Sunday, December 21, 2008

Wait! Obama has a speechwriter?

A man named Jon Favreau hit the news a couple of weeks ago when the Washington Post identified him as “President-elect Barack Obama's immensely talented chief speechwriter” and reported that:

... some interesting photos of a recent party he attended -- including one where he's dancing with a life-sized cardboard cut-out of secretary of state-designate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, and another where he's placed his hand on the cardboard former first lady's chest while a friend is offering her lips a beer -- popped up on Facebook for about two hours. The photos were quickly taken down ...

Some observers were quite outraged and I believe correctly so. You can read Anglachel for a round-up of feminist objections and for her own deeper analysis. Reclusive Leftist has some pungent thoughts on the sight of three men on a news program telling women to get over it. And in the “politics make strange bedfellows” department, the Washington Times is disgusted and furious.

My first reaction however was surprise. I thought only Sarah Palin needed an immensely talented speechwriter to “repackage” her. Surely I read in Time magazine that Obama writes his own speeches.

Oh, I see. Now that Favreau’s been spotlighted - or maybe just because Obama is safely elected - we’re hearing that Favreau had a bigger role in endeavors like the Philadelphia race speech and the convention acceptance speech than previously reported. (In fairness to Time, they did mention Favreau in their article about “How Obama Writes His Speeches” - although they equated him with Axelrod in terms of influence - and they did say Obama “delivered” his Philadelphia speech - silly me for thinking they were implying he wrote it himself.)

In all seriousness, only total idiots ever believed Sarah Palin used speechwriters and Barack Obama didn’t. What is sad about the whole "Favreau groping a Clinton cutout" incident is Hillary Clinton’s response:

... Clinton senior adviser Philippe Reines cast the photos as evidence of increased bonhomie between the formerly rival camps.

"Senator Clinton is pleased to learn of Jon's obvious interest in the State Department, and is currently reviewing his application," he said in an e-mail.

I certainly agree with Anglachel that no purpose would have been served if Clinton had acted out some type of revenge fantasy in response. But there’s a lot of working room between going ballistic and letting it slide. As I said in response to Anglachel, Hillary Clinton could have said something like:

Mr. Favreau is quite young so perhaps he does not understand how disrespectful he was being to me, to women in general, to the Office of the Secretary of State, and to the man who chose me to represent the United States to the rest of the world. I trust that Mr. Favreau’s supervisor will explain the penalties for sexual harassment in the workplace and that there will be no more incidents like this.

Instead Clinton chose to dismiss Favreau’s behavior as essentially a high-spirited prank. By doing so, she undercuts all the feminists who have been expressing outrage over the sexist attacks launched by the Obama campaign and Obama supporters against her (and against Sarah Palin for that matter). If it’s acceptable - even cute - for the President-Elect’s anointed White House Director of Speechwriting to grope a cardboard Clinton, then isn’t a Hillary Clinton nutcracker just a clever gag gift?

I’ve written before about my disgust with Hillary Clinton's willingness to abet her husband’s sexist approach to women of the “wrong” class and about how I nonetheless slowly and grudgingly began to respect her during the Democratic primaries. Unfortunately her willingness (there’s that word again) to laugh off Favreau’s actions brings me right back to where I started with Hillary Clinton: she has no problem enabling sexist behavior as long as doing so benefits her and hers.



Fresh blood for the vampire by Camille Paglia. I love this article for many reasons but its relevance here is this sentence:

Similarly, Bill Clinton's support for abortion rights gave him a free pass among leading feminists for his serial exploitation of women -- an abusive pattern that would scream misogyny to any neutral observer.

Admit it! You’re jealous of Jon Favreau!. This is Ann Althouse’s take on the the Washington Post’s recent story about Favreau as speechwriter. Althouse on the cardboard cutout incident is here.

So What If Sarah Palin Used a Speechwriter? by Betsy Newmark. Writing immediately after the Republican National Convention, Newmark points out that all politicians use speechwriters and concludes: “Big whippety doo.”

Friday, December 19, 2008

Gag me

It seems a little perverse to categorize this under “Links I like” but “like” can be somewhat flexible. In this case it means, “reminds me how stupid people can be”.

