then it will cause more serious harm to his credibility and to the credibility of his office. This is a man who will say anything for short-term gain. If he has lied to voters about his ability to serve, during an election, well, that gets into Woodrow Wilson territory. (You remember him - incapacitated with a stroke, he let his wife run the government for the last year of his term. Laura Bush is more competant than Edith Wilson, but still.)

I hope this third case is not the real story, both for his sake and for the sake of the nation.

The cynical bastard in me wonders if we will see BushCo win the election, Cheney step down due to heart troubles, Bush appoint a buddy as Veep, and then GWB step down due to his health troubles. That would be troubling. It is also a very unlikely scenario.

I am betting either on Afghanistan as in case number 2, or in a decision to call off the flying trip because it will lose more voters than it will win.

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Red Ted
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October 28, 2004


I finally got a chance to see Eminem's Mosh video. The word on the video is that it is a powerful political statement, and a chance to take anger at BushCo's policies to the voting booth. It is. "the stars and stripes / have been swiped" sings Eminem, who is angry that BushCo have claimed patriotism while pursuing policies that hurt poor, urban Americans.

But as I watched the video I was reminded of Echidne's reminder that Eminem has a long history of misogynist vocals and images, and that while he has made a piece of art whose politics the lefty blogosphere approves, this does not by itself rehabilitate him. In some ways Echidne reminds me of the (few) Republicans who praised Trent Lott for his actions as a party leader while condemning him for never renouncing his ties to white supremacist groups.

While it is unrealistic to demand total purity from one's political allies - that is the way to the small tent of the perennial loser - it does not mean that standing within the big tent protects you from all criticism. I tell my students that the study of history is a constant set of moral judgments, conscious or not, as we attempt to make sense of the people of the past, their world views and their decisions. Modern life is the same, and it is entirely consistent to praise a person for some of what they do, criticize them for other things that they do - the consistency is in the moral code you use to interpret the world, not in the relationship to any particular individual.

Watch the video - it is quite powerful. But also notice that it shows a predominantly male world - the mosh pit in the third verse is all male, most of the lead characters are male - with women appearing more as moral markers than as actors who decide their fate. I noticed three women: the soldier's wife, the single mom, and the grandmother registering voters. The first symbolizes family, and remains at home. The second does get political and appears next to Eminem as the crowd rushes to vote - but she is not one of the people who acts to clear away obstacles to voting. The third is the most obvious moral marker - the old lady sitting behind a desk as people sign their names and go to vote. She symbolizes good government, tradition, and the notion that the very old provide moral governance to the very young.

I am glad to see that Eminem has gotten political. I am fascinated at the extent to which politics has re-emerged as part of popular culture, especially youth culture. I am curious to see where that political energy goes after the election. Eminem closes his song with a warning to both candidates - Mr. President, Mr. Senator - saying that his mosh generation will insist on being heard in the future. Rather than giving a blank check to any one political party he is issuing a call for constant vigilance. But then, as both the founders and Barry Goldwater reminded us, eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.

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Red Ted
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Congrats to the Sox

Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox.

And a happy happy joy joy to their fans.

Let me apologize for being a mite negative to you, for while it was great fun to tease you it was also mean of me.

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Red Ted
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October 27, 2004

New Homework Question

I thought of this one today - it is not on the syllabus but it might well go on for next semester.

The historical drama network has put out a call for new proposals for telemovies about American history. Write me two paragraphs presenting your proposal. The first is the precis of a true historical event, as you would tell it on the screen. The second is your explanation of why this particular story would provide compelling television while conveying useful historical information.
My (skeleton) answer below the fold.

I would tell the tale of Benedict Arnold, starting from the invasion of Canada in 1775 and ending with his life in London and career as a Brigadier in the British Army. We would open with Arnold's heroics at the gates of Quebec, then set up his position amid the honor-obsessed officers in the continental army. The first half of the show would end with his role at Saratoga, both disobeying orders and winning the battle. The second half of the movie would show his quarrels about honor and precedence, his decision to surrender his garrison to the British, the random chance that led to Major Andre's arrest, and the events that followed from that arrest - Arnold's flight, Andre's execution, and the cult of Major Andre that developped in the Continental Army. We would end with a brief review of the later lives of the major players.

This would be compelling television for several reasons. I would present it as an Aristotelian tragedy, with Arnold destroyed by the same character traits that made him great. It would be compelling as anti-history, for how dare we show a heroic side to a person whose name is still an insult. Finally, it would show the audience the importance of honor in the early 18th century; given the popularity of Michael Shaara's work on Gettysburg, New Gingrich's Civil War histories, or the recent success of movies like Gladiator and Master and Commander, American audiences want to see tales of honor-obsessed military figures. The lasting historical impact that people would take away would be twofold. On the obvious level, they would be reminded of the near-run aspect of the American Revolution, of the divided loyalties of many Americans, especially people in the middle colonies, and of the importance contingent moments in shaping larger events.

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Red Ted
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Choosing Books

I am teaching Western Civ II next semester, and I intend to change the readings.

The first change is easy, in fact the kids last semester insisted that I make this change - instead of reading Paine's Rights of Man and excerpts from Common Sense and Age of Reason I will give them Edmund Burke Reflections on the Revolution in France and Paine's Rights of Man. I will probably excerpt both books to make the reading more reasonable for a low level survey.

The second change is also easy. Last time I used Noble et al Western Civilization, The Continuing Experiment, a book I picked because I liked their choice of images (don't laugh) and because I decided that their use of in-line primary documents meant I could get away without a separate reader. But, I did not like its coverage of the Ottoman Empire and over the course of the semester I discovered that I was putting a LOT of emphasis on the Ottoman Empire. So, this time I intend to use McKay et al A History of Western Society which is not as good about its primary documents, has more words, but also has good coverage of the Ottomans.

My final decision is what to read for the modern era. I like to have them read something about the Great War. Last time we used All Quiet on the Western Front - a classic, a book much read in High School, and a book written several years after the war as a response to Nazi-ism in Germany. This time I am thinking about giving them Ernst Junger The Iron Storm - a book less read in high schools, a book written immediately after the war, and a book that was taken up by the same people who later embraced the Nazi party (although Junger himself seems to have steered clear of them). I asked Penguin for a review copy, but I suspect that I will pop into a library tomorrow and see if there is a copy on the shelves for me to flip through.

The total cost of the big textbook and the three other books brings the class to over $100, before bookstore markup on the textbook. This means no external reader. Instead I will do a milder version of what I am doing for US1 this semester, putting a few readings up on a class web page for the kids to read on line.

It should do.

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Red Ted
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October 22, 2004

Political Ads

I followed links to these organizations recently and was struck by their political ads.

Marriage Rights has been running these ads on MTV and other spots where young adults might see them. They take aim at something that most teens and 20-somethings approve of, most old fogeys dislike, and use them to encourage folks to get out and vote.

My favorite was "Threats," which shows a couple opening the door of their house to see various threats to their marriage - the horny UPS guy for her, the sexy co-worker for him, and so on.

Josh Marshall just gave approval to the political ads at Win Back Respect an anti-Bush organization focusing on convincing Republicans that Bush was a bad idea. Marshall liked their most recent ad, which compares Bush's stupid schtick about looking for WMD in the corners of the Oval Office with an interview with a woman whose brother was killed in Iraq while looking for those WMD.

The site has put together several ads over the election cycle - my favorite was the one with relatives of the troops in Iraq commenting on Bush's "its hard." They were disgusted by his little grin. The site comes back to a couple of themes - Bush does not take world problems seriously; he lacks good judgement; and real people are hurt because of his callowness.

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Red Ted
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"Shippit! shippit!" says the toddler.

And, being well versed in toddler speak, we know that he is calling for the ketchup. We do our best to use real words for foods, at least when he is in earshot - bottle not bahbah, ketchup not shippit, overalls not ra'-ra's - but this one is quite cute.

