Friday, October 21, 2005

"Fancy His Not Being Able to Spell That Particular Word" Dept

True story.

Last night I was down at my second office (that is, the sports bar in Houston where I tend to work in the evenings, thanks to their excellent wireless network and their inexhaustible supply of Shiner Bock, Bass and coffee). I blogged, a day or two ago, this picture that has greatly amused Houston sports fans in the aftermatch of Game 5. It's a sports joke, of course; and so it occurred to me last night that Steve and Holly and Kristin and the other folks gainfully employed at Sports 'n' More might get a kick out of the picture. I carried the laptop over to the bar, and sure enough, uproarious merriment ensued.

Now, there was a fella standing over at the pool tables...I'm sorry, but just to look at this stereotypically redneck dude was to say to yourself, "Hm, prob'ly not that bright." (And I say this as someone who is proudly redneck myself.) He hollers over at me, "Hey, whaddaya keep showing people there?" So I invited him over to see the picture, which I include here as a memory refresher.

The not-so-bright dude -- call him "Red" -- reads the words slowly and carefully out loud, for all the world like the sort of person who reads out loud because he has to. "Pitch...around...Pujols...dumbass..." He stops, smitten by sudden fear that he read the last word wrongly; and he tries again, this time carefully enunciating the b: "...dum-bass."

Those of us standing nearby look at each other and blink a couple of times in astonishment; but we are all polite persons and therefore manage to keep a straight face. Red has a buddy who came over to see the picture, too, and the buddy carefully corrects him: "No, no, it's 'dumbass.'"

Embarrassed and annoyed by having been made to look silly in front of strangers, Red bursts out in querulous bitterness:

"But they spelled it wrong."

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The tribute of a true fan

Stephen, next time you're in Houston I'll buy you a drink, just for the pleasure this post brought me. A genuinely meaningful tribute, that was, from the sort of fan that makes St. Louis the queen of all baseball cities; and we Houstonites will cheerfully do our best to disappoint you next week as well. In which case I'll buy you two drinks.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Won't be gone much longer

This project is almost done. Haven't slept in a couple of days; haven't blogged; haven't answered e-mail...I can't wait to get back to the metaphors conversation.

I had the very great pleasure of spending the wee hours last Saturday morning in Candace's Brooklyn apartment; but she deserves a bigger post than I have time to give her this evening. Come to think of it I had some of the MacAllan that night too...

Long time comin'

Some of my earliest memories are going down to visit my grandparents in Bellaire, going to games in the Astrodome, playing by myself in my grandparents' backyard on the Saint Augustine grass, in the top of the inning (of the game played in my imagination) throwing a baseball into the Pitch-Back, in the bottom of the inning swinging a bat while I pretended to be Cesar Cedeno or Doug Radar.

Been a long time comin'. It feels awfully nice. Though, in retrospect, celebrating with a triple MacAllen showed a certain lack of foresight as it's now going to be some time before it's safe for me to leave this sports bar...fortunately they know me and like me so I can get away with curling up in this big ol' easy chair and catching some Z's.

The Astros are going to the Series. Bigg' and Bags finally get to the biggest games.

You know, if Lidge doesn't get suddenly stupid last night, then Biggio wouldn't have set the record -- tonight -- for most postseason games played by a man who had never gotten into the World Series. And speaking of Albert and Lidge, a picture for your enjoyment is attached, but since it's non-Baptist it's not on the front, wait! It's actually on the marquis of a Baptist Church! It's the end of civilization as we know it...gotta say, though, I think God is absolutely right. As usual...continue reading...

P.S. Should that be "marquee"? Oh, Lordy, I'm so tired I'm hallucinating as I look at the screen, and I can't even speak English anymore, or at least write it...good night, guys.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Prayer request

My buddy Charles and his wife Brandy have a pretty little daughter named Tesch, who just turned two last Thursday.

In the wee hours this morning, Brandy was in a car wreck, and didn't survive.

Take some time to pray for Charles and Tesch, if you would.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Why doesn't Harriet have an Ozzie?

The Anchoress -- for whom I have the deepest respect, fallible though she occasionally proves herself to be -- allows one of her readers to start a trail that I think would be much better left untrodden, namely, that conservatives object to Harriet Miers because she is an old maid. Or, rather (since these days we prefer not to raise speculation over sexual history) an unmarried woman of significant cumulative life experience. Not that the Anchoress herself is of that opinion; she doesn't seem to have an opinion one way or the other. She just lets her correspondent raise it; and unfortunately I think it's an issue that would better have been left dormant in this context.

You must understand, though, that I'm not at all sorry Her Anchorship chose to raise the issue -- I just think it was a pretty drastic mistake to raise it in the poisonous Miers context, where at this point no further accusations need to be hurled given the carnage already wreaked; and I wish she had raised it independently. ...continue reading...In my opinion it's a topic that certainly needs to be discussed; but it's very clearly not what's driving conservative reaction against the Miers nomination, and the fact that it's a silly charge in this context may make it harder to take the issue seriously in other, more relevant, contexts. (I repeat that the Anchoress herself does not endorse the accusation.)

How do I strike the right balance here? I think there is, in fact, a certain stigma attached to singleness in evangelical circles, a stigma that I believe strongly is incompatible with Christian charity in general and with I Corinthians 7 in particular. Some time back I wrote (as part of my admittedly extreme idea of "due diligence" for leading a small group Bible study) a translation of and commentary on the first eleven or so chapters of I Corinthians, and I remember summing up my reaction to I Corinthians 7 in the following words:

So I think I’ll close with the following application for Protestant American churches:

If we wish to recapture the New Testament attitude, we have to come to an appreciation, not just of the sacrifices made by those who, for the sake of Christ, have accepted the challenges of singleness in order to devote themselves to God’s service without encumbrance – but also to the very great advantages of the single life. It is ridiculous for a single Christian to feel as though he or she were a second-class citizen (as generally happens in comfortable American Christianity), when Paul says explicitly that he thinks the single state is, at least in his judgment, generally a more blessed state. Whatever else the Church may be, it cannot, without ignoring the sentiments of Paul (who I think also has the mind of Christ), be the Church of the Smug Marrieds.
So is there an issue with evangelical attitudes toward unmarrieds, especially women? Clearly I personally think there is, and the Anchoress's correspondent provides some direct, personal anecdotal evidence. But is that really making a significant contribution to the Miers brouhaha?

Hm. Well, let's just ask this question, shall we? Quick, name the one person who would draw, from the same bloggers who constitute "The Illin'," the broadest support for the 2008 Republican Presidential nomination. I'm thinkin'...Condaleeza Rice. You know -- that middle-aged chick who, um, well, has never gotten married. So, um, if you're going to try to say that these same bloggers are out to get Miers because they subconsciously have it in for middle-aged celibate females, you're going to need some pretty damning evidence.

Look, if you're trying to say that Miers's marital status has a small effect on some people, I don't mind that. I would imagine that there are all sorts of things, rationally relevant or not, that have a small effect on some people, including the color of her hair and her admittedly girlish way with birthday card salutations. But that's a far cry from, "I think that is the problem most conservatives have with her." If that's what you think, then you are, quite simply, wrong.

When Her Anchorship's correspondent says, "Please know that I speak from experience on this one" -- well, of course she does, and it's worth paying attention to her experience. But that means...oh, Lord, I have to be gentle here...her personal experience means she is more able to contribute insight, but less capable of maintaining a sound sense of proportion; and her assertion is an assertion of proportion. She isn't saying, "Some conservatives have this problem, along with others," which I think is almost certainly true. She's saying, "This is the problem most conservatives have with her." And that's ridiculous -- especially since the part of the base I would think most likely to have that issue with her (conservative Protestant evangelicals), is not the part of the base that's most up in arms over her nomination.

There is a process called "sharpening" by which our subconscious sorts through all the torrent of input pouring into it all the time, decides what is important, and presents that to our conscious awareness, while not bothering to point out the things it has decided don't matter. And your own experiences shape your subconscious's decisions on what's important and what isn't, based on the natural assumption we all have that what's important to us must be important to everybody else as well. The correspondent is an unmarried woman who has been inconvenienced by this problem; she sees another unmarried woman who is the target of criticism, and identifies with her; then she starts hearing elements of the same old thing she's heard before. So, boom! this must be The Real Problem. She exaggerates the general importance of a problem that has been specifically important to her. And that's what we all do; I'm not slamming her, just saying this is how human beings function, part of how we make sense of our worlds. That's why each blogger's blog has different emphases, after all.

And it's a lot of what determines who trusts Bush and who doesn't, which brings us back to Miers. Michelle Malkin's problem with Miers isn't that Harriet doesn't have an Ozzie. It's that she's being nominated by George Bush with no reasons given, and no reasons ever likely to be given, other than, "You can trust Dubya" -- and Michelle doesn't, and what's more, Michelle doesn't for good reason. The Anchoress trusts the Shrub, but then the Anchoress doesn't have an entire blog devoted solely to the topic of illegal immigration, now, does she? The Anchoress hasn't spent the last five years watching Dubya, can't find a metaphor that isn't obscene...let's say, show blatant disregard for one of the two or three topics that the Anchoress feels most passionate about, all the while making much (and apparently hypocritical) noise about the importance of that very topic. So when Bush says, "Trust me on this one," Her Anchorship says, “Sure,” but Michelle says simply, "The hell I will." And I'll be blunt about this: Michelle just as much has the right to get mad at Dubya over his failure to live by her agenda, as anybody else (including the Loyalists) has the right to get mad at Michelle for her failure to live by their go-along-with-Dubya agenda.

The President has spent five years giving an enthusiastic middle finger to sizable sections of the Republican Party -- the sections that care about illegal immigration, the sections that care about controlling government spending, the sections that care about local control of education, et alia -- but up until now those sections have put up with it while waiting for the Mother of All Decisions, namely, whom he would choose for the Supreme Court. But the trust stops here. If he wanted to be given carte blanche, unquestioning trust in this, the most important of his decisions, then he should have spent the last five years building up trust rather than tearing it down. And those of you who are mad at the Rebel Alliance for not trusting Bush -- considering how he's already back-stabbed those people on the things they, though not you, consider important, where exactly do you get the chutzpah to demand that they trust him on this one?

