Thursday, July 28, 2005


Early yesterday evening, while I sat in Soxblog manor watching the end of the Red Sox game, the doorbell rang. The doorbell ringing to announce the arrival of an uninvited stranger at dinner hour always puts me in a foul mood, not just because I’m slightly anti-social by nature but because one of my dogs reacts to the sound like she’s been tasered and begins barking like an unhinged lunatic.

I went downstairs to see who was there. A lanky shaggy haired fellow who looked to be about 20 years old waited there to greet me. Without being unnecessarily unkind, this guy was something to see. His locks were shoulder length, and he was wearing some sort of Indian necklace. He’s probably shaved twice in his life. He looked for all the world like he had been frozen in ember while attending Woodstock and just brought back to life earlier this week.

He was at my door representing the Sierra Club. As you might imagine, this brightened my mood considerably. There’s nothing I enjoy more at the end of the hottest day of the year than being hectored on my front porch by some putative do-gooder about how we need to save the world from the “plans of the Bush administration.”

He muttered some boilerplate about the ANWR; I asked if caribou meat was tender or tough. He didn’t get the hint. He then told me that there were concerns closer to home. He told me how the western Massachusetts ski area Mt. Wachussets wanted to wipe out a bunch of trees to expand their facilities. Horrifyingly, Governor Romney supported their diabolical plans.

I asked him how many jobs the expansion would create, and wouldn’t that be a factor to consider since Wachussets is in an economically struggling area. He said he didn’t have the slightest idea what the economic impact would be.

Of course he didn’t! Because he’s very young and has complete moral clarity! The caribou and the trees are all that matter; anything and everything else is irrelevant.

I wasn’t planning on writing on about this front porch rendezvous because, as I told my visitor last night, I really respected him for having the courage of his convictions, even if those convictions weren’t quite my taste. It was about a zillion degrees here in Boston yesterday (no exaggeration) with 97% humidity – hardly ideal pavement pounding conditions. And even people who might be more politically simpatico with this youngster than I am still tend not to enjoy dinner time interruptions. But he was out there alone knocking on doors – that’s admirable even if the underlying reasons for knocking on those doors is dubious.

But then I read this thing about the space shuttle this morning. I didn’t know this until a few minutes ago, and I bet you didn’t either: As you may recall, the Columbia disaster was caused by foam peeling off from the main fuel tank. But what I didn’t know is this is a new problem, relatively speaking. In 1997, environmental regulations (the ominously named Montreal Protocol) dictated a change in foam. To oversimplify things slightly, the new foam sucked and continues to suck until this very day. It’s suckage has been a known fact since it’s first use.

But to some people the environmental concerns were all that mattered. I’ll be the first to admit I’m nowhere near well informed enough on space shuttle foam to render an enlightened opinion on the subject. It’s entirely possible there are contrary arguments about why the environmentally preferable foam is just bitchin’ in all regards and I’m just not aware of them.

But I do know plenty about what happens when you’re so convinced of your moral virtue that you cease to take the rest of the world’s various realities into account. Like the new foam on the shuttle apparently, it sucks.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Dean Barnett

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


What follows might unintentionally veer into the realm of political incorrectness. If it causes offense, please accept my apologies. Soxblog loves all people (although we must confess a special fondness for busty blonde people).

Late this afternoon, the Pew Research Center came out with a poll that asked the American populace about religion. First the good news – Americans remain a good-hearted people. This doubtlessly surprised nobody, except for maybe the haughty types who constantly belittle Americans as boob-tube watching, Wal-Mart shopping, NASCAR obsessing rubes. You know, college professors and United States Senators from the north-east.

A full 55% of Americans have a favorable view of Muslim Americans, up from 51% the last time the poll was taken and from 41% in March of 2002. While the 55% might not seem that hot when compared with the 77% who view Jewish Americans favorably or the 73% who take a shine to our nation’s Catholics, it’s pretty damn close to the 57% who look fondly upon Evangelicals. So it’s good news for Islam – while you’re still in last, you’re number 4 with a bullet!