I was reading about ketchup as a powerful condiment and realized that there is a reason why the little people like dips and condiments - they are something that the child can add to food to control how it tastes. The little guy loves to have something to dip his food into; he loves his ketchup; he even eats Grey Poupon.

An aside, knowing that dipping food into something makes toddlers happy helps explain for me why chicken nuggets are so popular with so many people - it is a food that regresses them almost to infancy.

Next time I go for groceries I will get the smallest squeeze bottle of Heinz ketchup in the store. That will be our table bottle. The little man will be able to serve himself shippit, and we will refill the little bottle from the great big bottles we buy at the discount club.

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Red Ted
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October Calendar


I have a mess of little links that I don't quite feel up to blogging about but that I can't leave be. (I had the 1:00am to 2:30am infant shift last night, followed by a 5:30am toddler.)

The infant and I watched Bend it Like Bekham, so in the honor of that movie I give you The Washington Post on Curry recipies

I still have not decided what to say about the movie on the Reading Blog. But I will get there.

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Red Ted
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October 21, 2004

Bush and abortion

Glen Stassen, an evangelical theologian, wrote a strong op-ed for the Houston Chronicle explaining why George W. Bush has increased abortions in the United States.

He dug through the available data on abortion rates in the 1990s, and suggests that compared to earlier trends, there have been 50,000 more abortions since 2001 than there would have been had earlier trends continued. That is a lot of abortions, even as Dubyais posturing about partial birth abortions, pandering to the right, and sending coded signals about Roe v. Wade. Why the disconnect between words and deeds?

It turns out that the most common reason people give for having an abortion is that they can not afford to have another baby. And, well, we are in one heck of a slump and Bush chose to target his tax cuts to his supporters rather than using them to create real economic stimulus.

Other prime reasons for getting abortions are lack of health care, lack of confidence in the future, or lack of a reliable mate. Bush's proposals for health care do less than Kerry's to extend health care to the uncovered - the biggest public health problem the nation faces. His approach to the real marriage problem - child-spawning without a commitment to child-rearing - has been to sponsor an amendment to stigmatize gays and cut back on unmarried heterosexual long-term partnerships.

Finally, the Bush folks have been against birth control, insisting instead on abstinence. You might make a case for teaching teenagers abstinence first - but what about adults? What about married adults who have enough kids? I notice that the Bushes only have a couple of kids - has anyone asked them what they use for family planning? Abstinence, rhythm, or the products that they want to ban for other people?

Stassen's piece adds evidence to Amy Sullivan's piece on faith and works and presidential candidates. Read it.

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Red Ted
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Is it drafty?

The political notion for the month is the likelihood of a new draft. Kerry and his supporters are warning about one. Bush and his supporters are denying that there is any chance of a nationwide draft of eligible young people. Both have some good points. Lets lay out the situation and see if we can figure out what is going on.

I see three major factors shaping military policy in the next few years.
1, the military is overextended.
2, the people who staff the modern career military don't want draftees
3, a draft would be political suicide in 2005, even though it could well have passed in October, 2001.

1, The military is overextended.
The first thing to point out is that the blackhorse cavalry, the designated OpFor at the national training center, has just been ordered to Iraq. As Phil Carter says, putting your training cadre into the field is a case of eating your seed corn. The military has had to rely heavily on reserves and guard units, is issuing stop-loss orders to maintain staffing, and as the Wall Street Journal reports (via Jeralyn Merritt) is struggling to reach its current recruiting goals.

Kerry says we need another 40,000 troops, half combat half support, and will add them to the army by increasing recruitment efforts. Bush says we don't need anything more than the expansion Congress already authorized, and that the military is not overstretched. Really it is not. Trust me. His thought is that if we can redeploy troops from Europe and Korea, turn parts of Iraq over to Iraqi security forces, and wind down our commitment in Iraq, we will get past this short-term hump in commitment.

Meanwhile, some of Bush's buddies are talking about Iran, Syria, or other expansions of the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive invasion of countries that are trying to go nuclear and that are friendly to terrorists. Those invasions would need a lot more warm bodies, regardless of what Rumsfield says about the value of light, quick, fast-moving forces in the modern battlefield.

2, The career military does not want draftees. Sgt. Mom is eloquent about all the ways in which career non-coms - the folks who make the military work - don't want to see a draft.

The American military establishment does not want a draft! A draft would be like kryptonite to Superman, garlic to a vampire, like Woody Allen signed to play for the San Antonio Spurs! That is, an element not only toxic but #%*#ing useless!
Her point is that the modern military expects soldiers to be in for stretches of 4 to 6 years at a time, and for the career non-coms to have several of these tours. It takes up to two years to fully train someone - basic, branch training, MOS training - and then more time for them to come fully up to speed by learning-by-doing on the job. Any draft would have to be for short terms of duty, any short-term soldier would be unable to be trained for much more than light weapons infantryman, and those folks are a small portion of the army. More than the training problem, she is worried about the ways in which a large pool of people who don't want to be there will corrupt or disrupt a military made up of dedicated professionals who do want to be there.

I agree with her second point. I am not sure about her first point. While the best solution to the security problem in Iraq would have been to keep the Iraqi army in existence after the invasion, and while the second-best solution would be an arabic-speaking military police contingent from other nations, the other possible solutions to the security problem are to flood the country with guys on the ground or turn to collective punishment the way that the British did when they occupied the country in the 1920s - bombing villages in retaliation for attacks on British soldiers. A draft - lots of people trained for a year, serving for a year, and going home - would provide warm bodies to flood the country.

3, Political costs. During the 1990s several people in Congress warned that the danger in a professional military is that there is little political cost to deploying it. The people who serve want to be there. The people who do not want to serve are not there. Most middle class (and voting) American families do not have friends or family in the service while the lower classes, which are disproportionately represented in the military, tend not to vote. Thus the political cost of intervening in Kosovo, or Somalia, or elsewhere is lower than it would be if every intervention meant that every Congress critter would have to write letters of condolence to voting constituents whose sons had been drafted and then killed. The idea was to return to a draft as a way to reign in military intervention in the third world. But that was before 9/11.

After 9/11 when we told Afghanistan that they had to either turn over OBL or face invasion, and then in 2002 when we started forcing a confrontation with Iraq, I wrote to my Congressman and asked for a formal declaration of war. Why? I was bothered by Bushes decision to follow in Lyndon Johnson's footsteps and wage war on the cheap, from a peacetime economy. My thought, simplistic though it is, is that if we care enough about this war on terror to be prosecuting it, then we should care enough about this war on terror to treat it as a real war. That means sacrifice, not "go shopping". That means a draft, not because we needed more warm bodies to invade Afghanistan, not because we needed to make the political costs of intervention higher, but because a draft is the symbolic inclusion of all Americans in a war that had been declared to a major national crisis.

Were it up to me in October 2001, I would have put through a war declaration and instituted a symbolic draft - only as many people as the career military would accept - as part of shifting to a political economy of sacrifice and service instead of a political economy of posturing and politics.

But, I care about the war on terror, and the more I see of the Bush White House the more I see that they care about winning the next election and making their contributors happy. They don't really care about the War on Terror, or at least they have not prosecuted that war in a manner that makes me think they take it seriously.

So, even if the military gets itself overextended, and even if the neocons push for an expansion into Syria, I do not see the Bush White House instituting a draft until after the midterm Congressional elections. After that, Bush will be a lame duck and all bets are off. W might find ourselves in the position that Louis XVI's France was facing in the mid 1780s, where we can not afford to have a foreign policy - in this case because we have no troops to spare rather than Louis XVI's problem of having no money to pay his troops - but we are unlikely to see a draft.

What if Kerry wins? He has proposed policy measures that would help ease the pressure on the career military. He is highly unlikely to authorize action against Syria, North Korea, or Iran. For these reasons he is less likely to face the systematic pressure for more troops that Bush is looking at. On the other hand, he has also indicated more tough bilateral and multi-lateral discussion with Iran and North Korea, and he may want troops to back his bluff. He is also more comfortable with the rhetoric of sacrifice and collective effort than Bush is.

