Saturday, August 30, 2008

What's your candidate IQ?

The Chicago Tribune has a couple of quizzes online to test your candidate "IQ". I thought it would be fun to put the questions side-by-side to see how the media spin their coverage of the separate candidates.

(Hey, I post my opinions... but if the major media pretend to be neutral we should hold their feet to the fire. Speaking of spin... I picked neither the smug, smarmy picture of Obama, nor the hunched up picture of McCain... the Trib did that.)

It might be my imagination, but are the Obama questions a little light on substance? I'm not sure whether this is because of some difference in the spin or because there's just not enough Obama experience to fill out 20 questions. It's nice to know what kind of car Obama drove in college while at the same time discussing the number of issues on which McCain split from the Republican establishment (the answer to that one is "All of the above", btw... as a maverick and effective agent of change he tends to do that).

Click on the text in each column header to take the corresponding quiz. (Scroll waaayyy down for this if you don't see it... Blogger is acting strange today.)

McCain Quiz

Obama Quiz

1What historic event did John McCain's grandfather witness firsthand? Obama's camp touts his mom as a Kansas native. Where did she spend her teen years?
2Where was John McCain born? In his third-grade essay, what did Obama say he wanted to become?
3Where did McCain graduate in his class at the Naval Academy? Obama spent three years of his childhood at what kind of school in Indonesia?
4What was the nickname of the North Vietnamese prison where McCain was held? An Indonesian word Obama used when teasing friends there meant what?
5What is McCain's religion? According to a friend at Punahou High School, what did he and Obama often discuss?
6Before his election to Congress, what job did McCain hold? What was Obama's most common choice of footwear during his freshman year at Occidental College?
7McCain defied President Reagan by refusing to back what? What personal vice has Obama battled since at least college?
8On what other issues had McCain broken with the Republican establishment? What kind of car did Obama buy to drive from Chicago to Harvard Law School?
9What tax plan has McCain proposed in the current presidential race? Whom did Obama randomly meet on a South Side street corner as a young
community organizer -- an encounter that would later help propel his
political career?
10How did McCain, a victim of torture, vote on a bill to require the CIA abide by torture bans outlined in the Army Field Manual? In July 1995, who became one of Obama's first political contributors?
11What is McCain's position on abortion?
What did Obama do in that first run for political office?
12How has McCain traveled during his 2008 campaign? Obama nearly came to blows with West Side Democrat Ricky Hendon over what?
13McCain has jokingly described himself as older than: How long after taking office did it take Obama to give his first major
speech on the Iraq war as a U.S. Senator?
14What is the name of McCain's current campaign bus? Just weeks after his arrival in the U.S. Senate, Obama met with his
advisers to map his political strategy, which some dubbed the "2010-2012-2016" plan. Its broad outline:
15How did McCain help Donald Diamond, a wealthy Arizona real estate developer, close friend and political donor? When did Obama first introduce legislation setting a timetable for
withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq?
16What is NOT one of McCain's health-care proposals? As a freshman U.S. senator, Obama joined veteran Sen. Richard Lugar
(R-Ind.) on a fact-finding tour through the former Soviet Union to
study what?
17What is NOT part of McCain's economic plan? Obama told the editorial board he made a "boneheaded" move by doing what?
18What is NOT one of John McCain's positions on Second Amendment rights? What is not part of Obama's plan to strengthen civil rights?
19In 2001, McCain allies set up a think tank, the Reform Institute, to promote transparency in government. What has the institute done since then?What is not part of Obama's plan for "restoring fiscal discipline"?
20Before he quit in 1980, how many cigarettes per day did John McCain smoke? What is not part of Obama's plan for immigration?

...aaand the masks come off!

Well, the early reactions to McCain's pick of Sarah Palin as his running mate are in, and already we see the micron-thin veneer of civility peel away from the Democrat's faces.

