Friday, August 29, 2008
**Updated with full bio**
Alaska governor Sarah Palin will be John McCain's running mate on the Republican ticket.
Continue for her bio and a quick reaction.
Born in Idaho, Sarah Palin moved to Alaska when she was still an infant. She was the daughter of education folk, a school secretary mom and science teacher/track coach dad, and excelled in athletics, earning the nickname "Barracuda" for her fierce play on the basketball court. She majored in journalism and minored in political science at the University of Idaho. When 20, she won the Miss Wasilla beauty pageant and came in second in the Miss Alaska competition, which (I think) marks the first time a beauty pageant contestant has sought presidential-level office in our fair country.
In 1988, she married (eloped to save money) Todd Palin, and the two just celebrated their 20th anniversary. They have five kids together, two sons and three daughters. Their eldest son ships off to Iraq this Sept. 11, and their youngest son, only four months old, has Downs Syndrome. She did find this out during a prenatal scan, but would not consider an abortion. She calls him "perfect."
Over her life, she has been a sportscaster and a commercial fisherman (her husband's business, when he's not working Alaska's North Slope as a production operator for BP). Her first step towards politics was in 1992 when she was elected to her first term in the Wasilla town council, a post she won again two years later. In 1996, she won the election to be mayor of Wasilla, and was re-elected in 1999. Another feather in her cap, she was also named President of Alaska's Conference of Mayors.
Moving from local to state-wide politics, she was appointed as the ethics commissioner of the Alaska Oil and Gas commission. She resigned in protest of unethical actions and later filed against fellow Republicans, leading to large fines, other resignations and a growing image as a reformer - even within her own party.
After an unsuccessful 2002 attempt at the post of Lt. Governor, she came back in 2006 and won her gubernatorial campaign by a healthy eight percent. She was the youngest Alaskan governor elected, and the first woman. While in office, she's done her best to reduce frivolous spending and really, done a whole lot more. To list all of her accomplishments and initiatives would take more ink than I spent on Joe Biden, and that wouldn't be fair.
Though not the oldest candidate, and certainly inexperienced on an international scale, she brings with her a keen understanding of our energy concerns and domestic economic issues. Her image is of a reformer, harkening back to the days of progressive Republican Teddy Roosevelt and more recently, McCain himself, comparisons the Republican party certainly wants to play up. She is an aisle-crosser, appointing people of all stripes to high positions and not being afraid to slap down her own party when it gets out of line.
So her major failing is lack of foreign policy experience, a key criteria McCain has stressed. It's easy, however, to answer such criticism, chiefly by pointing out the Democratic presidential nominee's lack of foreign policy experience. But we don't have to match a negative with a negative. Her lack in one area is matched by executive experience, a quick mind and strong economic and energy experience. McCain's more learned foreign policy experts are no doubt going over every international issue country by country at this stage.
But Biden still has the edge come the debate, a big experience gap that he'll play (rightly) to the hilt.
For more reading, check out her acceptance speech, her Wikipedia page and her Alaska gubernatorial homepage.
I'll be brief. Her nomination places an enormous burden on the Democratic party. She's a hard nut to crack, and as we'll see, her bio makes her almost unassailable in the traditional manner. Her age and governmental experience aren't really an issue, because if you start poking there, highlight Obama. Just because he assumed a national pulpit earlier than she, it doesn't mean he's more experienced and the Dems would watch their criticism.
For example: a trusted voting Democrat told me that McCain is 72 now (Happy Birthday!) and could keel over while in office, leaving this first-term Alaskan governor mother of five to assume the presidency. That's a serious consideration.
Consider the rebuttal: Obama is a first term US Senator with no executive experience. He has not been a chairman at a major corporation or a president, not a governor, mayor, or ranking military officer. And he isn't first in line should the President keel over - he's the domino that would start the collapse. The onus is on him to explain why his lack of experience is really better than hers.
The tickets are crossed: McCain's experience matches Biden's and Obama's lack thereof matches Palin's. McCain simply has to stress that while the Untested is one step from the Oval Office on his ticket, it's right there on the Dems' side.
