Friday, November 07, 2008

Post-Electoral Musings

It's Friday at noon and I'm sitting at my desk rolling dirt worms.


I'm actually working on a soil laboratory test called an "Atterberg Limits" which helps define the classification of a silt or clay soil. It's an odd sort of procedure based, so far as I can tell, on backcalculating from empirical data which once prompted a biologist girlfriend of mine to exclaim (about soil engineering) " people aren't really scientists at all, are you!?"

Anyway, rolling dirt worms is the sort of repetitious, meditative process that lends itself to woolgathering. Adding the Internet to the process simply provides streetsigns for the sheep. So over the course of the past several hours my mind has traversed quite a distance.

I started over at my friends' place; they have been hopping around like a kindergartner with a pantsload of soda pop since late September when they were referred a pair of rumbustious little two-year-old twins from Zhengzhou in Henan Province. Well, they finally received their Travel Authorization ("TA") yesterday, meaning they could be holding two little wrigglers by Thanksgiving.

Now that's a good reason to be Thankful! So, congratulations on a another step closer to diapers, pillow fights, head colds, warm, wriggly little boy hugs, tantrums, night terrors, breathlessness from running, sticky kisses, tears and the quick beating of a little heart on your chest.

And I thought a little about China, and by connection the world, and - since the election is still in my forebrain - the changes I hope to see in the way my country deals with the rest of the world...and what that means for us here at home.

I think I mentioned that my candidate for the Oregon seat in the U.S. Senate was a guy called Steve Novick? Well, he lost in the primary to the man who eventually defeated Gordon Smith, Jeff Merkely (yaay!). But here's a good example of why I liked Novick. Here he is talking about the challenge facing the Obama Administration (doesn't that have a nice ring to it?) on the financial - and probably soon, fiscal - crisis:
On the federal budget, the key facts are: Defense, Social Security, and Medicare and Medicaid (combined) are each about 20 percent of the budget; earmarks are less than 1 percent; interest on the national debt is 8 percent; and most of the rest of federal spending is for things such as education, transportation and veterans' benefits. That means we can't balance the budget merely by cutting a few things that everybody dislikes. Ending the war in Iraq tomorrow would make a dent but still leave big deficits. Serious efforts toward fiscal responsibility will require things such as cutting the defense budget, restraining rising health care costs and raising some money.
Read the whole thing - he talks terrific sense on budgets in general, and my thoughts are: what the man said. The loyal Bushies have spent eight years getting us into the perfect cleft stick: now, more than ever (with consumer spending dropping like a paralyzed falcon and unemployment rocketing off the pad) we need direct Keynsian stimulus; the very reason that governments run surpluses in good times. But we don't HAVE a surplus; the stupid bastards pissed away money like a Korean B-girl buying herself champagne cocktails with your bar tab.

And, at the same time, the usual suspects will be clamoring about Obama's plushie softness on terrorism and war in general. Despite the fact that we spend a monstrously idiotic amount on war toys the same talking heads who have parroted the Bushie's insistence on shovelling cash at what my friend the Ranger calls the "Phony War on Terror"

Bottom line: China does not have to be our enemy. Even if they become one, the present generation of weapons in our arsenal are more and again sufficient to stick a finger in the eye of the PLA. To continue to pretend that defense spending is somehow sacred and untouchable is the sort of foolishness that made the Bushies so...foolish. I hope Obama's crew has the sack to wield a firm blade in slicing back the ridiculous defense budgets.

What to do about SS and Medicare I dunno...

That made me think about my parents, and Mojo's parents; the first living in a comfortably self-prepared retirement, the latter hanging on barely between income and Social Security. What would happen to them without FDR's social insurance program I don't dare to think. Which made me reflect on the collapse of the GOP into the party of the rich, the holy and the caucasian.

In my youth my parents were what used to be called Rockefeller Republicans: socially liberal to moderate, fiscally and internationally conservative, the GOP of the 700 Club and Sarah Palin horrified them. My father and I talked yesterday and he recounted his meeting with a bunch of his old cronies in small town southeastern Pennsylvania. I think he and one other fogy are the only admitted Democrats out of a group of fifteen or so. Political passions had run so high that the group had forbidden debating the election until Wednesday. That morning when they gathered to discuss the results, of the ten or so Republicans who admitted their votes half had voted for Obama.

