All Things In Their Place Endorses Barack Obama

 Civilizer 

“Screwed the pooch.”  It’s a great phrase that uses fornication with a dog as a vivid, absurd metaphor for dorking something up so bad that everyone who sees you doing it can only shake their heads and look away, disgusted but yet a little bit bemused.  And my friends, you look up “pooch-screwing” in the dictionary, you’ll find that it says “See John McCain presidential campaign, managers of.”

When it looked like the Republicans were going to throw in the electoral towel by nominating either an empty suit, a crazy Christian, or a generally crazy person and admit that 8 years of Bush/Cheney/Rove ruined their brand, they got it together and nominated John McCain.  War hero, experienced and popular Senator, guy with a reputation for not being under the thumb of the GOP leadership.  Going up against Barack Obama, quickly becoming the darling of the Daily Show crowd, the Republicans picked the candidate who basically made the Daily Show with his famously well-humored response to Steve Carell’s ultimate gotcha on the Straight Talk Express back in 1999.

And then they told that guy to go screw off, and introduced the country to A-hole John.  Out of touch, dishonest, pandering.  It’s gone about as well as you would expect.

When John McCain did take the nomination, I was relieved.  Republican that I am, I thought “Thank God.  The party has been one big embarrassment for the past several years, but now I can vote for one of the few guys that wasn’t.”  Not anymore.  Given the conduct of the McCain campaign, I must throw my support to Barack Obama, and for the following reasons:

That IS a pretty sweet state quarter, I have to give her that

1.  Sarah Palin – what a frighteningly stupid move picking this chick was.  Thrust from national anonymity into the spotlight of a presidential campaign, she’s initially fawned over by the media and voters as the much-needed “game changer” that McCain was after.  “Old guy listened to his gut,” everybody said.  “What a maverick,” they said.  She makes a carefully scripted but nevertheless punchy, red-meat fortified speech at the Republican National Convention.  And then, in a series of embarrassing interviews with the mild-mannered Charlie Gibson and former America’s Sweetheart Katie Couric, reveals herself to be a clueless dolt.  And then, in a series of stump speeches that continue to this day, reveals herself to be a strident harpy as well.  She displays all the contemptible failures of character that Tricky Dick Cheney does, but none of the effectiveness and villainous intelligence.  Cheney may have used the Constitution for fish-wrapping paper, but at least he succeeded in preventing another attack on American shores with those methods.  With Palin, we’d have a dirty bomb in Epcot Center inside her ticket’s first 100 days.  It’s telling that the McCain campaign had to fall back, predictably, on loud cries of sexism whenever their anointed loon came under attack – unfortunately, it’s not what’s between her legs that bothers me, it’s what isn’t between her ears.

2.  The recent tone of the McCain campaign – in a word, unbecoming.  Unbecoming the man who denounced the Swift Boat attacks on John Kerry and frankly unbecoming our entire country.  How embarrassing it has been, in 2008, to watch video in which our oft-lauded “salt of the earth” Americans who I have often stated make up the backbone of the military, economy, and society of this country, sound like benighted dullards at every turn.  And how troubling it has been to see the McCain campaign pounce on this sad state of affairs.  McCain has been trying to get the bigot toothpaste back in the tube over the past few days, but that shouldn’t obscure the fact that he let his shrill toady turn a tenuous connection of Obama’s to Bill Ayers (who, for the record, is a complete asshole that I wouldn’t piss on if he were on fire to put him out) into some sort of insidious partnership cloaked in secrecy.  The McCainanites have stood there as Palin basked in shouts of “kill him” while she let her crowds turn uglier and uglier.  Rep. Lewis was exactly right when he compared the tone of the campaign to the “climate and conditions” created by George Wallace in Alabama.  The campaign isn’t being overtly racist, but has done shamefully little to contain that element at its events.  Fortunately, the McCain attacks aren’t working.

3.  Policy – I am going to sum this argument up with two examples.  First, the quickie:  I was watching TV the other night, and there was an Obama ad and a McCain ad almost back to back, with just another weird Burger King ad between them.  The Obama ad was an explication of the candidate’s health care plan and an argument against McCain’s.  The McCain ad was about Bill Ayers.  The economy is in absolute tatters, there are serious matters at hand, and Obama responds with an issues ad.  McCain responds with a character assassination.  What seems more useful to you? 

