Bring Me the Bigger Tent

Warning: Long, rambling post ahead. Best ignored by folks uninterested in my own personal inner monologue.

I’m a Christian, but I haven’t sat in a church where I feel comfortable worshiping in years.

I’m a Republican and a conservative but I don’t feel particularly comfortable sitting in those pews, either. When it comes to the movement libertarians, I’m sure as hell not one of that crew even when I’m feeling sympathetic to their goals (which happens fairly often). And I think that progressives tend to live on the wrong side of reality (and they would likely say the same about me).

When the Tea Party started up, I found myself drawn to them. There was an underpinning of something libertarian in the movement (or, at least, that’s what I thought), and I liked the initial focus on economic issues over social issues. It’s become something very different; the movement seems to have become very focused on a narrow view of what conservatism should be and who qualifies to be labeled as a Republican.

I’m really tired of the term RINO and really tired of having folks on Twitter and Facebook and myriad blogs telling me who I can and can’t vote for if I want to stay in the graces of the keepers of proper conservative ideology. It irritated me when Andrew Sullivan started playing that game and it doesn’t feel much better coming from self-important commenters on NRO and Spectator blog entries.

Talking Ron Paul would be unproductive and Gary Johnson is a mixed bag (and a useless way to spend my vote).

So, back to the beginning, and to my point: I know where my vote is going this year (barring some revelation that suddenly makes President Obama spectacularly more attractive, politically, than he is to me right now), but I really wish that some folks would remember that their narrow view of our country and our political possibilities not only won’t win elections but it won’t win change. It’s the Ron Paul trap in the sense that folks who believe that only their path and only their candidate can save us are pretty much guaranteed to consign themselves to smaller roles in greater things.

Bismark (or the writer who first attributed it to him) was right: “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable, the next best.”

No, that doesn’t mean you have to leave your principles at the door, but it does mean that a wise man knows when to build coalitions, when to compromise, and when to refuse to bend. If you live in Boulder, CO, you shouldn’t expect to be hiring a stone-ribbed conservative to be your representative. So why not support a Scott Brown type figure? A man who may not be strictly conservative, but who will do a much better job of protecting your interests than the progressive left’s favored alternative.

What brought this up? I like Condi Rice. In fact, I find her fascinating and I hope that she continues to play a role American politics. I’m not blind to her faults and errors during the last administration, but I’m also not ready to minimize her strengths or dismiss her from our ranks. I don’t think that she is going to be Romney’s VP, though, and I don’t believe that she is the right person to give him the boost he needs to take the election– but he could do a hell of a lot worse than someone with her breadth of knowledge and experience.

So when I read this post on NRO, I started feeling cranky. Not so much because of John Fund’s analysis, which I think is reasonable, with the exception of the comparison to Sarah Palin and his concern for her ability to carry her message and handle the politics of a national campaign.

Seriously, can you imagine Rice being tripped up by a lightweight like Katie Couric asking about what’s on her reading list? Or being at a loss for smart analysis of any conceivable issue that she might face? That audio of her Park City speech should put those fears to rest. Her seriousness, her thoughtfulness, and her careful nature shine through at all times– even at those times where I find myself in disagreement with her. She is, in so many ways, the anti-Palin.

For as much as Sarah Palin was treated poorly by the press, she turned out to be a disappointment to me. I had revelled in the excitement she initially brought to McCain’s campaign and had high hopes that she would be a quick study on the national stage. Maybe many of her problems can be blamed on the staff’s mishandling of her, but in the end she simply wasn’t the person I thought she was. She wasn’t a Reagan in the making– a person rising from simple circumstances, with an undeniable charisma, to lift themselves up to bigger things.

She wasn’t a new Reagan because she simply didn’t have the vision or, seemingly, the willingness to put in the hours learning issues, defining messages, and preparing to bring leadership to the world. She seemed to shrink on the big stage, trusting on a mix of charisma and red meat to get her through.

As an agitator, that’s fine; as a national leader, it’s lacking. There should never, ever be any comparison between her and Dr. Rice.