On behalf of all other Jews, let me first say this to my fellow Americans: We’re honored – I’m blushing. And I’ll even add a boastful Homer Simpson style “We’re Number 1!!!” And thanks for ignoring all that “neo-con” nonsense uttered by the left and that “descendants of pigs and monkeys” crap that comes out of the Middle East.

To my Evangelical readers, what can I say? You guys obviously need a new press agent. I blame your poor poll results on the constant drumbeat of negative media coverage that you get. Obviously you’ve made a huge tactical mistake in not claiming victim status. Maybe if the price is right, you could get CAIR to serve as a consultant. Just thinking out loud here.

But here’s the part that really makes you want to slap the poll’s respondents silly. When asked whether Islam was more likely to encourage violence than other religions, incredibly only a miniscule 36% of the respondents said yes. This is pretty amazing. Is it really a slam on Islam if you happen to notice that the vast majority of terror incidents committed over the past several years have been committed by the religion’s practitioners?

While I really shouldn’t have to say this, in the interests of self-preservation I will: Obviously not all Muslims are terrorists. Obviously only a teensy-tiny portion of Muslims are terrorists. But, and the following is not really deniable, a high percentage of terrorists are Muslims. Facts are facts.

The poll begs the following question: Were the respondents so strait-jacketed by political correctness that they didn’t want to speak their minds, or are they really unaware of the empirical data on the subject or maybe just unable to process it.

Or maybe they were thinking like the New York Times editorial board, which while tepidly endorsing bag searches on New York’s subways made it clear that its principal concern was that the NYPD not do anything that might bear a tincture of racial profiling.

Is America capable of the intellectual honesty necessary to fight this war? This poll provides little comfort in that regard.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Dean Barnett

Thursday, July 21, 2005


It was July of 1987. U2’s “Joshua Tree” was dominating the radio while a young Joe Piscopo was teaching a nation how to laugh. And the country was in the throes of “Olliemania.”

Partisan Democrats thought they were going to have a field day with Oliver North when he testified on his central role in the Iran/Contra affair. The most optimistic among them even thought they might be able to impeach Reagan based on North’s testimony.

It didn’t work out that way. In fact, North’s testimony worked powerfully in the other direction. For a week he ran circles around his Senate interrogators.

The solons inveighed that he had accepted an illegal gratuity. North claimed he only did so to buy a security system for his home. Such a system was necessary, North said, because terror master-mind (and later permanent guest of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq) wanted North dead. North went on to challenge Nidal to meet him man to man on any street corner in the world. America loved it.

Perhaps the signature moment of the hearings came when one of the Senators asked North why he didn’t question the legality of one of President Reagan’s orders. North responded with words to the following effect: “When this Marine gets an order from his Commander in Chief, he doesn’t question it.”

Showing up to the hearings in his “fruit salad” bedecked uniform, North made quite a contrast to the Senators who were doing the grilling. None of this is meant to defend (or even engage) the substantive issues that surrounded Oliver North’s behavior in the Iran/Contra scandal or the accuracy of his testimony. My sole point is that America, for the moment, fell in love with him. You could hardly walk by a clothing store without seeing “Ollie for President” t-shirts on prominent display.

A few months after North’s testimony, there was to be another incendiary Senate grilling broadcast on live national TV. Robert Bork was Reagan’s controversial nominee for the Supreme Court, and Ted Kennedy and his posse were hell bent on borking him. Before the hearings, a conventional wisdom developed: The Bork hearings will go like the North testimony. The wise judge will run circles around the relatively moronic senators. After all, on paper, Robert Bork vs. Ted Kennedy and Joe Biden seemed like an intellectual mismatch for the ages. There were predictions that Borkamania would sweep the land as Olliemania had a short while earlier.

But it didn’t work out that way. Expectation for the jurist were way too high. Bork looked and acted like a slightly eccentric law professor, which is to say he didn’t resonate with the public the way a highly decorated macho-talking marine did. The people didn’t warm to him. David Letterman made Top 10 lists making fun of his beard. And he went down.

With the Roberts hearings, we’re going to have precisely the opposite dynamic in effect. The Democrats are going to demonize him as an arrogant, aloof, rich, extremist, corporatist, anti-environment, anti-criminal rights (have I left anything out?) scumbag. These characteristics will be portrayed as especially distasteful since they come wrapped in the odious package of a white male.