Caroline Kennedy As America's Princess Leia

(Via The Corner)

On the other hand I actually do like (in the usual sense of the word) this link:

Cinderella vs. the Barracuda

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dave, meet Mike

I’ve been consistently opposed to the bailout of GM, Ford, and Chrysler. Now that Ford has decided to forego Federal money, I’m simply opposed to the bailout of GM and Chrysler. There are lots of people who can explain why the bailout is bad financially and/or philosophically: I’ve listed some sources at the end of this post. I want to make a few somewhat personal points.

I was born in Alabama and lived there off and on until my late teens. For as long as I can remember the state has been poor. That’s turning around to some degree now and part of it is foreign investment. In October of 2007, the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama stated, “Currently, more than 300 foreign-based manufacturers from more than 30 nations operate in Alabama.” (If you click on the “Foreign Manufacturing Investment in Alabama by Country” hyperlink you get a cute little PDF with country names and flags and the number of projects each has in Alabama.) So when those who favor a Big Two bailout bring out GM’s Dave from Detroit to play on the heartstrings, I think about Hyundai’s Mike from Montgomery. Mike from Montgomery makes a good wage but he doesn’t make what his GM counterpart Dave makes. And Mike sure as heck won’t have the retirement benefits afforded to Dave’s dad when he retired from GM several years ago. So why is Mike from Montgomery going to have some of his Federal taxes go to help out Dave from Detroit and his dad?

If you prefer a more once-removed argument then think about competitiveness. Mike from Montgomery makes less than Dave from Detroit. That means Hyundai can sell its cars more cheaply than GM which in turn means more Hyundais sold. As Hyundai prospers so does Mike. He might get an extra shift now and then; he might get a promotion as more workers are hired and thus more line foremen are needed; he might get a bonus if there’s a really good year. Hyundai might hire his wife, Maureen. Even better, it might hire his brother, Matt, who could then stop freeloading off Mike and Maureen and get his own apartment.

But if the Federal government bails out GM it’s subsidizing Dave’s greater earnings. That means GM can sell its cars for the same as Hyundai - or even less. So fewer Hyundais sell. Matt and Maureen can forget about getting jobs and Mike might see his shifts cut back. If GM continues to outsell Hyundai by pricing its cars below what it costs to produce them, Mike might even lose his job entirely. So now Mike’s own taxes have been used to put him out of work.

As for the argument that it’s cruel to let Detroit autoworkers lose their jobs, let’s take a look at some recent Southern history. Between 1997 and 2002 Alabama lost 32,000 textile and apparel jobs. I would imagine the same sort of story is true for many Southern states which now have auto manufacturing plants. If the jobs lost weren’t in the textile and apparel industries they were in something like furniture manufacturing. I suspect that if you added up all the manufacturing job losses to those Southern states you’d probably get pretty close to the number of workers GM employs in the United States: 100,000.

Perhaps my memory is faulty but I don’t recall hearing about Federal money to help the Alabama workers or their colleagues in other Southern states hold onto their jobs. I’m pretty sure the argument then was that this is how economic systems work: jobs go where operating costs are lowest. Sure in the short run individual employees - like those Alabama apparel workers - might get hurt but in the long run the whole country benefits. After all those same Alabama apparel workers and their families are consumers, too. So it’s to their advantage - and to the advantage of the whole country - if we can all buy our clothes more cheaply when they’re made in China. I think there’s a lot of truth in that argument so let's apply it to automobiles, too: car manufacturing goes where operating costs are lower and that's better for everyone in the long run.

Finally and most personally, I retired early, before I was eligible for Medicare. I buy my own health insurance. It costs me well over $10,000 a year and I just got a notice that my premiums will go up by about 15% in January. I’ve yet to hear anyone explain to me why I should pay my health insurance premiums and the health insurance premiums for retired GM workers.

So if I’m not in favor of a bailout what am I in favor of? Chapter 11. I know the government might end up providing some financing as part of a structured bankruptcy deal, perhaps guaranteeing warranties so buyers wouldn't worry about their GMs and Chryslers being orphaned if the companies couldn't make it. I still wouldn't like that but I could live with it a lot more easily than I could live with my tax dollars - and those of Mike from Montgomery - going to prop up unsustainable labor, retiree, and dealer commitments headed up by clueless management.

Now, having said that, I must admit to a tiny, sneaking hope that GM and Chrysler do get their $15 Billion “loan”. Despite their assurance that they just need a little time and money to pull themselves together, I figure they’ll be back for more in no time at all - perhaps as soon as January 21. Maybe realizing the handouts don't help and never end will finally make us all realize it’s time to stop the bailouts.