Finally, if I held stock in the military contractors making the new Air Force fighter, Navy submarines, or Marine Ospreys, I would sell. I see those large-item procurement projects getting scrapped to pay for operating costs, recruitment, and veterans' medical care.

Still, whoever wins I think it more likely that we retain an all volunteer military, cripple it by overwork, and end up with a force of experienced, burned out, but effective soldiers. And we may or may not be able to afford future military interventions for several years while we recover from Bush's actions.

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Red Ted
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Toast and Jam

I commented to J this morning that I could very easily eat myself sick on toasted sourdough honey wheat bread and beach plum jam.

We agreed that it would be a bad idea to actually eat that much.

On the other hand, the toddler's breakfast this morning was two slabs of toasted home-made bread covered in home-made beach plum jam. The little man knows what is good stuff.

Bread recipe below the fold.

Sourdough Honey Wheat (a staple in our house)

We cheat and use the bread machine. This works just fine as a hand-kneaded, shaped, oven-risen loaf. Use the boule shape, not a long loaf, or bake it in a pan if you go by hand.

To feed the starter:
1/2 cup dechlorinated water
1 cup AP flour.

For the bread:
Sourdough starter
1 cup bread flour
1 cup Whole Wheat flour
1/2 cup water
1 tsp active dry yeast
3/4 tsp kosher salt
c. 1 tbsp honey

Put half of the starter into the bread machine (or your mixing bowl if by hand)
add water and honey.
Let it sit while you feed the sourdough (click the sourdough link above, and check comments.)

Add bread flour, WW flour, yeast and salt.

Press start (or knead, rise, beat down, rise, beat down, shape, rise, bake) normally. I like the "French Bread" setting on our Breadman.

Variation - what we did last night.
Use 1 cup of water and just a little bit of sourdough starter
Put the water, honey, and sourdough in the bowl. Add 1 cup bread flour and stir until it makes pasty white gloop. That is your new sponge.

If you are hand-baking, let this sit overnight and finish the bread in the morning.

If you are using a bread machine:
Sprinkle the a cup of bread flour and a cup of WW flour over the top, so it rests on top of the slime without mixing in.
Put salt and yeast on the top.
set up bread machine for delay bake - I like to time it so the bread finishes at the same time our alarm goes off. First one up goes down and pulls the bread out of the machine to breathe, and it is ready to cut by the time we are done showering and downstairs to eat.

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Red Ted
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October 20, 2004


On the recent exam I asked my kids what John Winthrop would think about the U.S. Constitution. In other contexts I sometimes as What Would Jonathan Edwards Do? I was reminded of that latter question by Amy Sullivan's recent piece at The Washington Monthly.

Amy points to Ron Suskind's piece on Bush's thought process but focuses on Ayelish McGarvey's recent piece suggesting that Bush is not really a Christian at all. She does not go as far as McGarvey, but she does point out that Bush's Christianity boils down to the claim that he is a Christian, powerful words about Christianity that were probably penned by his speech writer, and policy positions that emphasize anti-abortion, anti-stem-cell and anti-homosexuality but that ignore the rest of Christian teachings.

Rather than dive into the 300-plus comments there, I want to ramble on about this at length here.

The skinny:

Some Christians think of faith and salvation as things that are created through good works. Some Christians think that salvation comes from faith alone, and that works are not necessary. Jonathan Edwards, together with most of Christian tradition, think that while salvation is a matter of faith, the test of that faith is what sort of live a person lives. Works are not cause but consequence of a true faith, and if they are lacking then the faith probably is as well.

Lets start by asking what is a "real Christian"? My theological background is heavy on 19th-century Presbyterians and so I tend to break that question down into three sub-questions or three gradations of Christian.

The first is the self-labeled Christian. This is the largest possible tent and it includes anyone who wants to place themselves in it - so Unitarians are in, so are Mormons and George W. Bush, but Jews for Jesus don't want this label so they don't count. Whether a person belongs in this group or not is a question that can only be answered by that person, and the only criteria for using this label is that a person wants it. So, by this largest of all possible tents, George W. Bush is as Christian as Thomas Jefferson.

The second is what the 19th century guys called a historic faith: publicly proclaiming that Jesus is the Messiah, accepting that the New Testament is scripture (by whatever definition you want to use for scripture), and attempting to follow the commandments in that book. Jews for Jesus fit in this group, so too do almost all Christian Churches and almost all self-labeled Christians. Jefferson is out, as are Unitarians, but even bigoted anti-Catholics like James Henley Thornwell agreed that the Roman Catholic Church possessed a historic faith. By this standard both Kerry and Bush are real Christians, with Kerry being more traditional in his formulations and creeds (as expected from a Catholic) and Bush being vague and fuzzy (as expected from a self-help therapeutic Christian).

The third and hardest to evaluate is what Thornwell called a real Christian, what Evangelicals call born again, and what Jonathan Edwards accepted as a full member of his church in Northampton. This would be a person with some emotional attachment to the divine, that attachment expressed through the Christian language of sin, redemption, and joy, and that attachment proved by a change in life, habits or morals. Lets call this a heart Christian, although many people have different terms for the same folks.

McGarvey and several of Sullivan's commenters argue that Bush does not have this sort of faith, that his faith is a simple therapeutic faith that he credits for moral certainty and calm, and that the only fruits of this faith are a turn away from (most) alcohol - he still drinks near-beer like O'Douls - and a turn towards exercise. But drink and exercise alone do not make a life of faith. Sullivan is less sure, but she too looks to works as the test of faith. Kerry did the same when comparing his more social gospel with Bush's vocal gospel.

And this, finally, gets me to the question in the header - What would Jonathan Edwards do? The distinction between faith and works is old. The modern Arguments about faith and works date back to the Reformation, with precursors to that debate going back to Augustine. There are three common interpretations, each of which can be abused and turned into a vicious form of hypocrisy and heresy, each of which can drive people to live noble lives marked by caring for others - love as benevolence.

The first interpretation of faith and works is that we are justified by works. That is, our salvation and our ability to overcome original sin will come because we do good works. These works, taken on hopefully and humbly, will bring us from sin into salvation. For many Baptism is a saving or cleansing ordinance - it wipes away part of original sin and lets one make moral decisions. For some Communion is a saving sacrament - each time you participate you move closer to salvation. While this is traditional Catholic doctrine, it is not limited to Catholics: Jonathan Edwards' grandfather, Solomon Stoddard, held the Puritan version of this belief. These works include deeds done for others. Medieval social services were provided by confraternities, groups of people who banded together to do good deeds and thus earn salvation. Some, including Ben Franklin the notorious skeptic, argue that it is by doing good deeds and acting like a good person that one, actually, becomes a better person.

This, I should add, is close to modern American Judaism - we are commanded to perform mitzvot - good deeds - some of these are mitzvot to God, like prayer, others are mitzvot to those around us - caring for the sick, and so on. Jews have their own extensive discussions about what is a good deed, how do we adapt the commandments written in ancient Judah to the modern world, and so on, but the underlying premise is that you do good things because God told you to.

There is extensive discussion in the Gospel about the importance of doing good deeds for the sake of others and not for the public honor of appearing to do good. That is the gaping pit in this approach to salvation - it encourages the hypocrisy of doing good deeds purely for fire insurance or notoriety, of following the letter of the law and ignoring the spirit. Every church has these people. It is always tempting to proclaim how moral or generous or kind one is.

The second interpretation of faith and works is built on St. Augustine and Martin Luther. This argues that we are saved by faith alone. Luther looked at indulgences - gifts to charity extorted from people by promises of clemency in the afterlife in exchange for cash on the barrelhead today - and concluded that salvation through works was a confidence game. Instead he argued that we are saved by faith alone, that we get that faith directly from God, and that we need to read the scripture to figure out how to talk with God and get that faith. He cut back on the instruments of mediation and instead urged a clear strong faith. It worked - it gave us the Protestant Reformation - but it also created its own crop of bad citizens.