But this time it truly is a mismatch. This time the Supreme Court nominee is telegenic and comfortable with public speaking. Not only is he lot smarter than his judiciary committee antagonists (faint praise, I know), he’s also more articulate and a more embraceable presence (in the case of Ted Kennedy, literally).

Try as they might, this one will not be borked.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Dean Barnett

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


Let me start a little personal today, and then we’ll make it a little more global.

If I do say so myself, my Weekly Standard piece has been quite well received in the right wing half of the blogosphere. Unfortunately, there’s a flip side to that coin – they’re none to fond of it on the left wing side.

That’s okay – you can’t please all the people all of the time. But one response especially caught my eye; it was the one written by The MyDD’s Chris Bowers, perhaps the most thoughtful and mature of the prominent left wing bloggers.

If you want a compelling counter-argument to my piece, read Chris’. I don’t agree with him at all, but he says what he has to say well. I’m not going to take the time to counter his arguments; my original article was some 2500 words so I’ve already had my say.

But there was one thing that especially leapt out at me from Chris’s piece. At one point he writes, “I find Barnett's view of political organization to be overly linear, short-sighted, and either ignorant or purely dishonest.”

I’ll give Chris some help here – not only am I ignorant and purely dishonest, there’s a lot of other shitty things about me. I needlessly leave dishes in the sink when I should just put them in the dishwasher, and I don’t call my mother nearly often enough. Not only that, I drive an SUV.

But the question is, why is Chris unable to disagree with my thesis without engaging in an ad hominem attack? I think this has become the biggest problem for the 21st century Democratic party. They can’t just disagree with someone; they have to make the leap that the person that they’re disagreeing with is bad. They seemingly can’t allow for the possibility that a person with different viewpoints is still acting in good faith.

How does this happen to a person? I think it comes from a lack of exposure to diversity. Seriously.

In my business life, my biggest client was the law firm that represented the Army in the Army-McCarthy hearings (you know, “Have you no shame?”). They weren’t exactly a hotbed of conservatism. Other clients openly boasted about their progressive politics. And yet we got to know each other and respect each other. They didn’t care for my “W” apparel, but they considered me neither ignorant nor dishonest. And the feeling was mutual

But if you’ve lived your life in a way that you’ve never been exposed to the fact that those who disagree with your politics don’t necessarily have horns, then maybe that obvious truth has never occurred to you. Therein lies the danger of the ever-larger and more soundproof echo chamber that the left wing is building for itself.

So as John Roberts goes through the wringer the next month or so, we all know a few things. His political opponents won’t concede he is a decent man whose views they happen not to share. Instead, the epithets will be flying fast and furious. I’d wager you’ll hear the term “extremist” mentioned a time or two.

The problem is that as this has become standard operating procedure for the Democratic party and its surrogates, the country has tuned it out. After all, all but the most committed partisans know that 51% of the country can’t be “extremists” who won’t sleep soundly at night until back-alley abortions become the norm. And yet literally every politician who has run afoul of the Democratic party’s sensibilities has been personally attacked. The attacks have come in such quantity and with such volume, they have completely lost their ability to shock the electorate.

So when Ted Kennedy thunders that John Roberts is an extremist and a danger to society, the country will groan if it shows any reaction at all. After all, so was Bush, Cheney, Gonzales, Rumsfeld, Rove, Novak…

If attacked on substance, who knows, maybe Roberts could be defeated. But the Democrats won’t do that – those who oppose him will make it personal. And they’ll lose. Again.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Dean Barnett

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


From deep inside the left wing echo chamber, the beast offers a hearty groan.

Sunday’s Boston Globe reported that Ted Kennedy, Massachusetts’ other Senator, is gleefully looking forward to leading the charge against the president’s Supreme Court nominee, whomever he or she shall be. Teddy’s obviously jazzed, and his cheerleaders in the media are obviously equally jazzed. But one has to wonder, is the Democratic party really willing to ride shotgun with Ted K. behind the wheel?