Palin will lock in conservatives looking for a pro-lifer without question, an NRA activist, a "frontier" American who makes opportunity instead of waits for it to be doled out. She's risky come debate time, but a smart choice that zaps life into the McCain campaign. Oh, she also delivers a pretty good speech.
I expect a slight bounce in the polls.
-Hooper Read on, faithful few!
Thursday, August 28, 2008
The Political Hoedown
It all went down this week in Denver, CO. A black man won, for the first time, the nomination of a major US political party. How'd it go down? I won't bore you. Read elsewhere if you want news on the musical interludes, crappy live performances by any number of established bands, the little speeches, videos, Drunk Ted Kennedy.
I'm looking at the big dogs only. And really, only Obama mattered in the end.
So...yeah. Hillary. Michelle Obama. Slick Willy. Nights one and two were highlighted by knockout speeches by the two most prominent women involved with the presidential election. But whereas Michelle hit the ball out of the park for her husband, emphasizing that he's a Christian, non-Muslim, non-terrorist/anarchist/anti-establishment, decent human being, Hillary took a different tac.
She purposefully hit a high fly ball over the Republican infield while Obama was waiting to score from third. Not the best maneuver, Evita. Her husband, on night three, did a suitable follow-up, but was more specific and pointed. Shame he was jabbing his own candidate. Biden's speech, I'll admit, didn't capture my attention. I did not watch all of it.
(Psst - that's why no one cared when he was chosen, and the polls remain unchanged.)
Michelle Obama gave a very nice, polished speech Monday night to an agreeable audience. There was nothing new here, no invective against McCain or lavish praise for Hillary (just a throwaway "18 million cracks" line). Pundits predicted she'd attempt to humanize Obama's image, bring the "father" and "husband" out from storage. It worked, mostly. I can't think of a time in the speech where I rolled my eyes or thought she was mugging for the camera with a sappy story. Sure, the car ride home with one of their infant daughters, Barack looking over the seats to see his new family every five seconds, was a cute story, but it didn't degenerate into a Hallmark card.
The rest of the substance, well, some people have picked apart a few of her claims about her husband, that she inflated his record, but that happens. He might've fought for a veterans' bill, but it didn't make it out of the (Democrat-controlled) committee. Stuff like that (Biden did that two nights later).
The worst complaint I have for her is that it was too slickly delivered. Her hand movements were her husbands, as was her cadence. Certainly she has watched him speak on the campaign trail from Day 1 (in IL), and in doing so, picked up some mannerisms. As someone who looks at those things when a person speaks (and who wildly gesticulates himself), I found it distracting at times. But that's a minor quibble.
Oh, but Hillary...she screwed the pooch.
From the stock speech to the you-can't-ignore-me orange power suit, she was a woman aflame, but not for Obama. She mentioned him a number of times, but didn't. You can take her speech and replace "Barack Obama" or "Senator Obama" with any Democratic contender. It was more a valedictory of her campaign, a promise she isn't done, than a ringing endorsement of Obama. Granted, we never thought it would be. And it's not like she said, "Yay, go brown man or...whatever."
It's clear she is positioning herself as the next Ted Kennedy, senior statesman (D) in Congress. If Obama fails in November, Hillary is suddenly there for "I told you so's" until the last piece of confetti falls on McCain's shoulders. 2012 could be her year. Or not. She might fade after this into the Senate. Did we see her swan song speech? If so, for her, it was terrific. It was a speech for her. Obama was a side note.
Throughout this week at the convention, McCain hasn't had an easy time. Night one avoided truly harsh criticism, since it was Michelle's night, and she was about humanity, not vicious attack. But night two, three and culminating in Obama's thunderous oratory: McCain must feel like swiss cheese.
Virtually every major speaker ripped into him a sentence after praising his 1) congressional service or 2) military service. They also tied him firmly to the Bush Administration (the "foreign policy of Bush/McCain," Obama said), a challenge since it became clear McCain was the frontrunner. Democrats need a clear target, and McCain is nebulous at best due to his cross-aisle appeal in all previous election years. Bush and Cheney are as crisp as a fresh dollar, sharp targets easy to locate and define as opposite to everything the Dems believe in. Lassoing McCain to one or both drags him into the mire of eight contentious political years.