The Detroit and Birmingham newspapers are arguing about incentives:

Alabama emerges as foe to auto aid - The Detroit News (2008)

Alabama in middle of auto bailout fracas: State’s incentives to land automakers at issue - The Birmingham News (2008)

Some random articles on locating auto plants:

Cars Fall on Alabama - Site Selection (2002)

Score one (Honda auto plant) for the Midwest - Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago (2006)

South provides global appeal for foreign auto makers - CNN (2007)

Incentives for VW plant total $577 million - Chicago Tribune (2008)

Wooing Foreign Investment Comes At A High Price For Some States - University of New Hampshire (2008). Even though this paper was written in 2008, it considers the Mercedes Benz deal in Alabama rather than the more recent Mobis deal which included state-paid education for workers.

Arguing against an auto bailout:

Megan McArdle - She has a lot of posts on this: you can simply look at her archives and scan down to find them. I’ve listed a bunch from December and late November here:
Invidious comparisons
Just desserts
The death of a bailout
Fuel efficient or market efficient
GM goes nuclear
How much is a Detroit autoworker really worth?

TigerHawk - Again a number of posts on the subject. Unlike McArdle, Tigerhawk has that nice Blogspot Search box which will return the posts if you enter “General Motors”.

The Truth About Incentives for Foreign Automakers - Stephen Spruiell at The Corner pushes back on the argument that foreign automakers are receiving incentives to locate in the United States. He also pushes back on the idea that only foreign automakers receive such incentives pointing out that US automakers get similar incentives when they build plants.

Bankruptcy Is the Perfect Remedy for Detroit - Wall Street Journal (2008)

In case you’re worried that everyone arguing against an auto bailout is an evil Republican who wants to punish unions and blue states while helping out Japanese automakers, you can read what Joseph Stiglitz has to say about it. I don’t believe he could be classified as Republican or conservative. (via Greg Mankiw)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Replacement Windows

It’s been pushed off the front pages partly because the situation has been resolved and partly by the Blagojevich brouhaha but I’m still wondering about Republic Windows and Doors.

On Wednesday, December 3, the Chicago Tribune reported that Republic would close on Friday. Republic told its employees that Bank of America had cancelled its line of credit because business at the plant had fallen off sharply: sales fell from $70 million last year to $44 million this year. According to the Tribune story, the workers “are directing their ire at Bank of America, not Republic.” The workers staged a sit-in demanding that they receive the 60-day notice required under The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Acts (Federal and Illinois) along with the severance and vacation pay owed them.

Over the weekend, support for the workers grew and Bank of America was cast more and more strongly as the villain. Monday, December 8, was a busy day:

Bank of America released a statement explaining that it was up to management to honor its commitments to employees; that Bank of America had “provided the maximum amount of funding [they] can under the terms of [their] agreement”; that it was clear Republic was “unable to operate profitably”; and that Bank of America had been working with Republic and “sharing” concerns for the past several months.

Republic Windows released its own account of its dealings with Bank of America in the form of a chronology. According to Republic, it had been trying to wind down operations in an orderly fashion since October 16 but Bank of American rejected all wind-down plans and refused to allow Republic to pay employees for owed vacation time.

Some Chicago aldermen announced they would prohibit the City from doing business with Bank of America. Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich announced the State would stop doing business with the bank also.

The statements made by Bank of America and Republic Windows on December 8 partially contradict each other. While Republic is claiming that BofA refused to allow Republic to pay employees for accrued vacation pay, Bank of America’s statement said:

When a company faces such a dire situation, its lender is not empowered to direct the company's management how to manage its affairs and what obligations should be paid. Such decisions belong to the management and owners of the company.

More interesting, I don’t know what Republic means when it claims that Bank of America refused to accept Republic’s orderly wind-down plans. BofA could not have literally stopped Republic from announcing to employees on October 16 that the plant would shut down 60 days later on December 11. Rather Bank of America’s leverage with Republic probably came from the debt Republic seems to have already owed BofA. Republic’s chronology is out of order but if you look at the dates you see that the current chain of events began on October 15 when Republic “Informed Bank of America that Republic had a 10/24/08R buyer for the existing Note for ±$3.0M, discount of $1.5M.” This is a little obscure but it sounds like Republic owed Bank of America $4.5 million and had found someone who was willing to buy the debt from BofA for $3 million. Bank of America rejected this and demanded a plan for an orderly shutdown. I would very much like to know who that buyer was, how much Republic currently owes Bank of America, and whether any hope exists that Republic will repay all the money it owes to Bank of America.