What is important to any individual personally, that's what he judges everybody else on. If George W. Bush has given you, to date, the things you have thought were important, and you feel like trusting him here, good on you; but that’s no reason for anybody else with different priorities to trust him. There are conservatives who are conservative for different reasons than yours, and they have been royally screwed by this President, and if you think they're going to trust him on something this important then you need to go cold turkey off of whatever it is you're smokin'. And if you didn't know a long time ago that sizable sections of the conservative household came into the Miers nomination already feeling deeply betrayed by this pseudo-Republican (in their view) President, then you really, really need to get out more. The divisions were already there, and the wounds inflicted by the President were already there. If you didn't know that, and now you're shocked when the Miers nomination makes the wounded conservatives rise up on their hind legs and say, "We have had enough and we're not gonna take it any more," then you have let your own satisfaction with the President's attention to your own agenda, blind you to the pain and frustration he's caused lots of other perfectly well-meaning people.

So, if you go to Michelle Malkin and start accusing her of having a problem with middle-aged single women, you are going to get your eyebrows singed off by the response, and it'll be your own fault because you should know better. Michelle Malkin's problem isn't really Miers at all. It's Dubya. And she has her reasons, and look, by her standards of what's important, they're pretty damn good ones.

And that's why I wish that this issue of prejudice against single people, and especially single women, hadn't been raised in the Harriet Miers context: it's easily refuted in that context, and once people have disposed of an objection in one context, it's hard for them not to feel that it's an invalid objection in all contexts.

Besides, if you want to heal the divisions in the conservative camp, then I'd suggest -- as gently as I can -- that you try understanding the people who feel differently from you, rather than impugning their motives and vilifying their character. Here are two quotes from people who think the Miers nomination is a good one and wish the President were receiving the support they believe he deserves. The first is from Hugh Hewitt, who has been an absolute model of how to wage a discussion on a sensitive topic such as this, and has earned by deep respect in so doing.
Conservatives are deeply split, though the pro-Miers camp is gaining, and the steadiness of the president assures her eventual confirmation. (See this morning's from R. Emmett Tyrrell). But it is an important debate among friends, not an occasion for the sort of vows of eternal enmity that mark the left in its melt-downs.

The anti-Miers caucus is headquartered at NRO, but these are remarkably talented and honorable conservatives, not destroyers of the Republic. Some of their rhetoric was over the top, but that's why we call it rhetoric. When I tease them about being a part of the Bos-Wash Axis of Elitism, it is just that teasing, not a call for their banishment.
And here is a blogger whom, since I'm taking her to task, I won't name, with the f-bombs and other profanities removed:

Y’know, I really do hate the blogosphere, because it’s full of [unwise persons] who have no clue about the real-life Republican base. All this idiotic “he owes us” [folly] is REALLY about “he owes me.” I don’t care if you were ready for a big brawl and are disappointed. I really don’t. What’s pathetic is that you’ve taken that unexpended energy and aimed it inward toward other conservatives, just as many did during the Terri Schiavo brawl.

Fortunately, my party hasn’t changed, but the people in the party have. It used to be that Democrats were the party of infighting and a complete lack of focus on the opposition, but obviously, Republicans have become just like them. “Everyone owes me! Waaaah!” What next, “dissent is the highest form of patriotism?” “Bush lied?” “Impeach Bush?”

Finally, I can’t say I’m terribly surprised by the hysteria. I wrote about the infighting and Bush-bashing a couple of weeks ago, because I was already fed up with all the hand-wringing and whining. Maybe I just need to get [firmly] off the blogosphere or stop reading other blogs, so I won’t have to listen to all the [unfortunate] crying all the time. Bunch of [annoying] whiners. GROW UP.
It appears not to have occurred to the lady (whose blog I generally enjoy, by the way, since I actually like brutal honesty and don't mind profanity) that she is engaging in infighting, a complete lack of focus on the Democratic opposition, crying, and whining; so that it's hard to escape the conclusion that she has, indeed, become just like the Them whom she castigates. But set aside the issue of unintentionally comic dramatic irony, and instead let's ask ourselves about the likely effect of such rhetoric in helping the Other Side see the light. Here are two more quotes, back to back, the first from a complimentary commentor at

I'm a newbie, by the way, dipping my toes into the blogging world because of the Miers nomination. I guess I would qualify myself as a moderate Democrat, but I have to say that I enjoy reading the right/moderate blogs more, if only because I don't come away with the feeling that if I disagree with someone, they will hunt me down and boil my pets.
But now, what about the targets of enraged Miers defenders? Here's one of Michelle Malkin's readers:

Because of the vitriol coming from the Miers supporters aimed at those such as myself who are disappointed with the President's nomination of Miers, I have decided that I am no longer going to be involved in politics.
Which kind of comment do you want to inspire? Which one do you think brings you closer to seeing the fulfillment of your political dreams for the nation?

Look, with my idiosyncratic and iconoclastic political views, I'm a permanent outsider in American politics, doomed always to be an observer, never a participant. Forget the bride stuff, forget being so much as a bridesmaid; it would be a major breakthrough for me even to get invited to the wedding. I'm not bitter like the Kos Kids, because after all they actually think (and have for thirty years thought) that they have a real chance to win, and they keep losing anyway, and that does bad things to you. But I know perfectly well that I have no chance to win; so I never have built up the big emotional investment that turns into bitterness. And as it is with the liberals, so it is with the conservatives, except they've actually won some. And they want to win more, and they let themselves get their hopes up. But you know the trouble with hope? If it's hope that you've placed in human beings, it's gonna nail you sooner or later; and when it does, the chances that you'll respond in charity rather than in outrage are slim indeed. I’m seeing lots of pain. I’m seeing lots of outrage. I'm seeing lots of incredulous disillusionment. What I'm not seeing a lot of, I’m not seeing very much charity, and I’m not seeing a lot of people displaying in their reactions a lot of confidence in Romans 8:28. Sure seems to me a whole lot of unwise trust in people just got exposed as such. And I don’t say that to insult you guys; I say it ’cause I feel for you more than you know – been there, done that, just didn’t happen to get caught in the trap this particular time. My turn will come around again soon enough.

Conservatives are hurting all over the place on this nomination. Malkin and others are deeply hurt and disillusioned by the choice of Miers. Other conservatives (like the Anchoress and my friend Alexandra) are deeply hurt and disillusioned by the actions of the Rebel Alliance. Others don't know what to think about Miers herself; they're just disconsolately hunkering down and wishing it would all end one way or another. But will you guys take some gentle and sincere, albeit admittedly unsolicited, advice from a fellow who's outside your pain looking in, but who understands that you're hurting and is sorry to see it, especially since he finds you all very likable? For your own sake, try going for healing, instead of accusation. For your own sake, try to focus on the pain the Other Side have experienced rather than the pain the Other Side have caused you. For your own sake, try loving your conservative enemies – try to put yourself in their place, and to feel what they're feeling (that's what compassion is, after all), and instead of trying to prove how badly they're behaving, try to empathize with how badly they're feeling. If you could try reaching out to each other without each insisting that the other get with the program, you might start remembering what you have in common, and you might even find a way to move forward together to a solution you can all live with.

Or, of course, you could just keep nuking each other, and then in four years I'll be giving similar advice to my liberal friends when some of them are happy with how President Hilary is doing and others feel betrayed by her. And you can sit around in circles and say to each other, "It's your fault." Won't that be nice?

Napoleon W. Buonaparte

Okay, I won't presume to explain the implicit political commentary, but this picture is, in my book, an instant classic.

From All Things Beautiful.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The first travelogue: The Grand Canyon, October 1997

Background for this particular trip
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9
Day 10

It was 1997, and I was due for some extended time off. It had been a long time since we had had a long vacation, and Higro had never seen the Grand Canyon, so we decided a grand American family-style road trip was called for. ...continue reading...The only real concern we had was Merry, who at the time was not quite two years old, and who we were afraid would not enjoy the trip and could make the trip less than enjoyable for the rest of us. Here my parents came to the rescue. They offered to let Merry stay with them for two weeks while the rest of us gallivanted across the American West.

Now the issue was how to get Merry into my parents’ hands, since they lived ten hours away from Austin, in Heavener, Oklahoma. After some discussion, we decided to make use of the fact that I was regularly traveling to a client in Fort Worth, which was roughly halfway between my and my parents’ houses. I had a business trip to make to Fort Worth whose date was in my control to a certain degree, and so I timed the trip for just before the beginning of my vacation. My parents agreed to meet me at the hotel.

At the time, I was training a new employee, Tina Scott, who despite her name and her pure East Texas drawl is the daughter of Chinese immigrants. It was always fun to introduce her to clients who had dealt with her extensively over the phone and were now meeting her in person for the first time; the double-takes were always dramatic. Somehow they never seem to picture a Chinese-American behind that drawl and that name. At any rate, Tina was the last person to receive the old small-company kind of training we used to do: for two months I dragged her around with me everywhere I went. She was right in the middle of this training period when my vacation time rolled around.

Although my children hadn’t gotten to spend much time with Tina, they knew her and liked her and were accustomed to seeing me ride off to Fort Worth with her. In fact, Kegan, who at the time was five, had a couple of weeks earlier shocked his mother. Tina had come by the house to get me, and Dessie and the kids had stood in the yard and waved until we rounded the first street corner. Once T’s car had disappeared from view, Kegan turned to his mother and asked, “When are Daddy and his girlfriend coming back?” His mother’s reaction was an explosive, “WHAT?!?” He stuttered rapidly, “I mean, I mean...his friend...that’s a girl.”

At any rate, I bundled Merry’s car seat into the back seat and strapped her in, and then Tina, Merry and I set off for Fort Worth. I never got so little attention paid to me in my life; Tina and Merry had a blast while I chauffeured. Then we got to the hotel. Here we dragged out of the car Merry, her car seat, luggage for Merry for two weeks, my garment bag, Tina’s garment bag, two laptops – it was time to find a cart. With all that stuff piled onto the cart, we made our way into the lobby and stood in line. I’ll give you three guesses as to who was holding Merry, and if you guessed me, then try again. Anyway, as I stood there looking around the lobby, with Merry giggling in T’s arms, I got one of those sudden shifts of perspective. “Hey, T,” I said, “you realize, I suppose, that all these people in here are looking at us and thinking, ‘Man, that guy’s got some SERIOUSLY dominant blond genes!’”

