Monday, November 3, 2008

There Can Be Only One!

No, unfortunately Connor MacCleod of the Clan MacCleod is not one of our ballot options. Dude took out the Kurgan--obviously Bin Laden would be no match. Plus, Connor's immortal, so it wouldn't matter how long it took to find him.

Election Day is finally here, such as it is, and there can only be one president. Accordingly, our distinguished panel have submitted their predictions for the final outcome. But before the maps, a few thoughts of my own.

How did we get to this point? "Conservatives" jumping ship to vote for the most liberal major party nominee ever. Open and vociferous mockery of our VP candidate's intelligence (again). Democrat takeover of middle America, and hijacking of major GOP platform planks like tax cuts and responsible budgeting. And most importantly, a well-packaged but unproven youngster's defeat of our stalwart war hero (again). Haven't we learned how to win these things? Haven't we been through some of this?

It's easy to blame the McCain campaign, and say, "That's not the McCain we remember," or "He had a bunch of Bushies advising him to sling mud." But 2008 was not 2000 redux. This is the McCain who lives in a post-9/11 world, a McCain who had a new message for a new situation. We weren't riding highs this time, but worrying about past and future lows. We didn't have a distrusted Dem in the White House to run against, but a wickedly unpopular Republican pres to run away from. And we weren't leading for most of this race, but clawing to stay neck-and-neck. You can bet you would have seen more negativity from Obama if he had been trailing a few points. Regardless, the climate was dismal even before the economic meltdown, and McCain's put up a hell of a fight.

But still I ask, how did our party arrive here? Simple. We relied on wedge issues to win our last two contests, and forgot what happens when the wedge works against you. We morphed pro-growth policies into naked apologetics for greed and excess. We squandered our political capital on instant gratification, and allowed our capitalists to slip further into self-gratification. We were more concerned with not unplugging Terry Schivo than with cutting pork, and too wrapped up in the FMA to reign in Fannie and Freddie. We are the ones they warned the country about, and we proved our critics right in nearly every respect. Only in the area of national security have we succeeded, and our gains there won't be fully appreciated until we're all too senile to care. We might deserve the ass kicking we're going to get tomorrow, and we can only hope the Dems screw up one-party rule just as much as we did. (especially once one of the 'swing' justices croaks)

I'm still somewhat optimistic about overall performance, and I think Obama's overpolled in many places. Even so, we may lose states that haven't been challenged in a generation. So, without further ado, the maps, and your comments! (it appears our only real disagreements are MO, NC, and FL)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Six Things I Still Love About My School

Say what you will about UNT, the university is striving for new heights. Unfortunately, the heights we attain in athletics all turn out to be atrocious lows. We have achieved an expensive new coach--who has been a huge flop so far. We have achieved student support for rockin' new stadium--which would hold 6 times as many people as showed up for the Homecoming game this weekend. We have achieved national prominence--as ESPN's worst team in the nation five weeks running (and on their Bottom 10 list since Week 1). But unlike the young Eagle at left who we spotted in the stands on Saturday, I've still got love for the Mean Green and my alma mater. Here are a few reasons.

1. Culture. The Austin kids prattle on about how much culture their city has--the night life, the music scene, the movie stars. The UT folks surely contribute to this "bohemia-chic" vibe and help "Keep Austin Weird." But look around next time you're down there. So much of the Austin hipster vibe is perpetuated by concert promoters, multinationals, and whatever rich genius came up with those t-shirts everybody bought (except the army of homeless who crowd the streets). UT itself is only like 10% hippie leftists, 60% "top ten percenters"--the silent majority, and 20% rich kids who could ID 'dro but not hemp clothing.

At UNT, we've got the REAL culture (largest/best public visual arts school in the nation; top public music program in the nation; marching band prohibited from competing more than 3 years in a row, for fairness). Weirdness is not a catchphrase, but a way of life. We've got REAL burned out hippies, and they're still in school. The unique culture of Denton is almost entirely a product of the university environment, and has a much more organic feel. There's even a unique Denton style of architecture. We may not have ACL or the Alamo Drafthouse, but we're also not a city of posers.