But I digress. It was the comments that bugged me most. The comment suggesting that she is doing damage to the Romney campaign just by being rumored to be the VP choice, for instance. Or the comment that suggested that she was a “pathetic” option. Or the gentleman who suggested that she had issues with moral reasoning.

I am continually amazed at the arrogance of some folks who sit on the sidelines making their pronouncements about the imperfections of others. I am amazed at those same folks who consider their moral compasses so perfect and unfailing that they are willing to pass judgement with such finality.

The VP choice probably won’t fall in her lap, not least because she has very loudly said that she’s not interested. In pragmatic terms, the VP should help patch over the candidate’s biggest weaknesses (to help him build a winning coalition), and I’m not so sure that she is well-positioned to do that. She probably shouldn’t be the choice.

But why is it so angering to some folks that someone of her stature, accomplishment, and intellect might be considered? Personally, I’m happy as hell to see her on our side of the fight and I welcome her in our ranks.

I grew up believing in the big tent Republican dream.

Republicans  should be bound together for a desire to push back against governments’ creeping intrusion and excesses in citizens’ lives and businesses’ ability to operate with minimal interference and only the most necessary regulation. Republican’s should champion a wise conservatism that looks to maintain and conserve those important aspects of our American culture and political being that work well and have helped us to be a country of amazing wealth, creation, and success. But wise conservatism should also recognize that the things that are broken need to be changed, need to be fixed. Not the knee-jerk “hope and change” of the progressive left, but the well-considered change guided by necessity and adherence to bedrock principles.

Republicans should recall that our system was designed to let a culturally, religiously, ethnically, and geographically diverse nation as absolutely big as ours survive by protecting the localities from the whims of both our Federal government and from more populous states with wildly differing political priorities, but never at the expense of protected individual freedoms and rights. Which is why slavery could not stand and why women could not forever be denied the vote and why our electoral college is so vitally important as a safeguard to help protect smaller states’ important interests.

There is more, of course, but I trust you see my point: these aren’t sets of policy prescriptions (you must be pro-life, anti-gay marriage, and a big fan of the death penalty), these are sets of ideas to help guide us in wise decision-making. When the litmus test gets too specific, the tent starts shrinking to the point where the party will start ceding elections to the progressive left; we’ll be impotent and useless on the fringe while everything we had hoped to conserve crumbles around us.

I don’t want the Republican party to be guided by a checklist of policy positions. I want the Republican party to be guided by good principles, wisdom, thoughtfulness, and a deep respect for the dignity of the individual and a love for freedom.

Bring back the big tent. Bring back that sense that we can work together to build the shining city on the hill, because that’s the kind of hope I want to believe in, the kind of change I can give myself to support.

Civility Seems Lost to Us

I have no idea whether Jesse Jackson, Jr tried to kill himself or not and I wouldn’t vote for the man. Still, the comments on this article at Politico cheering for his suicide and diving straight into blatant racism (“Just another lyin’ nigher. The “fruit” doesn’t fall far from the tree.” from jgdp, for instance) is disgusting.

It isn’t funny. It isn’t right. I will cheerfully argue my side of the argument every day of the week and I will advocate strongly for my beliefs. But there is a bright line between right and wrong when it comes to attacking opponents, engaging in racist rhetoric, and cheering for their deaths that I will not cross.

Feel free to hold me to that.

And lest my lefty friends start feeling smug, don’t forget that your side has indulged in the same kind of behavior. This isn’t about sides, this is about how we as Americans need to embrace something a little better in ourselves– a little less cruel and short-sighted– and in our political debates. After all, the folks you are arguing with and even offending are probably friends, family, and co-workers.

As for Jesse Jackson, Jr, I hope that, if the reports of his attempted suicide are correct, he finds the help that he needs to work his way through what must be a very dark and difficult time.

Not Every Shooting is a Bad Shooting


Reason’s Mike Riggs brings a story about another tragic shooting involving cops. And it is tragic, but his story is also loaded up so that the cops come out looking bad and I’m not so sure they deserve the criticism this time through.