I was wrong, of course, as I realized a couple of months later when telling the story. For no doubt they were actually all just thinking, “Second wife.”

My parents arrived, and we all headed for the Olive Garden. Now, if a television’s on in a restaurant, even if it’s a shopping network, I have to watch it. It’s a compulsion kind of thing. And it just so happened that Game 6 of the National League Championship Series had just reached the ninth inning as we walked in; I knew this because the bar was at the front of the restaurant, and the game was on all the televisions in the bar. “Okay,” I said, “we have to sit someplace where we can’t see the TV’s.” Obligingly, the hostess led us around a corner, back to a secluded part of the restaurant with no line of sight to any video screen. We sat down; we ordered; I leaned back – and there, perfectly reflected in the window, was Kevin Brown winding up. This, I considered, was fate, and my father agreed; so we excused ourselves and made for the bar, leaving poor Tina and my mother to make conversation with each other until the game was over.

Amazingly enough, this was not the last time Tina agreed to accompany me on a business trip.

At any rate, Merry was safely deposited with her grandparents, and in short order the rest of the Pierce family hit the road.

My company had provided me with a laptop computer. Now, I had never taken a laptop on a family vacation, and I had thought of several geeky things to do with it. For example, I had spent hours poring over an atlas, building an immense spreadsheet that had mileage between each scheduled stop and landmark, estimated rates of travel, benchmark ETA’s, etc. Also, I couldn’t wait to send e-mails to my parents rather than using the telephone. Unfortunately I never could get my e-mail to work; so the e-mail file kept getting longer and longer. My parents didn’t get the e-mail until we reached my sister’s house in Oklahoma City, where we met them and Merry at the end of the trip; then they got all the e-mails at once, in a single document.

And that was the first of the travelogues.



Kenny here. I have no intention of trying to describe the sights. That’s what slide shows are for. (No, we’re not really going to inflict a slideshow on you.) Just occasional random bits from a Pierce-style vacation I thought y’all would enjoy.

Day 1

We discovered somewhere after Junction, Texas that I had typed 145 miles instead of 245 into the time-and-distance Excel spreadsheet for one leg of the trip. We also realized that there is no campground at the place where my elaborate schedule intended for us to camp. Detour to Guadalupe Mountains National Park, arriving at 2:00 a.m. – Mountain time. This is why most Pierce planning is done by Dessie.

I might add that whereas most campgrounds in October are full of recreational vehicles and devoid of tents, there is nothing to do in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park except backpack, so that the tent campground was already full and we were left with an RV parking place. This means that all six of us slept in the van that first night. I reiterate that most Pierce planning is done by Dessie.

Day 2

At the bottom of Carlsbad Caverns we stopped to eat lunch in the underground cafeteria. Sean needed to go the bathroom, so I told him he could go. Shortly thereafter, the sound of somebody yelling at the top of his lungs emanated from the men’s restroom, and, having a fairly good idea of who that somebody was, I charged off to silence the offender.

Sure enough, Sean was in a stall amusing himself with the echoes. “Sean!” I said with that quiet but piercing voice mastered by every parent who doesn’t want to make more noise shushing his child than the child was making to begin with.

The yelling stops. A cheerful, “Hi, Daddy,” comes from behind the closed door of the stall.

A brief but pointed lecture follows in which Sean learns of the excessive rudeness involved in making echoes in a National Park bathroom adjoining a large dining room, as well as of the fact that such rudeness will not be tolerated, on pain of...well, on pain of severe pain. The lecture ends, followed by two seconds of absolute silence. Then, from behind the closed door there comes an untranscribable sound along the lines of, “Ffffthththbtt!”

And before I can recover enough to ask what he’s doing, a small but bitter voice says emphatically, “I just threw a cake at you, Daddy.”

Day 3

Nice day, but there was little of interest for people who weren’t along for the ride. Just a little nervousness due to the fact that the sign that said, “Next gas services 80 miles,” was lying, the next gas services being actually some 140 miles away. 12.5 gallons went in when we finally found a filling station, meaning we were running on fumes. A little while earlier, upon being asked to pray that we wouldn’t run out of gas, Sean had intoned reverently, “Please, gas, don’t run out.”

Halfway through the next tank, the gas gauge quit working. We have since depended on the trip odometer, a less than ideal solution since it means depending on my remembering to punch the button whenever we fill up. (Hey, I’ve only forgotten twice.)

Day 4

On this day Dessie discovered that the Grand Canyon is rather larger than she had imagined it. No children fell over the edge, which is hardly an automatic for kids who have no fear of heights and who are accident-prone enough to require (in Sean’s case, at least), seven emergency-room visits before birthday number five. Note to Mom Shirley: not your kind of national park.

Higro (our Brazilian exchange student, for those who don’t know) pronounced himself unimpressed. He claims that the Grand Canyon bears a strong resemblance to his swimming pool back home. As you can see, he is obnoxious enough to fit very well indeed into the Pierce family, which may account for the fact that Kasia has taken to introducing him as Igloo Pierce. (Higro is pronounced IG-roo, but the r is a palatal flap that comes out of Kasia’s mouth as a palatal liquid.)

The Voice of Experience Speaks: if you intend to eat s’mores, you should first shave off your beard and moustache.

Day 5

A simple enough day in prospect, but that was before we stopped to shop at a Navajo Indian roadside stand and Dessie locked the keys in the car. Okay, okay, I admit it was really me. Had you going for a second, didn’t I? Anyone? Oh, well...

With the help of several friendly Navajos we coat-hangered the thing open and continued on. This was enough time for me to learn in conversation that (a) it had snowed there last week, (b) that every time it snows there, several cars slide off the road at a particular curve, a high percentage of those cars being driven by persons of the Japanese persuasion, and (c) that my Navajo informant’s granddaughter believes that she knows why Japanese people can’t seem to keep from sliding off that curve. The four-year-old’s explanation is that it’s hard to see when you pull the corners of your eyes so far sideways.

We learned that the North Rim is the last refuge of Mormon polygamists, which inspired us to the following ad-lib verse to the old “Oh, You Can’t Get to Heaven” camp song:

Oh, you can’t get to heaven (Oh, you can’t get to heaven)
With just one wife (With just one wife)
’Cause just one wife (‘Cause just one wife)
Don’t cause enough...stri-i-i-ife
Oh, you can’t get to heaven with just one wife
You need two or three or twenty-five
Ain’t gonna grie-ieve my Lord no more.

No disrespect intended to non-Mormon polygamists, of course.

Four Corners turns out to be a Navajo Tribal Park that closes at 5:00, so we didn’t get to see it. Fortunately we had decided to detour through Monument Valley and the Painted Desert. Next American vacation, we have now determined, has to be Utah. Great detour, best decision so far this trip.(Relax, I’m not going to describe either Monument Valley or the Painted Desert.)

We reached Mesa Verde to discover that the campground at the place where my elaborate schedule intended for us to camp (Mesa Verde) closed for the winter October 13th. We are now in a motel where the door next to us bears the legend – I kid you not in the slightest, and I have just walked outside barefooted into 34-degree weather to get the wording precisely correct –303. COUNTY JAIL. VISITING HOURS 1 P.M. – 4 P. M. MON. WED. FRI. This is why most Pierce planning is done by Dessie.

At least, as you perceive, I can get and send e-mail.

Hope y’all are having as much fun this week as we are.


Well, actually I realized I don’t yet have the new computer configured so that it can send out e-mail, so y’all didn’t get this at the end of Day 5.

Day 6

Took the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway from Durango to Silverton and back. We recommend this very highly indeed, and strongly suggest the open car, even in winter. (Just wear lots of clothes.) In retrospect we’re happy that the closed cars were all sold out. Which sellout just goes to show that if you’re going in the summer you’d bloody well better get your reservations early.

Ate at the same restaurant (Handlebars) we ate at on our previous visit to Silverton four years earlier; food still just as good. The biggest attraction, however, remains the sense of humor of the proprietors. Example: bumper sticker on the wall reading, “EARTH FIRST – We’ll mine the rest of the planets later.” Further example: menu item, “Choice Rocky Mountain Oysters,” because “Sometimes you feel like a nut.” Okay, I’m overstating it; the food is the biggest attraction. Deeeelicious chicken-fried steak.

Special note to grandparents, others please skip: as we got off the train we were stopped by a lady who just wanted to compliment us on how well behaved our children were. You are to be congratulated for having done such a fine job as grandparents.

Higro has now seen snow. He has yet to see a bear.

Day 7

Decided to skip Mesa Verde, since we were already in Durango and would have had to backtrack. Didn’t get away in time to see the train heading back up to Silverton, which upset Kegan severely. When I told him, “It’s okay, we’ll see a bunch of stuff today,” Kegan announced, “I hate seeing a bunch of stuff that looks like...not trains.”

The phrase “I hate,” by the way, has become Kegan’s standard way to respond to being told “No,” and as of this afternoon he gets to do five pushups every time that particular four-letter word (I refer to the h-word) crosses his lips. The first time this punishment was enforced we pulled over to the side of the road, he did his pushups, and as he was climbing back into the car he announced, “I hate doing pushups.”

Stopped at the top of the pass between Durango and Silverton (Moray Pass? Molar Pass? something like that) to play in the snow. I was corrupted by Higro into stripping to nothing but short pants and frolicking for the camera’s benefit. (I had thought all these years that the combination of testosterone and immaturity was deadly; apparently testosterone on its own is sufficient. Unless I can blame my testosterone and Higro’s immaturity.) However, since Higro had not seen snow until the day before, he was innocent of such tactics as the snow down the back of the shirt and the snowball attack just before the shutter snaps. His innocence is now lost.