2. Aspiration. For many years, UNT was content on the sidelines. We had our place in the metroplex, and we were happy there. But then came the age of massive public universities, and the "college bound" culture. Some astute administrators realized that we were going to be drug kicking and screaming into the 35-40k student range, and we'd better make the most of it. So the school set out to leave it's "commuter," "regional," and "value" adjectives behind, and seek out "top tier," "premier," and "research institution" labels. This transformation no easy task, but strides have been made and the goal is in sight.

3. Renaissance. Piggy-backing off of #2, the school has not only rebranded itself, it has reinvented itself. And it's doing it in such a way that the things that already make us great (music, visual arts) are preserved and enhanced.
4. Growth. We've eclipsed Texas Tech and are neck-and-neck with UH for student population. Size isn't everything, but it shows a trend in students' choices. The best part is, our DFW to non-DFW ratio is getting smaller and smaller, showing that kids from across the state are learning more about the school and finding their place there.

5. Atmosphere and Geography. This relates back to #1. Some folks need the rushed pace of a major metropolis. The frantic driving, the outrageous cost of living and property taxes, and the hastening of your eventual demise (it's true, city people die younger). I'd much rather have UNT's relaxed, suburban feel, with the convenience of Dallas and Fort Worth for all your city needs.

6. Big Fish, Small but Increasingly Important Pond. For me, one of the best things about UNT was the opportunities. Sure, I would have had a shot at SBP at UT or A&M, but the numerical competition alone would have been ridiculous. I could have gone to DC from UT or A&M, but would have been just another Longhorn or Aggie in the faceless horde. But at UNT, I shot straight to the same heights leaders at other schools enjoyed, but in half the time and with half the effort. We had a de facto student regent at UNT before the legislature installed them at all Texas schools. We had sometimes daily interaction with VP's and the president's office. We had almost unfettered control over student service fees. And how many alums to you know whose university presidents sent them two wedding gifts? UNT is a rising star, and my wagon is hitched to it.

I'm sure there are plenty of cool things I'm missing, so help me fill in the blanks. On a somewhat related note, one of our biggest projects in undergrad was the commissioning of a student memorial sculpture on the library plaza. It turned out somewhat differently than planned, but its the thought that counts. The finished sculpture was dedicated this weekend at Homecoming, and I gave some pretty rocking remarks. Photos below (and check out the link for my speech as prepared).

Monday, October 20, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Awesome

I haven't posted in a while, so I'm kind of backlogged on topics. I've got lots to say about the election, but so does everybody else. I saw the new Indiana Jones movie the other day, so I've got stuff to say about that. And I'd like to talk a bit about moot court. But since I have neither the time nor inclination to hit all three today, I'll give an executive summary of two, and then get to the fun stuff: Indiana Jones.

1) The Election: It looks bad. Really bad. I may be losing hope in our chances this year. The worst part is the one-party rule we'll once again have to tolerate after President That One appoints new justices. I hated it enough when my party was in power; I can't imagine how awful the next eight years will be. Throw in the very real possibility of a Dem supermajority in the Senate, and I think I just might puke. My only contingency plan is to not do anything successful or make more then $15/year until we throw the bums out.

2) Moot Court: Peter and I didn't make the break. We were really disappointed, and maybe even felt a little gypped. But then I made the school team, and will be arguing at the George Washington University National Security Law competition in February. So now things are cool and I'm feeling vindicated. But Peter is a skilled advocate, too, and I hope our brief gets high marks.

3) Indiana Jones: So we finally saw Indy IV, courtesy of Blockbuster. If you haven't been living in the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, you've probably heard that the South Park guys opened the new season with a pretty awful critique of the movie. I'll spare you the details, but it involved George Lucas and Stephen Spielberg "Deliverancing" Indiana Jones repeatedly. You could almost hear Shortround shouting "Cover your bum, Indy, cover your bum!" a la Temple of Doom. For the record, I'm pretty sure even Kali was not into that stuff. I find South Park to a crude, but accurate reflection of popular opinion within my generation. So, my pop culture views normally line up up with the writers'. But this time they were way off.