I'm fascinated. I think the next couple of years will be enlightening; will the GOP continue to shrink to the Party of the Old Confederacy? Will they become the American equivalent of the Christian Democrats of Europe? Who will emerge to lead the Republicans out of the Bush despond?

Will Bible Spice run in 2012?


From there back to adoption; how do you deal with a little girl who's a two-year-old and yet not a TYPICAL two-year-old?

Little Miss is developing a full set of Terrible Two reflexes. She wants what she wants when she wants it and will not take "no" for an answer. But she doesn't respond to "no" like the Peeper did - no tantrums, no screaming, no violence at all. Instead she just falls on the floor and sobs like Woodsy the Owl thinking about Love Canal (and no, you adolescents, that's not a porno. Follow the link, dammit. Am I the only Golden Ager on the Internet? And you kids get the hell off my lawn!!)

So how do you "discipline" a little person who just responds to any sort of restriction, no matter how gentle, with a FLOOD of tears? Where's the Dr. Spock of adoption parenting? Who's publishing self-help books for moms and dads with little ex-orphans?

In other kidlet news, here's the Peeper and his beautiful Thanksgiving Turkey.Is that an Impressionist turkey, or what? We had hella big fun doing that one; note the actual feathers for the tail, courtesy of the Oregon Department of Fish and Game pheasant that gave its life last September so that Pheasant Marengo might live...

Well, the worms have turned, and I need to go put them in the oven. Thanks for coming along on my mental detour.


Lisa said...

On two:

[1] This is an excellent question: "will the GOP continue to shrink to the Party of the Old Confederacy? Will they become the American equivalent of the Christian Democrats of Europe?"

While it is tempting -- if we see the Obama administration as some kind of mandate for, um, Change -- to see the GOP constricting into the last redoubt of the far right winguts. However, I do not see a national bifurcation into "liberal/progressive thinking" and The Sloths.

The fact that the gay marriage initiatives failed in all three states they were on the ballot speaks to our lack of cohesive, across-the-board liberalization. Obama's election may have been one-off at this point, due to the failing economy. We'll see.

Hopefully the GOP can restructure itself into something more inclusive and enlightened. They have a far piece to go. However, the country needs viable alternative parties.

[2] Re. the little girl's crying vs. outright protests: I hear that men can bear little less than women's tears. So perhaps she is accessing some innate knowledge that crying is an excellent form of protest. Though it must seem miserable to bear, probably the best responsive is that you would give to the child who wails in protest: a firm stance.

If you give in to the crying (just as with a parent who would give in to a more objectionable form of protest), the child will come to learn her reaction is successful. That might lead to future manipulation, and entrenchment of poor behavior.

Just a thought.

Publius said...

Well, I seriously doubt Missy's behavior has much to do with being adopted; I'd be more inclined to think it's just another manifestation of those aptly named "terrible twos." You've already gone through it: just weather the storm. Lisa's right, too. As I recall, we did our best to ignore it.

Soil samples. If you ever see your old biologist GF, you might want to tell her that, way back at the dawn of time, some folks went out there in what we used to call "denied areas" to gather soil samples around certain areas, such samples to be delivered to labs in friendly areas. Can you guess what might have been of interest in that dirt and why elaborate steps were taken to find out?

I don't agree with Lisa. I think today's Republican Party is damaged beyond repair, with the label now being poison. At least, I hope so, mainly because those who remain are recalcitrant and are not seemingly receptive to change. They like being right-wing, bigoted ass holes. I think the party and its bitter-enders should rename themselves the "God" party, and then go the way of the Whigs and pass into history. And yes, an opposition party is needed; I'm confident in Americans' ability to form another one.

FDChief said...

My contribution to the discussion of "Quo vadis, GOP" over at Fabius Maximus included this. Rather than re-invent the wheel, I'll copy it here.

"It wasn’t until the late 60’s and 70’s that the Taft wing of the GOP came back, with the help of the racial schism in the Democrats. The old bipartisan habits died hard, tho, and it wasn’t really until the Gingrich years that the nutjob, Christopath abortion-guns-and-gays-litmus-test faction took command. Well, that worked about a well as you’d expect, and the GOP may be on the outside for another electoral cycle, or it may be the beginning of the return of another long one-party cycle.