The rationale behind blaming Bank of America for the short notice and lack of vacation and severance pay was that Bank of America received $25 billion from the TARP bailout and therefore had an obligation to continue lending to businesses. I don’t necessarily have a problem with that logic. In my BUB posts, I said that if we’re going to give money to people who did stupid things I’d rather it go to homeowners than to large financial institutions. Similarly I’d rather money given to banks to make loans actually be used to make loans rather than hoarded and certainly a small local company seems like a good business to keep afloat.

The problem with applying that logic to Republic Windows and Doors is two-fold. First, Bank of American determined Republic was not viable: loaning money to a company with no hope of success is not a good use of funds from the government - or from depositors. Second, Republic may not be a small local company looking to be kept afloat. Richard Gillman, the man who owns Republic, has formed another window company, Echo Manufacturing, LLC, and has bought a manufacturing facility in Iowa. According to a report at Omaha Newstand, Echo Manufacturing was registered with the State of Illinois on November 18. On December 3, Red Oak Real Estate (“another company linked to Republic Windows”) purchased the Traco Window Plant in Red Oak, Iowa.

This raises some interesting questions. Did Republic decide to relocate to Iowa after Bank of America refused to sell their debt? Or was Republic planning to relocate and finding a buyer for their debt was the first step in doing so? If Republic Windows didn’t have the money to keep their Chicago plant going or even have the money to give their employees the legal notice required and pay them their vacation and severance pay, how could they afford to buy another window company? And if Republic Windows did have the money, why is Bank of America the bad guy?

By the way, the workers union, the owners of Republic, and Bank of America finally negotiated a deal that paid $1.75 million to the workers for vacation, severance, and temporary health care benefits. That’s a little over $7000 for each of the 240 employees. At an average hourly wage of $13.80, each employee got the equivalent of about 13 weeks of pay.

Meanwhile, Bank of America announced it will reduce its workforce by up to 35,000 jobs over the next three years.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

If you pray, this is a good time for it

I didn’t think Barack Obama should be President. He’s inexperienced. He fostered a cult of personality. His most fervent followers are, let’s face it, unbalanced in the most literal sense. His campaigns against Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin were disgusting displays of misogyny. His behavior in the RFK/June imbroglio was disgraceful. He’s some weird combination of corrupt Chicago machine politician and unthinking radical socialist. Nonetheless he was elected. He is, as his very large and very stupid sign endlessly reminds us, “The President-Elect”. As I’ve said before, I sincerely hope Obama has a wildly successful Presidency because the country desperately needs one.

The Illinois Governor, Democrat Rod Blagojevich, is in trouble for allegedly trying to “sell” Barack Obama’s Senate seat. Some of the deals Blagojevich supposedly considered anticipated favors from Obama including one deal that involved getting the President-Elect to appoint Blagojevich Secretary of Health and Human Services. According to The Corner, Lynn Sweet has explained that Blagojevich talks a lot and there may be nothing much to any of the charges against Blagojevich.

If you pray, pray that Sweet is right. Or - since that seems too much to hope for - pray that Blagojevich was talking big about Obama and none of the Blagojevich scandal spills over onto the President-Elect. As disastrous as I believe Obama will be for the country, I believe a Constitutional crisis involving charges of corruption against a President-Elect or a sitting President would be even more disastrous. We would have another special prosecuter, another investigation that drags on and on and resolves nothing, another fertile field for every conspiracy theory under the sun: we’ve had more than enough of all of that in the past twelve years.

So pray fervently that Blagojevich is a braggart spinning stories to himself and a captive audience about deals Obama wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole.

Monday, December 8, 2008

From there to here: Disenchanted with HuffPo

In my first post about my journey from a (mostly) liberal to a (mostly) conservative state of mind, I gave the stream of consciousness version that I emailed to a new friend who asked about my political orientation. In this post I’ll talk more about the mechanism by which I was converted beginning with the realization that the sources I trusted to tell me the straight story - Huffington Post, MSNBC, and most of all Andrew Sullivan - were so biased that no hint of evenhandedness existed. I know this makes me sound stupid: after all, HuffPo and Sullivan never claimed to be unbiased. Nonetheless, I assumed I was getting the whole story from them. I understood that when they wrote a story about how terrible Bush was or how badly the Iraq War was going or how racist the Republicans were, I was getting their interpretation of the facts but I also believed I was getting all the facts.