While the party itself has yet to be heard on the issue, the Boston Globe has already clambered on board. The Globe excitedly excepted a speech Kennedy made last week: “‘The American people deserve to know whether nominees would roll back civil rights laws, or uphold the rights of the disabled, the elderly, and minorities,’ Kennedy thundered on Wednesday.” The fact that Kennedy was “thundering” seems somewhat redundant. At this stage in his life, Kennedy “thunders” when he demands the waitress bring his third whiskey sour.

The whole Globe article is a wonderful exercise in liberal nostalgia. The Globe and the Senator fondly recall when Kennedy helped irrevocably drive American politics into the gutter when he led the Borking of Robert Bork in 1987. The Globe oddly refers to the sickening smear of Bork as “one of (Kennedy’s) proudest moments.” Then again, the competition for being one of Ted Kennedy’s proudest moments can’t be particularly tough. The ever astute Globe notes that “there is a part of Kennedy that would appear to relish a fight.”

(I would be remiss if I didn’t note that the story ran accompanied by a photo of the Senator being flanked by his comrade in nepotistic narcissism, Senator Chris Dodd. The picture no doubt triggered a storm of horrific memories for a number of former Georgetown area waitresses.)

Even with all this fun about to transpire as Ted Kennedy prepares to lead the charge against Bush’s Supreme Court nominee, the Globe had to go be a wet towel and notice a fly in the ointment. The Globe timidly suggests that there is a possibility that Ted Kennedy becoming the public face of the Democratic party for the next political fortnight might not be in the party’s best interests.

As the kids might say, duh! Outside the liberal echo chamber, everyone knows that Ted Kennedy is a national joke. Let’s put it this way: There are only two Senators in the country famous enough to routinely be a punch-line on late night TV; one used to be the first lady, the other is the pride of Massachusetts. Outside the liberal echo chamber, Ted Kennedy is known first, foremost, and exclusively as a moral reprobate. Make no mistake – this is a reputation he came about the old fashioned way. He earned it.

But what’s especially funny about the Globe story is the way it implies that there is only a chance that Kennedy leading the charge might not be good for the party’s national image. To support this purportedly unlikely possibility, the Globe must travel to an exotic locale to find a Kennedy doubter. In a land called Kentucky, it turns out that the Chairman of the state Democrats isn’t particularly sanguine about Ted Kennedy returning to prime-time.

What I love about this story and the Globe’s journey to Kentucky to find an anti-Kennedy voice is the way it suggests that there are no Democrats on the eastern seaboard who are in close enough contact with reality to realize that Ted Kennedy should not be their spokesman. Without regurgitating any more of the past than the “waitress sandwich” allusion from above, Ted Kennedy is not a respected public figure. And with good cause.

This is the problem when you conduct your politics in an echo-chamber. The feelings of the real world, which is infinitely bigger than your comparably tiny echo chamber, tend to be forgotten. Really now, do you have to be from Kentucky to realize that Ted Kennedy should not be the Democrats’ most prominent spokesman?

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Dean Barnett

Friday, July 15, 2005


As most of you have probably discovered by now, I have a piece up on the Standard’s website. I love this piece; if you haven’t read it, I encourage you to do so.

The work, however, has engendered four misunderstandings that I just want to address. Before doing so, let me say that this is not an attempt to answer my critics but to in good faith respond to a few things that have caused annoyance:

1) I wrote: “Indeed, there is little doubt that the habitués of the Daily Kos, like their hated cousins who read popular conservative blogs such as Power Line and Little Green Footballs, live in very different worlds than their friends and neighbors. Blog readers are typically voracious gatherers of news.”

This was in no way meant as an insult to LGF or Powerline readers (or to Kos readers for that matter – the insults to them came later in the article). I was just observing that blog readers are so much better informed than even the typically well informed person, they’re outliers.

An example: The other night my brother and I were out to dinner with six other well educated and intelligent people. (You know who you were.) During the dinner, my brother and I began discussing Byron York’s article from the previous day. We had not discussed it before, but we both assumed the other had seen it and was familiar with it. It was about Valerie Wilson and Karl Rove – I bet you all know the article we were talking about, too.

No one else at the table had the foggiest idea what we were discussing. We may as well have been conversing in Aramaic. I would wager 2 to 1 none of them had never even heard of Byron York (poor benighted creatures). Blog readers, and bloggers also of course, are just different.

