27 January 2006

Values, Economics and My Love-Hate Relationship with David Brooks

At work I have full access to every newspaper imaginable - a HUGE perk. However, my dedication to this blog made me become a TimesSelect member last month so that I could cut and paste op-ed columns from the NYTimes into my blog and comment for your reading enjoyment. As usual, it is a David Brooks column that has me thinking (every leftist's favorite conservative), but I don't have much to share other than his words. I am curious what you all think of his article so feel free to comment...

The second half of David Brooks' column in the NYTimes for January 27th starts here:
Smart Democratic analysts are also taking another
look at values issues. There has been a tendency in
Democratic circles to regard values as a sideshow that
Republicans use to fool the working class into voting
against its self-interest.

But over the past year the Democratic polling firm of
Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner has noted that voters don't
separate values issues from economic issues. They use
values issues as stand-ins and figure the candidates
they associate with traditional morality are also the
ones with sensible economic policies.

In the current issue of The American Prospect, Garance
Franke-Ruta also notes the interplay between values
and economic issues. "Traditional values have become
aspirational," she writes. "Lower-income individuals
simply live in a much more disrupted society, with
higher divorce rates, more single moms, more
abortions, and more interpersonal and interfamily
strife, than do the middle- and upper-middle-class
people they want to be like."

With these sentiments, Democrats seem to be moving
away from materialistic determinism. In past decades,
Democratic political campaigns have been based
primarily on appeals to economic interests. But
especially in the information age, social values and
cultural capital shape a person's economic destiny
more than the other way around.

If you are a middle-class woman, you have more to fear
from divorce than from outsourcing. If you have a
daughter, you're right to worry more about her having
a child before marriage than about her being a victim
of globalization. This country's prosperity is
threatened more by homes where no one reads to
children than it is by big pharmaceutical companies.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan observed that the core
conservative truth is that culture matters most, and
that the core liberal truth is that government can
reshape culture. But liberals have turned culturally
libertarian. Afraid to be judgmental about things like
family structure, they've dropped out of the core
values debate.

Conservatives, especially evangelicals, have had free
rein to offer their own recipe for social renewal:
churches that restrain male selfishness, decency
standards that check hedonism, social norms that
discourage childbearing outside wedlock.

Middle-class Americans feel social anxiety more
acutely than economic anxiety because they understand
that values matter most. Democrats are beginning to
understand this, too.

26 January 2006

Quick Update

I have failed to mention that a few days ago I found out my paper, "Pragmatism and Its Limitations: Chicago Sociologists, Protestant Missionaries and The Survey of Race Relations" has been accepted into the Whisett Conference on California history. The conference will take place in late March at CSU Northridge. I am both excited and scared out of my mind. I have to reorient myself with the research and historiography involved in my paper. But it is a great opportunity even though it will stress me out for the next month and a half. In related news, they want a short bio and picture for their publicity announcement. Unfortunately, I realized I don't have a single picture that doesn't involve party tops, smoky eye makeup or the video conferencing camera on my computer at work.

In other news, per my request, Caely (my friend and the Events Coordinator at work) will no longer be purchasing Coke products for our receptions and luncheons. Yay for baby steps...

I am off to Redding to attend my dad's retirement party this weekend. Update to follow shortly.

23 January 2006

VT Does Not Stand For Vermont: A DC Round-Up

Yesterday morning (A little over a week ago by the time I am finally publishing this article) I took an early flight from DC to Oakland, arriving just in time for work. I owe Kim not only for a great weekend, but for driving me to the Dulles airport at 4:30 in the morning. While I got to sleep for the next few hours on the plane, Kim had to go directly to work. Needless to say, she has informed me that it is time I graduate from Dulles to Reagan National, the slightly more expensive airport ten minutes from her house.

Thursday night I took a red-eye to DC, carrying two bags of luggage and one carry-on bag filled with pollo asado burritos and a chicken quesadilla from La Burrita on Berkeley’s southside. As a vegetarian, this was an indication of my love for Kim and also my deepest sympathy that she is unable to find a good burrito on the east coast (white rice doesn’t cut it). My Friday began at 7am (4am PST) and included quite a few large coffees, a nap or two, a tour of the Capitol Building. Kim’s friend Rachael led us into the Capitol rotunda and then onto the House floor where we sat discussing important political issues of the day including Barbara Boxer’s sanity, the Congressional leadership transition, as well as the state of TomKat and other pertinent Hollywood gossip. The day continued with a jeans shopping adventure (I bought jeans with a tapered leg!) and a night of “cosmic bowling” at a new DC bowling alley that came complete with a full bar and dress code.