Sure, there were aliens and trans-dimensional vortexes in the new movie. But don't forget the premises of the last three: Indiana Jones finds the Arc of the Covenant; Indiana Jones has misadventures in an underground slave mine/death temple and almost has his heart ripped out by a Thugee cult; Indiana Jones and his Dad find the Holy Grail, and now Indiana Jones might be immortal (he chose wisely). And pre-Colombian alien visitors are supposed to be more of a stretch?

Harrison Ford is getting up there in years, but the story covers that. The visuals were great, and minus a few totally weird moments (vengeful monkeys? surviving three waterfalls?), the writing was also very solid. I'm not sold on Shia LaBeouf as Indy's heir apparent, but the kid sells tickets like Harrison used to.
Maybe I'm biased--after all, I spent plenty of time as a kid swinging on ropes and jumping around the back yard whilst humming the Indy theme song. And (while slightly inebriated) I e-mailed the costume guy who made Indy's jacket for the movie and found out I can get one for $675 (cheap, no? Remember this at x-mas!). Plus I want a bitchin' prof-tweed suit like he's got. But at the end of the day, these are just supposed to be fun movies, and this was a worthy installment in an awesome franchise.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Map Time

It's that time again, kiddos, when we tabulate, obfuscate and discombobulate the numbers to predict just what might happen on Nov. 4th. The long and short of it? Not a good outlook for McCain. Whether you agree or disagree, use this widget to map your predictions, and send me a screen shot of your creation. Much conversation will be sparked!

Again, for historical perspective, here are previous map posts: A Map of the Future; WH 2008: Map Quest; Mapp v. Ohio. We'll do this once more before election night.

The clear picture here is a dismal one for McCain. The economy ate a big one, and so, it appears, will the party in power. Across the board Republicans are down in the polls, and the "momentum" lies with the Dems for the foreseeable future. Three things could change this miserable state of affairs: an epically miraculous economic rebound, revelations that Obama is a paedophile (British spelling because it would have to be that bad--draw your own conclusions), or a terrorist attack. Let's hope it's not terrorists.

Bumslanger's map lays out McCain's only conceivable success strategy, which additionally relies on picking up one of Maine's proportional electoral votes. This optimism is to be expected, since "Bumslanger" is the ridiculous pseudonym I told my friend in the McCain campaign I would use on his map.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Free LAPP Dances

Ha! That title totally tricked you into reading my post! Well, at least if you're not a BLS student. For the uninitiated, LAPP is an acronym for a required course called, "Lord Almighty, Poison Please." This is mainly because somewhere in the middle of the syllabus you start to contemplate all the horrible ways of dieing that are preferable to doing statutory construction for one more second. Also, check out the Lapp dude at left with his reindeer! (Random reminder--send me updated maps!!)

In all fairness, it's a great and useful course (kind of like Islam is a great and true religion), taught by a no lie brilliant prof. Today was just rough because I got up at 4:30am today so that George and his reporter collection could be on time to San Antonio. Is it cool to drive in a WH motorcade? YES. Is it cool to watch Air Force One do its thing? YES. Is it worth almost falling asleep four times in LAPP today? Barely, but YES. Except that the one hoe from the NYT stole my umbrella. Actually a very nice and bright woman, but I'm going to keep trashing her until my umbrella comes home safe. Put that in your liberal media bias and smoke it, Sheryl.

So how did I stay awake during LAPP today? SAT style, math and verbal. I wrote and wrote and wrote, and some times that necessitated math. Here's a sampling:

"Board of the agency? More like BORED of the agency. I'm writing this to stay awake. This is getting ridiculous. The more Beal yells, the sleepier I get. You'd be surprised how much you can write when your eyes are half closed and you keep nodding off. ..."

"Even when I'm well rested, this class is like getting a bullet to the brain, over and over, for 1.0833 hours. That's like, if a bullet leaves the barrel of a gun travelling at least 1000 fps (and that's pretty slow), and my head is a bit wider than a foot, and the gunman waited for the bullet to exit my cranium before firing the next shot, I'd be getting at least 1000 bullets through my head per second. In the course of one class, I'd end up with 65000 slugs ripping through my gray matter."