Shortly before 8 a.m. on June 28, police in Broomfield, Colorado, shot and killed Kyle Miller after he brandished a gun at them. Miller was mentally ill. The gun was fake. Miller’s younger brother told the police dispatcher both of these facts. For some unknown reason, reports the Denver Post, Broomfield police shot Miller anyway

That’s a mighty loaded ending there implying that the police are out and about shooting stuff for the most tenuous of reasons. Of course, sans the obvious tone (and that tone might not be so obvious if one weren’t familiar with Reason), Riggs can certainly say that he wasn’t implying anything or criticizing the officers involved, but the comments section certainly backs up my reading of his piece.

I’m happy to aim verbal fire at LEOs when I think they are in the wrong (and, more and more often, I think they are in the wrong), but this is one where the investigation needs to run its course before we can even begin to talk about fault. We have no idea what information was passed to the police and we all know that in moments of high stress, even official communications are garbled and confusing. That’s simple reality. An officer on the scene has to use his or her best judgement on how to deal with a schizophrenic man who was waving around what appeared to be a gun. This young man had apparently worried his family — either because they feared for his safety or for the safety of other — so much that they called the police. This young man then aimed that gun at the officers.

What those officers know, without a doubt, is that family members were so worried that they called the cops. They didn’t call a therapist; they called the guys with guns. If it wasn’t dangerous– if he weren’t dangerous– then calling the cops wasn’t warranted.

What resulted is sad as hell, but it is ludicrous to second-guess officers who thought they were about to be fired on, especially when we don’t have a strong idea of what information they had as they were rushing to respond. Even more ludicrous is the idea that some of the comments are putting forward: that the officers had some obligation to act as moving targets for the young man before they fired. Even if one somehow believes that the officers are well-paid enough that they should willingly submit to live fire from bad guys, then it ignores the reality that we want those officers to stop shooters before they have a chance to cause even more damage. If it had been a real weapon and the man had started gunning down cops, the potential loss of life starts spreading far beyond this one young man and the officers on the scene.

The officers used their best judgement in a difficult situation. We don’t know what information they had, we don’t have a clear view of the situation from behind out monitors and keyboards, and we don’t know what those officers were faced with when they pulled triggers.

Certainly there are questions that need to be answered. Airsoft guns and toy guns are now sold with brightly colored bits to make them easily distinguishable from the real things; was Miller’s fake gun modified or otherwise indistinguishable from the real thing? Should the officers have used “less than lethal” options like a TASER? Did they know that the young man’s brother had called to let them know that it wasn’t a real weapon?

Miller’s family must be facing a wild array of emotions. Guilt, sadness, and anger all mixed in, I would imagine, and I hope I never have to do anything more than imagine. The pain must be overwhelming. Without a good understanding of what happened that day, though, it’s irresponsible to be saying what those officers should or shouldn’t have done; first find the fact, then make judgements.

Frank Ocean

Frank Ocean

For the record, this was a much braver step than anything Anderson Cooper could have said or done in announcing his sexual orientation. With Cooper, the reaction was predictable: he’s a white guy working in television and the son of Gloria Vanderbilt. His sexual orientation had been a matter of speculation for years. Not only was no one surprised, but there was very little danger in his admission.

Frank Ocean, on the other hand, is a black man whose industry (black, urban music) has been dominated by misogyny and homophobia. It was a real risk to his career to admit to having had same sex relationships.

Hollywood makes “brave” movies about sexuality and race all the time. They pat themselves on the back for their “bravery,” they give themselves awards to celebrate their bold statements, and never seem to recognize that there was nothing particularly brave about, say, Brokeback Mountain. It was a good movie, amazingly well-acted, and well-directed, but it wasn’t a risky career move for anyone involved. It was a play for awards and critical praise from the audience that mattered: the filmmakers’ peers.

Frank Ocean’s peers haven’t, in the past, shown such an open mind to homosexuality in their ranks. From

I have to give Frank Ocean his props for coming out of the closet and announcing to the world that he’s a gay man. While he’s not a Hip-Hop artist as has been asserted in the mainstream, he’s an affiliate. With that said, he’s a representative of the ever-changing times in urban music and general music.