Despite Gore, Clinton (Bill), Pelosi, Richardson, Biden, Durbin, etc. expending their righteous indignation at the very person of John McCain, it is Obama's speech that will echo in the papers and blogs and running cable commentary. He reached out and patted him on the back, briefly, and then gut-punched him the next second.
That's ok, that's a convention speech. No one will claim he was too harsh, but he was harsh. We haven't heard an Obama this...vitriolic at any point in the whole campaign (which he's been running for 12 years. Woah!). Every failure, from Iraq to dependence on foreign oil to high corporate profits and huge tax burdens on the middle class were framed in the context of McCain's career. As an aside, Biden's been there longer and through rougher seas.
But ignore every other serving Congressman - it's about McCain, his voting for the Iraq war, desire to lower taxes for oil companies (only them, it seems, though lowering the corporate tax rate does impact, oh, toy, food, diaper, rocking chair, baseball-mitt-making, apple pie-tin forging, American-flag stiching corporations, too. But that's poor copy for an attack, to paraphrase Glen Beck), refusal to make the same outlandish alternative energy commitment. That's John McCain, who care's, but doesn't get it, doesn't know America.
That's the rare form Obama found himself in. The balance of the speech we heard after every primary, on every stumping ground from mess halls to union halls, hospitals, schools, fields, factories and impromptu platforms. Change is needed, we are change, they are the past, and that's the core of it all. As oratory, McCain cannot match it. CANNOT. Obama has a gift few have outside of a really good church - the ability to reach into the soul of the listener and tickle the outrage at injustice, the guilt at our misdeeds, the hope tamped down by cynicism, the love for a better tomorrow.
And there, dear readers, is Obama's true gift: communication. He might not say anything different, just in a different order, might inflate and deflate records depending on purpose, but it all emerges from his mouth like auditory gold.
Bush III, Bush/McCain, eight years is enough, we don't need a third term: that repeated message will start showing in the polls. It's the real story, the link that was successfully forged over four days and thousands of words of politicking and posturing.
McCain is, to borrow from the vernacular, boned.
I will say, I haven't seen this much pomp and pageantry surrounding a convention in over forty years. The indoor arena was typical, and not very exciting. The mock White House/Greek temple stage borrowed from a Cecil B. DeMille set? Astounding. Risking weather and attendance (don't want empty seats on TV), they pulled off a stellar last day that the Republicans will not beat.
Friday morning, McCain announces his VP pick. Pawlenty of Minnesota? Romney? Kay Bailey Hutchison?! Who knows, maybe he convinced Colin Powell, about the only person he could add to his ticket that would make it invincible...outside of Hillary or Barack.
The Republican Convention starts Monday. Eyes open, people.
That's all tonight. I'm tired. The convention was both grueling and over quickly, probably because I didn't have the exposure this year that I did the last two presidential elections. We'll see how the RNC does it.
Read on, faithful few!
Friday, August 22, 2008
**Updated with Bio**
Joe Biden is Obama's Vice-Presidential candidate.
He accepted when offered earlier this week and will appear today on the campaign trail with the junior Senator from IL.
Biden brings with him many characteristics Obama does not have, but people want him to have: a long tenure in US politics, foreign policy experience, the "measure of years" (he's 65), he's Catholic and he's a white guy (what? who said- no, that wasn't important!).
Much more after the jump.
Senator Joe Biden of Delaware is a safe choice for Obama. As stated, he brings to the table a few key traits that many in the Republican and Democratic Parties have said are missing from (D) ticket. But we'll get into that soon. First, a little background.