I mentioned sometime back that Sean had required seven emergency room visits before his fifth birthday. That number is now out of date. As I type in a playground where Kasia and Kegan play and Higro works on English homework, a doctor next door at the local clinic is stitching up the results of Sean’s lunchtime nosedive off a playscape into gravel. Nothing terribly serious; just a couple of stitches next to the left eye, you know. In fact here come Sean and Dessie now. Earlier than I expected, which is a good sign, and Sean is bounding up and down like a rabbit instead of walking, which would be another good sign except that it probably means he’s forgotten the pain and is now ready to find another playscape to dive off of. For my long-term-memory-challenged boys pain is no deterrent, which is why we have to be creative with punishments.

On the road again...doop doop do-doop dooo...

It’s pretty sad. We appear inured to disaster. In support of this claim see:

Exhibit A: When I locked my keys in the car, Dessie just said something like, “Oh, you haven’t done this in a while. So how are we going to get the car open?” In fact the Navajo girl who was the most help said halfway through the proceedings, “You know, you people aren’t nearly as upset as most people who do this here get.”

Exhibit B: At the end of the railroad day, after eating at a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant that turned out to have great food, I said to Dessie, “You know, things have just gone really well for us this trip.” This earned me a long what-planet-are-you-from stare from Dessie, who at the time had already had to put up with a nonexistent campground, a minivan-turned-RV, a broken fuel gauge, weather way colder than she was prepared for, and getting the keys locked in the car in the middle of the desert a $140 service call from the nearest locksmith. Imagine if she’d known she was going to get to call 9-1-1 the next day.

Exhibit C: When Sean nose-dived into the gravel, Dessie’s and my conversation ran about like this, all in a calm, nice-weather-we’re-having tone of voice:

D: “Wanna go see how bad it is?”

[I pick him up and there’s blood all over the side of his face.]

K: “Not too bad, just bloody.”

D: “Stitches?”

K: “Probably. Take a look.”

[I carry him to D for inspection.]

D: “Yeah, I think so. I’ll get the first-aid kit.”

[I set Sean down and wipe some of the blood off one of my favorite sweaters with no comment other than a mental shrug. I make mildly encouraging noises to Sean and dab the blood off his cheek with a paper towel as D. rummages for the first aid kit.]

D [a bright idea has just occurred to her, which makes her sound cheerful]: “Why don’t you get my cellular out of the car and call 9-1-1 to see where an urgent care center is? They can’t charge us too much for that call.”

[Et cetera, et cetera.]

I am happy to report, by the way, that the doctor decided not to stitch Sean up, opting instead for some high-tech new bandage that stays on for four days and then falls off automatically (or something like that). We are now trying to decide whether the insurance company will treat this as a visit to an urgent care center (since the sign outside the small building in Ridgeway said “Family Medical Center”) or as a visit to an emergency room (since the sign over the little room in the back where they checked Sean out said “Emergency” instead of “Examination Room 5”).

More snow play at Monarch Pass, interrupting a special interpretive reading of “The Fall of the House of Usher” by Dessie and self. Said interpretive reading consisted of Dessie’s reading a sentence or two aloud and self’s translating for Higro’s benefit. Example:

D [reading]: “In the greenest of our valleys, / By good angels tenanted, / Once a fair and stately palace – / Radiant palace – reared its head. / In the monarch Thought’s dominion – / It stood there! / Never seraph spread a pinion / Over fabric half so fair.”

K: Beautiful house.

It was a homework assignment for Higro, but before admitting defeat he only made it as far as:

Although, as boys, we had been even intimate associates, yet I really knew little of my friend. His reserve had been always excessive and habitual. I was
aware, however, that his very ancient family had been noted, time out of mind,
for a peculiar sensibility of temperament, displaying itself, through long ages,
in many works of exalted art, and manifested, of late, in repeated deeds of
munificent yet unobtrusive charity, as well as in a passionate devotion to the
intricacies, perhaps even more than to the orthodox and easily recognizable
beauties, of musical science...

Which is a lot to ask out of someone for whom English is not the first language.

Since Dessie had never read it, she wound up getting into the story herself. It was actually pretty interesting, because Dess has never liked Poe. So when she started off reading the story out loud (I was driving), she couldn’t keep the sarcasm out of her voice: no matter how hard she tried, you could tell she didn’t like it. But after about three pages she was falling under the spell, and by the last couple she was spot-on.

[Later note: having read this, Dessie tells me that she didn’t fall under the spell; she just got tired of my complaining and decided to read it straight rather than snide. Oh, well.]

Higro says this is the first reading assignment from that class that he has understood.

At the restaurant in Salida (great restaurant, by the way, but I seem to have forgotten its name), Kegan needed to do five more pushups upon arrival, having forgotten that “hate” is no longer in his vocabulary. He got of the car and was bending over to get in pushup position when I said in my best drill-sergeant voice, “Gimme five.” With a look of confusion he straightened back up, turned around and raised his hand to high-five me. I apologized for confusing him, and he turned back around and delivered five very nice, canonical-form pushups. “Hey, great pushups!” I said without thinking – “gimme five!”

The restaurant was a combination Mexican place and steakhouse. Fabulous sopapillas stuffed with beef and peppers, plus out of the same kitchen an outstanding Philly cheesesteak hoagie. That, my friends, is a chef with range.

The Voice of Experience Speaks: if you intend to eat your sopapillas with honey, you should first shave off your beard and moustache.

Picked a campground at random near Royal Gorge. Turns out that they quit advertising last week but are staying open out of sheer inertia “until the weather breaks.” They’ve also knocked a third off their prices since the season’s over. For sixty cents less than we paid last night to pitch tents and sleep in near-freezing weather, I’m typing in boxers at a table in a tiny but cute log cabin with a double bed, a set of bunk beds, and an electric heater. You know, things have just gone really well for us this trip.

To bed, to bed, said sleepyhead...

Day 8

Didn’t start out well. The Royal Gorge bridge turns out to be part of a chintzy little municipal amusement park, and they wanted $54 for us to drive across the thing. Yeah, right. The Grand Canyon takes $20 from you and lets you stay all week, and these guys want to charge us $54 bucks to drive across their bridge. We declined. Then we were going to take this scenic loop, but when we got to the start of it, it turned out to be closed for the winter. We did get to see a prairie dog town, but that didn’t seem to be enough to make up for what we weren’t seeing. Didn’t look like our luck was holding.

So we decided to detour along a little state highway through the Sangre de Cristo foothills. Even this started out contributing to the general oopsiness of the day, since when we stopped for Higro and I to climb rocks on the highway right-of-way, the paranoid survivalists living nearby sicced their dogs on us. (Higro can climb rocks pretty fast when properly motivated, we discovered.) I thought it was pretty humiliating for the survivalists myself (there but for the grace of God goes Timothy MacVeigh), but Dessie considered it humiliating for her, and she was more humiliated than I was amused. So that was a negative experience, too. We decided to just consider the day a washout and get to camp as fast as we could.

Then, suddenly, ten minutes later, we came around a curve and discovered Bishop Castle. I won’t describe this much since we’re going to put a full spread about it on our Web page. It’s a genuine castle built by hand by one guy, a high-school dropout who’s been working on the thing for twenty-eight years. You gotta see this thing to believe it. One of the towers is 160 feet tall. That’s right, 160 feet. And the thing is gorgeous. He’s never had blueprints, he’s fashioned all the ironwork by hand (e.g. an arched scrollwork bridge leaping from one corner tower to another a hundred feet above the ground), he’s fought off half a dozen government’s astonishing. Furthermore, you can do whatever you want and go wherever you want in the castle. That scrollwork bridge - it goes between two towers, like I said, but one of them isn’t quite finished up to where the bridge starts. So you’ve got stonework up to ninety feet, and then exposed iron framework sticking up in the air to where the bridge starts.

He let me climb up to the bridge.

Yes, that’s right. When I asked, the guy is like, “Sure, go ahead. My seven-year-old eats lunch there all the time.” I’m still flabbergasted that there’s a place in America that would let me climb up to an arch like that.

Admission, by the way, is totally free. Straight donation basis, and the guy is serious. He says he’s been poor all his life and thinks there ought to be something in America that poor people can use just as much as rich people.

Okay, that’s all I’m going to say about Bishop Castle. Except that I’m glad the other stuff that morning didn’t work out, else we wouldn’t have taken the highway past Bishop Castle and would have missed it. You know, things have just gone really well for us this trip.

While passing through a particularly desolate section of New Mexico, one of our boys suddenly discovered that he desperately needed a bathroom. We were five miles from town. He made it three. Let us draw a discreet veil over the rest of the proceedings, raising it only long enough to behold a single scene: me, dancing down the center line of a deserted highway in the middle of a 30-degree night in pursuit of a ... call it a befouled paper towel, in a stiff wind.

This left me a bad mood, which is very difficult for Dessie. She was therefore very relieved, half an hour later, to hear me say that due to static electricity “the hair on my chest is standing on end. In fact both of them are.” I can’t stay in a bad mood if people are laughing at my jokes, so she laughed very hard and then everything was all right again.

Couldn’t find a campground and finally, at about 1:00 a.m., decided to stop at a motel. Followed the signs into Shamrock to find an Econo-Lodge on a totally deserted four-lane street. Two blocks from the thing police lights appear in my rearview mirror. I can’t imagine what I’m being stopped for, but I get out. This very friendly, gregarious officer comes bounding up and informs me that he’s stopping me because I changed lanes without signaling(!). Doesn’t give me a ticket, you understand, just chats for a little bit and then lets me go. At the hotel I mention being stopped and why, and the clerk stares at me for about four seconds. Then he says, “He didn’t give you a ticket, did he?” I answer, “Naw, actually he was pretty friendly. I really think he just felt like he wanted to talk to somebody.” Light dawns on the clerk’s face. “He was a really country kind of guy, right?” I admit that he was. “Yeah,” says the clerk, “he’s one of our newer officers...”

Day 9

Enjoyable day to experience, boring to hear tell of. Reunited with Merry, who seems to have had as much of a blast in OKC as we’ve had on the road.