Second is offshore drilling.  I’ve written about this before, but I’m going to go over this again for any of you who still think that it’s a good idea (this means you, Aaron Tippin).  You can skip my argument and just go to this tidy little piece from those crazy redwood humpers and polar bear kissers at the Christian Science Monitor, but here we go:

The Minerals Management Service estimates that there are 86 billion barrels of oil in offshore regions.  This estimation keeps going up as the political winds dictate, and just a few years ago the estimate was 45 billion.  But, in the areas that McCain would open up, there are estimated to be around 19 billion.  Let’s be generous and go with the 45, meeting somewhere in the middle.  The United States uses an estimated 20.7 million barrels per day.  That means there is just under 6 years’ worth of oil in them thar oceans.  Six years’ worth, and that’s after the 10 years it will take to extract the oil have passed.

No wonder the Bush Administration’s own analysts have said that offshore drilling will have no significant effect on oil prices through 2030.  It’s just plain stupid, but McCain is all for it.  For me, that kind of poor judgement blows all the goodwill he’d built with me on the surge.

File photo, Arnold Conrad

4.  The Christian Right – McCain had Arnold Conrad introduce him in Iowa a few days ago.  Here is what he said:

I would also pray Lord that your reputation is involved in all that happens between now and November, because there are millions of people around this world praying to their God — whether it’s Hindu, Buddha, Allah — that his [McCain’s] opponent wins for a variety of reasons. And Lord I pray that you would guard your own reputation, because they’re going to think that their god is bigger than you, if that happens. So I pray that you would step forward and honor your own name in all that happens between now and Election Day.  Oh Lord, we just commit this time to you, move among us, make your presence very well felt as we are gathered here today in Jesus’s name I pray.

I can’t stand and cast my vote with these people.  Not if I want to ever respect myself again, anyway.

Warren Buffet: Apparently a Commie

5.  Warren Buffet – No president, no matter what he says, can “fix” this or any economy.  The market forces involved are by and large beyond the scope of presidential authority or ability.  But on the economy, Barack Obama has the endorsement of Warren Buffet.  Warren Buffet is a financial genius.  John McCain has the endorsement of Phil Gramm.  Phil Gramm is not a financial genius.

Lots of reasons that Warren’s endorsement means a lot, but I want all of you who think that because Obama is going to raise taxes on the 5% of Americans earning over $250,000, we’re suddenly socialists and our economy is going to grind to a halt, read this story.  The gist?  The Oracle of Omaha, the ultimate anti-socialist, says “I see nothing wrong with those who have been blessed by this society to give a larger portion of their income to the society than somebody that’s working very, very hard to make ends meet.”  So I guess Warren Buffet’s a pinko now, right, jackasses at Cape Fear BBQ in Fayetteville, North Carolina?

6.  Barack Obama – if you’re able to think critically, you’ve hopefully noticed that I’ve decided to vote for Barack Obama for reasons that have a lot more to do with the McCain campaign sucking like a $500 Dyson instead of Obama being a good candidate.  And believe me, I’m well aware that the man is flawed.  He’s slick, for one.  I don’t like slick.  You don’t survive Rev. Wright, Bittergate, Bill Ayers, and the middle name “Hussein” in a presidential election without being slick.  Obama talked around these issues more often than he tackled them head-on, and I wasn’t a fan of that.  And admittedly, he’s very green for the chief executive role, a point that McCain and Co. somehow managed to fumble by talking about the Weather Underground all the time and then nullifying the point by selecting Our Sarah.  And his support for ethanol is just…so…stupid.