Realizing differently took place in stages. I began to distrust HuffPo first over their eagerness to conflate immigration and illegal immigration. I started out believing they were simply being sloppy but I kept reading HuffPo articles that could be summed up as:

The United States is a country of immigrants. Immigrants are good. Immigrants are what make this country strong. You are the descendant of immigrants. How can you deny to other immigrants what your ancestors found here?

Therefore if you oppose amnesty for illegal immigrants you are a racist.

Finally I read enough of those to realize HuffPo’s confusing immigration and illegal immigration must be deliberate - and deliberately dishonest. That left a bad taste in my mouth and made me uneasy about HuffPo’s world view. Still it was just one issue and so I persevered with HuffPo.

Then came Jean Rohe’s HuffPo post about her “preemptive strike” against John McCain at the New School graduation. At first I found Rohe’s post merely that strange combination of puerileness and arrogance that seems common among the young who have worked themselves up into a righteous lather. Once I had actually read McCain’s speech, however, I realized Rohe was either unable to hear what McCain was saying - which made her stupid - or unwilling to do so - which made her terrifying. How could Rohe in her speech and in her post totally miss - or totally ignore - the very core of McCain’s speech:

Americans should argue about this war. ... I believe the benefits of success will justify the costs and risks we have incurred. But if an American feels the decision was unwise, then they should state their opposition, and argue for another course. It is your right and your obligation. I respect you for it. I would not respect you if you chose to ignore such an important responsibility. But I ask that you consider the possibility that I, too, am trying to meet my responsibilities, to follow my conscience, to do my duty as best as I can, as God has given me light to see that duty.

Americans deserve more than tolerance from one another, we deserve each other's respect ...

In one installment of her compelling “change story”, neo-neocon is speaking of changes that occurred during the Vietnam War. She focuses on changes to the media and says (emphasis mine):

during this time, the press turned from government associate to government adversary, and questioned not only tactics, theory, and judgment, but even the goodwill and motives of those in charge of decisions.

That change by the media, that willingness to attribute bad will and worse motives to government has now spread through our political discourse and in far too many people has mutated into a willingness to believe the worst about all those who do not think as they do. Jean Rohe’s “strike” on John McCain was the embodiment of this disastrous turn of events. In her speech and even more in her HuffPo piece she consistently assumed the worst of McCain, crediting him with only bad will and bad motives. McCain asked that she “consider the possibility that I, too, am trying to meet my responsibilities, to follow my conscience, to do my duty as best as I can, as God has given me light to see that duty.” Yet in her arrogance that is the very thing Rohe will not do.

For all my distress over Rohe’s blindness, she was young and - as McCain himself said in his speech - the young believe they are always right. Far more jarring to me than Rohe was the response to her: HuffPo chose to showcase her as a heroine and the vast majority of the commenters* hailed her for “speaking truth to power”. Rohe insulted a man who was a war hero, sitting Senator, and - most important - an invited guest and did so in perfect safety. Yet, through some alchemy beyond my understanding, she was magically equated with the iconic student who faced a tank in Tiananmen Square. Yeah, right.

This may have been the first significant crack in my political view. I realized that it was McCain whose speech and reaction sounded moderate, reasonable, compassionate, intelligent, and healing while it was Rohe and her supporters in the comments who sounded like the vicious, divisive partisans the left always accused Republicans of being. In my comment to her post, I quoted Joseph Addison: “A man must be both stupid and uncharitable who believes there is no virtue or truth but on his own side.” In this go-round, it was pretty clear it was Rohe and her supporters who were both stupid and uncharitable - not the dreaded Republican.

Hard on the heels of the Rohe post came the comment moderation disasters. First was the news that a HuffPo techie was posting comments in a possibly less than straightforward way; I found that disconcerting. Then came the confusion about HuffPo’s comment policy. Although the policy claimed comments were not edited or deleted based on political or ideological point of view, it became clear that individual posters were, in fact, deleting comments they didn’t like. Furthermore, one of the HuffPo co-founders - in a post that attempted to lay to rest the techie controversy - stated that (emphasis mine):

From a technical standpoint, it is challenging to process literally thousands of comments a day in a way that features the best comments and eliminates postings from spammers and trolls.

That sure sounded like editing for content.