"If the bullet used is a standard .9 mm, that's about 0.75 inches long. So why not just stay home and take a nap, and then have somebody come over and ram 4062.4 feet of jacketed lead rod through my skull? Also, I'm pretty pissed off about that lady who took my umbrella."

Friday, October 3, 2008

Can I call you Smoe?

A quick media note--as usual, I nicked the image at left from some other website. I don't know what Sarah Palin is holing in her right hand. I only know I hope they are not what I think they may be.

I've been busy crushing the competition lately--at school, in moot court, and in the summer job search--so my posting has been sporatic. But with the debate last night and map-time soon approaching, I figured I should get with it.

Impressions from last night? Expectations heavily favored Biden, especially after the CBS-Coric sabotage (that's right, sabotage), but as the headlines read this morning, Plain held her own. The is largely because Biden held back to avoid looking like more of an arrogant SOB than he is, but also because the McCain camp is getting closer to the magical mix of canned and candid that Palin needs. They let her off the leash just enough last night that she came across well prepared, yet not overly rehearsed. It was pretty awkward when she was hot-miked before and after the event, so that we heard her ask Biden "Can I call you Joe?" and then yell for her family to join her onstage.

For his part, Biden stuck to message while ranging over his full Senate record, including a great recollection of key votes by both Obama and McCain. This beltway institutional memory is exactly his utility to the campaign, and he brought it to bear full force last night. But the smug looks, tenuous inferences, and douchebag grins also brought some negative reactions.

The net result is that neither veep potential scored an overwhelming number of points, and likely few voters were swayed. Other than a somewhat renewed confidence in Palin as something other than a moose-hungry jackaninny, very little came of last night's showdown. As I've said before, the battle lines are almost all drawn, almost everyone has picked sides. All we have left is October suprise.

I have to say that (future of the nation aside) I'm really hoping the surprise happens to Biden. I wouldn't buy a new car from that guy, much less the used ones he seems to be peddling every time he opens his mouth. And honestly, I can't believe he hasn't f'ed things up yet. What's that Joe? Who runs all the 7-11's in Wilmington? And how would you describe Obama? Maybe clean and articulate?

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Feds provide a bucket--a shovel is more fitting

This bail out nonsense has got me all sorts of pissed off. It's so much BS that I can't even fathom how it will pass Congress. Admittedly, we can't let the financial sector sink, or we're doomed. Like maybe post-Cold War Russia doomed. But how is $700 billion (actually closer to $1 trillion) of our money the right fix!? I hope my generation is well tuned-in to this, because we're the ones who will be paying back th massive national debt to the Chinese--for the bailouts, the war, and every other wasteful thing that has come out of Washington.

The Federal Government has a long and successful history of assuming debt or failing financial services businesses, and generally staving off disaster. I.e., Hamilton's debt assumption and First National Bank (c. 1790), the FDIC, lots of New Deal progeny, etc. etc. But there's a key difference in this latest scheme. The Feds want to buy up ONLY bad debt, and maybe even expand that to all BAD assets a company may hold. When the FDIC closes down a bank, they take ALL their accounts, good debt AND bad debt, assets AND liabilities. When they took over FannieMae, FreddieMac and AIG, the Feds took something like and 85% share in the companies, so we taxpayers may actually see a profit if things turn around even a little at those firms. But under the current Paulson plan, the Feds will only buy bad assets. They say that some of the debts will be repaid or sold off--this is true. But it's BAD debt, by definition we will never see a return on our money, and we're infinitely more like to lose our shirts. Duh, that's what happened to the banks that wrote the bad notes in the first place.

The better solution? If we're going to bail companies out to prevent a total meltdown, we've got to run it like an FDIC takeover. Either assume the company entirely and sell its assets to cover debts and make it solvent, or take a major share (85% sounds ok), put in a capable board, and use the new cash from the gov't buyout to make the company solvent (e.g., AIG).

