Monday, September 29, 2008

Nervous About the Next Debate

The results that matter from last Friday's debate are in, and it looks like a Obama has picked up a small percentage of voters. I had a hard time scoring it myself, because I'm too biased at this point.

However, after watching the latest SNL drubbing of Sarah Palin, I am now officially nervous about the vice presidential debate on Thursday:

The skit is certainly funny, but I fear that comedy like is creating such unrealistically low expectations for her that if she merely shows up at the debate and manages not to mutter to herself in tongues or curse at Americans in general, it will be seen as a huge victory.

This is pretty much what happened at the Republican convention. There was a lot of ridicule at McCain for his choice, but then she was able to give a good speech, and suddenly everyone thought she was brilliant.

So, we'll see how this plays out. I hope I'm wrong, but I'm feeling uneasy at this point.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Campbell Brown on Sexism and Palin

In other news, did you see the beat down Campbell Brown applied to those being sexist towards Sarah Palin? Here's the video:


Frankly I have had it, and I know a lot of other women out there who are with me on this. I have had enough of the sexist treatment of Sarah Palin. It has to end.

She was in New York on Tuesday meeting with world leaders at the U.N. And what did the McCain campaign do?

They tried to ban reporters from covering those meetings. And they did ban reporters from asking Gov. Palin any questions.

Tonight I call on the McCain campaign to stop treating Sarah Palin like she is a delicate flower that will wilt at any moment," said Brown. "This woman is from Alaska for crying out loud. She is strong. She is tough. She is competent.

And you claim she is ready to be one heart beat away form the presidency. If that is the case, then end this chauvinistic treatment of her now. Allow her to show her stuff. Allow her to face down those pesky reporters. Let her have a real news conference with real questions.

By treating Sarah Palin different from the other candidates in this race, you are not showing her the respect she deserves. Free Sarah Palin. Free her from the chauvinistic chain you are binding her with. Sexism in this campaign must come to an end. Sarah Palin has just as much a right to be a real candidate in this race as the men do. So let her act like one.

Amen, sister.

Let's Review

McCain decides to suspend his campaign to help with the financial crisis, even though he is not on any of the relevant committees, and doesn't know much about economics.

Steady progress is being made on the bailout plan by leaders of both parties. There seems to be a general framework of agreement.

24 hours after saying he was going to help, after spending the time in New York and giving interviews, McCain arrives in Washington.

General agreement breaks down, House Republicans want to go in a completely different direction.

At meeting with Bush, Obama and leaders who brokered deal, McCain sits silently for forty minutes and "offered only a vague sense of where he stood."

So, for those keeping score at home, McCain inserted himself and the presidential race into delicate negotiations, which immediately broke down when he entered town. Those working out the deal have to be aware of not only what is good for the economy and the taxpayers, but now will take into consideration who is going to get credit and who is going to get blame, and which candidate is going to look good or bad based on how negotiations proceed, which complicates the situation by orders of magnitute.

Country First, my ass. This makes me angry.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Robots Rule

My weekly Smile Politely column is up: Why The World Should Be Ruled By Robotic Overlords, which is about why the world should be ruled by robotic overlords.

Actually, I originally wrote this up about a year ago, but it never found a home. Now it is a column.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The McCain Candidacy in 1:53

If 5 million dollars in income is what separates the middle class from the rich, then I guess 45 million dollars in golden parachutes is what separates fat cats from McCain advisors:

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Update on the Writing Life

The kids are back at school and they seem to be doing mostly OK, so I now find myself with some all-precious extra time to devote to writing. This past summer, I was hoping I would receive some kind of divine (or otherwise) inspiration for writing projects, in order to enter the autumn with enthusiasm for something big, meaningful, and specific.

But, no such luck. I still keep tapping out occasional blog posts and attempting a solid column once a week at Smile Politely. I keep filling my plate with a buffet of topics to write about, but then keep poking my fork at them. On some days, I obsessively read about Sarah Palin or financial meltdowns, and other days I obsessively check to see if one of the thousand websites containing electoral vote maps have been updated. I've even been reduced to pouring concrete on some days.