But this is being different in a good way. The hygiene and the cat-food consumption are topics for another day.

2) I wrote: “While conservative blogs remain for the most part virtual op-ed columns (with the notable exception of Charles Johnson's Little Green Footballs), the Daily Kos has become a virtual family which allows readers to write their own blogs-within-the-blog (called diaries) and to engage in limitless amounts of commenting.”

Some LGF readers thought this was a slam. I wrote Charles and asked him to assure his audience that that wasn’t the case; he suggested that he would open registration for me and that I could do it myself. I jumped at the opportunity. If you’re interested, check out comment #78 on the thread.

3) There was a Kos diary responding to the piece that was none-too-pleased with it. Because this paragraph is mainly for Kos readers, I’ll go slowly here. The point of the piece wasn’t that you or the other bloggers are doing anything wrong. Sure, you’re obscene but I find that tendency to be colorful. And sure you’re shrill and angry, but I believe the Constitution explicitly protects your right to blog in such a fashion. In other words, to put it in the vulgar patois that you favor, you can express yourselves however you want – I don’t give a fuck. Frankly, I think you’re a constructive force for the Democratic party as long as the party elders remember to keep you at the “Kids Table” until your manners improve.

The thesis of the article was that the Democrats’ putative grown-ups should act like grown-ups rather than mimic you and constantly engage in the political equivalent of food fights. Instead, they’ve all become like Louise Slaughter and that Conyers guy with the hard to remember first name. Whether the Kossacks know it or not, that’s really bad news for the Democratic party.

4) One more thing that needs clearing up: Every time there’s a story in the Standard on the Daily Kos, a meme sweeps through the community that the Standard and therefore the conservative establishment is “scared” of the Daily Kos. Sorry to break it to you Kidz – it just ain’t so.

I may be wrong, but I think you guys are a powerful force in taking the Democratic party ever further to the left. That means the Democrats will lose more elections by wider margins. I also think the political style you’re pioneering (think the Howard Dean scream minus the dignity) will not be conducive to electoral triumphs.

But hey, maybe I’m wrong and you’re right. We’ll talk about it in Vegas at the Yearly Kos.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Dean Barnett

Thursday, July 14, 2005


I LAUNCH THIS ESSAY with a little trepidation. See, on the one hand you have your Charles Krauthammers. Krauthammer, as you may or may not know, has been paralyzed since an accident he had a few decades ago. Krauthammer is also the gold standard for columnists and political writers – sharp and insightful, the man practically oozes gravitas. Krauthammer hardly ever mentions his health challenges which are no doubt legion.

And then on the other hand you have your Andrew Sullivans. Like Krauthammer, Sullivan is a gifted writer. And also like Krauthammer, Sullivan has significant health issues – Sullivan has AIDS. But unlike Krauthammer, Sullivan relentlessly catalogues his health travails in an often embarrassing fashion. Sullivan’s blog, partly because of his willingness to be too personal too often, has become a tedious exercise in narcissism and writerly self-indulgence.

So, in offering what’s about to come, I want to be sure that I stay on the Krauthammer side of things.

As most of you know, I have Cystic Fibrosis (CF), a genetic lung disease. As few of you know, yesterday was my 38th birthday, which makes me pretty old for a guy with CF. Because most of my loyal readers are aware of my health issues, any unscheduled absences from the blogosphere on my part tend to trigger some concern in Soxblog nation.

I know this because I receive a small avalanche of email each day I don’t post asking me if I’m okay. I really appreciate those messages – as I’ve said many times to many different email correspondents, the best part of blogging as opposed to journalism is the relationships that you’re able to develop with members of your audience.

Anyway, I got a few letters during my most recent disappearance suggesting that I should offer my audience a fuller explanation of my health situation. Having thought about that matter at some length, I’ve decided that’s a fair request. After all, you people have endured countless tedious postings on the Daily Kos and John Kerry (an obscure Senator from Massachusetts who once ran for president). It’s fair to say a little payback is in order.