What frustrates me even more about all this is that neither candidate can form a cogent response to the crisis, much less this debacle of a bailout plan. McCain says he's "deeply uncomfortable," which, in an aside, is a ridiculous phrase. If you're deeply uncomfortable, your feelings have obviously left the realm of comfort and discomfort. I mean, chairs and jeans are comfortable or uncomfortable. Candidates should be dealing in the "cautiously optimistic" to "deeply troubled" range.

And Obama's only response has been to rail on Wall Street, rich people, and Washington. New flash for Obama: you are a wealthy person, if you have even one mutual fund (as he surely does) your financial advisor is almost guaranteed to be a part of the current problem, and if the problem was Congress, you've got to own up to that, too. Come on guys, say something meaningful and intelligent, and for God sakes, come out against this foolishness. Do I even need to mention that W's conservative credentials are complete and utter crap at this point?

Friday, September 12, 2008

I Don't Like Ike

It is my general policy to dislike hurricanes. On a purely theoretical level, I can appreciate the awesome power and majesty of Old Testament vengence wrought upon a sinful world. But also, hurricanes hurt people and mess up our stuff. This go-around, some of the messed up stuff might be mine!

I've been meaning to post pictures of our yard for a while now, but I've put it off so I could get shots of the finished product. Unfortunately, just as we get things straightened out the way we want them, some Ike borne winds and rain are going to tear through Waco. I'm really hoping to avoid the tornados powerful hurricanes often spawn.

So, just in case our nice new yard projects get demolished this weekend, here's some pics of what we've done so far. For reference, remember that there used to be an above ground pool out back, a fish pond on the front corner, and the craziness you saw in previously posted pics.

This is the backhoe Dick (Diana's dad) rented to facilitate removal of the fish pond. He got it mainly as a birthday present to himself, for pure enjoyment, but it actually saved a whole crapload of time (1 crapload equals approximately 7/16's of a fortnight)

Our awesome new patio, which replaced the war zone pictured below. Note the sod first purchased as a birthday present to me from my mom, and then more around the patio installed by myself, JT, and JK.

This beautiful desert garden replaced the fish pond and it's attendant grossness.

More sod...where there used to be a nasty pool.

The War Zone, with the patio in progress.

Monday, September 8, 2008

WH 2008: Mapp v. Ohio

The title is obscure for some loyal readers (especially because I only mention Ohio in passing), but it's the best I could do at 4pm on a rainy Monday. However, the directive is clear: send me your electoral maps! You can create you own map here, and send me the screen shot or link. I will post them, along with your comments, and continue to call for updates every few weeks, or as circumstances dictate.

Previous map postings, for historical perspective: WH 2008: Map Quest; A Map of the Future

As the McCain-Obama stalemate deepens, I notice a trend. More than a trend, in fact--a complete repeat of 2000 and 2004! In 2000, Gore won all the states where I have Obama favored, with the exception of New Hampshire and Colorado, and Bush won in all the states where I have McCain on top, plus those two. Bush picked up New Mexico in 2004, but lost New Hampshire. And, as I count it today, the only state that McCain could possibly sway into his column (in addition to maintaining his toeholds elsewhere) is Colorado.

Is this as far as we've come in 8 years? This is as much daylight as the electorate puts between Obama and Kerry or Gore, or Bush and McCain? Is the Rocky Mountain State the new Ohio, as the arbiter of epic contests? I'm a little flabbergasted.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Who is like unto the beast?

"Who is like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him?" Rev. 13:4 (KJV)

The battle lines are drawn, and the game is truly afoot. T-minus 135 days until we select a new President and administration. So where to things stand? Almost neck and neck, in the popular vote and the electoral. But given Obama's advantage on both counts, McCain is learning that to defeat his enemy, he must become his enemy. Change (of some fashion) is in the air!

Even though we saw it coming, Obama stunned observers with the sheer pageantry of his nominating convention. Despite some lackluster moments--Mark Warner--and early signs that the Big O's speech would be more meat and potatoes than his usual pie in the sky, the convention was a huge win for Democrats. Obama made a strong and probably very successful play for the center with rhetoric on family values, personal responsibility, and McCain's closeness to the Bush-Cheney record.