Day 10

Mom and Pop come in telling me that people are stranded all over Colorado and the Texas Panhandle with a blizzard. Sixty-mph winds, and they’ve had to call out the National Guard to rescue people from highway shoulders up in all the mountains we just drove through. Having personally experienced a few vicious, high-wind snowstorms (though not full blizzards) I am glad to have escaped. Dessie and Higro, neither of whom have had that experience, are disappointed to have missed it. Yeah, it would’ve been cool to be stuck on a road with a sixty-mile wind blowing snow all around the outside of the car, I admit. Right up until the first time one of the boys needed to go to the bathroom.

Actually, I think Dessie and Higro are just having fun with me, pretending to be sillier than they really are. (I don’t know about Higro, though; he’s still young and male enough to feel invincible.) At any rate, a pleasant farewell to the extended family, an uneventful ride home, and


Prologue to the travelogues

Sheerly as a historical curiosity -- and because I don't really have much time to blog at the moment and this is a cut-and-paste freebie -- I thought I'd post the very first Pierce travelogue. You can tell that I wasn't thinking of it, at the time, as For Posterity, which means it's much less self-conscious than the ones I wrote by popular demand later on. As a predictable result, it's better than the others, except possibly the Mazatlan one. But more than any other one I ever wrote, this series of e-mails assume you know all about my family; they were written, after all, to Dessie's and my parents, with no idea anybody else would ever be interested.

So back in about 2000 I wrote an explanatory Prologue for this and subsequent travelogues, and put them all in one Word document so that it would be easier to provide to those who asked (usually newly hired fellow workers who had heard about them from people with more tenure). Here's an edited and updated version of the Prologue (which itself was written a good five years ago), as newly updated in 2011, and in the next post I'll give you the first travelogue in all its silliness. ...continue reading...


I’ve traveled all my life. By the time I was six I knew how to get from my house in southeastern Oklahoma to my grandmother’s house in Texas, six hours away by car. Most kids run away from home at some point; my bike and I made our getaway when I was six. We were headed for my grandmother’s house, and I got to Kiowa, some twenty-five miles away, before I gave up. (I was a stubborn child.)

Long trips establish themselves as landmarks for my memory. My family once, long ago, went to Carlsbad Caverns in a pickup truck with a camper shell on the back (no air conditioning, obviously), and on the way we picked up a well-trained French poodle named Chanelle, though you would have thought there were few families less likely to own a French poodle than we. I can remember stopping in Amarillo, Texas for lunch, setting a peanut-butter sandwich on the picnic table for a moment, and seeing the wind send the sandwich soaring off the table and over the rest area fence. And, although I was asleep when it actually happened, I remember hearing about how my mother found herself in the middle of a construction zone near Dallas in the middle of the night because the construction workers had already put up the exit sign for a road they hadn’t yet finished building.

There were other, longer trips. We went to Pocatello, Idaho in a friend’s motor home, with a novelty horn that played “Boomer Sooner” whenever a car with Texas license plates passed us on a freeway, and on the way we stopped at Old Faithful. We went to Deep Springs College in California, and on the way we stopped at the Grand Canyon and Sequoia National Park. (We had all long wanted to see Sequoia National Park, because of the enthusiastic recommendation of Ben Fewell, an old family friend. We were over at their house one evening when somebody mentioned the sequoias, and Ben suddenly started raving about the trees. “Once you’ve seen them, you never forget them,” he said, and then he spent about ten more minutes doing variations on the theme, and then he decided that he needed to show us the slides, and then he went and dug out the slide projector, and then he started showing the slides, and then he got to about the third or fourth slide, which happened to be a picture of the tree with the road through the middle of it. And when that picture came up, his wife Katie, in tones of surprised gratification and unexpected recognition, said, “OOHHH, hey, I think I’ve been there!”)

I bummed and thumbed my way around California after that trip (this was the summer before my senior year in high school), though I had a spot of trouble in Sacramento. I’d been getting rides with no problem and then suddenly I went twenty hours with nothing but an explicit proposition from an unsavory gentleman in one of those little Japanese pickup trucks that had just started selling well in the States. It wasn’t until I got home that I learned that I had picked the weekend that a big gay rights convention was being held in Sacramento. And there I was, a blond kid with an Afro perm (I had gotten tired of not fitting in on my basketball team), standing on the side of the road with a cardboard sign saying, “SAN FRANCISCO.”[1]

When I decided to go to school in New Jersey, I got myself the opportunity for travel east of the Mississippi. I tried never to take the same route twice, so by the time I was a senior I was driving from Princeton to Oklahoma via Quebec (that's quite literally true). Once I decided to explore an undeveloped, roadside cave I happened to notice while driving through the Appalachians somewhere, by myself; and I managed to get lost inside the cave. This was a real disaster, because I couldn’t find my way out, and nobody knew I was there, and I starved to death before anyone noticed my car... In truth, I only got out because fortunately it was a relatively small cave, so I was able to pull a Harvey Wallbanger – that is, I just always kept myself next to the right-hand wall of the main chamber until I found the crack I’d squeezed through to get in.

I even managed to get to Europe. The university’s classics department landed me a summer scholarship to the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, but I had to get there on my own, and I didn’t exactly have a ton of money. I figured out that the cheapest way to Athens was to fly to Vienna and take the train through what was in 1989 Communist Yugoslavia. I might as well have been the lone captive animal in a zoo: anybody who could speak English at all made sure they came and talked to the American. They would ask where I was from, and I would say, “Oklahoma.” They would, rather blankly, ask where that was, and I would say, “Right above Texas.” Light would dawn: “Oh, yes, Texas!” Since I was born in Texas, I decided I’d skip a step and just tell them I was from Texas to begin with. But this was because I hadn’t really thought a lot about how isolated they were, or where they were getting their information about the outside world. Eventually I told one fellow, “I’m from Texas,” and his eyes opened wide as the throttle on a redneck’s pickup truck come Saturday night. In tones of awe he asked, “How many people have you killed?”

After that I went back to saying I was from Oklahoma.

After the summer term in Athens expired, I snagged a couple of weeks of hitchhiking around Turkey, making my way to the sites of the Seven Churches of the Apocalypse. This was made much easier, and much more enjoyable, by the high value the Turkish people place on hospitality, even when their guests speak no Turkish or Arabic. For example, in order to get to the ruins of Laodicea (which no tourist ever visits), I had to hike a couple of miles down empty country roads, and along the way I met a cute little girl about ten years old. She was clearly intrigued by my presence, though neither of us could understand a word the other said, and she wound up managing, with sign language, to invite me back to her parents’ house. And there her family gave me lunch, though her parents couldn’t understand me either. We all had a great time waving our hands about, and even though I don’t know their names and never will, as far as I’m concerned they’re friends of mine.

But the biggest problem with all of this was that I kept no notes, and so, with the exception of a few isolated incidents here and there, all the fun I had is pretty much irretrievably gone. I’ve tried a dozen times, for example, to figure out where that cave was, and I can’t find it any more, as much as I’d love to take my kids there someday.

Then I got married, and before long I had four kids, and then I got a job that involved lots and lots of business travel on top of the travel we did as a family. These trips would have disappeared too, except for new technology: e-mail. I began e-mailing accounts of the travels to family members who didn’t get to go. Eventually it became a tradition, and co-workers started asking to be on the e-mailing list, and the travelogues were born.

You need to know a few things in order to understand some of the personal references.

I’m intelligent but air-headed and hopelessly disorganised, a man who’s managed to misplace several different daily planners in record time, an irrepressible optimist who can’t help but figure that, no matter how much trouble you get yourself into, there will always be a way to escape relatively unscathed if you just get creative enough and catch a break or two. Religious references will come from the perspective of a theologically conservative Episcopalian (no, that’s not a contradiction in terms), who arrived at Anglicanism via agnosticism after having started in the Southern Baptist / Disciples of Christ tradition. Political references will come from a largely libertarian perspective.

At the time the travelogues were written, I was in a marriage that was actually quite unhappy, but (a) I did not believe in divorce and (b) I had been raised to believe that part of a husband’s duty was to ensure that he never dishonored his wife by public criticism. So all of that pain was kept out of the travelogues, where I was careful to present a relentlessly cheerful view of my then-wife Dessie and our relationship. I have no intention of going back and adding things I didn’t write at the time, but where I went so far as to say things that were actively misleading, I have now taken them out. I think that’s the only editing I’ve done, and there wasn’t much required, as most of my dishonesty toward friends and family took the form of omission rather than commission.

At the time these travelogues were written, I only had four children, though I’ve acquired several more since then by adoption and, later, remarriage. Within these pages you will meet my daughter Kasia, who at the time of the last travelogue was a graceful and lovely ten-year-old blonde, and Merry, who was five years hold and never stood still when she could be jumping up and down. In between the girls were the eight-year-old twins, Sean and Kegan, who are genetically identical, but who had personalized their appearances by getting their scars in different places and getting different teeth knocked out. Despite the fact that Dessie is a brunette, all four children are as blond and fair as the blondest of Swedes, which is to say, they have slightly darker complexions than I myself do. (There used to be an official policy, in the office where I worked, that on Fridays in the summertime the rule allowing the wearing of shorts was suspended in my case unless I provided sunglasses for all my fellow workers.)

I went to work for a company called Objective Resources Group in 1996 or 1997; I was, I think, the seventh employee. A couple of years later, having grown to fifty, we were acquired by a huge multinational company called SunGard. They kept me supplied with a laptop and lots of airline tickets for as long as I worked there.

Higro Amaral came from Sao Luis, Brazil to stay with us as an exchange student when he was in high school. He later came back to stay with us while he attended college in Austin, before going back to Brazil to start his band.

Mom Shirley refers to Dessie’s mother, and her name at the time was Judy Beth Shirley. Her mother, my then-grandmother-in-law, was referred to by one and all as “Mama Sis.”

My father (“Pop”) and mother are living in West Virginia now, where my father is a Disciples of Christ minister. The fact that I’m so obnoxious could be attributed entirely to my father. For example, a very generous friend once sold me a fully functional, turbocharged Volvo sedan for ten dollars. (Look, I said he was generous.) This happened to be within a few days of Dessie’s birthday, and so it served as her birthday present from me. Naturally I told my father. A few days later, I got a check in the mail from my father for five dollars. He then told everyone he knew, “Hey, some people have trouble with their in-laws, but not my daughter-in-law – for her birthday this year, my son and I went halves on a Volvo.” So you can see that I come by it honestly.