But here’s the deal:  ethanol aside, the dude is smart.  B.A. from Columbia, thesis on Soviet nuclear disarmament.  Harvard Law School, magna cum laude.  Senior Lecturer at Chicago School of Law.  A lot of people look at a C.V. like that and say “he thinks he’s better than you.”  Good.  Good.  I freaking hope that the MOST POWERFUL MAN IN THE WORLD thinks he’s better than me.  I hope that he is better than me.  I hope the President of the United States is smarter than me, more clever than me, braver than me, more well-read than me, more well-traveled than me…just plain more everything than me.  You know that line of conventional wisdom that goes “People want to vote for a guy they can imagine having a beer with”?  That’s some of the dumbest shit I’ve ever heard.  Let me just say this:  if I can imagine kicking back and having a beer with you, then I don’t want you anywhere near the Russians.  They will eat you alive like the simple rube that you are.  I don’t want you anywhere near the tax code.  You won’t think it through.  Jeffrey Fastow won’t pay any taxes because his lobbyist buddies duped you, but you’ll somehow be trying to collect $78,000 from a family dog in Bismark, North Dakota.  I want somebody who is steeped in brainpower, has a bunch of degrees and a bunch of stamps on his passport, and knows how to think around corners.  Barack Obama is that smart.

Also, I think his opposition to Iraq is one of the most overrated aspects of his candidacy, but the guy has it right on Pakistan, which is the real national security threat of the next decade.  Iraq and Afghanistan are obviously must-wins, but Pakistan is the constantly evolving, inscrutable ticking time bomb of international terrorism.  And Obama knows it, he knows the ISI is keeping the tribal areas safe for al-qaeda and the Taliban, and has the stones to say that if we’ve got a bead on a high-value target, and Pakistan won’t take the bastard out, then our Special Forces will.  No kow-towing to our strategic reliance on Pakistan, no letting that country’s intelligence service leverage our relationship to carry out private and nefarious agenda.  Just hey, your sovereignty doesn’t supercede our security.  Deal.  McCain’s big on his surge, and good for him, but he’s given me no indication whatsoever that he has a plan for Pakistan.  And that’s a big miss.

The guy just gets it more than McCain does.  Obama has proven, throughout the course of the campaign, to be more thoughtful, more intelligent, and more thorough than his opponent.  McCain has flirted with self-destruction as Obama continues to draw crowds, donors, and the respect of military leaders, lawmakers, economists, and hell, even aides to John McCain who worked in the Reagan White House.  I hope that a McCain loss, borne of a craven appeal to the racist, the frightened, and the under-educated, burns my party to the ground.  Because it will be rebuilt again, and I hope the people restoring it pay attention to what happened in 2008.  I hope they noticed that a bright, eloquent, educated, intellectual man won the presidency, and that when they’ve got the GOP up and running again, they have the sense to tell the creationists, the pro-lifers who stop caring about the fetus once it’s out of the womb, the protectionists, and the dittoheads to please get off, the country has passed them by.  There’s a big difference, after all, between “elitism” and being elite.  Get that sorted out, and I’m back on board.  Until then, I’m voting Obama/Biden this year. 

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This Should Make Your Day

Is It Still A Jinx When Everyone Knows You’ll Lose Already?

 Sporting Civilizer

I think what SI meant to say was “Gearing Up For Another Title Appearance In Which They’ll Get Spanked By A Faster, More Athletic Team From The SEC.”  And hey, Sports Illustrated – you wanna explain how you justify a completely gratuitous Todd Boeckman crotch shot?  What the hell’s the deal here?

An Open Letter to Barack Obama

 Civilizer

Dear Senator Obama –

Couldn’t help but notice that your “I’m already President” act has continued even after your goodwill tour of Europe and the Middle East has wrapped up – by which I mean you seem to have perfected the old Potomac Two-Step.  And at such a young age for a politician!  That’s impressive.  Did you have somebody from Arthur Murray in your entourage?

But hey Stretch, just wanted to say that your post-primary tendency to dance like Fred Astaire on the issues is wearing on those of us who were either going to vote for you or considering voting for you.  Moving to the center is understandable so I can’t say that I really cared when you moderated yourself on gun control.  Stuff like that, it’s expected, right?  Who cares if you said one thing and then something entirely different once you clinched the nomination.  That’s politics as usual, and that’s ok.  It would be nice if someone ran for office who promised to change politics as usual, but that would certainly be a difficult standard to uphold.  Am I right?