(No, it doesn't matter that his conceptions of family values and personal responsibility are enormously out of sync with mainstream America. And no, awesome graphics and a hella good speech do not a president make. Face it, he just ain't the Jeb Bartlett they think he is. Unfortunately the buyer's remorse won't set in until after the election.)

Also, O's pick of Biden for his running mate has proven popular among Dems and pundits who saw vulnerability in the experience department. Obama has secured his base, moved into the center with vigor, and has likely solidified his lead in a number of formerly "swing" states.

While by rights this turn of events should spell disaster for McCain, he still has a fighting chance. He was not idle during the Dem spectacle, but busy making what Buchanan called "the biggest gamble in presidential election history." Sarah Palin. McCain knew he was at a stalemate with Obama, one he was likely to lose by one or two states. So he threw a Hail Mary pass that the base caught and ran with.

Palin has been thoroughly bashed by the left and lambasted by the media, but she is a superstar with the base. McCain will find advantage from this. Since when have Republican voters ever cared what the New York Times or The Atlantic thought? Quite the contrary--their vociferous opposition makes "Sarah Barracuda" an even more delightful pick. Yes, her experience is very limited, but still more impressive as an executive than either Obama, Biden, or McCain. As a reformer, none but McCain tops her for change personally affected by the candidate. Obama and Biden talk a good game, but at the end of the day real credit for any of their liberal reforms goes to other party heavies. The Maverick, on the other hand, can reference a dozen times he's swum upstream and lifted heavy loads to make change happen.

But I'm very concerned with McCain's messaging failure. McCain's camp wisely chose to highlight the candidate's two best assets- a long record of service and a maverick history. These translate into the "Country First" slogan and generic promises of reform. But these aren't themes that the electorate can get truly enthusiastic about. And, of course, Obama has turned the first into "More of the Same," and taken firm possession of the second for himself.

Sure, service is great, folks should volunteer, ask what you can do for your country, blah blah blah. We've heard it. It's still true after the first fifty times, so what does does McCain get by reciting truisms? He's preaching to the choir. What about "Keeping America Strong Together," or "Service is Our Strength," anything that pushes selflessness, recalls McCain's record of self-sacrificing service, but is also rousing enough for people to give a damn. What's more, when you're in a position like McCain's, likely to lose the election by only a state but locked in tight, go ahead an throw another Hail Mary. If you're going to co-opt Obama's change platform, then do it all the way. Lines like "Real Change for America," "Change We Can Live With," or "Change That Won't Completely Tank the Economy" work better than broad-stroke reform promises and references to the record. If McCain's going to run on a change message, he's got to do a better job of communicating the difference in between his "change" and Obama's "change," and why his is better.

I'll post electoral maps on Monday. Send me yours!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

West Fest and All the Rest

First, a few more words on Palin: Surprising, Female, and Inexperienced. These are the only ones that really apply. It seems the McCain did the math and decided he needed to mollify the base, hire a lady friend, and generally shake things up in the election. In these objectives he has suceeded, and the post-Barack concert news cycle is his. But as the dust settles, only the numbers will be able to tell us if the gamble will pay[lin] off. Will any of Hillary's voters in the center defect? More importantly, will any states swing as a result? Only time will tell, but my money says no. I'll be looking for maps to post on Friday or Monday, so send them in after the big speech on Thursday.

On to a more inebriated subject: West Fest! D and I teamed up with our super cool Waco friends Nick and Anna for a Tex-Czech extravaganza. Sausage, polka, beer, beer, petting zoo, tigers, and beer. If you cut the girls out of tiger photo, it looks like Nick and I just got back from the San Francisco courthouse.

We saw many strange and exciting sights, including a llama that looked like Janet Jackson, the infamous and illustrious Dentonites Brave Combo, a mushroom forrest, and Diana touching a hot little ass.