My only sibling, Stephanie, lives with my brother-in-law Mike and my nieces Cimarron and Caramia in Oklahoma City. They don’t play much of a role in the travelogues, unfortunately, because the travelogues came about largely by happenstance, and they didn’t happen to come about on trips that involved my delightful nieces. The family are devoutly Catholic, and the girls grew up attending Catholic school. It seems that in the Catholic schools of Oklahoma, political correctness has yet to achieve domination. When I was in school, we were taught that Oklahoma’s name comes from an Indian word meaning “land of the red man.” I don’t know what politically correct equivalent is now used in public schools, but it’s still “land of the red man” in Cimarron’s school. Cimarron knows this now, but when her teacher first brought it up some years ago, Cimi had never heard the phrase. “Now, class,” said her teacher, “the word Oklahoma means something. Does anyone know what it means?” No answer, so the teacher decides to help them out. “It means land of the red…” She waits to see if anyone can guess, but nobody is guessing, so she repeats it. “…land of the red…” Suddenly Cimi’s hand shoots up, because she knows the answer; she knows, oh, yes, and she can’t even wait for the teacher to call on her before shouting out excitedly, “NECK!”

I seem to have given Tim Baber a hard time, and therefore you should know that, if we weren’t guys and therefore were not uncomfortable expressing affection in any way other than insulting each other, I would say that I have over the years found no better friend than he. Not because I really mean it, you understand; but I don’t have a ski boat and must therefore be careful to safeguard my access to the one Tim keeps in such great condition.

I have worked with a large number of client support staff, many of whom have been a privilege to work with. But the two champions, in both competence and likability, have to be Raymond Tanti and Judy Stowell. You will meet Raymond in the Melbourne travelogue, but Judy will just be mentioned in passing. This is unfortunate, as you will never meet a sweeter person. If you offered Judy a million dollars to be a jerk for twenty-four consecutive hours, your money would be safe as houses; she isn’t capable of it. And her husband has the best foreign beer collection in Omaha, at least in basements under houses that cost less than $500,000, and the Stowells are generous in sharing with the deserving among their acquaintances. What’s more, I understand that she has won at least one award for her golfing – something like a Life Achievement Award, if I remember correctly, presented by her admiring friends.

Finally, I must mention Janelle Crenshaw, who worked in the Austin office and doesn’t appear in the travelogues at all. She gets mentioned here, however, because she more than anybody else enjoyed the travelogues and urged me to write more of ’em. And frankly, I didn’t want to have to take all the blame myself.

And so to the travelogues.

[1] For the benefit of non-American readers, San Francisco is the most famously and militantly gay of American cities, as witness the following light bulb joke:
Q. How many straight San Franciscans does it take to change a light bulb?
A. Both of them.

Since we were in such desperate need of yet another take on Harriet Miers...'s mine, to be filed firmly in the worth-what-you-paid-for-it-file.

Major caveat: Please note that I am in Kazakhstan at the moment with a very slow connection, and therefore am working from memory of what I’ve read on the blogosphere recently. I haven’t been able to do much fresh research and can’t do much in the way of links. Therefore this post is likely to prove nothing at all about Harriet Miers and a great deal indeed about how important it is to do your research and follow your own links. Ah, well, c’ést la vie, n’est-ce pas? By all means point out stupidities in the comments, but please be relatively indulgent about them. (I’m feeling French and the moment, which is why I have set out to create an illusion of déjà vu. It’s not the real déjà vu, because the real déjà vu would be an illusion of having experienced before what you're experiencing now, and in this case you’ve actually experienced it before, so that feeling of, “I’m having déjà vu,” is an illusion. You see? Um...I had a topic at one point, but I seem to have mislaid it...ah, yes, Maddening Miers.)

As I look around at the conservative reaction to Bush’s nomination of Miers, it strikes me that how you react to the nomination has a lot to do with two basic questions.

1. Do you trust Dubya? And specifically, do you trust his vision of what government ought to be?

2. What do you think has been, since the mid-twentieth century, the fundamental problem with the Supreme Court? ...continue reading...

I think the Shrub was caught off guard precisely because he did not realize to what extent he long ago forfeited the trust of many conservatives when it comes to domestic policy, and because he didn’t realize that for many conservatives (a minority, but a vocal one) the fundamental problem of the Supreme Court is not “they don’t vote for our side.”

I should say that it seems like ever since I moved to Texas I’ve been voting against Bush for something pretty much every four years. The fact that in 2004 I for the first time in my life blackened the circle next to the Shrub’s name, is a sign of just what a terrible field of candidates appeared on the ballot in 2004 – a sign of that, and of the fact that there’s one thing I think he’s got right, and that’s the War on Islamofascism (even though he has taken a long time to admit that Islamofascism is what we’re fighting), including as a part of that global war the local war in Iraq. But on domestic policy, ay caramba! That “No Child Left Behind” thing...oh, Lordy, don’t get me started. Domestic spending? Immigration policy? The Department of Homeland Insecurity? 200 billion dollars to rebuild a city that (as several folks have observed, though I don’t have any links handy) seems to be the real-life incarnation of the Swamp Castle bit from Monty Python and the Holy Grail? [shaking head mournfully]

But then, I’m not a Republican, after all. I’m one of a relatively numerous group of libertarian types who looks at his choice between Democrats and Republicans, and generally winds up holding his nose and pulling the Republican lever. Bush is not my guy; he has never been my guy; and I have known all along that I’m not part of his base and not the kind of voter he cares about or owes anything to. So when Bush does something with which I disagree, I’m disgusted, but I don’t feel betrayed.

Lots of people, however, think of themselves as Republicans, and they’ve donated time and money and blood and sweat and tears to the Republican Party. And they genuinely believe in the sorts of things that were in the Contract with America – smaller, more decentralized government, for example. Elimination (or at least reduction) of pork spending. Strong, well-defended borders with a sound immigration policy that is effectively enforced. Reasonable scope in public life for the devoutly religious, and a government that is not hostile to religion or the expression thereof. A legal system that respects traditional morality and that supports, rather than attacks, the traditional nuclear family. Welfare programs that, if they are run by the government at all, at least actually do more good than harm. A judiciary that at every level rules based on the law rather than on the personal political agendas of whichever judges happen to have jurisdiction. An end to abortion on demand. Schools that are responsive to, and under the control of, and supportive of the values of, the parents who are depending on those schools to educate those children.

And a whole bunch of those people have worked very hard to give Republicans control of the federal government. What did they get? Well, they got Dubya for President.

The problem is that Dubya is in some respects more of a Democrat than a Republican, in particular in three respects. (a) We could hardly have more illegal immigration if Dubya had personally issued engraved invitations to every single one of the Mexican poor; the President clearly has no interest whatsoever in controlling our southern border. (b) This President never saw a problem that he didn’t want to throw gobs of federal tax money at. He is, like no previous Chief Executive, the Prodigal President. We continue to await his first veto. (c) This President seems to think the best response to any problem is likely to be, “Let the federal government take over the job;” no Democrat could possible detest the idea of interpreting the Commerce Clause as though it actually means what it says, than does Dubya. (In fairness, as I think Mark Steyn pointed out, it’s not like you didn’t know when you voted for him that Dubya wanted the feds to run the schools and the illegals to run – or swim – the Mexican border; so those of us who voted for him can complain only on the grounds that we weren’t given any real choice.)

Michelle Malkin is blasting President Bush over Harriet Miers, but it’s in large part because she was already furious with the President over Julie Myers. She’s passionate about immigration and Bush doesn’t give a damn about it; and Michelle has just been getting madder and madder as the years roll by. And other conservatives are furious about other things, the spending, for example.

But every time Bush has acted like a Democrat rather than like a Republican, the outraged among the conservatives have taken a deep breath and said, “Okay, but we have to hang in there, because this guy is our best chance at getting the Supreme Court problems fixed.” And as the years have gone by, many conservatives have trusted Bush less and less, but they’ve still hung in there waiting for the nomination of Janice Brown or her equivalent.

And when the big day finally comes, Dubya produces a nominee that nobody knows anything about – other than that she’s a close buddy of Dubya and thinks he’s the most brilliant man she’s ever met – and he says, “Trust me on this one.” And a sizable number of conservatives instinctively react with, “Why the hell should we trust you on something this important?” His domestic record, you see, does not inspire confidence; and his entire justification for the nomination depends on conservatives’ confidence in his judgment. If Bush wanted the Right to trust him on a cloak-and-dagger Supreme Court choice, then he shouldn’t have spent the last five years acting like a Democrat on things like spending, education and immigration.

Bush wants conservatives to trust him that Miers will vote on every issue the way Dubya himself would vote. He doesn’t understand that that’s exactly what a bunch of us are afraid of. If we were getting Janice Brown, we would know that we were getting a candidate whose loyalty is to the Constitution and who would do as good a job as you could hope for of interpreting the Constitution based on what it says rather than on the agenda of the patron who nominated her. But if there’s one thing we can be sure of about Miers, well, there, isn’t, of course, anything at all that we can be sure of about Miers. But the thing we can come closest to being sure about, is that she will vote the way Bush would have wanted more reliably than any other person on the planet would have. We don’t know how loyal Miers is to the Constitution, but we bloody well know how loyal she is to Bush. And we know that the guy she's loyal to, thinks Gonzales would make a great Supreme Court judge. We know this -- and we shudder.