But, there is one bit of good news. My writing for free has been successful enough at Smile Politely that they asked me whether I'd consider editing for free too. I'd get to call myself an editor, have power and control over other writers, and fix my own typos. Who could ask for more?

The truth is, ever since embarking down this lonely road of stay-at-home parenting and fantasizing about being a writer, I've thought it would be healthy to hang out with a community of writers and work towards some kind of common goal. Being an editor at Smile Politely fits the bill quite nicely. I'm being assigned new writers as they come on board, which means that so far I watch other editors be busy and post my one column a week. But, there are a few coming on board in the next week or so, I should be busy soon enough. Mostly, this will be a good experiment to see if I have any aptitude for editing. My copy editing is not great, but I'm hoping I can be helpful enough on the content side of things to make it worthwhile.

One result of this change is that my column will be moving from Tuesdays to Thursdays.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Monday Comic

From Steve Greenberg of the Ventura County Star:

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Southern Baptists on Governance

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said this when asked how he could support Sarah Palin as vice president, when Southern Baptists believe women cannot be heads of household or pray out loud in church:

The only restrictions we find in Scripture are that, for whatever reason, women are not to be in charge of a marriage and women are not to be in charge of a church. That has nothing to do with governor, or senator or the House of Representatives, or president, or vice president.

I can't argue with that logic. However, I am a little concerned that if we are going to strictly follow this Scripture thing, Palin will need to spend seven days a month in something like a red tent. I can't see how that won't interfere with her vice-presidential duties, unless they make it a special red bunker in some undisclosed location.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Palin Obsession Continues

I seem unable to stop writing about Sarah Palin. What is wrong with me?

My Smile Politely column for this week is available here, and compares George Bush with Sarah Palin in one specific way: Their knack for being able to create reality, rather than having to live within the strict confines of those pesky facts.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Feeling Manly and Tired

Claiming to be manly is like claiming to be funny. If you have to prove it by showing pictures and explaining, you’re pretty pathetic.

Nonetheless, I feel manly this week because I've been working with my friend Perry to prepare the side of our house for our new driveway. He promised it would only cost a little extra for me to help, so I jumped all over it.

How manly am I? Well, earlier in the week I was breaking up concrete with a sledgehammer and throwing the pieces into truck. You just can't get more manly than that. That's what I told my wife, anyway, as I was whined to her about how achy I was while I soaked in my bubble bath that night.

Next up was driving spikes stakes into the ground to put up forms for concrete and shoveling dirt to even things out. That's pretty manly, but not as much as busting up concrete. Still, it's more manly than crying myself to sleep at night because of the pain.

As the week has worn on, my body has continued to cry out for mercy. This morning I could hardly hammer a spike stake into the soft, wet ground, and I wasn't even strong enough to drill screws into wood sideways. All I could do was use the electric saw to cut off the tops of the spikes stakes and carry them over to the woodpile. My body was telling me in no uncertain terms to get back to the computer and stop this nonesense. In response, I complimented myself for carrying sticks to the woodpile during a long, steady rainstorm and getting incredibly muddy, which I believe provides some kind of extra credit for man points.

My goal as a writer is to make some kind of impact on the world, which is nice and vague, and can't really be proven or disproven one way or another. My goal as a construction worker is to someday be manly enough to operate the backhoe. Sometimes it's good to have a nice, concrete goal. Unfortunately, Perry knows me pretty well, so I suspect it will be awhile before I get there.

And speaking of concrete, we'll be pouring on Monday if the weather cooperates. If my body hasn't recovered by then, I may ask that they just bury me there.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Social Sins

My weekly column at Smile Politely was posted yesterday: The More or Less Seven Social Sins.