Saturday we thankfully slept in, worked out at Kim’s gym (it’s a miracle), went to see Brokeback Mountain, had dinner with Laura (the one Cal Forester I didn’t meet in Berkeley) and then went out dancing in Adams Morgan, courtesy of Diet Red Bull. Brokeback was both sad and thought provoking, not a good pre-party video (like say Dirty Dancing), and Kim and I were baffled as usual by our inclination to discuss poverty and homophobia at dinner followed soon after by a vapid and self-absorbed marathon party top try-on/make-up application session. But I think those of us with this tendency know that we would be of little use in our chosen fields of interest if we did not know how to effectively unwind. And unwind we did, until Kim’s kick-ball friend got asked to leave the bar (he got too drunk in his devastation over the Patriots’ loss, the presence of Kim’s new man, and last but not least, his inability to remember what the “VT” in my screen name “LeaVT” stood for) at which time we cabbed back to his place (they won’t take us straight back to Capitol Hill from Adams Morgan – bad memories from my last trip ensue) and stayed up way too late making fun of him and his roommate and their libertarian world views. Pardon the excessive parentheses. By 4:30am we were safe and sound back in Kim’s room abusing the digital camera and falling quickly to sleep.

Sunday was chill, mostly because Saturday night was so crazy. Shockingly we did not make it to the gym that day and subsequently tabled the work-out concept for the duration of the trip. We “metroed” out to George Washington University and then walked to Georgetown. Halfway through our outing I thought we were going to succumb to late-onset hangovers but we persevered by way of a mid-afternoon snack at an adorable café. Europe is to the United States what Georgetown is to most of California – a reminder of how young the latter is by comparison. The cobbled streets and signs that read “since 1700-something” were quite a sight. It was restaurant week in DC, so Libby, Kim and I had reservations at a refined establishment for dinner. I am unfortunately feeling I need to revise my usual, “don’t worry, I can find something vegetarian” statement as there was officially one vegetarian item on the entire menu. Libby and Kim had mussels and steak respectively, while I ate a miniscule portion of very yummy vegetables for dinner. When the chocolate mousse came out for dessert, however, my appetite was quickly satiated – and the waiter was cute with an adorable English accent – so ‘twas all good. We quickly returned home to catch Desperate Housewives and Grey’s Anatomy and enjoyed a restful evening.

Monday we ate at Cap Lounge, where many a DC hangover has been nursed. Thankfully, we were in great shape after a night in of TV watching. Unfortunately the National Archives were closed for MLK Jr. day, so I have still yet to see the Declaration of Independence, but instead we went to the postal museum. Kim learned more than she ever wanted to know about my childhood hobby (I have now been to both the US and Swedish postal museums in the past year – NERD ALERT!) but she actually enjoyed herself. We proceeded to make and send postcards for the next hour at one of the stations (most likely geared towards people half our age), unfortunately I know two addressed by heart, so most of you are out of luck. Afterwards we took a walk down The Mall until we reached the new WWII memorial. At this time Libby picked us up and drove us back to Georgetown where they forced me to get my ears pierced. I kid, they challenged me too it Friday night and I promised I would do it. So, fifteen years after most people pierce their ears, and five years after I pierced my belly-button, my ears are finally adorned with small cubic zirconium “diamonds.” After another yummy dinner we were about to rush home to watch The Bachelor when we discovered Libby’s car had been towed. Around this point my plane fears started to set back in, and the realization that my trip was ending both relieved me (I needed tofu and yogurt desperately) and made me sad (come back to the West coast Kim!).

DC is an interesting place. I can say after two visits that while I enjoy visiting Kim, I could not see myself living there unless I was in school. It is fascinating to meet so many politically-oriented young people in the same place. However, I realize upon meeting them that I am not necessarily politically-minded. I will never be a master-mingler, and while I may think of myself as a pragmatist, I will never be a realist. Kim always mentions that in DC people are currency. For me, ideas remain currency – and so long as that is the case, I realize I belong in academic towns where books not votes rule.