The danger in this understanding is that you will have people who are so convinced that faith is what matters that they will ignore the needs of this world in order to rejoice in their own faith or bring that faith to others. Whether it is the "Jesus loves me, but he hates you" of the failed Puritan or the pre-millennial temptation to ignore doing good deeds in exchange for proselytizing, because the world will end soon and only those with faith will survive the transition, or the 19th century social worker who told poor, hungry, working class people that they were poor, and dirty, and ignorant, and trapped in their situation, because they had not yet accepted Jesus, and that if they got religion then they would surely rise out of this miser, the focus on faith gives us a temptation to ignore our duties to the physical needs of this world.

And here, with the third interpretation of faith and works, is where Jonathan Edwards, Mr. Protestant for the 18th century, comes into his own. Edwards helped kick off the Great Awakening, a series of emotional religious revivals that revitalized Protestantism in the Atlantic Basin, split churches into new lights and old lights, and argued that the only real religion was emotional, not historic. He was challenged on this last point and asked why people were claiming to be saved by faith alone, why they were claiming that faith without hot emotion was not really religion at all, and how he could tell this sort of faith from temptations and snares produced by the devil?

Edwards' answer was works: not works done to gain salvation, but works as the test of salvation. This is the point that Amy Sullivan was referring to way up at the top of this post, but I thought it worthwhile to do a little religious history while getting here.

As Edwards put it in his sermon cycle The Religious Affections we are saved by faith alone. We generally become aware of that faith through our emotions. But emotions can lie. So we must test that faith. The test of faith is that it leads us to do good deeds: if someone has a moment of faith and then acts as they always did, then it was a false conversion; if someone has a moment of faith and then acts with benevolence towards mankind in general, then it was probably a true conversion.

So, if we are going to ask ourselves if Bush and Kerry have a self-labeled faith, a historic faith, and a heart faith, we have to ask ourselves what are their public professions? What are their works of benevolence? To what extent did their works of benevolence change as they matured in their faith?

Both have a self-labeled faith.

Both appear to have a historic faith. Kerry, like many New Englanders, does not feel comfortable witnessing his faith in public. He does, however, regularly attend services. Bush tends to refer to his faith before TV cameras, witness to his faith before gatherings of other faithful, and avoid all organized religious services. He is a prayer-group Christian. Still, there is no one true church organization.

The big question is what is the relationship between their faith and their works? Do their works provide a passing grade as a test of their faith?

Kerry is easier to measure. He claims to have taken up public office as an act of service to others, to have taken on particular causes as part of building a better world, and his generally liberal voting record matches with his professed social gospel understanding of the demands of faith. If we use Edwards' test of benevolence towards mankind in general, Kerry passes. The exception that someone will certainly make here is abortion and stem-cell policy. But there, it seems clear to me, Kerry places the lives and welfare of the people currently living above the lives and welfare of people not yet born, and especially above those not yet viable. Consider the moral dilemma of a childbirth gone wrong. Posit that you can save either the fetus or the mother, but not both. Who do you save? Bush would save the fetus, Kerry the mother; neither is an easy choice.

Bush is trickier. He has taken up strong positions on abortion and stem-cell research, in all cases taking the point that there is no moral difference between killing a set of cells and killing a cute little babbling baby - both are fully human, and we have a strong moral and evolutionary incentive to protect the young at the expense of the old. Where he falls down is on almost everything else.

I happen to believe that his policies towards gays and lesbians is as inappropriate as forbidding civil rights to people because of their handedness. Marriage is both a civil and a religious sacrament. If people want to stand up before the divine and their community and declare themselves married, then they have a religious marriage. The only details are procedural, not functional. If they want the civil consequences of that marriage - visitation rights, child custody, intergenerational transfer of property, breaks on their taxes, automatic access to the spouse's health coverage, etc. - then they have to fulfill a set of conditions imposed by the state - marriage license, not too closely related, and so on. It is possible to get many of the benefits of marriage by filing a raft of separate legal documents, but it is a hassle and it carries the stigma of being a second class citizen. Imagine, for example, that Bush wanted to give right-handed people a drivers license that let them drive any vehicle of the appropriate size class while left-handed people had to get a separate license and documentation for EVERY INDIVIDUAL CAR they want to drive. We would find that an imposition, an imposition made without any justification other than prejudice and that prejudice sanctified by selective citation of bits of scripture and some fuzzy-headed appeals to nature.

Sullivan was thinking more about environmental policy, corporate welfare policy, cuts in social services, and of course the war in Iraq. Here again it is clear that Bush's policies are generally in favor of a sort of corporate capitalism that enriches the rich while justifying its actions under rhetoric of equal opportunity and self help. His pre-emptive invasion of Iraq was rushed, and it was not justified under traditional doctrines of just war. There too Bush falls short.

My sourcing from this last point is weak - I read it on a conservative weblog somewhere - but worth making. The one place where Bush does appear to be acting out some of his works is his charitable contributions, which appear to be a substantial part of his income. And, to his credit, he does not brag about them.

Finally, how have their works changed over their years? Is there a relationship between their professions of faith and the works that serve to test that relationship?

Kerry, like most Catholics, does not claim to have had a moment of sudden salvation. Instead I get the sense that his faith has matured slowly, that his experiences in Vietnam and then afterwards in the anti-war protests helped him articulate that faith, and that he continues to work on it regularly. There is a quote in Gone Upriver about what the war reminded him about daily life. To paraphrase, every day is gift, it always is, but after experiencing that river, you are aware of the importance of that gift, every single day. He punches that last phrase, and it sticks in the ear. This is a man who thinks he was saved from peril through luck or Providence, and who now has the duty to make the most of the extra time he has been given. My favorite verse of scripture is the psalm "this is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it" and I get the sense that Kerry has taken the spirit of that verse and turned it into a daily mantra. Again, he is quiet about his faith, but that is my reading.

Bush also had a slow transition from his drinking days to his current faith. It took him about four years from his first conversation with Billy Graham to his mid-40s therapeutic faith. Evangelical conversions stereotypically come quickly, but more often come as a moment of breakthrough after a long period of contemplation and crisis. His faith does appear to be more therapeutic than evangelical: faith gives him certainty and calm; faith helped him wrestle with his personal demon of drink; faith guides him as he makes moral decisions. What his faith does not appear to do, or what he does not publicly admit to at least, is provide humility. Jimmy Carter lusted in his heart. Most of us do. Carter was willing to admit it, although he did not expect to see that admission in Playboy. I don't know if Bush would admit to it, for that would appear to be a mistake or it would appear to be an opening to sin. He seems to deny the existence of any evil within, to project that evil onto outsiders or others, and then to find certainty in his wars against those outside evils. That bothers me. That is the action of Thomas Jefferson at his least attractive. That is certainly not Lincoln's faith, or even that of Adams and Hamilton.

As others have pointed out, Bush's faith seems to be fairly immature. He got to the therapeutic certainty point, and then stopped. He lives in a world where others do not contradict him even when he is wrong, and where he appears to absolutely believe whatever he is saying at the moment (except when he goes into blinking surrender-monkey mode, as he did during the first debate.)

What does this say about faith and works?

It is entirely possible that Bush himself really does believe that his coal pollution and mercury policies constitute taking good stewardship of the earth. It is entirely possible that Bush thinks that Iraq was a just war undertaken at the last possible moment. It is entirely possible that Bush thinks that the best way to improve the lives and well-being of the poor is to give tax cuts to the rich and encourage a society where the gap between rich and poor is ever widening. It is entirely possible that Bush thinks that promotion is the best reward for incompetence. It is entirely possible, in short, that Bush is both sincere in his faith and a terrible decision maker.

The alternative is that he is one of the several varieties of hypocrite and is very good at making short term decisions that reward his base at the expense of the nation and the world.

I doubt that we will figure it out in the next two weeks. Perhaps he will reveal the answer in his memoirs. Let us give him the chance to start writing them early.

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October 19, 2004

Do You Know What Love Is?

A couple of three weeks ago a friend sent me an email asking me what my definition of love was. I wrote back a quick nothing saying that I liked the Jonathan Edwards / O Henry / Robert Heinlein definition: love is when you put the interests of another before your own interests.