But by far the most bizarre turn of events occurred as we approached a giant sandwich man. Sensing the freak need little levity in his day, I shout "High Four!" and slapped him some skin. As we assembled for the picture, a young mother admonished the child in her stroller, "Honey, we don't make fun of the sandwich man and his four fingers. That's not nice." Are you kidding me, you twit? Lighten up, or your kid's going to grow up you be the same kind of supercillious ass that you seem to be.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Other Side's Palin' in Comparison

More on this later, but McCain has officially picked Sarah Palin (Alaska gov) as his running mate.

Initial thoughts: she was probably one of his best female options, and brings some vivacious youth to the ticket. A good play for disenfranchised Hillary supporters.

Negatives: is the ability to win Alaska gov really that impressive? Is the "beauty queen" background going to bite her? (Yes, unless she comes off mega-smart in her very first appearance) And don't forget that Alaska is a cesspool with the distinct taint of corruption--although her rep so far is for reform and transparency. Let's hope that's what shines through.

To be sure, there were probably some stronger picks out there. But to paraphrase Chuck Todd's footbal analogy, if McCain thinks he's at 3rd and 11, he needed to run the risker play. If he were at 3rd and goal, we would have seen a safer bet.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Biden' Our Time 'til November

So Obama's announced his VP pick, and it's Joe f'in Biden. I had a bad feeling things might turn out this way, even though Team Barrack kept the veep vetting pretty quiet. Now, I'm not pessimistic about the choice of Biden because it's going to hurt McCain's chances (quite the opposite). I'm mostly aghast at the mere possibility of Barry winning, then croaking, and Biden becoming leader of the free world. Ugh...I actually just shuddered at the thought.

So why Biden? We all knew the Big O needed to bolster his foreign policy/experience cred, and some commentators postulate that Biden will also bridge the gap to bring in moderate white voters who should be voting Democrat on the issues, but are "comfortable" with McCain. And since Biden mentioned his Scranton roots about thirty billion times during his big speech, we can bet a play for Pennsylvania was somewhere in the calculus, too. But does Biden actually advance any of these goals for Obama?

The clear choice on foreign policy should have been Richardson. Biden's got Senate experience, but legislative experience is primary the accumulation of knowledge. This amounts to (in layman's terms) jack crap in executive ability. But Richardson's got real diplomatic chops, boots on the ground kind of stuff. Plus the guy defected from the Clinton camp very early on, so that had to have earned him something. Maybe he'll be content with SecState.

As far as bridge building goes, Hillary would have been the way to go if she wasn't a egomaniacal power-seeker married to a has been who doesn't realize he's not the president anymore. But what about Bayh? If you're looking for someone to pass the beer test, he does so with flying colors, and would probably tip Indiana into the blue column.

And that brings us to Pennsylvania. Can we even pretend that a VP candidate is going to seriously influence the voters in his home state? When was the last time that actually happened? LBJ? The undecideds are not going to be swayed by the addition of yet another party faithful to a ticket just because the candidate is from their state. They're undecideds--by definition they've likely never voted for the VP candidate in any previous races, and are unlikely to feel any affiliation with them. Doubly so for Biden, who suddenly, after 40+ years and the success of "The Office," decides to re-pledge allegiance to Scranton, PA. Give me a break, the guy represents the lamest state in the union (Delaware) and he's trying to parlay that in to a PA win? If Obama wins the Keystone State he will do so on his own merits, without a single nudge from Biden.

Granted, Biden may not measure up to other potential candidates in individual areas, but he is the closest thing to a "full package" that Obama was going to find. But accepting a fair all-around running mate as opposed to an specifically excellent one seems to be a miscalculation.

And lest we forget, Biden is a walking gaffe. He can't keep his moth shut (literally, there are shows that won't have him on because he always runs over time--always), and if he's talking, he's screwing somebody's pooch. Remember that time Joe Biden said all the 7-11's are run by Indianan people? Remember that time Joe Biden said Obama was "clean and articulate" for a black candidate? Remember that time Joe Biden said he'd rather run with John McCain than vote for Obama? Opps. Incidentally, this last one is already a McCain ad.