It's advocates for doing away with personal salvation, but compliments God on being a marketing genius.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Born Again vs Giving to the Poor

I'm reading Shane Clairborne's The Irresistible Revolution, which is challenging me on several levels. His advocacy for the least among us is very compelling, and calls into question whether my comfortable middle-class lifestyle of consumption is really compatible with being a follower of Jesus.

I loved this quote about Rich Mullins, a singer-songwriter:

"I will never forget one of the chapel services where Rich spoke while I was at Wheaton...Rick stood up in chapel and said, 'You guys are all into that born again thing, which is great. We do need to be born again, since Jesus said that to a guy named Nicodemus. But if you tell me I have to be born again to enter the kingdom of God, I can tell you that you have to sell everything you have and give it to the poor, because Jesus said that to one guy too...[And he paused in awkward silence.] But I guess that's why God invented highlighters, so we can highlight the parts we like and ignore the rest.'"

Note that I'm not quoting this because I am anti-hypocrite. I am quoting it because I am pro-highlighter.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Ending With a Sigh

I think watching political conventions might rank right up there with smoking and swearing as a bad habit.

Nonetheless, I watched the Old Moose Lodge Meeting/Republican Convention last night to the bitter end, even though McCain had me dozing off a few times. Giving speeches is not his strength, as everyone points out. It's true that speeches are not critical parts of governing, but there are times when they matter a great deal, like in a crisis, or when the populace needs to be energized for some big task (like energy independence).

I'm surprised he is trying to take the "Change" brand away from Obama. I can't see how this will be effective. But then again, as I point out all the time, I didn't think this country could go to war against a country that wasn't threatening us, so what do I know.

Tom Toles sums it up pretty well:

I also don't see how McCain can continue to harp on putting country first and political ambitions second, while, in an attempt to secure his base, he nominates someone for VP who is completely unqualified. But, I guess you can say anything in a Post-Irony, Post-Logic world.

Speaking of post-irony, here's a snippet from the speech: "Russia's leaders, rich with oil wealth and corrupt with power, have rejected democratic ideals and the obligations of a responsible power. They invaded a small, democratic neighbour to gain more control over the world's oil supply, intimidate other neighbours, and further their ambitions..." Hmmm. I guess we are still a world leader, since other countries now feel free to follow our example.

In need of some sanity, I went to the Daily Show website late last night and caught up on a few episodes. Jon Stewart is a national treasure. He should be bronzed and placed in the Smithsonian (after the election is over though).

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Fair's Fair

Sarah Palin may be unqualified for the vice presidency, but there's no question she did well last night. She can deliver a speech, that's for sure. No Dan Quayle deer-in-the-headlights look for her - she was aggressive and seemed authentic. It looks like this is going to be a dogfight.

Here are some more random thoughts on political matters. I swear I'll lay off this whole politics things soon ... starting next week sometime, perhaps, just after I do another few posts.

  • If you go entirely by Republican talking points, Sarah Palin has more governing experience than even John McCain. Maybe she should be at the top of the ticket, since McCain is just a member of Senate, and therefore, has no "governing experience," like Obama.

  • Is it really a good strategy to mock public service? Both Palin and Giuliani made sarcastic, acidic remarks about Obama being a community organizer. This may play well to the red-meat Republicans at the convention, but I sure hope it repulses regular Americans. After all, most Americans literally worship a community organizer.

  • It looks like Republicans are going after the special needs vote. However, I hope someone asks the question at some point: Aside from being in a special needs family, what is Palin going to actually do via social policy to advocate for special needs? I would guess cutting taxes and gutting social services isn't the right answer here.

  • I cracked up when Giuliani said that Democrats don't say "9/11" enough and they don't scare people about Islamic terrorists enough. It's like being criticized by a Turret's Tourette's syndrome victim who complains that you don't swear enough.

  • I can't believe Palin lied again about opposing the Bridge to Nowhere project. Democrats should jump all over that. As Al Franken might say, lying makes you a liar.

