Sunday, November 16, 2008

Marx's Lack of Appreciation for Monogamy

Every once in a while I come across a statement or a turn of phrase that makes me go back and read it again. This quote from Dr. Lionel Tiger of Rutgers did that to me today.

“One of the triumphs of Western arrangements is the institution of monogamy, which has in principle made it possible for each male and female to enjoy a plausible shot at the reproductive outcome which all the apparatus of nature demands. Even Karl Marx did not fully appreciate the immense radicalism of this form of equity.”

Even Karl Marx didn't get how radical that idea was. That's the phrase that caught my eye, because, to be honest, I hadn't thought much about it myself. I suppose for Marx, the neglect had something to do with heterosexual monogamy being the accepted norm during his time. It's interesting how things rarely come into focus or receive our full attention until they are questioned.

Dr. Tiger was speaking about the polygamous tragedy in Texas involving the separation of over 400 kids from their mothers. He was also speaking of the Western/Christian idea of heterosexual monogamous marriage, and how radically it transformed society. Fascinating food for thought. I dug up the original article if anybody is interested in reading it. Yeah, it's over 6 months old, but life under the rock can be comfortable sometimes.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Benefit of the Doubt

I have a number of friends and family who are supporters of Obama, and a number who are opponents of Obama. Very few people in my acquaintance seem to be anywhere near the fence.

In the aftermath of the election, one group of my friends was jubilant, even exuberant. There were tears of joy. They couldn't sleep they were so excited. The world was finally going to be a better place. The other group of my friends was despondent. They had a hard time getting out of bed. America was going to get the punishment it deserved for electing such a terrible president. The situation couldn't be more dire.

I think both response are WAY out of proportion, and I think both groups (if they choose to pay attention) will find that their hopes/fears will not be realized in anything close to the proportion they have in mind.

Today, I saw some news on Yahoo that makes me think I'm on the right track. Obama, it appears, is planning to close Guantanamo and move its prisoners onto American soil. However, many of the high-security prisoners will NOT be put into the civilian courts. Instead, they will be put into some undefined new court proceeding. It's not a military tribunal, of course, no, not that... just something else that we haven't named yet that works a lot like a military tribunal. :)

Here's the key quote, from Laurence Tribe, who is advising Obama on this issue:

"It will have to both be and appear to be fundamentally fair in light of the circumstances. I think people are going to give an Obama administration the benefit of the doubt in that regard."

The benefit of the doubt. Yes, that is probably true... for a while, Obama will get the benefit of the doubt. And, in reality, that will probably be the main functional difference between Bush's plan and Obama's (though Obama will apparently also put some of the prisoners into the civilian court system... I have no idea how he will determine which ones are low-priority enough for that treatment, and which require the special handling of a very-much-different-from-Bush tribunal system).

How much will Obama get this benefit of the doubt? And how far will it go? Those are difficult questions to answer. I expect he will get a little bit more leash than Bush got, in that the major media outlets are more favorable to Democrats than to Republicans. On the other hand, he will probably get a little less leash than Bush, since Bush had a great deal of leeway granted to him in the aftermath of 9/11. I will be very interested to see how this "benefit of the doubt" plays itself out over the next year.


Thursday, November 06, 2008

Chris Matthews Just Wants to Help

Reading through my RSS feeds today, I came across a post on RedBlueChristian that linked to a snippet of an interview with Chris Matthews posted at The snippet focused on a statement from Chris Matthews that his job (as a journalist) was to help the Obama presidency succeed. But the snippet didn't provide any real context for the comments, and I tend to distrust short snippets of interviews pulled out of their context.

So, I went looking, and found the entire interview segment on MSNBC's site. The clip was from a show called Morning Joe, I believe from this morning, and I found the segment right on MSNBC's Videos page. I've extracted a direct link, but if it doesn't work, you can probably find the clip with a little digging on the MSNBC site (at least for a while).

In this case, the extended viewing generally confirmed the original impression of the shorter snippet, and also added a good deal of commentary. After Matthews made his comment, the other hosts on the show took him to task for it, and a fascinating dialog followed. Matthews expanded on what he had said, qualified it to some degree, but basically held to it. At the end, one of the hosts of the show (I don't know his name, unfortunately) gave what I thought was a very pertinent and stinging rejoinder.

Anyway, give it a listen. I found it fascinating, and I will be curious to see if this plays out as Matthews has described it... if the media (in contrast to how they have interacted with Bush and other recent prominent political figures) gives Obama the benefit of the doubt, tries to avoid stirring up controversy (!), and generally restricts itself to clear questions about specific policies, otherwise doing what it can to be helpful to the administration.

Frankly, I don't think that will last long. The public has an insatiable hunger for controversy and scandal, and the major media won't be able to keep its fingers out of that pie. But, it's telling that someone as prominent as Chris Matthews has that desire and intention.