AS I SAID ABOVE, 38 IS OLD for someone with Cystic Fibrosis. Before getting to my current condition, let me talk a bit about my condition when I was a younger man. That’s a subject I like a lot more, anyway.

When I was in my 20’s, I was something to see if I do say so myself. There are over a thousand different genetic variations of CF; I was blessed with having one of the more mild ones. That meant while I wasn’t asymptomatic, my range of activities was pretty much unlimited by the disease.

Besides, I worked out like a nut. I lifted weights and jogged so hard that a friend of mine suggested my running style resembled a “man on fire.” I took great pride in “beating the disease.” I wore a size 44 suit jacket and had a 32” waist. I felt bullet-proof, and looked a little bullet-proof, too.

What I didn’t know then that I do know now is I was just lucky. Perhaps it’s normal to ascribe our good luck to hard work so we feel we deserved it or earned it; on the other hand, we ascribe our bad luck, to, well, bad luck. If so, I was very normal in that regard.

Although I thought my good condition was the just desserts of working out and taking my medicine, I was just a lucky young man. I had the lung function of typically healthy (and very fit) man of my age. Yes, the hard work I put in had a lot to do with the level of fitness I enjoyed. The typical healthy 27 year old can’t run 5 miles in 35 minutes or bench press 245 pounds six times – I could.

But the fact that I enjoyed good enough health to engage in such pursuits in the first place was lucky. The genetic variation I had of the disease meant I would be healthy through my 20’s. This was the hand I was dealt back then. Like a lot of people, I tended to credit my run of luck at the table to skill. No sin there, I guess – just garden variety narcissism.

But my luck has turned in my 30’s. Here’s the situation now as I’m closing in on 40: I have a pretty serious disease.

First, the good news – for someone who’s technically in the shape I’m in, I function at an extremely high level. I’m still able to do a few miles on the treadmill (walking now, though – running is a distant memory), lift weights, and golf as long as there’s a cart available to zip me around. If you met me, you wouldn’t take me for an ill person. If you spent a little more time with me, you’d notice I have a cough but probably wouldn’t think anything more dire than that was afoot. You might, however, notice that whenever I have to climb a flight of stairs I make a face that’s similar to the one an eight year old makes when he has to kiss his great aunt, the one who smells like mothballs.

Now the less good news – I’m awaiting a lung transplant which hopefully will extend my life. Most of you are probably unfamiliar with lung transplants, but a little Googling will tell you lung transplants really aren’t a cure for anyone’s underlying condition. What doctors routinely say is that undergoing a lung transplant is trading one disease (your old one like Emphysema or in my case CF) for a new one (the chronic challenge of avoiding rejection of the transplanted lungs). Lung transplants don’t have particularly great shelf lives. Median survival is around five years.

The upside is that a lung transplant gives you a “crack at bat.” You may live two years, you may live fifteen. There’s a strong likelihood that you’ll enjoy better health than you can remember for at least some spell of time. For me, there’s a chance that running seven minute miles isn’t only in my past. That’s very exciting.

SO HERE’S WHAT HAPPENED to make me disappear for the past couple of weeks. I’ve been on the lung transplant list for about a year, but there was no great urgency to go through the process. Like I said, I function pretty highly and immensely enjoy the life I have. Besides, there’s something about having my torso ripped open and my lungs removed that makes me want to delay the procedure for as long as possible. Call me a procrastinator – that’s long been one of my weaknesses anyway (just ask my editors).

Lungs and other organs were (and are) disbursed by a federal government program. Now, whenever the federal government involves itself in matters of life and death, you can expect monumental stupidity.

The government long ago decided that organs would be disbursed exclusively on the basis of how long the patient had spent on the waiting list. The seriousness of one’s illness or the prospects for one’s recovery were incredibly not considered. This was, needless to say, phenomenally obtuse.

First of all, it incentivized everyone involved to “game” the system. If you thought you might need a kidney in three years, your doctor would put you on the list immediately. And then when you got enough time to get to the top of the list, you would de-activate but you would still have those days “in the bank.” Then when you wanted that kidney you would re-activate and zip to the top of the list.