And, reading the comments in that posting, you’ll see the risk that Ocean has taken.

Me, I continue to not care at all about other peoples’ sex lives. As long as they aren’t abusing animals, abusing children, or abusing the unwilling, it doesn’t much matter to me who they sleep with. Generally, I think that these sort of pronouncements should be treated with apathy; if we all cared a little bit less about who other people slept with, the world would be a better place.

This time, though, I’ve got to give some credit to the gentleman for showing some real courage.

Read the rest.

A quick postscript: The same folks on my Twitter feed who were making a big deal out of Anderson Cooper’s announcement last week are strangely silent about this. I would confess to disappointment, but I would first have to have been surprised.

Rocky Mountain Blogger Bash: The World Revenge Tour (Updated)

Beer Bottles and a Bug

We few, we happy few will be gathering to celebrate friendship and bloggery. We haven’t done one of these things in a while, and it seems like a good time to re-acquaint ourselves with each other (and drink a few shots).

Please share the date and encourage friends and family to join us. Because they might just buy a round of shots.

7pm – Close, 21 July 2012
The Old Mill Brewery & Grill, Littleton, CO

Please RSVP. I will be updating regularly over the next few weeks with links to the folks who will be attending.

Rocky Mountain Blogger Bash 2012
Rocky Mountain Blogger Bash 2012
Rocky Mountain Blogger Bash 2012
Rocky Mountain Blogger Bash 2012

Comic Sans: It Just Ain’t Funny

A Little Something Font Related

Font snobs rejoice: the hour of your triumph is nigh.

For many of us, the most shocking revelation to come out of CERN’s Higgs boson announcement today was quite unrelated to the science itself. Rather, we were blown away by the fact that a team made up of some of the most undoubtedly brilliant people in the world believe that Comic Sans is an appropriate font for such a historic occasion.

C’mon, font snobs, you can’t expect a roomful of Sheldons to choose the right font for their presentation (although you should be surprised if you find out that they don’t have an opinion on the subject).

As for me, my favorite font of the moment is Avenir. Tasty.

Read the rest.

(PS- Credit where due: this article brought to my attention by the great Matt Moore, formerly Big Hair Matt, formerly the guy who ran The Blog of the Century of the Week.)

The Muppets: 10 Point Review (With Preamble)


I was a huge Muppets fan when I was a kid. I mean, except for Miss Piggy; she was just a Muppety bitch. I would happily laugh my way through Pigs in Space, anything the Swedish Chef wanted to cook up, Beaker’s essential beakerness, and Animal’s drumming. Awesome stuff.

Point being: you’d have a hard time finding someone who wanted this year’s The Muppets to be a success.

It wasn’t.

To the ten-point

  1. There are a few funny moments, but, boy, are they well-spaced through the movie.
  2. The voices are wildly uneven. Fozzy and Miss Piggy, especially, seem to be wrong. It’s a somewhat forgivable sin, all things considered, but it is distracting at times.
  3. Worse than the voices, by far, is the bad timing. Making people laugh is an amazingly hard job; delivery and timing are often more important than the jokes. The pacing is rough throughout.
  4. That shouldn’t be used to let the writers off the hook, though. It simply doesn’t have that special spark of something that made the show so popular for so long. It just doesn’t connect.
  5. I did enjoy the chicken’s take on CeeLo’s “Forget (ahem) You”…
  6. …And the wide range of cameos.
  7. I’m going to ignore the “evil oilman” plot not just because it was obvious, but because it was stupid. The re-introduction of the Muppets deserved something better than a lame clichè.
  8. The whole thing lacked energy. Even Jack Black, typically a walking, talking advertisement against the dangers of speed, looked uninterested.
  9. Not enough Statler and Waldorf.
  10. Fans of the show deserved better. So disappointing.

Don’t bother.

Anderson Cooper: Out and About

Anderson Cooper

I’m glad that Anderson Cooper finally feels comfortable talking about who he prefers to sleep with. What I can’t figure out is why so many people care.