Hell, a certain amount of blatant bobbing and weaving actually makes me feel better about you.  When you were running in the primary, you laid all that hope stuff on pretty thick.  “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”  Remember that?  Clearly it grabbed a lot of those stupid college kids who love speeches but not issues (good luck turning them out in the general, by the way!), but to a free-agent Republican like myself, you were giving off a babe-in-the-woods vibe that worried me a little.  In today’s world, I don’t want a President who’s so interested in telling world leaders he wants to “work together” or “cooperate for the good of everyone.”  I want a President who will smile and shake hands with Russians for the cameras and then behind closed doors tell Vladimir Putin (sorry, Dmitiri Medvedev) that we’re going to help Europe build a pipeline that circumvents Russian control and if anything should, ah, happen to it, then we begin bombing in 10 minutes, as your buddy Reagan once said.

So really, it’s nice to see that you can lie and deceive without compunction.  It’s “cagey.”  And we need a  cagey leader to negotiate with the Iranians.  There’s a reason that George Lucas picked the stubbly stereotype of an Arab trader for the scuzzball shopowner/slaveholder for Watto in The Phantom Menace, you know?  A certain amount of shaking hands with your right while you’ve got a stiletto behind your back in your left makes me feel better about voting for you.

But offshore drilling.  I gotta tell you Senator – it’s this kind of thing that makes an observer like myself wonder if you didn’t learn a few lessons in triangulation after running so hot and heavy against a Clinton like you did, or if you’re just another sackless politician who will say anything to get elected.  I know that gas prices are one of the biggest populist issues of the election.  I know you want to look like you’re doing something about it.  And I know that it appears that you have no coherent plan right now – you were against offshore drilling and that stupid gas tax, which were wise positions, but you didn’t really have anything you supported except ethanol, which is just as stupid.  

But offshore drilling has become the issue on which I draw the line.  Not just because I’m an inveterate tree-hugger.  I’m actually putting aside environmental concerns for a minute.  I draw the line on offshore drilling because it’s such a myopic, idiotic, worthless idea that will not work.  It won’t bring gas prices down in the short term, because it will take a decade to get that oil out of the ocean and refine it.  Can you think of any commodity that trades at a reduced price because it is anticipated that there will be slightly more of it on the market in 10 years?  Remember that announcement that McDonald’s made the other day where they said “A couple farmers in Montana said they’re going to start raising more cows, and those babies should be old enough for slaughter in about 10 years.  So we’re going to go ahead and lower our prices on the Big Mac today.”  No?  You don’t remember it?  That’s because McDONALD’S WOULD NEVER DO THAT.  BECAUSE THAT ISN’T HOW THE MARKET WORKS.

You say you’re willing to do this in order to “compromise” with the Republicans.  So you could get an energy bill passed.  Well I don’t know what kind of simplistic chimps you’ve got running your campaign, but they’ve evidently subscribed to the notion that after years of folding up like a card table for the Republican Congressional majority, it’s imperative that once they get that majority for themselves, they take advantage of it by folding up like a card table for the Republican minority.  Way to make yourself look strong, Senator – it’s an idea you oppose, an idea you know would have a nasty effect on the environment and no effect on gas prices, but you’re going to just go along to get along.  I’ll say this for Hillary – she may have been a strident harpy, but sometimes she was strident about the right thing and didn’t seem inclined to back off.  You, sir, are behaving instead like an Ivy League nancy-boy. 

I’ve seen you hoop, and I noticed that you’re not one to bang underneath.  Apparently this holds true for your governing style.

Bottom Up, People. Bottom Up.

 Civilizer

Everybody take a minute to read this New York Times Op-Ed from David Brooks.  Here is the gist:

“Between 1870 and 1950, the average American’s level of education rose by 0.8 years per decade. In 1890, the average adult had completed about 8 years of schooling. By 1900, the average American had 8.8 years. By 1910, it was 9.6 years, and by 1960, it was nearly 14 years…America’s edge boosted productivity and growth. But the happy era ended around 1970 when America’s educational progress slowed to a crawl. Between 1975 and 1990, educational attainments stagnated completely. Since then, progress has been modest. America’s lead over its economic rivals has been entirely forfeited, with many nations surging ahead in school attainment…In “Schools, Skills and Synapses,” [James] Heckman probes the sources of that decline. It’s not falling school quality, he argues. Nor is it primarily a shortage of funding or rising college tuition costs. Instead, Heckman directs attention at family environments, which have deteriorated over the past 40 years…I.Q. matters, but Heckman points to equally important traits that start and then build from those early years: motivation levels, emotional stability, self-control and sociability. He uses common sense to intuit what these traits are, but on this subject economists have a lot to learn from developmental psychologists.”