As if we didn't know it from their failure to even consider Hillary Clinton for the #2 spot, we know it now... these are not the people that brought you Geraldine Ferraro. No, the current "champions of women's rights" are sexist pigs. Let's look at the criticisms so far:
  1. "If she were a man with these qualifications she'd never be considered for this position." This is worth raucous laughter. The Democrat's own pick for the NUMBER ONE slot has far fewer qualifications! Hypocrisy at its most blatant.
  2. This is "tokenism". If she's a token woman, Obama's a token black... and I'll jump down anybody's throat who makes that allegation, too. They really don't want to go there. The fact is she is exactly what McCain and the Republican party need.
  3. "She's only on the ticket because Hillary isn't". This is an insult to Palin's qualifications. She is the only person with experience as a chief executive on either ticket. If Hillary were on the ticket, Palin would still be the only candidate with such experience. Hillary's second best only because she watched the job being done. If the Democrats find it such a disadvantage that Hillary isn't on their ticket, then it was a damned stupid move not to offer her the VP position. So if you accept their argument here, then Obama doesn't even have enough sense to have chosen the right running mate. So much for "hitting it out of the park".
  4. "This is a 'Dan Quayle' choice." This is a deliberate insult to Palin's intelligence. They don't want to go there, either. This is one smart woman. Besides, the argument boomerangs immediately: they must have forgotten that Quayle actually got the job.
  5. "Will she have time for her children?" This is an insult, period... to everyone. No one asked if Joe Biden was qualified for his office when his wife died. So a job is OK for him, but not her? Even when she has a spouse to share the load and Biden didn't? Oh, yeah... the masks are really off. I'm personally offended by it, having been a single parent and a current sole wage earner and have had to do that balancing act under the worst possible conditions. If you truly buy this argument - if you think Palin can't balance her career and family life - then it says nothing about her, and everything about your own shortcomings. Not everyone's a pathetic wimp, so stop measuring them with your yardstick.
  6. Reuters published a photo of Palin's shoes, for crying out loud. I'd show you a picture, but Reuters don't know much about Fair Use. Google.
If you didn't know who Obama was before, you're starting to know now.

Just as I predicted last night, the Obama campaign are focusing on Palin's qualifications for President, inviting the comparisons with Obama. They've forgotten already that it is McCain at the top of the ticket. They're running against G.W. Bush, and against Palin. They're ignoring the many years that McCain has demonstrated his willingness to put his country's needs above his party's. This has rightly has earned him the label "maverick". This cannot be erased by simply pretending it doesn't exist, as we will see in the upcoming Republican convention. Obama's strategy is to put his fingers in his ears and sing "La la la!". Not really a mature way to run a campaign.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Thoughts on the conventions and VP pics.

Like 38 million other people, I spent at least some time watching the Democratic National Convention.

Of course, nothing in the convention dispelled the notion of Obama as The One, and he was appropriately appointed Savior of the Universe in his own Greek Temple. This wasn't lost even on the New York Post (hardly a conservative think tank):

Ouch! And those are the folks that are on his side! Obama gave an adequate speech. Not great, adequate. He has a problem with rhetoric, and with facts. On the rhetoric side, he claims of McCain that "he wouldn't even follow [bin Laden] to the cave where he lives." Nobody believes a word of it. McCain is a proven military hero. Obama spent his youth pointedly avoiding the kind of military experience and personal sacrifice for which John McCain volunteered. Obama has EXACTLY ZERO credibility of any kind on this subject. End of story. On the subject of energy independence, Obama promises total independence from Mid-East oil within ten years. This smacks of complete ignorance. It's easy to promise a chicken in every pot. It's another thing to provide it. Obama has no details at all... he just knows what you'd like to hear, and has no objection to saying it regardless of his actual ability to deliver.