I did not elaborate, and she complained that this was disinterested benevolence and not "a whole lotta love." So, let me try again.

I like to define my terms and break complicated ideas into bits. So lets break affection down into love, lust, and friendship.

I stick with the notion that love is putting the interests of the beloved before your own interests, but I add two caveats. Requited love requires that your beloved love you, and put your interests before their own. That is the point of "Gift of the Magi" and failure to keep that point in mind helps explain why so many of us are willing to turn ourselves into doormats in the name of love. Furthermore, I personally feel that we can put anothers interests before our own and yet not abandon our own interests. J and I regularly negotiate - figuring out what the other wants and trying to figure out a way to satisfy both of us, or at least frustrate us both equally.

Lust is simpler. It is the urge to rub the bacon with a particular individual. It is a powerful emotion, and combined with love can produce something quick to spark, quick to satisfy, and quick to burst again into flame.

Friendship is the third. One powerful wedding cliche is the invitation bearing the phrase "Today I marry my best friend." It is a cliche because it is true. Friendship, the desire to spend time with another, to talk and converse, share minds and interests, is perhaps more lasting than lust, more reliable than love. A lifelong friend is a good thing, and one to be cherished.

From what I know of this friend's current romance, she has friendship with her honey, and has been fantasizing about rubbing the bacon, but she is not sure about the love bit. He, meanwhile, is talking about kids, minivan, and vast quantities of domesticity (which is freaking her out a little).

I do think that for a long-term relationship to be successful it has to have love, lust and friendship. Different couples will combine them in different proportions; the two partners may well feel these emotions in different mixture: one may be love-friendship-lust, the other friendship-lust-love, but as long as they communicate it might just work.

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Red Ted
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Thomas Jefferson

I like to give the kids provocative statements to write homework on. This week they have 200 words to respond to the following:

Thomas Jefferson: Slimy hypocrite or impassioned voice for liberty?
They previously read Jefferson's "Summary View of the Rights of British America" and the Declaration (final version, not TJ's draft).

For today they are reading: "Chapter 18 - Manners" from Notes on the State of Virginia (Slavery is bad because it makes slave holders into tyrants), "Head and Heart" PDF (breakup letter to Maria Cosway), "The Earth Belongs to the Living" (Jefferson against Burke's idea of an intergenerational contract), "The Reign of Witches" (Jefferson explaining why Federalist rule is unnatural and will fade away, so lets not split the union over it.), and "Fire Bell in the Night" (The "Wolf by the Ears" letter about Slavery and the Missouri Crisis.)

I have already gotten some early homework by email, and it looks like this assignment got them thinking about Jefferson, liberty, and slavery. It should be an interesting discussion.

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Beach Plum Jam II

My mom grows beach plums, a shrub native to the barrier islands of New Jersey. The plums are little things, about the size of a cherry, which turn dark purple when ripe. They are tart and sweet and strange and very tasty in an odd sort of a way. They also make superior jam.

The first time I tried them, I overcooked the jam and made two small jars of candy. This time I undercooked it a little and made very tasty spoon jam - serve with a spoon, spread with a knife.

We now have 7 jars of jam, 6 cups and a pint, plus the 12 oz jar of jam in the fridge. Both the toddler and I like it a lot.

Recipe below the fold

Ted's Beach Plum Jam

7 cups beach plums, about a quarter of them green.
7 cups sugar
1/2 lemon
1 tbsp light oil - I use olive or walnut

usual jam-making gear.

Wash the plums.
Pit them, and put the fruit into one container, the pits into another. It is easy to pit them if you just push the pit out with your thumb. Hold the plum over the pit container as you squeeze, because you will also be dumping a lot of the very tasty juice when you express the pit.

Pitted beach plums can be frozen for later use. That is what we did with this batch.

Place the plums in your jamming pot.
Place the pits and juice into a piece of cheesecloth, and squeeze all possible juice, pulp, and yumminess out of the pit bag and into the jam pot.
Half a lemon.
Squeeze out some of the juice.
Using a spoon, remove the pith and pulp. Discard the seeds, mince thepith and pulp of 1/2 lemon. Add the minced stuff to the jam.
(This adds extra pectin and lets you get away with a shorter boil. I like the bright taste of short-boiled jam.)
Put a little dash of light oil into the pot - this helps prevent boil-over.

Over a moderate-high flame, heat the plums and lemon to a rolling boil - it continues to boil while being stirred. Stir the fruit regularly as it heats. Don't worry about the skins - they add flavor and texture. (Some folks chop them, but I don't.)

Once the fruit comes to a rolling boil, boil for one minute.
Add the sugar all at once
Stir in.
Cook the jam, stirring constantly, until it comes to a full boil.
Reduce heat to maintain that boil, and stir for 60 to 180 seconds or until the jam just begins to sheet or clump off your spoon. If you stop too soon you get runny jam, which you can eat. If too late, you get candy.

Pour into sterilized glass canning jars, cover, boil for 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.

Yield - a bit over 7 cups - exact quantities will vary depending on how long you boil. We got 9 1/2 cups last time, but it was runny and could have boiled for more than the 90 seconds I gave it.

Enjoy - it makes a nice bright, slightly tart jam.

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Red Ted
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October 18, 2004

Batgirl v Airport Security

This amused me. It is a Jenny Breeden comic about the joys of airline screening for folks who wear a lot of goth and clubwear.

We like Jennie Breeden.

Posted by
Red Ted
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October Calendar

Of Kids and Dawgs and Students

As the hound and I were walking this morning I met a woman and her young lab and started talking with her about dog training. She is struggling with the dog, in part I thought because her dog command voice was harsh, hectoring, and almost mean. I did not tell her that, but I did remind her of the importance of giving the command once and once only, and then enforcing it by moving the dog. So you say "Sit!" and then if the dog stands there looking at you, you push back on the chest and down on the tail, and place that dog on its tuchus.

As the hound and I walked on, I was reminded of the relationship between dog training, child raising, and teaching.

The hound is our practice child. We knew that when we got her. And several aspects of dog raising have translated to child raising, at least so far: no empty threats or promises, enforce every command, don't give a command that won't be obeyed, praise good behavior, scold bad behavior, praise and condemn immediately or not at all, and always be consistent. This latter is the most important. Dogs and kids both like to know what is expected of them and like to have some structure in which they can act. Within that structure, go for it. But if we decide that boys should not stand on the couch, then that means that they never stand on the couch. If we decide that no more cookies means no more cookies, then we are open for petitions until we say yes or no, but once spoken that word is final.

A digression - that last sentance makes me feel a little like George W. Bush. It is a strange feeling.

In addition I have had to learn new tones of voice for dealing with the hound: dog voice and praise voice. Dog voice is a projected, moderate volume, firm voice with a snap of command. The trick for me is to articulate an exlamation point without raising my volume: I try to sound firm; the lady this morning sounded mean; the military call this command voice. Praise voice is goofy-happy. Guwd Daag! I use it whenever she does something I told her to, when playing with her, and when she resists doing something she is forbidden to do. So when she stops chasing a squirrel and lets it run into the street, she gets a Guwd Daag! just as if she had laid down on command, or gotten her ears ruffled.

Dog voice works well on telemarketers and difficult students. I don't normally bring it out in the classroom except when exerting discipline. Praise voice is reserved for the critters. But the principle behind the two - make requests or demands in a firm voice, immediately praise or correct actions - translates well to people.

With students, there are similar shared principles. Again, the most important is being consistent. If I have one stated policy for makeups or late work, then always follow it. For homework, if you were in the room when we talked about the homework, you can not write that homework for credit. If a student says something smart, or writes something clever, then say so immediately. If a student says something stupid or gets things wrong in writing, say so, and then move on. Any single goof in class is as unimportant as any single moment when a dog on heel goes to sniff a tree - you tug the leash, correct verbally, and then keep walking as if nothing happened.