  • I've been mocking Republicans for their solution to the energy crisis, which I keep saying is "Drill, Baby, Drill." Now they are shouting that exact phrase from the convention floor, apparently proud that their best idea on energy independence is to drill for more oil. Again, I can only pray that regular Americans are very different from Republican convention delegates.

  • I'm fascinated by the news that Peggy Noonan is privately dissing the Palin pick, while publicly condemning Democrats for vetting her. I've always wondered if conservative commentators really do believe all the crap they peddle. I guess in Noonan's case, the answer is no, and that she really is just a Republican operative masquerading as talking head.

  • The more I see of Palin, the more she reminds me of George W. Bush. He was also a governor from a state that bordered a foreign country (so I guess we can dispense of the notion that it qualifies you to make good foreign policy decisions). They both come off as authentic and likable, but underneath it they are both religious arch-conservatives. And if Palin becomes president, you can bet she will have Karl Roves and Dick Cheneys pulling the strings.

OK, that's all for now. We'll see how McCain does tonight. In the meantime, I may order one of those Jesus shirts:

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

More VP Frenzy

OK, I’m officially obsessed with the Sarah Palin VP carnival of fun/media frenzy. Obama and Biden are wisely staying above the fray, but since I’m not running, I will share some random observations:

  • Forget Barack, Bristol, Piper, Track, Willow and Trig. Is the country really ready for a first husband named “Todd”?

  • Apparently, abstinence education is working as intended. Every time you have sex, a baby should result, followed by a shotgun wedding.

  • Is the stink of Republican corruption so bad that the best person available for VP is governor of a state with a smaller population than Indianapolis? Really?

  • I take back what I said about her being ordinary. Does an ordinary person out her pregnant daughter to dispel Internet rumors? Yikes.

  • Turns out, her husband is a member of a secessionist party. Hmm. New Republican convention slogan: Putting Country First! (Except in Alaska!). Can you imagine what Fox news would do if the Democratic VP nominee were soft on secession?

  • I think it’s great Palin decided to keep her Downs Syndrome child. I really do. But I’m also grateful she had a choice about it.

  • I was initially impressed in her very first speech when she said "I told Congress, 'Thanks, but no thanks,' on that bridge to nowhere. If our state wanted a bridge,' I said, 'we'd build it ourselves.'"

    Well, it turns out that she supported the bridge to nowhere (which at the time, was STILL A BRIDGE TO NOWHERE) until it became a political liability.

    “She changed her mind, he said, when "she saw that Alaska was being perceived as taking from the country and not giving, and that impression bothered her and she wants to change it. … I think that Sarah Palin is someone who has the courage to reevaluate situations as they developed."

    I guess this is another example of the state of the Republican party: you can be called a reformer if you oppose something after it becomes a symbol of corruption. This makes her unlike Ted Stevens, who still wanted the bridge after it became a symbol of corruption, and George Bush, who never changes his mind on anything.

  • Actually, I take that back too. The person her actual positions seem to mostly closely match is George W. Bush.

  • People keep saying, with straight faces, that Palin has foreign policy experience because her state borders Russia and she is head of the National Guard. Did I miss something, or did Russia/Canada invade Alaska over the last 20 months? Or, perhaps we missed the news, because her fervent negotiations with Putin succeeded.

  • Either McCain knew all of these things, or he didn’t, but I’m not sure which is worse. Did he simply not prepare for his most important decision as a candidate, or did he know all this and still decide she was the best candidate?

At this point, all I can say is, her speech will need to be pretty good tonight.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Palin Pick

My Smile Politely column this week is about the Sarah Palin pick for VP, and is already out of date, as the stories about her continue to fly about at a brisk pace. It's available here.

Amishlaw's post from yesterday is actually much better, as it lays out a seemingly complete list of issues surrounding the pick. It's available here.

Even my brother Tim has a great post about it, and he rarely talks about politics. His is available here.

All in all, I'm finding this week's and last week's political drama more interesting than the Olympics were.