I’ll tell you something else that Dubya doesn’t understand. A whole bunch of us are deeply opposed to welfare and other forms of do-gooder government, precisely because we care about the poor and we are convinced that government “help” hurts people more than it helps them. When the Left accuses such conservatives of lacking “compassion,” the Left implicitly begs the question of whether government help is really helpful. Then here comes Bush, carrying on about how he’s a “compassionate conservative,” and it turns out that what he means is that he’s conservative on things like national defense and gay marriage, but when it comes to throwing government money at social problems he’s pretty much in favor of “helping” people. I don’t think Bush is aware of the extent to which his use of the term “compassionate conservative” legitimizes the Left’s spin on “compassionate” as meaning “somebody who thinks the best way to help people is through the government.” And therefore I don’t think he understands that people on the Right who are genuinely compassionate, yet genuinely opposed to doing things like spending 200 billion dollars to rebuild Swamp Castle, are implicitly slandered by, and thus offended by, the combination of his terminology and his policies. (Having written this, I see that Mark Steyn is making much the same point, which heartens me immensely.)

At any rate, Bush overestimated how much trust Republicans have in him, because he underestimates how much resentment many conservatives have suppressed over the last five years for the sake of this day that has now arrived. He wants to appeal to conservatives’ trust in him. What he didn’t realize is that many conservatives have no trust left in him, and that this was a pick that needed to justify their trust, not place immense demands on it.

From a rational basis, I think if you step back and look at the big picture, you can pretty much guarantee that Harriet Miers is likely to give the Religious Right what it wants on The Big One (Roe v. Wade) and on the various church-and-state issues that are likely to arise. And if you like Dubya’s approach to suspension of personal rights in the War on Terror, Harriet will go to bat for you. If you like Dubya’s Happy-Federalizer mentality and think the Commerce Clause was a bad mistake that should be studiously ignored in all times, places and contexts, well, I doubt Harriet will upset el patron by taking the Commerce Clause seriously. On the other hand, when Miers takes the oath we will have at least one Justice who believes that the Second Amendment actually applies to American citizens. In short if a Robo-Dubya is what you’re after then you’re safer with Harriet Miers than with anybody else you can imagine, in my opinion.

Not that you’re perfectly safe, of course, because Presidents can certainly be wrong about what people will do when they hit the Supreme Court, and I would imagine that Harriet will surprise him occasionally. But she’ll probably disappoint Bush – by ruling against Bush in favor of the Consitution – less often than any other person in America would have been likely to. This woman was not picked because of her loyalty to the Constitution. She was chosen because of her loyalty to Bush and his vision of what the Constitution ought to be taken to mean – at least, that is, if we can trust the assurances of the President’s own spin doctors, with their talk of how loyalty is the dominant virtue in Texas. Which, by the way, just proves that they don’t know the difference between “Texas” and “the Bush coterie” – it’s b.s. that Texans in general value loyalty, even the non-sycophantic version, more highly than we value other virtues like honesty, and insofar as there is in fact anything particularly Texan about the loyalty-driven relationship, that's because the vote-delivering, politically corrosive culture of el patron has been imported into Hispanic South Texas from that model of good government, Mexico. That model is, however, precisely the model that the Bush political empire has long followed, and those of us who know what the end results of the patronage model usually are, are pretty uncomfortable with Clan Bush's extension of that model into the White House and now, if he can manage it, into the Supreme Court.

Thus the more Bush reassures the Dobson crowd that Harriet knows how she’s supposed to vote and will deliver the goods, the more he nauseates those of us who don’t think Supreme Court justices ought to be in the business of delivering votes a sus patrones, and the more he worries those of us who think that a strict interpretation of the Constitution would cause and ought to cause a heckuva lot more restrictions on the federal government than Bush would ever willingly tolerate, and therefore more than Harriet is likely to go along with.

Think about it: one of Dubya’s striking characteristics is the degree to which he has analyzed the mistakes his father made, and has determined not to repeat them. Quick, name Bush the Elder’s biggest mistakes, the mistakes that ultimately cost him conservative support and doomed his reelection bid. Wouldn’t you come up with a list that included, say...

(a) Raising taxes after the “Read my lips” b.s. (And when’s the last time you saw Dubya agree to raise taxes? Spending, sure. Taxes...nope.)

(b) Letting Saddam stay in power when he had Saddam at his mercy, primarily because the U.N. didn’t want Saddam deposed. (No further comment necessary, on either Saddam or on deference to the demands of the U.N.)

(c) David Souter. And what was Bush Senior’s mistake there? Precisely this: he let himself be talked into appointing to the Supreme Court a man he didn’t really know anything about.

When I look at Dubya’s first five years, it seems to me that the two things he cares most about, as far as his ultimate legacy, are the War on Islamofascism and the reformation of the judiciary – and specifically, the overturning of Roe v. Wade. I understand why his pick of Miers looks like blatant cronyism, and you can tell from what I've said already that I think patronage is definitely playing a role, just because Bush thinks and operates like a patron. But can you not see that Bush is determined not to repeat his father’s mistake? (I give full credit for this point, by the way, to my extremely astute wife.) This is, for Bush, The Pick. He wants somebody that he knows will overturn Roe v. Wade, yet he can’t come out and ask a candidate how they’ll vote. And he’s not about to trust somebody else’s judgment, the way his father trusted the judgment of John Sununu. But that means, in order for Bush to have somebody that he, without depending on others’ opinions, knows will come through for the conservatives despite not having asked them specifically, he practically has to nominate somebody from his inner circle.

That is why Bush has nominated Harriet Miers. He has nominated her because he knows, better than any of the rest of us can possibly know about any possible candidate, that she will deliver the vote the Right has waited for all these years. If the Democrats want to preserve Roe v. Wade then they had better find some way – any way – to keep this woman off the Supreme Court. Harry Reid was insane to put her name on his list of acceptable nominees.

But does that mean that, if you’re a conserative who wants to see Roe v. Wade overturned, you should support the nomination? Surprisingly, it ain’t necessarily so. It sort of depends: are you in it just to get the votes you want?

That’s the other division in the conservative camp. There’s the division between those who trust Bush and those who don’t, and then there’s this division, which itself actually comes in two variations.

A Supreme Court judge who reliably delivers for the Right is not the same thing as a Supreme Court judge who faithfully interprets the Constitution. If the Right engages in Court-stuffing whenever it gets the chance, then what grounds do they leave themselves to complain when the pendulum swings back and it’s the Left that gets to go back to being in charge of the Court-stuffing? The Right, or at least many of us, wanted a candidate who could make it clear that he/she was motivated by the dictates of the Constitution, not by partisanship. That involves eloquence and clarity of thought and expression – and it is absolutely sabatoged if the pick is from the very beginning patently a partisan pick whose leading characteristic is loyalty to the political patron responsible for her elevation. It’s not just the decision you get to, it’s how you get there. Miers starts off with such a huge handicap, thanks to the way in which Bush has approached this – and the handicap is imposed by Bush, not by the Illin’ – that her opinions would need to be near-Solomonic for her to recover. To the evangelical base that just cares that the results come out the way they want, and have no long-term vision of changing the process as well as the votes, that’s no biggie. But to those who care about the integrity of the court, it’s a serious blow. A Republican who says, “This woman is a good choice because she will vote the way I want her to,” is just as much of an S.O.B. as is a Democrat who says, “This woman is a good choice because she will vote the way I want her to.”

In other words, there are conservatives who care only about results, and they (assuming they don’t object to very much of Dubya’s domestic policy) are happy with the idea that Harriet will deliver reliably. But there are other conservatives who care very much about process, and many of those are majorly Illin’.

What the Democrats’ politicization of the Supreme Court has done – and that politicization is in fact almost entirely the Democrats’ responsibility, going back to FDR, getting worse with the Courts of Warren and Brennan, and then going nuclear with Robert Bork – is to create a perverse atmosphere in which, if you are conservative, you can get on the Supreme Court only if you are either too incurious to have formed an opinion about Roe v. Wade, or else too uncandid to have allowed anybody to find out what your opinion is. Indeed, if you have been sufficiently forthcoming in your opinions to have made it possible to deduce from what you’ve said on other topics that you would overrule Roe v. Wade, you have been, for the past few decades, toast. Roe v. Wade is a bad decision at every level other than in its result (and even that is only considered a good result by people who favor abortion on demand with no restrictions whatsoever), and it has completely taken over and poisoned the confirmation process. Do you think judges have to consider themselves bound by what the people have actually ratified, rather than by what the judges think the people would have ratified had the people been blessed with the intelligence and moral vision that God has graciously bestowed upon the judges themselves? If so, and if you say so where a Democratic Senator can hear you, that pretty much makes you an official Threat to Roe v. Wade. And the Constitution has pretty much stopped being about anything but Roe v. Wade, when it comes to confirmation – which fact is, in itself, ample evidence that Roe v. Wade was a terrible decision. That one decision now trumps any other possible question about the Constitution – separation of powers, separation of church and state, Commerce Clause, Second Amendment – the only part of the Constitution that even exists any more, at confirmation time, is the part of the Constitution...well, the imaginary part, the one that guarantees abortion on demand and removes it entirely from the whole sphere of the democratic process.

For years Janice Brown – who is a spectacularly competent judge by any standard, and who is an admirable person in every respect except in disagreeing with the political platform of the relatively extreme Left – had absolutely no chance whatsoever of being appointed to the federal judiciary, much less the Supreme Court, because everyone knew the Democrats in the Senate would blackball her, not because she wasn’t qualified, but simply because they knew she wouldn’t toe their party line. And this dynamic, by which a premium is placed on silence, and by which the opinions of the intelligent and thoughtful are in essence censured on pain of being blackballed, is deeply, deeply pernicious and damaging to the public weal and discourse.

In other words, what many of us want isn’t just for Roe v. Wade to be overturned. We want the censorship abolished; we want freedom of speech to be restored to thoughtful legal minds throughout the judiciary; we want the poisonous boil lanced. The President’s nomination of Miers is a giant stride toward the overturning of Roe v. Wade. But as for the censorship, this nomination ratifies it, rather than abolishing it or even challenging it. Think of it: the President actually claims that he and Miers have never discussed whether Roe v. Wade ought to be overturned. Now, either he’s lying through his teeth, or else for the last decade the President has had a rule never to discuss Roe v. Wade with anybody whom he might one day want to appoint to the judiciary. If the latter...good God, has it really come to that? Can we really have sunk to the point where there is overwhelming pressure on our leaders not even to discuss with their advisors one of the most critical and divisive controversies of our time?

