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."

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Tasks Done and Undone

For starters, everybody send me your electoral pick maps. (Here's the link again. The widget can be screwy, so the best way to do it is to make your changes and then use the "print screen" key to make a screen capture you can paste into an e-mail or MS Paint.) I promise I'll post them this Friday. As a loyal reader has pointed out, I intended to do this two Fridays ago, but became strangely busy in my August recess. Probably a function of deferring many tasks to the long break from say, the middle of finals. So what have I been up to?

First, you'll recall my minor car accident a couple months ago. We decided to repair the car, but I'll be damned if I was going to put the quoted $1,200 into a 1997 Isuzu Rodeo worth $3,000 in "good" condition. This is where all those hours as a a shade tree mechanic's apprentice with my dad paid off. I made a couple phone calls, found a used tailgate up in Kennedale, drove up to get it and installed the sucker all in one afternoon. I have to admit that I'm impressed with myself, because not only does the new gate operate flawlessly, I also switched out our existing key cylinder, connected the windshield wiper, and hooked up the remote latch "popper." Not bad for a non-car guy. The only catch is, the new tailgate is white, while the car itself is black (as in, a polar opposite mismatch). Always the optimist, Diana says it give the 'zu a cool harlequin look. For that alone, she deserves a new ride as soon as we blow this 2 1/2 years.

And, of course, there was our trip back east. It's strange to think that we hadn't seen some of our best friends there since the wedding in late December, and some even before that. The river house was ridiculously relaxing, and a raucous good time as usual (yes, I am rockin' a 'stache in the photo). Dinner Sunday night at Old Ebbitt really capped things off, and reminded me of how much I miss everyone in DC, and the pace of things out there.

On the home front, the back patio is coming along nicely, but taking a lot of time. For those of you who haven't been over recently, the project is to convert the back yard from the war zone it is currently (see photo at left--note Sandy carrying her favorite chewin' brick) to something more presentable (like the photo at right, although the storms crapped things up a bit). We've made progress since we moved in--sodding the sand pit where the pool used to be, planting a rose bed, tearing down poorly placed awnings and arbors, digging a drainage ditch, etc. Redoing the patio is the last big step before the yard fulfills it's true purpose: a pleasant place to sit and drink beer.