The previous night, Bill Clinton gave a rousing speech. I mean that sincerely... I love listening to Bill give a speech. It's always clear, concise, and superlatively delivered. Almost everything he said was bullshit, of course, but it was supremely articulate bullshit. Here are some examples:

Bill focused closely on economic issues, ignoring entirely the effect on the economy of prosecuting the war on terror. He doesn't think that's a valid issue at all, which is no change from his stance during his own presidency. Of course, it was his presidency that saw the first bombing of the World Trade Center, the bombing of the USS Cole, the disastrous involvement in Somalia and more; all of which weakened the reputation of the United States and set the stage for the attacks of September 11th, 2001. Those attacks were in part, his fault, and his criticisms of Bush's foreign policy have little, if any, validity.

Likewise, regarding the war, Bill Clinton asserts that America is "weakened by too much unilateralism". Yet it has been the courage to do the right thing without waiting for the consensus of the uninvolved and uninterested third parties that has prevented further attacks for the last 7 years; something Bill can't say about any of his own attempts at keeping America safe. His was a presidency where terrorists attacked us again and again and again with impunity. This was while his administration murdered American citizens on Ruby Ridge and in the Waco Massacre. Not the guy to deliver a balanced perspective on security matters. At all.

Bill Clinton further claims that if Obama "cannot convert adversaries into partners, he will stand up to them." The problem with that claim is that Obama cannot discern whether an adversary can be converted to a partner. Indeed, Obama asserts that Iran is "a tiny country" that doesn't pose a threat regardless of their ambitions to nuclear arms. On the other hand, McCain has made the right calls in foreign affairs over and over again. Obama fought against the military surge in Iraq that was urged by McCain, but that surge was incontrovertibly successful, and now Obama would like to take credit for that success (brazenly, but unsuccessfully). McCain warned of the dangers of Russian aggression that would lead to the situation we're currently seeing in Georgia, though this wasn't even on Obama's radar. Unlike McCain, Obama has not the experience or perceptiveness to properly interpret world events.

Bill Clinton described Obama's choice of Joe Biden as a running mate as "hit[ting] it out of the park." Hyperbole at best. Look... Obama had exactly one primary criteria for his running mate; he needed somebody more experienced than himself, who would make voters feel better about electing a noob to the White House. Hardly a difficult task... anybody he could choose would have more experience. And in choosing Biden, Obama's got somebody more experienced than himself; so what's Obama doing at the top of the ticket? The Democrats would have done much better to nominate Hillary for President and Obama for VP so that he could gain the experience necessary for a follow-on run 4 or 8 years from now. Not doing so was a disastrous blunder. I thought it hilarious to hear Obama describe his criteria for a running mate include the need for someone who wouldn't let his ego get in the way. If that's so, then he failed miserably with Biden.

John McCain had a more difficult task in choosing a VP. There's nobody he could choose with more experience, nor did he need to. He needed somebody younger (not difficult), vibrant, who appeals to women and young voters alike. Somebody who would cement the votes of the conservative Right, who were very shaky about supporting McCain due to his maverick tendencies. Someone who was strong-willed, and who stood a good chance of carrying his policies forward beyond his own Presidency, as all programs of real change and worth need time for success. Considering the broadly separated groups he had to appeal to with one choice, it is McCain, and most certainly not Obama, who hit it out of the park.

Palin squarely hits every criteria. As a former mayor and current governor, she's got more executive experience than Obama. Her ethical reforms are unanimously considered to be successful. As a member of the NRA and pro-lifer she appeals to the Right. And she's gracious: tonight on FoxNews Geraldine Ferraro offered her excitement at Palin's candidacy; and noted that Palin's acknowledgement of Ferraro's candidacy was the first time in 24 years that anyone had ever thanked her for her own attempt at cracking the "glass ceiling".

I think that she's such a good choice that Obama's campaign stands a serious risk of forgetting who the Presidential candidates are. It will take every ounce of restraint for them to refrain from attacking Palin's inexperience. They will most likely forget that it's OK for a VP to grow in office; that this should be the case. Should they make this mistake and start comparing Palin to Obama, they will merely highlight Obama's own inexperience; and if they compare Palin to Biden using the argument that the VP is a step away from the Presidency, they once again open the question of why their Presidential nominee - Barack Obama - is the least qualified person on either ticket.