There are a lot of people who want Roe v. Wade overturned because they hate abortion. But there are also many of us who want Roe v. Wade overturned (including some of us who think abortion ought to be legal) because we hate what it has done to the political atmosphere, and in particular to the judiciary and its confirmation processes. We all know perfectly well that for the last twenty years the confirmation or lack thereof of Supreme Court nominees has come down simply to these two questions: will they overturn Roe v. Wade? And if so, can the Democrats find a way to keep them off the court?

In nominating Miers, Bush attacks abortion, but confirms the censorship. Those who only care about getting rid of abortion – and who still trust Bush – are by and large good with the nomination, and they will be happy with Miers’s votes should she in the end get confirmed. But those who care about the censorship – or who do not trust Bush – are just not going to be happy with this pick, and will still regret the pick even if the day comes when Miers is the fifth vote to overthrow Roe v. Wade. For there were available nominees who have refused to bow to the censorship, and whose public comments make it clear that they would be that fifth vote almost as surely as Miers would be – but without the appearance of shameless partisanship that the nomination of the Loyal Robo-Dubya creates. And those who care about the censorship in particular and the process as a whole, not merely the vote itself – well, in America they’re pretty much going to be always a minority, because Americans are notoriously results-oriented. But the minority who do care about the process as well as the result, will always wish the President had chosen somebody whose nomination would attack the Democrats on both fronts, instead of cravenly ceding the one to ensure the other.

Unless, that is, they think it’s the Republican Senate that would have been too cravenly spineless to have supported such a nomination. But in that case, it won’t be Dubya they’re mad at.

The Illin' Chillin'

Please note that I am in Kazakhstan at the moment with a very slow connection, and therefore am working from memory of what I’ve read on the blogosphere recently. I haven’t been able to do much fresh research and can’t do much in the way of links. Therefore this post, along with any other political posts you get from me this week, is likely to prove nothing at all about Harriet Miers and a great deal indeed about how important it is to do your research and follow your own links. Ah, well, c’ést la vie, n’est-ce pas? By all means point out stupidities in the comments, but please be relatively indulgent about them.

I haven’t commented on the whole Harriet Miers debacle – and a debacle it is, if you’re a Republican, though different Republicans disagree on the precise nature of the debacle and on whose fault the debacle is. But it has been, to me, a fascinating couple of weeks, for several reasons. (By the way, Alexandra has been all over it with tons of links, definitions of technical terms like originalist and constructionist, etc. And is there anybody else in the blogosphere who would have responded to the brouhaha by producing high-quality photoshopped images of Dubya as Napoleon, the First Lady as Josephine, and just as a bonus Ann Althouse as Catherine the Great?)

Let’s start with the anger, shall we? ...continue reading...

I think Bush, along with most observers, has been stunned by the intensity and nakedness of the rage with which his appointment has been met by sizable chunks of the Right. But there is certainly amusement to be found in the reactions, if like me you are a cynic who prefers to be amused at human folly rather than enraged by it.

In what follows I assume that you are familiar with my distinction between arguments, debates and discussions. Also, I assume that you realize that anger always implies a felt moral claim: if I am angry at somebody, then in my heart I believe that that person owed it to me personally to behave differently than in fact he has behaved.

If you look at the conservative side of the blogosphere, you can see several groups of people.

1. People who are furious over the appointment – the Illin’.

2. People who think the appointment was a bad choice but aren’t particularly angry about it.

3. People who couldn’t care less, or else don’t know whether it’s a good thing or not.

4. People who think the appointment was a good thing – The Chillin’.

Now, that divides up the conservative blogosphere based on how they are reacting to the President’s nomination of Miers. But the conservative blogosphere is also reacting to the reaction of The Illin.’ Obviously The Illin’ don’t think there’s anything wrong with their reaction. But among the other three groups:

1. Some people couldn’t care less.

2. Some people think The Illin’ are behaving inappropriately but aren’t particularly upset about it.

3. Some people are as angry at The Illin’ as The Illin’ are at The Prez.

So, let’s look at the chronology here.

First, Bush makes this appointment.

Second, Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter, et alia, most of whom stopped trusting this President some time ago for other reasons, come to the conclusion that the political goals to which they are deeply attached, will not be served by this appointment. And, since they operate under the emotional conviction that Bush has a moral obligation to advance their political agendas, they react with fury, and thus come to be part of Malkin’s “Illin’” group.

Now, there is also a group of conservative pundits such as Hugh Hewitt, The Anchoress, PoliPundit, etc. – who trust the President and who think that the appointment is a good thing, and who thus constitute The Chillin’. But many of The Chillin’ come to the conclusion that the political goals to which they are attached, will not be the reactions of The Illin’. And since they in their turn operate under the emotional conviction that The Illin’ have a moral obligation to advance the political agendas of The Chillin’, they react with fury – but with fury directed at The Illin.’ Hugh Hewitt doesn’t seem to have reacted this way, but The Anchoress has to a certain extent, and if I remember correctly, My Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy is so furious she’s declared, in the middle of an f-bomb-studded tirade, that she intends to abandon the blogosphere entirely. (My apologies if my temporary inability to fact-check is leading me to slander an innocent lady here.) Call such people The Illin’ Chillin’ – they’re fine with Bush, but they’re enraged with Malkin & Co.

Alas, I look back and see that too much explanation has been required...the punch line is, in effect, too weak to justify the elaborate buildup necessary. At any rate, what I find amusing is that The Illin’ Chillin’...are doing exactly what they’re condeming The Illin’ for doing. The dramatic irony is what tickles me. Imagine that you’re on an airplane, and in the seats next to you are a mother and a baby, and the baby just won’t be quiet. And in the seats in front of that mother and fussy child are another mother, with a baby who also is making a racket. And suddenly the mom next to you leans forward and says bitterly to Mom Two, “Would you please make your kid shut the !@# up?” Now I ask you, if you saw someone do that, would you be able to keep from snickering?

Look, if Ann Coulter wants to go off on Bush because she doesn’t like his choice – well, Ann doesn’t see anything wrong with blunt and caustic criticism of other people, and so far as I can tell she can take as well as dish out; she doesn’t mind the rough-and-tumble. (Similarly, on the left, Molly Ivins will blast away at her foes with no punches pulled and with every intent to draw rhetorical blood, but the best mea culpa I’ve ever seen a pundit give, came from Molly Ivins.) Coulter’s criticism of Bush may or may not be justified, and nobody expects charity from Ann; but none of that makes her a hypocrite, particularly. But if you’re using your blog to shriek like a fishwife about how people who shriek like a fishwife are evil...well, sorry, hon, but I’m going to have a very difficult time keeping a straight face.

More seriously, I saw a comment by one of The Illin’ Chillin’ that struck me with particular force. She complained that all this time, she has been thinking that she and her fellow conservatives were morally superior to the Left because Howard Dean and the folks over at the Daily Kos were so vicious. But now, here the Right was being vicious its own self, and suddenly she was smitten with fear that the Right wasn’t so morally superior to the Left after all. The horror! And her reaction was to be angry at the people on the Right who had gotten angry with Bush and thus threatened her sense that conservatives are nicer people than are liberals.

So may I please take this opportunity to say, with great firmness: you cannot determine a person’s character based on his political affiliation. To the people on the Left who are firmly convinced that conservatives are callous, heartless, greedy bastards whose voting habits are proof that they are morally inferior to you, allow me to say with cheerful indulgence: get over yourselves, dudes, and get a clue. To the people on the Right who are firmly convinced that liberals are promiscuous, immoral, godless, rude persons whose voting habits are proof that they are morally inferior to you, allow me to say with cheerful indulgence: get over yourselves, dudes, and get a clue. People are people. You give them what they want, most of them will play nice. If there’s something they want really badly, and you tell them they can’t have it, most of them will reveal their own personal Dark Sides. If liberals have seemed, over the past quarter of a century, to be more bitter and unpleasant than conservatives, that is not because conservatives are nicer people – it’s because it’s been a heckuva long time since genuine leftists have gotten what they wanted. They got rid of Tricky Dick and then Jimmy Carter turned to have the IQ of, well, a peanut. But at least he was genuinely liberal. And what has happened since then...let’s see.

They got obliterated by Reagan and had to put up with twelve years of Republican Presidents, and when they finally got a Democrat for President, he came along with a Republican House and turned out to be, on domestic policy, slightly to the right of Bush the First. For a brief moment it looked like he would establish nationalized health care, but the moment the polls showed that Americans were opposed to it, he abandoned the cause and put his genuinely liberal wife in the Not-Allowed-To-Speak-In-Public penalty box for, oh, about fifty years. Then the Republicans won in 2000 in the midst of the whole Florida thing, and in 2004 the hated and despised Chimpy McHitler, whose legitimacy the Left had denied for four years in large part on the grounds of his having lost the popular vote, got more popular votes than any Presidential candidate in history and settled in for another four years, this time with his party in nominal control of the House, the Senate, and the majority of governorships. Granted that the control, thanks to the general spinelessness of Republican Congressman, is all but purely nominal; but still, that’s twenty-eight years without a genuinely liberal President, twenty-eight years in which the influence of the Massachusetts-liberal-style Left has been in decline. And now Chimpy is putting his people on the Supreme Court, which is the last bastion of liberal power and which has long been the Left’s last-resort way to impose upon the nation such leftist policies as a majority of the nation’s citizens refuse to support.

Let’s let conservatives have the kind of thirty-year run that liberals have had, and see how bitter they get. Until then, perhaps conservatives should not congratulate themselves on their moral superiority to liberals on the grounds that “the Left is so bitter and uncharitable.”

UPDATE: Not that I'm denying that Daily Kos & Co. are pretty bitter and uncharitable and unpleasant. Ran across a great quote today from a commenter at

I'm a newbie, by the way, dipping my toes into the blogging world because of the Miers nomination. I guess I would qualify myself as a moderate Democrat, but I have to say that I enjoy reading the right/moderate blogs more, if only because I don't come away with the feeling that if I disagree with someone, they will hunt me down and boil my pets.

LOL, that's about as good a description of the Kos Kids atmosphere as I've run across in weeks.