This may sound trivial but it reinforced my earlier realization: by censoring those who disagreed, the very liberal Huffington Post was exhibiting the type of dissent-silencing behavior it regularly accused the Republicans of. Similarly, the techie’s forays into commenting and the co-founder’s first ignoring and later defending his behavior made it clear that at HuffPo the passionate conviction that one was right was sufficient to excuse unprincipled behavior - just like being “right” about amnesty for illegal immigrants excused deliberate dishonesty about the topic. But surely the idea that being on the side of the angels meant dishonesty was okay was the sort of bad belief the left claimed was the exclusive property of Republicans.

As I write all this down for the first time, I realize the incidents that bothered me so much at HuffPo arose out of issues I already had opinions about, opinions that conflicted with HuffPo’s stands. I opposed amnesty for illegal immigrants because I believe the law should be obeyed. If I had not, then HuffPo’s dishonest conflation of immigration with illegal immigration might never have registered with me. Similarly, I thought well of John McCain so Rohe’s attack on him made me want to read his speech for myself to see if what he said was really so awful. Had Rohe attacked someone I did not think well of, like George W. Bush, I would probably have accepted her interpretation of his remarks without further investigation. I would not have noticed that she did not include a link to his speech and I would certainly not have bothered to track it down on my own. Likewise for the comment imbroglio. Big on rules, I disliked the fact that a HuffPo techie was bending them. Since I commented rarely and then usually when I disagreed with a post, I had firsthand experience of my comments being stuck in moderation. Thus I was sensitive to the issue of how dissent was handled. If I had commented when I agreed with posts and had those comments been moderated promptly, I might never have thought twice about how HuffPo reacted to dissenting views.

These incidents weren’t enough to make me re-evaluate my self-identification as a liberal but they were enough to make me decide HuffPo was not a trustworthy source of information and they helped prepare the ground for the disillusionment I would suffer when the left turned misogynist - once again exhibiting a bad behavior it had always insisted was the sole province of Republicans.

At the same time I was reading - and becoming disenchanted with - the Huffington Post, I was also watching a little MSNBC and reading a lot of Andrew Sullivan. My disillusionment with them took longer but that’s a story for another day.


* You’ll have to take my word about the comments to Rohe’s post. Those comments are no longer available; instead the foot of her post says, “Comments for this entry are currently under maintenance but will be restored soon.” This message has been up since at least June 4, 2008. The same message is up on a number of older posts at HuffPo, perhaps on all HuffPo posts before a certain date.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

From there to here: The short version

I’ve been thinking for a while about doing a post documenting my journey from a (mostly) liberal to a (mostly) conservative state of mind. I figured my narrative would be logical, structured, insightful, and so on. Then a relatively new and totally apolitical friend mentioned in an email that she'd been reading the Jezebel website. I replied that I’d pretend not to have heard that given Jezebel’s ugliness toward Sarah Palin. My friend replied that she only read the non-political stuff on Jezebel. As she put it, “if I had to choose between a headline that said ‘Migration habits of slugs’ and 'Latest from the campaign trail', it would be slugs all the way.” She then went on to ask:

But -- does this mean you are a Republican??? I would have thought you were a Democrat.

I explained myself to her and realized I had just written the short version of my journey post. Here’s what I wrote (cleaned up a little for spelling and grammar and with links added):

I'm in transition. A year ago I would have described myself as a Democrat and I pretty much would have described myself that way for my entire adult life. There were always cracks in the facade. I never quite bought the whole "police are the enemy" idea that liberals liked so much in the 60s and 70s. The bumper sticker "The next time you need help call a hippie" really resonated. I've always thought a strong military was a Very Good Thing and most Democrats are ambivalent about that. I just never bought the idea that really, really bad countries would love to have peace if only we'd stop spending so much money on weapons. I hated the Vietnam War but never felt really good about abandoning the South Vietnamese to the tender mercies of the North. And so on. So, a Democrat, but with Republican tendencies.

Then, for a very long time, feminism became virtually synonymous with being liberal and therefore Democratic. So that was another thing that made me think of myself as a Democrat/liberal and that identification stuck with me even as I thought less and less about feminism on a regular basis. And although I am not convinced the Iraq War was necessarily a bad idea, I do think torture and listening to phone calls without warrants and stuff like that is incredibly dangerous to the Constitution. And since I think the Constitution IS the United States, I didn't much care for George W. Bush.