In any event, Sarah Palin was an inspired choice. Witness this: since the announcement of Palin as a running mate, the news coverage on every channel, everywhere, has been all Palin, Palin, Palin. She's completely stolen the show from Obama. One day after Obama's acceptance speech, on what should be a day of the Democratic nominee basking in the glory, the big question is "Obama Who?"

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Large Hadron Rap

Subatomic particle physicists rapping about the large hadron collider in Switzerland to explain what it does. Fortunately "Stephen Hawking" doesn't do the whole rap.

If you really liked that, you're probably this guy.

Please. Somebody shoot me. My ears are bleeding.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

¿Y Dónde Quedó América Latina, Obama?

It's perhaps unfortunate that negative ads work, but I don't really think so, so long as you're bringing legitimate questions and not throwing muck. For that matter, I don't really think it's "negative" to call the other candidate's position into question. The one who has to fear from that is the man with a questionable position.

For example, here is the latest "negative" McCain ad:

Here is my probably very poor translation of the caption panels, which appear periodically as Obama runs through a list of European, Asian, African and Middle Eastern countries in a speech in Berlin on July 24, 2008:
  1. The World According to Barack Obama
  2. But entire nations were left out! (forgotten)
  3. And where is Latin America?
  4. And the Latinos?
  5. Are we to be forgotten?
Let us not forget that Latinos are a huge minority in the US. They are a larger minority than Blacks. Is it "negative" campaigning to bring their concerns to light? Or should we just forget them?

McCain hasn't forgotten them.

New song: Here in Union

There's a "new" song on my music page, Here in Union.

Actually, it was written in 2002, but it's posted now. Enjoy.

Friday, August 01, 2008

The superior candidate

I've spent several posts detailing what is wrong with Barack Obama as a candidate. But a recent comment from an anonymous poster has made me realize that I should spend some time showing why you should vote for McCain and contrast the two candidates. After all, it's possible to have problems and still be the lesser of two evils. That's not the case here. These statements are in the comments, but I'm bringing them front and center here because they're worth saying and expanding.

"Anonymous" writes,
I'm an Obama supporter. I think that he did mean race. I don't understand why he said that.

He's still the best candidate, for one simple reason. (There's more than one, of course, but this is the key one for me): Taxes. He doesn't believe that we should cut taxes on the rich even more; instead, he says we should raise them. Know who agrees? Warren Buffett.
Unless you're solely concerned with what's coming out of your own pocket, political discussion of taxes is really a discussion of the economy. The candidate proffers his tax plan as a way to "fix" whatever is perceived to be wrong with the economy. So look at that: Clinton raised taxes; Bush cut taxes. Both inherited a poor economy and presided over periods of prosperity that declined late in their second terms. If you look at it historically, the President has very little control over the economy, though he does get the credit or blame for its performance.

You don't have to believe me. Here are some references, deliberately mixing liberal and conservative references: Math Mistakes. Steve Kanga's Liberal FAQ has a fine write-up. The Seattle Times. Daniel Gross in Slate. Seeking Alpha. US News & World Report. Or Google all you want. The consensus is clear. That "one reason" of Anonymous' is trivial indeed. You might as well elect a President based on his professed ability to control the weather.

However, the President has enormous influence over foreign relations and the country's security. I feel that the matter of taxes (as inconsequential as they ultimately are in the larger picture) does not overbalance the damage that Obama's character flaws can cause the country. As I've made clear in previous posts, I believe Obama's judgement leaves much to be desired. Clearly his hubris gets in the way of his message.