But I get the feeling that what we’re seeing is a fracturing of the American people along the lines of the Jacksonian revolution of the 1840s. The hard right - there really is no “hard left” in any meaningful form; a bunch of tofu-eating Naderites don’t amount to squat, politically - is NEVER going to accept any administration to the left of a George Bush as legitimate. These folks just can’t coexist with any sort of “moderate” (i.e. electable) portion of the Republican Party. So, perhaps the real red-meat Conservative whack-jobs can form a Christian Republican Party and run Ann Coulter (or Sarah Palin) to join the left-wing whack-jobs running Ralph Nader for the Green Party. The remainder of the GOP can run a Chris Shays as a “Democrat-Republican” while the DLC wing of the Dems can become “Christian Democrats” and run Hillary in 2012. The Netroots folks can become the “Blue-Green Democrats” and run Howard Dean.

Then we just rejigger the Constitution to allow a Prime Minister and...presto, an America made for the post-one-party system…

Seriously, though…the GOP needs to decide whether it’s fundamental “values” include giving a rat’s ass who marries who and who decides who has babies. IMO this is a tawdry and petty obsession for a national political party, and their servile devotion to the policies of the political and social Right while deciding that “borrow-and-spend” was more principled that “tax-and-spend”, has resulted in the inevitable: any GOP “leader” acceptable to the people who control the party looks like a nutjob to those of us not looking through our Jesus Ale Beer Goggles.

I was once a Rockefeller Republican. I can only feel an emptiness as I look at the mess my former party as become.

So, to sum up: Lisa, I think that the Obama victory IS a sort of fluke helped by economic disaster, but it is a one-off that was helped by the GOP social conservatve meltdown that helped drive former moderate Repubs like me and my dad out of the party. The gay marriage stuff appeals to the old; old Republicans, old Christans, old people in general. That change is gonna come one death at a time.

But as for the GOP in general, I'm more inclined to side with Publius on this. I think that they've jumped the shark. I don't think they're coming back soon.

In all honesty, I'm tempted not to laugh so hard at my joking about a parlimentry system. I think the next decade is going to be difficult as the hard right, right, moderate right, moderate left and center left (like I said above, I'd argue that there really is no politically viable hard left in this country) try and rearrange the seating under the two tents, and I don't think the results will be pretty.

As far as little Miss goes, I can stand the's just that the "lesson" doesn't seem to take. Her collapse is so immediate and boneless that she just lays there until you pick her up and go and do something else. And then the next collapse is just as helpless...

I'm hoping that it's just an two-year-old thing and that as she gets a little older she'll be less fragile and "get" the discipline message better.

And my old GF would probably have delighted in the "night soil" samples - she'd have done the bench chemistry and FID and tests that she considered "science". What she had a hard time accepting is that we had come up with this system that used a performance measure to differentiate between a "silt" and a "clay". We didn't analyze the particle size under an electron microscope, we just banged and squeezed and rolled the dirt and called it good. That just seemed too damn blue-collar to her to be "science"...

walternatives said...

We're looking forward to all that and more, friend... This weekend has been the final organizing push here at casas walternatives, though the Goob did manage to get a small fishing excursion in, with my prodding. There are all kinds of priorities before such a major shift.

So, from your blog to the Universe's ear that we'll trying to hold the wrigglers by Thanksgiving...

love, the sodapop pants Mom to be.

p.s. I've just started reading a library book that I may have to actually buy. Google this: Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child. Might be helpful...

Lisa said...

Chief: I like your wild reconstruction of the parties; some people would be amenable, no doubt.

The GOP must drop their "tawdry and petty" social obsessions, and must abandon their egregious sucking up to the Christian right if they are to lose their title of laughingstocks. It seems now as if that would be a very hard franchise to abandon.

I also agree about the lack of a "hard left" here. Most people are probably pretty centrist, from either party. I hope you're correct about the anti-gay stuff dropping away as the old guard dies off. I see some pretty entrenched younger radicals around here, though.

Take courage in the thought that Missy's "collapses" may not be as helpless as they seem. Perhaps you could take heart seeing them as "down time" for both of you. It is a willful action, and she gets to contemplate what it is she chose to absent herself from. This may be nothing more or less than a processing strategy. Seen in that light, it is a good thing.

Maybe re-approach cheerily after a period of time, and she will act as though the whole things is behind her.

bigbird said...

I haven't heard of Atterberg limits since OBC over forty years ago. Looking at the photo, the device on the left that has the pan that pounds on the base as the crank is turned so the soil flows - I think that was for some other plasticity index. No, I don't plan on looking in the attic for my manuals.