All of which worked out great for you if you gamed the system just right. The problem was you could re-activate yourself and jump over people who were both sicker than you and had greater recovery potential than you simply because you or your doctor had been smart enough to put those “days in the bank” a while back. Like I said, pretty dumb – your government at work.

But shockingly, at the start of this year a mere two decades after organ transplantation became common, the federal government began a new allocation system based on a formula that measured the patient’s need and his likelihood of success. Go figure- the government got something right and it only took twenty years. (Thinking of the Space Shuttle, maybe I should be thankful for this relatively rapid turnaround.)

I didn’t realize it would happen this way, but the new allocation system impacted me profoundly. I got a call three weeks ago that I had become number 5 on the local lung transplant list. That meant it was time for me to begin carrying a beeper and be available 24/7 because the next set of lungs that came up could theoretically belong to me.

This call came out of the blue and was a shock to both me and Mrs. Soxblog. In the past couple of years, if I do say so myself, I had made a pretty nimble adjustment to being physically limited. I had found new hobbies that didn’t require a surfeit of physical energy (like blogging) and had even begun to swallow my pride and admit that I had some physical problems and made appropriate adjustments like getting a handicap placard for my car (which, I might add, is virtually useless in Florida since the placards are so common you have about as much chance as winning the lottery as finding an empty handicap parking space).

The latter part, admitting my difficulties to myself and others, in particular did not come easy. To understand why, you have to know how I’ve made sort of a cottage industry of being screwed up in that regard.

No kid wants to be different than the other children, and while growing up I was normal in that way. But having CF makes you different, so I got in the habit of covering up what made me different. Unfortunately, it was a habit that I never completely got out of. When I took pills before meals, I did so surreptitiously; when a physical therapist visited our house to perform airway clearance and neighborhood friends asked who he was, I would make up something stupid. Even in college, only one friend knew I had CF (even though I had a wealth of health problems during those four years).

So I was something of an idiot. But in my defense, I was very macho and very proud. I still am. Being pitied was the worst thing imaginable to me; it still ranks pretty high on the list of things I’d like to avoid. And I never expected or wanted to be graded on a sliding scale because breathing was tougher for me than other people. If I thought a racquetball opponent was going easy on me because I was short of breath, I would have drilled him in the back of the head. Not that such a thing ever happened.

Still, my attitude was generally unhealthy. But hey, I was young – young people are allowed a little extra license when it comes to being stupid and while at times I may have abused that license, I still did my best.

In recent years, however, I’ve made some positive strides. I’ve become more forthcoming about my condition and adjusted to my physical limitations. I’ve actually been quite enjoying my new life of relative openness and limited physical activity.

Happily married, my days filled up with things I enjoy, I’m a pretty lucky guy and my wife and I are a very happy couple. And because no one knows what course a given CF patient’s disease will take, we had this hope that I could continue in my current fashion “indefinitely.” Which to some extent was true. But there are two sides to “indefinitely,” one of which we didn’t give much consideration to.

The phone call from the lung transplant clinic introduced a hard logic to the equation that had been previously lacking. In my case, the hard logic suggested that my “indefinitely” probably meant not decades but that without a transplant it was likely that I wouldn’t be around for Hilary Clinton’s inaugural and thus would not be spared the bother of turning over in my grave.

The procedure itself isn’t without risk, and while I’m assured the operation is painless that sounds like a bunch of hooey to me. A lifetime of undergoing medical procedures has taught me that most things will hurt as much as common sense dictates they will. For instance, having a tiny needle inserted into the big vein in your arm in order to suck some blood out – you’d figure that wouldn’t hurt that much. On the other hand, a large needle being inserted into a hot nerve in your gum-line to pave the way for a root canal – you’d figure that would smart quite a bit. Having one’s lungs ripped out and replaced by a stranger’s – no amount of convincing will persuade me that’s a walk in the park. But it should be worth it. That’s what the odds say.

So I’ve been preoccupied – not ill, just pre-occupied. Normally I would have been all over the busy news period we’ve had the last few weeks. I’m sure the Karl Rove thing would have especially enraptured me since it’s such a wonderful example of left wing echo chamber thinking. But it wouldn’t overstate things that much to say I just didn’t give a shit. I’ve had other stuff on my mind.