When I first heard Obama speak I felt that I would not mind if he became President, even though I support the other party. However, that first speech was the sum total of what we knew about the man. But in retrospect, what I was impressed with was a well-crafted and well-delivered speech, Not necessarily the man delivering it. As for the man himself... the more he speaks, the more he leaks... information about himself and the kind of man he is, and believes himself to be. And the picture is becoming less and less flattering with each revelation. His problems stem not from what his opponents say about him, but from the statements coming from his own mouth. And those are the kinds of problems that don't go away.

On the other hand, McCain's character was tested in a Vietnamese concentration camp. When offered early release, he declined because the Vietnamese would not first release the prisoners that were taken before him. He chose his own continued imprisonment over that of his comrades. He endured torture and two years of solitary confinement. The word "hero" is not applied to John McCain lightly; he was and is a genuine American hero.

This is important because we are now in a period of war. War is not an intellectual exercise for McCain: he understands it from the perspective of one who lived the very worst it... of one who would crave death over continued torture. He has made personal sacrifices and hard choices that the Barack Obama has never allowed himself to face. He knows personally what the decisions of the Commander-in-Chief mean to the troops on the ground. And he knows the realities of the situation. Contrary to the fluffy fictions of the left, he understands that a continued presence does not mean a prolonged war. Folks, we still maintain a presence in Japan and Germany, but no one on Earth is stupid enough to suggest that World War II is still ongoing. So why are so many Democrats stupid enough to make that argument regarding a continued presence in Iraq?

Representing the state of Arizona, McCain has the superior perspective on the issue of illegal immigration. He literally does, as he once stated, "know more than anyone in the room" about the subject. Unsurprisingly, his common-sense approach to border security will work.

In his energy policy, McCain knows what everyone in the energy industry knows... that there is a significant speculative component to oil prices. And that can be addressed by taking concrete, realistic steps toward energy independence. And that can only be achieved by including increased domestic oil production in the mix. This is in addition to electric and flex-fuel cars, reforming the transportation infrastructure, developing alternative sources of energy, increasing energy efficiency, and building clean and safe nuclear plants. In contrast, Obama naively believes that energy independence can be achieved without significantly expanding domestic production, including offshore drilling. Sadly, this country is not powered on dreams and wishes. We cannot pretend that Obama has a comprehensive energy policy when he deliberately excludes the most effective options from it.

I could continue point-by-point, but it's not necessary. You can read McCain's policies and see that they are, each of them, realistic and achievable. (Obama, on the other hand, measures the beginning of the reversal of global warming from the date of his own nomination. And yes. I know it was rhetoric. But such blatantly silly rhetoric begs exposition. A man who wants to discuss "the issues" would do well to start doing so.)

I will make special mention of one aspect of McCain's economic policy: Taxes (as it's quite important to "Anonymous"). Since, as we've seen, it's well-established that the President has only limited impact on the economic cycle, it's illogical to self-impose taxes that will make no significant difference to the economy or to the government budget. If logic has any role in your decision-making, then vote for the candidate that will keep your taxes low. That would be John McCain. And to the extent that the President does influence the economy, he does so by encouraging the conditions for employment. Poor people do not employ others. Neither do rich people, if the money that would have been used to pay them has been taxed away.

McCain is not an ideologue. His positions do not always align with that of the Republican Right. Often enough that Rush Limbaugh is on the record opposing him, I think unreasonably. Limbaugh's is the single most influential endorsement on the Right, and McCain will not put up a false front to gain it. It is important for people in the Center and on the Left to know: McCain can, has, and will work to the benefit of the country, not a Party. It also means that you're doing yourself a disservice if you oppose him simply because he's a Republican. If you want to know where he stands, look at his voting record, read his policies. They're not hidden. They're not secret.

There is a strong possibility that Obama will learn from this experience and become a better candidate in the future. But as for the present contest, I would emphatically stress that he is not the best candidate. John McCain's inarguable strength of character, his lifetime of public service, 25 years of legislative experience, his realistic and commonsense policies, and his proven track record of holding his convictions above his party affiliation make him the superior candidate for President.