Sorry, I know that was a long gist.  But it’s a very important gist, and you should read the whole article because it elucidates what I consider to be one of the most egregious cases of “they’re totally missing the point” in American politics and society:  on a large, socially significant scale, you can’t make a kid into a winner when he or she has been raised (if you can even call it that) to be a loser.

This guy will not come up with the next breakthrough in anything.

Take affirmative action at American colleges and universities.  You know why I don’t like affirmative action?  It’s got nothing to do with me being white and feeling resentful that a black or Hispanic person took a spot that “belonged” to a fellow Caucasian.  I don’t like affirmative action because it operates under the entirely misguided premise that you can “fix” the inequality in the educational or post-collegiate world by making sure that more people of color get to go to college.
That inequality doesn’t simply exist because of a lack of collegiate access.  The inequality springs from everything that happened (or, more accurately, didn’t happen) in the 18 years leading up to matriculation.  When I got to college, it became clear during the first week that it was really a lack of preparation, not access.  Before I even went to school, I had parents who read to me, and had me read to them.  I went to a Jesuit prep school.  My mom and dad, and my friends’ moms and dads, emphasized academic achievement, and gave me the crucial “I know you think most of this is boring, but if you don’t get through it, you’ll find the world a difficult place” talk.  In college, it was obvious, and obvious fast, who grew up in a similar environment and who didn’t.  And those who didn’t – black, white, or that one kid who I think was albino – all made me realize the same thing:  being intellectually neglected for your entire life is a hole that you will not dig out of simply because somebody gave you a free shot at college.

No parent paying a lick of attention buys their daughter one of these

So it is with everything else. People who haven’t been properly nurtured, who haven’t been taught the value of the brain and the value of talent, are multiplying. Evidence of lackadaisical child-rearing abounds. The U.S. high school graduation rate fell from 71.2% to 68.8% between 1990 and 2005. The childhood obesity problem continues to get worse. MGA Entertainment has sold over a billion dollars worth of Bratz.  And what you get is what Brooks calls a “skills gap.” 

When a shrinking number of households raise their kids to be a success in life, that means there a fewer skilled and educated workers twenty years later.  And because there are fewer, those few can demand much higher salaries than the kids whose parents didn’t do their jobs.  The result?

The ratio of the wage income of the top 1% of earners to that of the bottom 90% more than doubles, like it did between 1979 and 2006, increasing from a ratio of 9.4 to 1 to 19.9 to 1.

I don’t mean to use this as an end-around the argument that the country needs more education funding, better schools, and that the country needs to break the back of the teachers’ unions(which are just one of the many reasons I will never, ever, become a Demmycrat).  Better families, after all, would find it hard to produce good students if they had to send little Timmy off to an asbestos and mold-ridden school with a faulty thermostat in the winter and textbooks that described America as a country “locked in a battle against the forces of Soviet communism.”  But nevertheless, the country needs to wake up to the fact that it doesn’t matter how much money they throw into buying new books and computers, or affirmative action.  If the kids go home to parents that don’t care, to XBox 360, to Burger King for dinner, to houses with no books, then the government’s efforts will be wasted on 9 out of 10 kids – and that’s billions of taxpayer dollars that we could be using to develop awesome new bombs and tanks.

The skills gap truly encapsulates the argument that government can spend all it wants and establish the Department of [Insert Pressing Social Problem Here], but there is no force greater than individual American taking responsibility for his or her own life.

The Chinese Example: Forget Warming, And Cut Emissions Anyway

 Civilizer

Global warming continues to be this year’s hot complaint.  The greening of America has seeped into retailers, advertiser, and consumers, and all thanks to the rallying cry “Stop Global Warming.”  Al Gore made an alarmist film rife with errors and got a Nobel Peace Prize and an Oscar for it, because he was trying to “Stop Global Warming.”  You can buy everything from an environmentally friendly light bulb to environmentally friendly floors for your house, so you can help “Stop Global Warming.”  Well I never thought I’d say this, but:

To hell with global warming.  Take a look.

