Friday, August 29, 2008

Veep fever

Woops. Just as I was thinking I liked McCain for his experience as a warrior and for his honesty, candor, and feistiness, he became a politician. It's his veep nomination, a 44-year-old woman from Wasilla, Alaska (I bet I'm one of the few people in the lower 48 who knows where Wasilla is. I've even been there). What's her experience? Well, she's been governor of Alaska for two years. At least she matches Obama's experience. What's her foreign policy experience? Ummm. Expertise on the economy? Ummm. Ability to fight off terrorists? Ummm. So, why'd McCain choose her? She's a woman, dummy, she's young, and she's photogenic. She has the Obamic qualifications (simply swap African American for woman). I don't know if she is a rousing public speaker or not, but if she is, then she and Obama are kind of the Bobsey Twins of the presidential race.
So now we have one geezer and one young Turk in the race for the president. I will probably go to the polls with my usual sour face. The only thing that might tip the scales for me on this one is that with the Republicans the geezer is top billing, and for me experience trumps rhetoric.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Us and them

My one contribution to world thought, though someone has probably already said it, is this: There is no "we" without a "them." Conservatives need liberals; liberals need conservatives. Good guys need bad guys; bad guys need good guys. The righteous need sinners; sinners need the righteous. The actions of sinners might or might not remain the same if there were no righteous people to point the finger. It's the polarity that does the defining. One is not a sinner in a vacuum. One does something and it's a sin if someone has so defined it, and the definers do so as a contrast to their own position. Righteous people can't exist without sinners. Can you imagine a world full of righteous people (horrible thought)? They wouldn't be righteous because there would be no category "righteous," or perhaps even a concept "righteous." However, comes a sinner and zing! righteousness exists. And sinners need the righteous. How many people sin to punish themselves? Or to thumb their noses at society, parents, peers? If there were no righteous, what would they do? I remember being at a school that was so uptight that people who played Hearts (the card game) on weekends were suspect. The good thing about that is that one can be a rebel and not do any great damage to one's self. At a liberal school, you'd have to pierce some important body parts to be a rebel.
Let's extend this into the cosmos. When will the world become one people? When we discover intelligent life on other planets somewhere. Not until then. We've got to have the "them," you see.
One of our problems as an American society is that we really don't have a good, solid them out there. We're it - king of the hill, cock of the walk, cream of the crop (multiply cliches as needed). As long as we had the evil Commies, we could have some sort of unity. The Nazis unified us nicely, thank you. Who can step in and take their place? The mid-east? No, that's a family feud and we're only in it for the oil. Aside: Does anyone really think we'd care what the mid-east did to themselves if it wasn't for oil?
Bottom line -- we'll keep squabbling until ET comes to town and then we'll whip into line.

Monday, August 25, 2008

SOB as Presidential material

During the time that Nixon was president and his penchant for dirty play was coming out, people would say to me, "We need a president who is honest. We need a nice president." So we got one - Jimmy Carter. So much for nice presidents.
Which leads me to believe that we don't really need a nice president. We need a mean, nasty sonuvabitch who can stand toe to toe with Putin and tell him to stick it where the sun don't shine. We need somebody who is grouchy, touchy, who believes that the United States is the best thing since (and before) sliced bread and anyone who messes with us will be chewed up, spat out, and forgotten.
We need someone who understands that war is not civilized. Therefore, this person would not enter into a war unless there was no other choice, but once in the war would have two goals: not getting our people killed, and getting their people killed. As Patton said, you don't win a war by dying for your country. You win by making them die for their country. As long as the US fights tippytoe wars, we'll lose soldiers.
So, where does that leave us? Should we have invaded Iraq? Probably not. Should we stay? Until we have kicked some serious a##.
Which presidential candidate is more likely to think this way? Need I say?

Saturday, August 23, 2008


Well, it's official. Joseph Motormouth Biden is Obama's vice presidential choice. I don't really have too much to say about his politics -- he's been around long enough to have plenty of experience -- but he's a cheat. Remember what derailed his presidential bid a few years back? Plagiarism. So now we have a disappointed presidential wannabe willing to steal ideas as second banana. That's what I call poetic justice. Let him sit just out of the limelight for eight years and then he's too old for the brass ring (Courtesy of the department of mixed metaphors)
Actually, I've been thinking that Obama should have chosen Condaleezza Rice as his running mate. Think of it. Obama would be balancing the ticket in a number of ways: gender, party affiliation, experience. In addition, and this is the clincher, she'd be able to tell him he was talking like an idiot and not be accused of racism.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Dying for the right

This thing has been festering in me for years, and now I've got to get it out. My countrymen in far away places are dying. That saddens me, but I am no so naive as to suppose that we can get rid of the Taliban by offering them Oreos. But people ought to die for something worth dying for, shouldn't they?
Which brings me to the subject of this monolog. Dying and making it worthwhile.
Some years back, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir made a recording of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," that was a hit, as such things go. The music will give you goosebumps, sure thing, but at the same time, I'm bothered by it. For one thing, they didn't include all the verses. There's one that goes,

"I have seen Him in the watchfires of a hundred circling camps,
They have builded him an altar in the evening dews and damps
I can read his righteous sentence in the dim and flaring lamps"

And another that goes

I have read a fiery message writ in burnished rows of steel..."