The host of “AC360” and “Anderson” has never publicly confirmed that detail about his private life before, but he’s never denied it, either. Cooper’s sexual orientation has long been an open secret, but it took an Entertainment Weekly cover story about gay celebrities to prompt the newsman to finally come out.

Because, seriously, unless you think you have a shot, it really doesn’t matter, does it?

Rental Review: The Grey

The Grey

I rented The Grey with low expectations. In fact, the only reasons I watched it were that Liam Neeson is almost always worth watching and I thought it might be a nice background diversion while I did other things. And low expectations are nice precisely because they leave room for you to appreciate a thing on its own merits instead of in comparison to unrealistic expectations. It was undoubtedly a better movie than I expected.

Before continuing, I have to acknowledge the negatives: the animatronics are distractingly bad at times, the acting is uneven, and, yes, the portrayal of wolves is nothing like the reality of our fine, furry brethren. Wolves don’t actually go around hunting folks and aren’t particularly vindictive.

But that doesn’t matter a bit. The wolves are merely a framing device that brings together the various aspects of its movie. At its core, The Grey is a Jack London-esque survival story that also encompasses elements of horror (the wolves being, essentially, ghosts) with a thread of philosophical questioning that runs throughout. It is simply told, but it is most certainly not a simple movie.

That isn’t to say that this is some Zen koan; there is tension, blood, and violence happily occupying that bit of the viewer’s mind, but there is a depth and sadness to it that probably wouldn’t have worked so well without Neeson’s expressive face and talent. The beginning of the film, an introduction to Neeson’s roughneck character working in wildest Alaska, we see a character steeped in an unexplained, brutal sadness.

When Neeson’s character, Ottway, is left stranded with a group of other roughnecks. Ottway, who had been ready to let go of life, is transformed into a man struggling to live. And the movie plays this so well: with rising tension shot through with moments of silence and visions of the absolute, desolate beauty of Alaska. And through it all, we are invited to consider man’s urge to survive, the presence (or absence) of God in our lives, and what it means to face death– both our own and that of those that we love. Indeed, it’s in those quieter moments that the movie finds its real power.

It is undermined a bit with its basic horror movie structures wherein characters are lost in a serial, and predictable, way. This is unfortunate because the movie does provide some edge-of-the-seat moments and tense action. Even worse, some of those deaths are surprisingly affecting. While a couple of the characters are killed off in standard, gruesome ways, some of them are given more dignity and meaning in their passing. Watching these characters– characters that the director strives to treat like real individuals instead of the kinds of cardboard cutouts that inhabit secondary roles in similar movies– struggle so hard for life only to succumb to a brutal world is breathtaking. Heartbreaking, in fact, but also instructional.

This is a movie doesn’t treat its characters with kindness. It is pitiless and struggle doesn’t guaranty any kind of happy result. In fact, it would be easy to read it as a repudiation of the idea of God; in a world with this kind of unfeeling and cruel, where could God possibly fit? At one point in the movie, when Ottway is screaming for a sign or a glimpse of God, his cries aren’t met with rainbows or signs from heaven.

I concede my biases as a Christian and it isn’t an explicitly religious movie, but I would consider that an overly easy reading of the film. There are hints and glimpses of God throughout, but the God presented isn’t one that rescues the roughnecks from all their mortal woes. He does, though, bring grace and peace.

The Grey is a gorgeously shot moviewith a surprisingly thoughtful side. It isn’t what I expected and, in most ways, it is better. Its ending might not suit all comers and folks expecting straight up action or horror will be disappointed. While it is let down here and there by an imperfect script and bad acting in some of the supporting roles, while it falls into a trap of predictability in some of its plotting, and while some of the wolf effects are inexcusably bad, there is a worthwhile core and a grasp at something meaningful that disarmed me.

Bottom Line: It’s a movie that wants very much to be more than just a genre exercise, and it fulfills that goal. There is something worthwhile here, but I’m left believing that the market for a horror-survival movie with regular philosophical meanderings is relatively small. Anyone who fits that demographic should find value. Folks looking for unrelenting gore and action are bound to be disappointed.