Soils was taught by a CPT Spangler whose schtick was to teach the course as if he was a southern evangelist. He would walk up and down the center aisle of the classroom, turning the crank as he made his point.

Here in New Jersey, the moderate Republicans were just about run out of the party by the national conservatives. Then the local electorate was so scared of the wingnuts that the Repubs don't have a chance in the national elections. Local elections, yes. This area was, and still is, a hotbed for Rockefeller Republicans. While the Democrats running the state are running the state into the ground, former Governor Christie Whitman did much the same doing the biding of the national Repubs.

No easy way out.

FDChief said...

W: You guys rock! I'm hoping for a 12/2 CA for y'all, and some good grubbin' at the Cow and Bridge by Turkey Day with a couple of li'l hellions in tow!

Lisa: I hope so. I hear her upstairs with Mojo and the Peep right now wailing like a lost soul in Dante's fifth circle of Hell. Frustrating.

bigbird: great story about Ft. Leonard Wood. Essayons!

And I remember the defenestration of the NJ GOP. Sad. Lots of good people got cut off at the knees there. I can't see how the GOP gets back towards the center from here without an awful struggle. As I said, part of me bleeds for the party of Lincoln and my younger days. But there's also a part of me hardened by Coulter and Rove and Limbaugh and Malkin that, seeing them drowning, would gleefully throw them an anvil. The 27-percenters are a pox on the American body politic, our own native brownshirts, and just need a quietus as quickly and efficently as possible.

bigbird said...

Actually, that happened at Ft. Belvoir. Only time I've been at FLW was for my son's graduation from basic.

Mother Army had a number of branchs' training split between posts: Signal between Gordon & Monmouth, Engineer between FLW and Belvoir, and MI was at Holibird, Devens and Huachuca.

Belvoir had all officer training, OCS, heavy equipment and mapping AIT. OCS pumped out two classes at week. As a young man, it was a great place to go for training, being only a few miles outside DC. Easy enough to get home on weekends, as well.

While Belvoir wasn't in the country even back then, development in that area has since exploded. OTOH, FLW has nothing outside the gates of the post, aside from the usual GI establishments.

FDChief said...

bigbird: I had forgotten FBNJ - all my service was on the enlisted side, so when I think 12-series I think FLWM. And the last time I was there it was still out in the middle of butt-jump nowhere. I can't imagine the pressure on the old mid-Atlantic state posts like Ft. Dix, Belvoir and Aberdeen; they must be ringed with development like nothing I can think of...

bigbird said...

Belvoir didn't have much in the way of maneuver areas. They could fire demolitions on post, but for rifle ranges they needed to go to AP Hill. Belvoir still contains Defense Mapping but is mostly management agencies and schools like DLA, as well as a housing area for Pentagon generals.

Not that much development around Dix, that part of Jersey is still the boonies. Dix was adequate for basic and AIT, but lacks maneuver areas. Firing a howitzer requires a greatly reduced charge. The Vietnam era stockade is loaned to the state for a prison and one of the brigade areas is now a federal prison.

Aberdeen is outside of Baltimore's development. Baltimore grew towards DC, not to the north.

Monmouth is a special case, soon to be BRACed. For readers of this blog not from this area, there is the 'shore' culture and Monmouth is but a barrier island away from the ocean. As with all of New Jersey, real estate is very expensive, probably worse than Northern Virginia. Takes away the breath of someone in the military. Monmouth was a good location because of the telephone and communications industry in the area: RCA Sarnoff Labs, Bell Labs, ATT, Western Electric, ITT and so forth. RCA disappeared into GE and Bell Labs is a ghost of its former presence. The towns on Monmouth's footprint are salivating over the commercial rateables that will soon appear.

Most Navy bases are in industrial areas of town and aren't much to talk about. Then there is Newport. Don't know how the Navy keeps that. The Army gave up Presidio and Governor's Island, just a ferry ride to Wall Street.

bigbird said...

Guy that I grew up with and went to college with became acting governor when Whitman resigned to head the DEP. He did a credible job after 9/11. The national Repubs simply couldn't stand having a pro abortion and gun control advocate on their ticket, even though this is the way that most of the state thinks. They undermined him in the primaries. Published reports said that the dirt that was constantly being dug up on him was wearing on him and his family and he backed out, although I have heard that there was more damaging information that was to come.

We ended up with Democrat Jim McGreevey, who later outed himself. This theater just doesn't end around here.