Somewhere along the line, probably about two years ago, a very anti-Bush blog I read (Andrew Sullivan; nope, not linking) linked to a story from a pro-Bush blog (The Anchoress). It was on a non-political topic, probably something to do with religion. I read the story on the pro-Bush blog and then poked around a little and read some of her political stuff and, holy Toledo, it actually made sense. It didn't make me think that the damage Bush was doing to the Constitution was acceptable by a long shot but it did make me stop and think about stuff like, "How would I react if I was President and the US was subjected to a vicious sneak attack? Would I, for example, inter all Japanese-Americans in desert camps?"

Then Obama and his minions started treating Hillary Clinton like "a vicious lying bitch who ought to be killed" and my feminist radar, forged in the heat of the 70s, sprang to attention. This was misogyny of a kind and intensity not openly displayed in 30 years. The more the ”Boyz” attacked Hillary with sexist rhetoric, the more I hated Obama and his lying, skanky friends. And the more I realized this type of vicious sexism was becoming the heart and soul of the Democratic Party. My side, the side that was supposed to be synonymous with feminism.

So I started taking a closer look at some of the links in the pro-Bush blog and found all kinds of interesting bloggers. First I got referred to some blogs with military connections. Not the real milblogs - I simply can't understand them - but a wonderful blog written by a woman whose husband is career Marine but blogs little about the military and lots about social issues and what America means (Villainous Company). She did a blog on Hillary Clinton and sexism that literally made me cry. From her I got to a blog written by a guy who writes for the milblogs but also has his own more accessible blog (Grim’s Hall). From there to Rachel Lucas who is filthy-mouthed and hysterical; then TigerHawk who warns you if he is going to use bad language in a post and is very smart and very financial; then neo-neocon whom I adore (she's a therapist who writes a political blog with side trips into ballet); then The Corner at National Review Online, the veritable bastion of mainstream conservative writing, founded by William F. Buckley himself. For variety, I also read two super-liberal blogs both written by women who loathe Obama's misogyny and both of whom are far more liberal than I am and probably than I ever was (Anglachel’s Journal and Reclusive Leftist). And I worship at the feet of Greg Mankiw's economic blog.

Then Sarah Palin happened and virtually all of the Democratic/liberal feminists treated her like dirt. It's not that they hated her politics or thought she was too inexperienced; they went after her on sexist grounds. That was it. My one litmus test for being a feminist is that you don't attack other women in sexist terms. Almost the entire female membership of the Democratic Party failed that test. And the Obama machine just cranked up the misogynist weaponry it had used against Hillary Clinton - including the media - and aimed it at Sarah Palin. By the time the Democrats and the media got through with Palin, I'd have voted for her if she swore on a stack of Bibles that she thought Sacramento was a small country in Africa.

All of which is probably more than you want to know and a terribly roundabout way of saying what I started out with: I'm in transition. Republicans believe in free-market capitalism (me, too); in a strong military (me,too); in doing away with racial, ethnic, sexual, etc preferences (me, too, but I kind of like Title IX); in free trade (I'm really waffley on this one). They also generally oppose abortion (I'm for it but not unrestricted and never in the 3rd trimester) and gay marriage (I have real problems with forbidding some type of gay civil union partly because it becomes an economic burden for gays not to be able to marry). So economically I'm a Republican; socially I'm not a Republican but I'm certainly not a Democrat, at least not where the Democrats are now on abortion - ugh!

On the other hand, I'm all for protecting our national security but torture, warrant-less wiretapping, over-extension of Executive power? Nope. Too much of that and we'll save the country physically while destroying it ideologically. At the same time, I have no problem with ethnic profiling and while I think non-US citizens should have clearly defined rights in our legal system I don't insist they have the same rights US citizens do. I oppose illegal immigration (neither Presidential candidate did); I think English should be the official language and see no reason ballots need to be printed in any other language while also believing that in legal proceedings and medical situations interpreters are essential. I don't believe in Apocalyptic Anthropogenic Global Warming but even if I did Obama's cap-and-trade policies would scare the bejeesus out of me. Somehow freezing in the dark doesn't seem to me to be a good way to save civilization.

So not only am I in transition, I also don't fit neatly anywhere.

What’s not in that stream of consciousness explanation is the exact mechanism by which I was converted: the realization that the sources I trusted to tell me the straight story were so biased that no hint of even-handedness existed; how that realization freed me to think about everything differently; and what I began to believe once I did that different thinking. But those parts of my journey are for another post - or posts.