So the Republicans are going to have a great time running with this. We'll score some direct hits and catch some great breaks from every single Biden appearance. If Obama was hoping to give McCain a little handicap, he made the right VP choice.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Issues of Olympic Proportion

Let me first say that the Opening Ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics were spectacular. By this I mean that they were literally a spectacle, the type of pageantry rivaled only by the most lavish military and religious displays. Over 15,000 performers manipulated, explored, and interacted with a venue that was both innovative and inspiring. They appeared either in small troupes, or in huge cadres of 2008 people each, and interpreted themes of China's rich and enormous history. I simply could not believe some of the feats of technology and human performance It was absurdly cool to watch! Enjoy this slideshow while I try to find a better video:

However, as you can see in the photos above, the program also showcased one of China's most disturbing themes: communism. Not just the communist system of government, but the communo-fascist "one for all, and all together" mentality that the China's collective identity exemplifies. The large groups of 2008 performers-- dressed identically, hair cut identically, and likely selected for similar appearances--conjured up images of ancient terra cotta warriors and the kind enthusiastic workers found only in propaganda. The character for "harmony" was a recurring image in the ceremony, ostensibly as a call for world peace. But China's concept of peace hearkens back to the the "spheres of influence" the western powers imposed on her 100 years ago. To China, harmony means "If you leave my affairs alone, I won't interfere in yours. " This worldview governs at home, too. The Chinese people are given certain "freedoms," and may exercise them so long as they don't interfere with the harmony of the state. Just as 1 blue performer among 2007 red would have been disharmonious to the opening ceremony, one dissenter among 1 billion complacent Chinese is disharmonious to the state. The is the antithesis of freedom.

And these thoughts, of course, beg questions: should these games be held in China, and should we be supporting them? By sheer numbers, China is clearly the world's worst human rights violator. Does it's government deserve the honor of hosting the world's greatest showing of good will and true harmony? In the interest of true harmony--yes. The Olympic Ideal has always been just that, an ideal. Universal sportsmanship and goodness have never been completely attained, and will not be in our lifetimes. Yet the Games defy the moral and political discord in the world by offering (in the guise of simple sport), an ideal that transcends and supercedes our inability to bring about true harmony. Would holding the games in Switzerland rather than Beijing do anything to end human rights abuses in China? No. But in contrast, giving the Chinese people a national pride in something other than state-generated propaganda (not to mention a glimpse at real economic stimulus) does go a long way. The influence of democratic thought and liberal economics make no inroads in a closed, isolated China. But they may take root an flourish in a China open to international trade and dialog at it's most basic levels. A middle class Chinese person has no reason to dispute a system he does not know is broken. But once his awareness is awakened at the global level (through sport, or the steady flow of cash he receives from free trade), his eyes can never be closed again. In short, a boycott of the games by the Western world would not have freed Tibet, nor accomplished anything else. But, an engaged and interdependent China is subject to influences that just might make a positive difference.

Friday, August 8, 2008

WH 2008: Map Quest

As we approach perhaps the most momentous elections in recent history, Todd has suggested that we post updates of everyones' electoral maps every couple of weeks. So, without further ado, here are the first I've gotten in. Please continue to send them, and I'll update this as necessary until the next map post. (Remember that you can get build a map here)

As you can see, McCain's tight near-tie in national polls doesn't necessarily translate into state-by-state success. However, Obama's failure to pull into a commanding national lead could pre-sage a mediocre showing in crucial swing states. I'm thinking of places like ... Obama's lost his stranglehold on the mainstream media as even McCain's desperate "pop star" ads have wrested the spotlight from him. And, by crying wolf on race in his response to the petty ads, he's lost some appeal with moderate whites. Is any Obama criticism automatically rasicsm? That's the message his response seemed to convey. Americans don't want, and won't long abide, an administration above reproach. It's just not in our DNA. As things stand today, though, it's still tough to get a McCain victory out of this math. His only real chance seems to be to win back Colorado, and ALSO secure Missouri, Ohio, Indiana, and Virginia (Pennsylvania is lost, probably forever). It's possible, but highly improbable that Johnny can pull this off.

Also: As soon as I can, I'll post some thoughts on the Opening Ceremonies of the 29th Olympiad in Beijing. As Bob Costas said, "When it comes to opening ceremonies, retire the trophy."