There are also important differences. The first is that a dog is always a dog, but a baby grows up to be a child and then an adult. In addition, a dog is willing to believe that you are infallible - "Lord, let me be the person my dog thinks that I am" - while both children and students will catch you goofing on a regular basis. We all make mistakes. The trick there is to treat yourself as you treat others - whoops, that was a mistake. Here is how we fix it. Now lets move on.

Speaking of which, writing this was a study break from grading blue books.
"Back to work Ted!"
"Guwd Boy!"

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Red Ted
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October 15, 2004

The Interval Hound

Over the summer I tried to get back into running shape, balancing my desire to run against the pain in my knees. I found myself running about a mile every second or third day. It was fun, but my fitness was hurt by the long rests waiting for the knees to recover.

About a month ago, perhaps a little more, I was running on a hot afternoon and started messing with foot-strike. Bad idea - when I went from forefoot distance to forefoot sprint I ended up giving myself the ten-day calf cramp from hell in my left leg. I did not run for a month after that.

On Monday I was walking the hound after class, wearing sweatpants and my walk-around pair of running shoes. On a whim, we began to jog. I had to take the flashlight, cell phone, and key rings out of my pockets because they bounced annoyingly, but we ran and we liked it. Tuesday morning we did it again, this time without the pocket crap. And again Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning - I seem to be in a new running cycle.

The change between this cycle and what I did over the summer is that I am not running for any distance. Instead I keep reminding myself that I am running because I like to run, will stop and walk when I feel like stopping, and should just go play -- like fartlek only slower and with only the hound for company.

This morning the hound decided that she wanted to run intervals. No, really. She did. We were heading down the hill to the lake and I went cross-country style - arms out to the side, let the feet and legs rotate along, and perform a fast controlled fall down the path. The dog loved it and began to romp and bound at my side. So, we kept up that pace for the next hundred yards or so, then stopped to let the hound poop. For the rest of the run we alternated a fast run with a walk, stopping whenever I started to lose my wind or feel myself pushing or whenever the hound got too tired and made me drag her along by the leash. It was a lot of fun, even if the fast bits were probably only 7:30 or 8:00 pace.

My exercise pattern has long been overwork, injury, over-rest, rinse, repeat. Perhaps this time the hound will keep me under control. I do hope so. I love the feeling of running about as much as I hate the feeling of being injured.

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Red Ted
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October 14, 2004

Debate Thoughts III

I did not take notes this time. In addition, the kids woke up screaming around 9:30 and remained up for a while. So my attention was divided between the two men differing with one another on the TV screen and the little man screaming into my left ear.

I did have a couple of quick impressions.

When Bush is challenged about jobs, he talks about education. He talks well about education -- it does appear to be something he has pushed both as governor and as president. He centers his education program on No Child Left Behind, a program that I am not so sure about. On the plus side, it is designed to keep kids from slipping through the cracks of the public education system. This is good. On the bad side it focuses on teaching to the test, to the detriment of other subjects. (I am a historian -- this gores my ox.) More importantly, the basic studies and programs that the program is based on were in Houston, and it now turns out that they got those fine scores the old fashioned way - they cooked the data. So we are engaged on a national educational experiment based on cooked data.

My other worry about NCLB is that while the stated purpose of the law is to improve education, many of the implementation requirements, including the way that it chops the student body into lots of little groups and fails a school if any group has a bad year, seems designed to give lots and lots of public school systems the public stigma of being a failed school. This division might make good sense in multi-ethnic districts where about a third of the students identify hispanic, a third black, and two thirds white - the pattern in a Houston suburb. It does not make sense in New Jersey districts where there are not a lot of hispanic students, and where a normal statistical variation in class size and test performance can blast a school's image. The whole thing seems to have the secondary purpose of steering parents away from public school and towards a public-private partnership like vouchers.

Back to the debate.

I thought Kerry did a good job of elucidating the differences between the two on abortion. I also was struck by the extent to which he brought his faith forward, and the extent to which he accused Bush of being a bad Christian. Kerry says that faith without deeds is worthless, that the measure of deeds is what we do for the least fortunate among us, and that Bush has taken care of the rich while leaving the poor to flounder. Which Bush has - economic inequality has been rising sharply since 1980, even more sharply since 2000. The irony, of course, is that according to what I saw on some of the right wing web sites, Bush gives a larger percentage of his income in charity than Kerry does. Still, what sort of a person does a good deed in their own name while helping their friends take advantage of others for profit or pleasure?

Bush's faith, by contrast, is a personal touchstone. He prays for strength and clarity; he associates some of his core values with his faith, especially liberty; he did a good job of presenting himself as a closet christian rather than a practitioner of any social gospel or collective faith.

I wanted Kerry to talk more about class and inequality. He did not. He should have. Instead Kerry talked about the middle class, the middle class, the middle class.

After seeing the video of Bush's gubernatorial debate I was struck by the changes in his diction and word choice. He must have been having a bad day, because it appeared to me that he was putting pauses between his sentences in an attempt to add gravitas - the Paul Harvey effect. He uses short simple sentances, not the compound diction of the Texas debate, but this could well be a conscious decision to speak to the voters and not to the reporters.

More importantly for Bush, he did not lose his temper. I only saw him going into frantic eye-blink mode once, and forgot to note which point Kerry was making at the time, but overall he looked less pressured and more comfortable than he had during the first debate. This is bad for Kerry.

I agree with Kerry's message, so it is hard for me to judge the debate. I want to give it to the man who said the things that I agree with. I do think they did a good job of clarifying the differences between the two.

At times it was unclear if Kerry was running against Tom DeLay or George Bush. Then again, the two do go together. I was appalled to see Bush moan and groan about partisanship in national government. He and his administration appear to have made a conscious policy decision to emphasize partisan differences, perhaps as a response to the Nader 2000 charge that the parties were interchangable. But, that decision did not have to extend to systematic abuse of Congressional rules and procedures, which it has.

Reading back it appears that most of this commentary is about Bush. That makes sense - the election is both a referendum on Bush's performance in the last four years and also a choice of direction and priorities for the next four years.

I like Kerry's direction and style. I think Bush needs to go back to business school and re-take his courses on corporate leadership. He has run his administration like a corporation, but like a failed corporation, insisting on being told what he wants to hear and not what is really going on, firing people for challenging his positions but not for lying about their actions or bungling the execution of those policies. It is an administration of yes-men and sycophants. And that is no way to run a railroad.

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Red Ted
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October 12, 2004

Exams are HARD

I have found that one of the hardest parts of teaching, that is to say something that I have difficulty doing well, is writing an exam.

My exam questions tend to be both overlong and imprecise. I went and re-read my midterm from Western Civ and just cringed when I looked at it.

I think I write better exams for US1, if only because I have taught it more often and so have a better stable to fill in from. I ask the kids to submit exam questions, then I revise those into better questions and give the kids 6 essay questions to prepare. Two of those go on the midterm, and they have to write one essay.

The advantage to this approach is that it guides their studying, encouraging them to review the things that I think are important. It also provides a reality check for me. Their suggestions always overemphasize the last two classes before the exam - recent memory can be compelling - but their suggestions also help me see what they have been getting out of the class. If I get a lot of questions about, say, immigration then I know that the kids are keeping track of immigration as a social, cultural, and political event around the turn of the twentieth century.

Below the fold I put the study questions from URU. SSU gets their study questions tomorrow, and I already know that they will be getting a very different exam.

I drew cards to pick the question - randomizing the choice is the only way to keep both me and the kids honest. Otherwise I will include a question that I have no intention of asking, just to make them study, and they will read me and figure out what I will really ask.

1) Imagine that John Winthrop was asked to comment on the United States Constitution. What would he like about it? What would he dislike?

2) New England, the Middle Colonies, and the Chesapeake formed three distinctive regions within the British Empire. Briefly describe each as they were at the end of the 17th century. Be sure to mention land usage, family structure, religious settlement, and political patterns for each.

3) What had more impact on 18th-century America, the Great Awakening or the Enlightenment?