These verses are not there. The meat of the message, "This is real honest-to-God war," is left out.
But that's not what really gets me. In the Julia Ward Howe poem, one of the last lines goes,
"As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free." The Tabernacle Choir version reads, "As He died to men holy, let us live to make men free." As if living were some sort of sacrifice in time of war? As if freedom for all can be won without blood?
Not only does this destroy the parallelism and strength of the lines, it mocks the fact that thousands of men did in fact die to make men free. Do we toss off their sacrifice? The way the Choir sang the song was a complete evisceration of what Howe was trying to say. She was saying, "Let us be prepared to die so that people might live free." The Choir negated that poweful image when they wimped the song down the way they did. Maybe we should send a copy, with Oreos, to the Taliban.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Who is this guy?

I've decided not to vote for people I don't know anything about. In the past, I've walked into the voting booth, looked at the names, and realized that I knew nothing at all about most of them. I'd be voting not only for President of the U.S. but for my local school district members.
Over the years, I've developed various strategies for making my vote a valid one. For a while, I voted for the first half of the alphabet one election, the second half of the alphabet the next election. I realized, though, that this skewed my choices, since way more than half the people in the U.S. have names that begin with a letter in the first half (Don't believe me? Check it out).
So, for a while I used word association tests. I'd look at a name, say the first word that came to mind, and if the word had a positive connotation (chocolate, say), I'd vote for that person. If the word had a negative connotation (licorice, which I hate), I'd vote against. But what if both candidates had negative connotations?
Then, for a while, I chose names on a consonant vowel ratio. If there were exactly two consonants per vowel, I voted for that name.
All of which means that I voted for a large number of doofi (plural of doofus) in my time. Best to not vote at all.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The going gets nasty

McCain just compared Obama to Paris Hilton. Oh, boy, those are really fighting words. If I were Barack, I think I would be justified in challenging John to a duel, or maybe even having a hit put out on him. I didn't think things would get this bad this fast.
What McCain is saying, of course, is that Obama is all glitz and no substance. I have to admit that this is a reasonable tactic to use, although comparing him to Paris and the like is a little much. But the idea is out there, isn't it? On my home page, there's a popup that asks if Obama is "the man with the plan, or flash in the pan?" (BTW, I wonder how many people know where that expression "flash in the pan" came from. Answer at the end of this blog).
So, is Obama a lightweight? His foreign policy experience is virtually zero, which is not necessarily bad, as long as he remembers that people lie, cheat, distort, make empty promises, and do anything else necessary to advance their national or religious agendas. He also should remember that what T. Roosevelt said about speaking and sticks.
During the American Revolution, two men played important roles in securing the help of the French: Adams and Franklin. Franklin met guile with guile, oil with oil, schmooze with schmooze, while Adams went straight to the point in neatly American puritan firm impassioned stress. Which technique worked? It depends on whose biography you read. I tend toward the Adams route. Lay it out. Speak politely, but don't hide the stick.
Who is more likely to act the way I want? At this moment, I'd have to say McCain, though Obama may surprise me. As with everything else, it's too close to call.
"Flash in the pan" means that if you're shooting a flintlock rifle, the small charger of powder under the hammer flared but it didn't ignite the powder in the barrel and your rifle is not going to fire and the big bear coming at you gets a meal.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Ah, the golden age!

There's a poem I remember vaguely from college about ships. I can't even remember who wrote it. There are three verses. The first begins with something like, "Quinquireme from Ninevah." The second begins, "Stately Spanish galleon." The third begins, "Dirty British steamer with a salt-caked smokestack." (All quotes approximate)
Partly, of course, the poet is in love with language. Partly though, he's contrasting the grace and beauty of the past with the prosaic clunkiness of the present. The quinquireme is carrying precious cargo, ditto the galleon, but the steamer is carrying "cheap tin trays."
Never mind that the quinguireme is being rowed by slaves with the life expectancy of a may fly and the galleon is on its way to Spain with treasure looted from the natives (well, they did give them disease in payment). And never mind that cheap tin trays means everyone can afford one. No, the past was always better than the present -- Those were the days, weren't they Archie?
Both presidential candidates will occasionally want us to go back -- to values, to attitudes, to whatever. Well, I have news for them. Not only can you not go back, you shouldn't want to. Anyone who thinks that the past was better than the present is, how shall I say this---nuts. Think a downtown is dangerous after dark? You should have lived in 18th C London, when gangs openly roamed the streets and going out meant going armed. Think too many people are dying in Iraq? How about 53,000 in three days at Gettysburg? Think modern medicine is bad? Would you like your local barber to bleed you if you're sick? Think we have drug problems? Does the phrase opium den (they were legal) mean anything to you?
The world is, by and large, getting better for larger and larger segments of the population. Those who live in dire poverty now are living about the same way everybody lived 300 years ago, and nearly everybody lived 100 years ago.
'Tain't perfect. But it's chugging along. Let's push ahead rather than dragging back.