He ventured forth to bring light to the world

Normally I'm not overtly political in this blog, but you may have noticed I'm making special dispensation for Obama. He's making it quite easy.

Gerard Baker has hit a home run with his satire, "He ventured forth to bring light to the world." Here it is, read by Baker himself:

Direct quotes from Obama:
  • "A light will shine down... from somewhere. It will... it will light upon you. You will experience an epiphany. And you will say to yourself, 'I have to vote for Barack!'"
  • "This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow, and our planet began to heal!"
  • "I have become a symbol of America returning to our best traditions."
  • "We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek."
  • "What Washington needs is adult supervision."
  • "I honor -- we honor -- the service of John McCain, and I respect his many accomplishments, even if he chooses to deny mine." (Obama is a first-term senator. McCain has been in Congress as a Representative and Senator since 1983... 25 years of accomplishment)
  • And in the "Actions speak louder than words" category, he stood behind a mock presidential seal for a press conference on June 20th. He's not president. He dispensed with it when he was ridiculed.
Don't believe it? Look:

Well, a little arrogance is to be expected when you're a Super-Genius. Witness the following:
  • "I had learned not to care. I blew a few smoke rings, remembering those years. Pot had helped, and booze; maybe a little blow when you could afford it. Not smack, though. ..." (Perhaps what he needed was adult supervision)
  • "In case you missed it, this week, there was a tragedy in Kansas. Ten thousand people died -- an entire town destroyed." (12 people died, not 10,000. Oh well, it's the thought that counts)
  • "I've now been in 57 states -- I think one left to go." (video) (Wile E. Coyote... Sooooper genius! There are 50 states)
  • "On this Memorial Day, as our nation honors its unbroken line of fallen heroes -- and I see many of them in the audience here today -- our sense of patriotism is particularly strong." (Praise be! He's raised the fallen heroes to come stand before him!)
  • May 13th, 2008, Obama explained a lack of Arabic translators in Afghanistan as a mis-allocation of resources: “We only have a certain number of them and if they are all in Iraq, then it’s harder for us to use them in Afghanistan.” (Afghanis don't speak Arabic)
  • Here are some more.
Listing the gaffes is fun, but it doesn't mean much. Anybody can make a slip of the tongue, and if you're speaking day after long day in a campaign, you're going to misspeak (as with the "57 states" quote. He obviously was thinking 50 states, then changed in mid-sentence because the actual number was 47. "One to go" would have made 48, and he didn't visit Hawaii or Alaska). Every public speaker has such statements on the record. They have nothing but entertainment value. They're like spelling mistakes in chat.

But in Obama's case, it's the premeditated statements in the speeches that are the big problem. This man is simply too arrogant and too inexperienced to be our President. In all seriousness, a President does not have to know everything. But he shouldn't place himself on a pedestal and should not look down his nose at the people he will depend upon to accomplish anything. A President accomplishes nothing of value except through the actions of others... that's what leadership is, and it takes a fair amount of humility to pull it off. Obama has none whatsoever.

Though it's of passing indifference to many of us, Obama seems to think his minority status is of primary importance, so let's not shy away from that. Firstly, it should be of passing indifference to everyone, Obama included, as he is every bit as Caucasian as he is African. If anybody has the right to straddle the fence and bring people together, it is he. Yet he's chosen not to do that; rather, he chooses one side over the other in a divisive way, as illustrated by his pre-emptive and unwarranted playing of the "race card" against McCain. This is exceptionally bad judgement. But what makes it worse is the way he's used it to plant a wedge between himself and the majority of people, whom he should be courting. Democracy is, in the end, a system of majority rule. To be elected he cannot eschew one group for another, even though he does it with flowery rhetoric about togetherness and change. It's not words that people react to... it's the meaning contained within them. With a little "adult supervision" perhaps Obama will learn that and be better prepared for a future election.