4) The Indians in the Iroquois Confederacy had a long history of working with European colonists. But, by the end of the 18th century the Iroquois and the Continental Congress were at war. Briefly describe interactions between Iroquois and Europeans in the 17th and 18th centuries. At what point did the conflict between Iroquois and the coastal colonies become inevitable?

5) John Adams claimed that "The real American Revolution took place in the hearts of the American people long before the first shots were fired at Lexington and Concord." The textbook suggests that the real revolution came through social changes during the military conflict. What do you see as the "real American revolution" and when did it take place?

6) Compare and contrast slavery among Northern Woodland Indians, West Africans, Caribbean sugar planters, and Chesapeake tobacco farmers.

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Red Ted
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Debate Thoughts II

Thoughts on the second Presidential debate.

Scroll down for the "real war on terror" as presented by both candidates.

I started writing this on Friday after the debate and was interrupted by screaming toddlers. I did not get back to it until Tuesday morning and am not going to bother fine-tuning the arguments. Why not? This was intended to be an initial response, before spin or analysis, and I have been unable to seal myself away from the news.

Both candidates were trying to game the debate, ignoring or redirecting hard questions put to them while trying to present their opponent's record in the worst possible light. It got frustrating, because some of those questions needed good answers, but to use the example I took notes on, when Kerry was asked what he would do about Iran, he answered by first arguing the Bush had failed in Iraq. He then said he would not rely on the UN or on sanctions, and finally said he would lead the world to crack down on states trying to join the nuclear club. Finally, after spending some 20 of his 120 seconds answering the question, he turned to control of loose nuclear material in the former Soviet Union and repeated his talking point from the first debate. Bush did something similar whenever he got a tough question.

I might be showing my biases here, but it seemed to me that Kerry had the luxury of attacking his opponent's actions as President while Bush had to manufacture accusations out of Kerry's senate record. I know that the "most liberal senator" line is a nominal truth, effective lie: the magazine that ran the study did not have enough votes on most issues to rate either Kerry or Edwards, and the one issue they did rate was the one where both men trend "liberal." But, it is nominally true despite being intentionally misleading, and so Dubya used it at least twice. That sort of rhetoric panders to his base, offends those of us who follow the campaign, and will hit the swing voters based on whether they get scared by the word liberal or scared by people playing "pin the label on the Democrat." For me, it reinforced my expectation that Bush will misrepresent everything possible. He lies, if not in letter then in spirit, and everything he said about Kerry's Senate record was similarly misleading.

When they turned to the environment, Kerry called Bush for taking credit for things that he had opposed. Bush did this as governor, he is doing it on clean air and environmental policy. He guts measures put into place by his opposition or his predecessor, then takes the moment when the old is bearing fruit and his new poison has not yet blighted the branches to take credit for the fine beautiful tree. It makes me wonder, why he wants to take credit for something he is trying to get rid of? Does he know that his policies are unpopular? Does he suspect that they might be wrong? But no, we are never wrong, it is better to be steadfast and unpopular, because being unpopular is proof that you are right. That is what he said about foreign policy, it must also be true about the environment, women's legislation, and most of the Democratic (and popular) social agenda.

Both tried to make the same argument on future supreme court appointees - they want someone who will "simply uphold the law" while supporting their preferred policies. Kerry did a much better job of it: when Bush said that justices who want to take the words "under God" out of the pledge are following personal biases while justices who want to keep it in are following the law, it made me wonder if he actually _read_ anything from the decisions. Even Clarence Thomas agrees that if Newdow had gotten standing, then the consensus understanding of church and state in the 20th century would have taken those words out of the pledge. But, the judges found a way to not have to make that unpopular decision, a decision that produces strong emotional responses. I then cringed when he went to Dredd Scott. Are Newdow and Dredd Scott the only bad cases in American history? Are they the best measure of judges putting personal preference into their reading of statute, precedent, custom, and original intent? You could argue that Brown v. Board was just as influenced by Justice Warren's personal understanding that segregation was morally wrong, and by his attempt to find a legal formula that would right that wrong. But, that would mean challenging a great touchstone of the modern era, so Bush floundered.

Kerry did better with the exact same response. He had a good quote memorized for the occasion, the challenger has more chance to prepare and this is the sort of a quote that a lawyer should love: a good justice writes a brief that does not display the author's sex, politics, or policy preferences; it just shows good law.

EDIT - since the debate I have learned that Dred Scott is shorthand for Roe v Wade. In other words, Bush promised to only appoint justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade, return abortion to a state-by-state matter, and to all intents and purposes make abortion a class-linked medical procedure. Those who can afford to travel will get safe and legal abortions. Those who can not afford to travel will get unsafe and illegal abortions or will bear a child that they did not want to raise. Abortions will drop, mostly among poor people, and the cycle of class-based immiseration will continue. Thanks George.

Bush's position on abortion was similarly simple and wrong. Kerry was nuanced - I half expected him to use Clinton's line about "safe, legal, and rare" - but I felt that he was uncomfortable with this part of the discussion.

More on this later.

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Red Ted
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October 10, 2004

Special guest blogger

The littler man was sitting on my lap trying to reach the keyboard while I wrote to students - they have an exam Tuesday and are starting to panic. While I did not let him write to them, he did ask to post something on the blog. So, without further ado, here is the littler man:


GBJ-[=b b

This message brought to you by the society for indulgent parents.

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Red Ted
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October 08, 2004

The "real war on terror" ?

Again, I watched the debate on C-Span and again I have a few thoughts to get down before I turn to the spin. This is a long one, and gets written up separately.

I thought that both candidates presented wrong interpretations of the "real war on terror." Kerry condemned Bush for turning away from OBL and to Iraq, claiming that the "real war on terror" was against Bin Laden. Bush responded that no, the "war on terror is not OBL, it is an attempt to keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of terror organizations" - paraphrase, so expect a silent edit after I check the transcript.

I disagree. The real war on terror is to convince most moderate and semi-radical muslims around the world that the hatemongers like bin Laden and Zarqawi should be shunned and condemned, much as we in the US shun and condemn Christian identity and the American Nazi Party. Haters are always with us. The difference between a healthy and a failed society is that in one the haters are marginalized, ridiculed, or ignored. They may be able to engage in a few spectacular moments of hatred, Oklahoma City for example, but they can not create any sort of a mass movement or permanant change in power, culture, or society.

So Kerry's tight focus on OBL and nuclear proliferation, focused on the various successor states in the former Soviet Union, on North Korea, and on Iran, is a purely tactical and short term answer. It will be worthless if he loses the future political war, cultural war, around the world. His call for alliances and reaching out might help, but so far he has been longer on wishful thinking than on anything else.

Bush's invasion of Iraq might have served a valuable purpose in that larger war on terror. Instead it has to this point served to legitimize the arguments put forward by the haters. Look, they said, the West hates us, the West pushes us around, the West wants our oil, and we must rally against it and fight our way back to the worst possible combination of tribal custom and medeival theology. And now Bush talks of crusades - he stopped for a while but the word creeps back into his vocabulary. Bush supports a general who speaks about Islam as a "false religion" that must be combatted. Bush invades a nation claiming to be serving democracy, and then engages in activities that appear to be intended to put an American figurehead in charge. Even if that is not our goal, the ham-handed and incompetant actions in Iraq, and the way we got gamed by Chalabi, made it look that way. So while Bush has some good intentions in the larger war on terror - that democratization urge that Cheney was so eloquent about - his has screwed up the execution so badly that he has hurt rather than helped his purpose.

More, by arguing that the "real war on terror" is an attempt to keep WMD out of the hands of terror organizations, Bush signaled that he too is ignoring the larger intellectual and cultural struggle in favor of a strictly military and short term solution. He is focused on particular weapons, really on nuclear weapons, and on states who might spread these weapons to terror organizations. Let them hate us, this suggests, so long as they can't do much about it. It is also a short term approach, which should not be surprising given the short-term approach he and his crew have used for almost every problem they face, and Bush has not done a good job of figuring out who actually had nuclear capabilities.