A smog-o-rific satellite image of China

That picture up there is a photograph of China taken from space.  See all that dark gray stuff?  That would be all the stuff that China’s factories belch into the atmosphere.  And it’s a perfect example of why we do have to cut emissions, develop cleaner energy, and more prudent land management strategies, and why global warming has to take a back seat.  The example of China illustrates the situation perfectly.

China, of course, is hosting the 2008 Summer Olympics.  “Hosting” is kind of a funny word, as they seem like the kind of host who welcomes you into their home and then dispatches their German Shepherd to watch you like a hawk and take a bite out of your thigh if you touch the candlesticks.  But in any case, it’s their big event on the world stage.  And they had so badly fouled their air that they had to shut everything down in and around Beijing well ahead of the start of the Games to try and get things athlete-ready.  The air is so bad, the great Haile Gebrselassie has refused to compete in Beijing.  But underneath that nauseating claim are some pretty shocking facts:  Air pollution kills approximately 656,000 Chinese people a year, and water pollution another 95,600.  More people die of pollution-related causes in China than die of cancer in the United States each year, or heart disease.

And how about this, for all you dismal scientists out there:  on a combined basis, air and water pollution cost China 5.8% of its GDP – around $100 billion annually.  And oh yeah – all that smog probably exacerbates global warming. 

Now, I’m not saying that global warming is a liberal con job, or that it doesn’t exist.  The evidence that global warming is happening is pretty hard to refute, and I’ve no doubt that humanity has a hand in it.  But remember, this planet has been going through climactic shifts and cycles since time out of mind.  And also remember that while human activity has a tremendous impact on the planet, our capacity to affect the climate is dwarfed by our capacity to affect conditions on the ground and our own quality of life. 

China is a microcosm of the wider world.  Their most pressing problem isn’t global warming, and it isn’t their most solvable problem, either.  The same goes for the rest of us.  Keep in mind that China shut down the country for several months and their air is still a mess – you think if you buy some different lightbulbs and drive a Prius that you can reverse something like global warming?  Really?  You think if a few enlightened people in pockets of the world straighten up and fly right, it will reverse centuries of industrialized by-product, and the millions of cars on the road?

But let’s look at what would happen in China, and in fact the entire world, if we developed clean, alternative fuels instead of burned oil, gas, and coal – less cancer, cleaner water, healthier watersheds and ecosystems, stable animal populations, and budgets that aren’t as stressed by the health care and/or clean-up costs that come with all that stuff.  But if we push that stuff aside and just keep talking about global warming, then what happens when the skeptics break through?  What happens when they plant enough doubt in enough people’s minds about this whole global warming thing?  After all, no lay people really understand the science behind it – here’s a fun game: find some passionate global warming guy or girl on a college campus and ask them to explain carbon-feedback loops.  See?  They mostly just know what Al Gore put in a movie, and we all know he’s full of shit most of the time.  Wasn’t his wife that crazy chick who tried to ban W.A.S.P.? (Truth be told I wish she’d succeeded there)

Gas prices drop, these stupid things will come right back

I’ll tell you what will happen – people will decide they don’t have to worry anymore.  They’ll buy regular old bulbs again, they’ll stop buying hybrid cars, they won’t worry about recycling that much.  Global warming has at least served one purpose.  It’s woken people up to the fact that we can’t continue to live the way we do without serious consequences to the long-term viability of the planet.

But it’s time to shift the focus.  China isn’t shutting its factories down because of global warming.  They’re doing it because the world is coming to visit this summer, and the Chinese government understands that no one wants to live or compete in the smog, the algae blooms, and the runoff.

So why should the rest of us put up with it anywhere else?

Unacceptable

 Civilizer

I repeat myself:  why, when a people are apocalyptically stricken by any number of scourges (genocide, natural disaster, starvation), does the world see fit to sit on its hands and allow the government which makes aid almost impossible to continue to govern?  They are killing their own people, either directly through violent repression or indirectly through the incompetent or criminal diversion of aid.  At some point, the right of humans to live in a nation with a bare minimum of humanitarian conditions  must supercede the so-called “sovereign right” of a government to hold power in a country.