As many of you know, the city of Redding commissioned a bridge by the now famous Santiago Calatrava who is also designing the new transportation hub at the WTC's Ground Zero. Reactions to the bridge in Redding have varied. Many feel the bridge has been a huge waste of taxpayer/foundation money, however, some have come around since the Sundial Bridge opened a few years ago. My father specifically went from skeptic to believer and now joins my mom in hoping I will choose this location for my wedding (they are just a tad ahead of themselves). But Calatrava's design have been both lauded and criticized recently in both Slate (likened to kitsch) and The New York Review of Books.
So specifically for my Redding readers (there are more of you than anyone else) here is the link to the NYRB article - It is not too often Redding gets a mention in a highbrow publication:

Catch Up

It seems that yet again I am both behind and ahead of myself on the blogging front. I will refrain from making a clichéd reference to how my blogging habits reflect my actual life. While I mull over a longer piece on hip-hop in response to a thoughtful article I read in The Atlantic this month, I also find myself having saved drafts of a few other shorter articles as well as a review of my trip to DC. As I come down with a cold I have been postponing via Airborne for the past month, I am happily taking the night off the gym to nurse my cold, watch the always entertaining Bachelor: Paris Edition and catch up on blogging. Hopefully you will have a lot of happy reading on this front shortly.

12 January 2006

Republicans of a Different Variety

My dad officially retired this past Monday. While I am sure this is shocking enough for him, I too am reeling. Of course I am excited for him as he enters this new stage in his life – however, the feeling that this milestone for my dad also signifies a change in my own life overwhelms me. Yes I did just buy my first tube of Icy Hot earlier today in hopes of soothing a running injury, but I imagined I would also be a little more mature in other ways by the time my parents were retiring. Alas, that is not the case. Now I just have to work on what I will say at my dad’s retirement party/ roast. Right now I am leaning towards leading with an anecdote about when my dad asked my prom date to sign a contract, only to be asked to dance at the prom by a young fire student who wanted to be able to say he danced with Capt. Thompson’s daughter. Shocking I didn’t date more in high school I know…and why am I still single? Ha! But then I guess I will say something nice about his inspirational work ethic, and what it taught me…

Tonight I take a red-eye to Washington DC. As usual I will be medicating myself into an anxiety-free sleep as I cross the continent. Hopefully rested to start a busy Friday when Kim arrives to pick me up at Dulles. I have made a few resolutions for this trip that will remain unspoken. If you know anything about my last trip to see Kim, then you probably know there are two specific occurrences that will not be repeated. And while I got a good introduction to DC’s nightlife last February, I hope to expand beyond Adams Morgan, and hopefully participate in more daytime activities this time around. Plus, this time I don’t have to study all day in Dupont Circle. And while trying to walk in ski slope-like conditions to study while Kim went to work was an experience I will never forget, I will happily bypass the smoke-filled cafes for a day of shopping and a long-awaited trip to see the National Archives. More details regarding my trip are forthcoming… but to give you an idea of what is in store, Kim promises I can meet these elusive people called Republicans (a different variety than the type they have back home in Redding)

08 January 2006

A Genetic Predispostion for Worrying?

It was not so long ago that I was traveling through Europe with my mom, reporting our (mis)adventures in this blog, and inadvertently making my mom’s antics the comic relief to an otherwise more serious blog. Alas, living far from my family has spared them these past few months, that is, until now.

Last month I hosted a Chrismukkah party with Nicki at the home in the Berkeley hills where I live as a high-end squatter. I successfully made bullar (rolls) from Mormor’s recipe, but Nicki made everything else, including the largest vat of chili I have ever seen. For those of you who have the privilege of knowing both my mom and my mormor, you also know that the prospects for me not becoming an anxious worry-wart later in life are not looking so good. I got not one or two, but rather three not so subtle warnings from Mormor regarding the potent nature of Swedish “glogg,” (mulled wine plus vodka) and the importance of limiting one’s guests to one cup. My mom called to ask how party planning was going and to tell me how she has been having to remind Mormor that I am 25 and that most of my guests are older, some even married. However, when I joined my mom in lightly making fun of Mormor’s intense worries (sharing with her, Mormor’s strict one-cup rule), Mom immediately transformed from cool older friend to intense “future Mormor!! How this moment took me back to my trip to Europe. From trying to get me to have a drink with her in Swedish bars to freaking out that my purse was not as secure as her wear-on-her-body money pouch. In this moment I see both the fluctuating relationships between mothers and daughters as well as my own future. I think my New Year’s resolution will be to start yoga again, because as most of my friends will tell you, I am a worry-wart in the making, and my genetic predisposition isn’t helping anything.