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Red Ted
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October 07, 2004


I seem to come back to this point every fall. Perhaps I am a fashion-hound like Alfie.

Yesterday I was talking with the kids about why the British Redcoat uniform was a carefully designed and practical garment - at least from the perspective of the officers and ministers who designed it.

One reason for its design was that the trim - buttons, claywork, etc - required a lot of upkeep. This was busy work for the soldiers - the equivalent of having them go whitewash rocks - and it was intended to keep them from using their time outside the drill field to drink, grumble, or possibly get up a mutiny. There are other reasons for the uniform, but that is why it has some pesky trim.

As part of that discussion I asked the kids how many had spit-shined a pair of shoes recently. None had. In past semesters I have asked students how many know how to spit-shine shoes, and who taught them. About a third know how to do it, mostly guys, and they mostly learned from their dads or from their football coaches - football shoes are shined.

I was thinking about that this morning while touching up the shine on my brown wingtips, shoes that I paid some $120 for back in 1982. A good pair of leather shoes, maintained and resoled, will last almost forever. A trendy pair of decorator basketball sneakers will last a few months. They cost almost the same.

Athletic shoes are differently comfortable - I wear New Balance 851 to walk the dog or as my hanging around shoes, but for relatively sedentary activities a well-broken-in pair of wingtips is a remarkably comfortable set of shoes.

Athletic shoes and dress shoes do have a very different image, informal and formal, designed for movement or designed for sedentary occupations, and both in their way have a different social meaning than do, say, steel-toed work boots. Athletic shoes suggest that the wearer is athletic, that they have the time to engage in purposive exercise. Like a tan, they are a marker of non-functional time spent on entertainment. Dress shoes suggest that the wearer is engaged in an office occupation, that they are white collar and not blue collar workers. Both, then, distance the wearer from people who have to sweat for a living, the one by suggesting that they have time and energy to sweat for fun, the other by suggesting that they don't need to sweat at all.

At one time it was common to measure another person - their class status, adherence to detail, and so on - by checking their shoes. This is less prevalent these days, ever since Nike turned athletic shoes from "little old ladies in tennis shoes" to "runners shoes for everyone" in the 1970s we have lost that focus on spit and polish as a way to present our social identity.

Still, I think that when we get to middle class manners later this semester I will come back to the meaning of shoes, and remind the kids that one of the few groups of people who do check shoes are business recruiters and interviewers. Part of a college education is learning how to play class roles; education breaks class boundaries because it teaches people to play a class role other than what they were raised in; class distinctions can be reinforced by our attention to teaching class manners; I, however, feel better about it if I can both help the students both navigate the shoals of race, class and identity in the modern world and also help them be aware of their actions as they do their navigations.

And so to teach.

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Red Ted
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October 06, 2004

Pre-Spin thoughts on the Veep debate

A couple of thoughts about last night's VP debate. I wrote this this morning, before reading the news or checking he blogosphere.

Cheney may be the prince of darkness, but he is also a policy wonk and an impressive one. I found him more impressive than Edwards, even though I disagree with most of his positions and analyses.

Cheney may be addicted to linking Saddam Hussein with the war on terror, but he is also a good insider - his critique of Edwards as Senator stay-at-home was powerful: "I am in the Senate every Tuesday. The first time I met Senator Edwards was tonight."

Both debaters turned to talking points from the stump speeches every time they hit something they did not want to talk about. For Edwards, it was Halliburtan, for Cheney it was attempts to spin Kerry and Edwards' Senate record, either by saying they were absentee, saying they were trimming politicos, or mis-representing their voting records.

Bush and Cheney have the easier forensic argument: we did the right thing in Iraq, things are getting better, democracy is a good thing and we are building it, our opponents want to cut and run just on the edge of victory. It may not be right, but it is mightily consistent and it lets them insert paens to democracy in the middle of any piece of policy rhetoric. Cheney sings these paens well; we respond to them; it is powerful political rhetoric.

Kerry and Edwards are making a nuanced argument: these guys drove us into the ditch, they are spinning their wheels, and we need to try a better way of getting out of that ditch. Or, to use a better metaphor, those guys tried to drain the swamp without planning for alligators. We are all up to our ass in alligators in Iraq. We would not have drained this swamp first, but now that we are here we will do a better job than they are of deterring alligators and draining the swamp. It might be true, but as Cheney repeated and repeated, and as Bush had repeated in the first debate, every rhetoric that makes it clear that the original ditch-driving or alligator clearing was poorly planned does make it a little harder to rally folks to help lift the car or drain the swamp. But then, standing there while you get spattered with mud from the spinning car wheels also gives folks an incentive to walk away until the driver stops blindly gunning the engine.

Cheney obviously disagrees with the Texas Republicans about gay marriage. He did the obligatory shuffle for the cause, then let the issue drop. Edwards was gracious to Cheney, and it worked.

Edwards was more comfortable talking about domestic issues than foreign policy. Still, he reminded me a bit of Bush back in 2000: both are telegenic men who have a compelling vision of themself, a disciplined focus on talking points, and a thin grasp of policy details. Bush, as much as I despise the man, did grow in office. Edwards will do the same. For that matter, so did Dan Quayle. Will Edwards grow enough? I hope so. His record before government is impressive and he appears to be a quick study.

Still, over the course of the debate I still found Cheney to be more impressive - even when he was making claims that disagree with other information I have picked up because I am a news junkie. Sell the sizzle, not the steak, and Cheney may be a cranky pitbull, but he is a pitbull with sizzle.

EDIT, here is the NYT
factchecking the debate.
Looks like I missed a couple of whoppers from Cheney, including the bit about never having met Edwards, and that as expected the Halliburton accusations were making much ado over nothing - Halliburton had won earlier bidded contracts for military services, and so were the only organization in place to fulfill the increase in those services.

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Red Ted
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October 05, 2004

Homework wars: week four. 2-1-1

After four weeks of student homework, the two sections are now running 2 for Urban Research University, 1 for Suburban State, and 1 pretty much tied.

I am glad - I was afraid this was going to be a walkover, but the SSU kids did a nice job reading Franklin's Autobiography and then commenting on it.

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Red Ted
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October 04, 2004

Things not to show J.

Note to self. Do NOT let J see this product.

Also, don't write about it anyplace she might stumble across it.

Unless, perhaps, I got to use it too.

Nah, too risky.

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Red Ted
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October 02, 2004

Brooks on Bush-Kerry

David Brooks in the New York Times has a good op-ed today looking at the debate perfomances the other night and using them as windows into the two candidates.

He argues that Kerry is great on details - an engineer and problem solver - but fails to wrap his command of the facts into a compelling package or principle. Bush is the other way around - he has a compelling narrative of life and purpose but is completely incompetant about the facts.

To translate, Bush would be a brilliant sketch artist or designer but if he were an architect no one would dare enter any structure he built. Kerry would get the math right, but the building would be an awkward sprawl of good ideas without any coherent design or purpose.

By this scheme, Clinton was so effective because he had both the wonky command of details and the inspired ability to build a compelling narrative around those details.

Brooks made me think, which is all I ask of a good op-ed piece.

EDIT - Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings disagrees - he thinks Brooks' piece is utter rubbish because it makes bad arguments using wrong assumptions and bad data.

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Red Ted
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Warm Fuzzy

I got a warm fuzzy. A couple of weeks ago I wrote up my thoughts on S.M. Stirling's Dies the Fire and yesterday he stumbled across my review and liked it.

I re-read the review and liked it as well. I then went back and spell checked the thing, because I had left some doozies in there.

Science fiction is a community; the genre is defined in part by the constant conversation between readers and authors outside of the marketplace. The web makes it possible for people to stumble across things and comment on them. The combination can be pretty darn cool.

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Red Ted
at 10:06 AM | TrackBack
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October 01, 2004

Saint Clinton?

Via Andrew Sullivan, I found a reference to Saint Clinton. Sully calls it "blasphemous but amusing" and I have to agree.

Posted by
Red Ted
at 10:16 AM | TrackBack
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