BUT LIFE GOES ON, and now I’m back. It’s time to move on with my new reality. In addition to being back on the blog, I’ve got a lengthy piece coming out on the Standard’s website tomorrow which I think you’ll love and should be pretty provocative (in a good way, not a Larry Summers sort of way).

And I’ll make you this deal – if I go in for the lung transplant I’ll let the Soxblog community know. And if there’s anything else really major that I think you need to know, I’ll post it.

But like I said at the beginning of this essay, I don’t want to become Andrew Sullivan. This will not become a diary of my health woes combined with other personal obsessions. I’d find it boring to write such a thing, and you would find it boring to read.

The letter that partly convinced me to write this essay suggested that I should do something to put everyone’s mind at ease. I have a feeling the foregoing will have the opposite effect. Sorry about that.

But if I have a core philosophical belief, it’s this – look things in the eye. Admit the reality of a situation and deal with it. Sometimes reality isn’t all that we wish it were – no news there, right?

Lord knows I haven’t always practiced my preaching. I’ve hid from the truth and put off “judgment days” with uncommon skill during my life. But those aren’t options now.

So all I can tell you is that things will be normal around here until they’re not anymore. I love doing this blog and I love interacting with my readers, even the cranky liberal ones. I’m going to keep on doing it.


Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Dean Barnett

Wednesday, July 13, 2005


It is a controversial moment. But there’s one think I think we can all agree on – it’s time I get back to blogging.

First, a word about my absence – sorry. Second, a few more words – the absence was occasioned by a confluence of events in other areas of my life. For those who wrote in concerned, let me assure you that all is well and offer my heartfelt thanks. For those who wrote in telling me to get off my ass and get back to writing, I appreciated those letters, too. A lot. For anyone interested in a more detailed explanation, send me an email and we’ll talk.

Now, for the rest of the world:

1) KARL ROVE – Here’s what kills me about this story: The Democrats actually think they have a political winner here. Yes, it’s true that the true left-wing partisans see Rove in their dreams, but most of the country has no idea who he is. Even if it is proven that Rove engaged in some skullduggery here (something that I think is highly unlikely), the electorate has a high tolerance for people they’ve never heard of committing low-level malfeasance. I mean, gosh, it’s not like he looted an S&L, had oral sex in the Oval Office or sucked on a prostitute’s toes and then let her eavesdrop on a conversation he had with the president.

I cite the last incident which of course involved Dick Morris just to show how little these things resonate. It really is 1998 all over again. Going into the mid-term elections, Republicans were comforted by the fact that no second term president had ever done well in the off year election during his final term. So, taking succor from this little piece of knowledge, they figured embarrassing the president and his advisor would surely be enough to register enormous gains. Those with strong memories probably recall this plan didn’t exactly work to perfection.

This whole Rove thing is echo-chamber thinking at its finest. There were a bunch of on-line polls that came out yesterday that said something like 80% of the respondents thought Rove should resign. But just because a bunch of embittered liberals have nothing better to do than prowl the MSNBC website looking for a Rove poll really doesn’t tell us anything. Of course, a scientific poll on the matter would have shown a plurality of respondents saying, “Who the hell is Karl Rove?”

But hey, it has to be a big story, right? The New York Times is covering it exhaustively. And the New York Times wouldn’t cover it exhaustively unless it were something really, really important like getting Carly Fiorina into the Augusta National Club.

This Rove story fits in well with the alternative universe Democrats have been laboring so hard to build for themselves the last few years. Theirs is a world where the president and his minions are evil incarnate and the most obstreperous rhetoric is welcome and needed.

They might want to ask Republicans how a similar strategy worked in 1998.

2) THE SUPREME COURT – There will be a fight – you heard it here last. If George W. Bush nominated put forth Margaret Marshall, the Massachusetts jurist who gave the world gay marriage and is married to long time New York Times crank Anthony Lewis, Marshall would be so tainted by her association with Bush that the left would still oppose her. Such is the current state of our loyal opposition.

It’s a fight worth having.

3) TERRORISM – Terror struck in London last week, which occasioned several analysts to state we’re losing the war on terror. What can you say to such folks? I’m at a loss.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

Dean Barnett