Born in Pennsylvania (Scranton, actually), Biden comes from a strong Irish Catholic background, linking two key constituencies to Obama right there: Pennsylvanians (blue collar workers) and Catholics (see "Pennsylvanians"). When he was 10, Biden moved with his family to Delaware, where he has essentially resided ever since. Married twice (his first wife, Neilia, died in a 1973 car accident that also took their baby daughter and injured their two sons), there are no major skeletons in his closet related to his family. Aside from his two sons by Neila, he has a daughter by his second wife, Jill (married in 1977).
Biden's political career began in 1970, when he was elected to the New Castle County Council. At the time, he was a practicing lawyer, and not yet out of his twenties. (Note: I can't find other employment info aside from "lawyer," "councilman" and "Senator.") In 1972, in a tough race against a strong Republican incumbent, Biden won his first term as Delaware's junior Senator...at the ripe age of 29. He's served since and is one of the longest-serving Senators currently in Congress.
While a Senator, Biden has been responsible for two major pieces of crime legislation, the Biden Crime Law and Bill (pending) and the Violence Against Women Act (that's a terrible name...). Aside from that, he's worked on the Judiciary, Narcotics Control and Foreign Relations Committees. On the last, he has served since 2007 as Chairman, a post that has given him broad exposure to national (and international) media, garnering respect and name recognition. He was a major voice for military intervention in the Balkans during Bill Clinton's presidency, and some consider him largely responsible for swaying Clinton's policy that way.
Politically, he is a Democrat. There aren't many things about him that will upset the standard (D), from his support of withdrawal of Iraq (he favors federalization within the country; good in theory, but how to execute?), universal health care, no parental notification in cases of underage abortions, unionization, etc. He has broken philosophical ranks a few times, with his support of much of the Patriot Act, intervention in Iraq (just differed on strategy), immigration (he'll build the fence himself!) and a ban on partial-birth abortions.
What makes him the "safe choice" has a lot to do with really three issues: experience, foreign policy and race.
As I've said, he is the Foreign Relations Committee Chair, as has been a key voice in the ongoing discussion of the Iraq question. Before Bush's presidency, he was right there in the thick of it with the Balkans. His eye does tend across the water to trouble abroad, be it in Darfur (military intervention), Iran (diplomacy + sanctions), Cuba (democratization), Israel (two-state policy) or North Korea. And he can back all his talk up with hard experience earned in the trenches of the Senate since the Nixon era.
Great bridge to the next point: experience! Being in the Senate since 1973, he's seen seven Presidents in office, power flip back and forth across the aisle, the end of the Vietnam war, the fall of the Soviet Union and the whole ugly run-up to ousting Saddam in 2003. In between, he's done much regarding domestic policy and has built a solid reputation. It's this sort of (sigh) gravitas (I hate that word!) that Obama desires/needs to bring legitimacy to his campaign with non-youth voters. Worry lines and white hair - the sign of the aged thinker.
WHITE! He is white. And Catholic. Not a she. Wish as we might that the "Campaign for Change" who present a ticket without an old white guy, alas, not this time. No estrogen, no fiery latin temper (or rolly-polly even-keeled disposition; I'm looking at you, Bill Richardson) or at least youth to match youth. And older white guy satisfies the Clintonians desiring a fella who understands "blue collar" doesn't precede "Oxford dress shirt."
Will Obama get a bump from this announcement? It's good for five points over the weekend, settling to three until Obama's speech. The average guy doesn't know or care about Joe Biden, except if they live in Delaware (and even then...). He was in and out of the 2008 primary race before it really started, had an abortive attempt in 2004 and a major go in 1988 before lagging behind and being accused of plagiarism.
I stand by Bayh or Clinton being better, more electable choices, but that isn't to say Biden can't help Obama win it. Certainly, he shores up the experience dam, and that might just do the trick.
See Wikipedia's Biden bio & Political Positions pages, as well as Biden's homepage, for more info.
Read on, faithful few!
The Political Hoedown
Notes...Pt 2; Obama's VP (oh, and that other guy's); McCain is not Dole; Etc.
To finish the recap of things that happened since last we met at the beginning of the summer, we must look to the TV.
Most states have begun getting commercials for either McCain or Obama (or both, in some places). Of these, the most famous McCain commercial was a satirical jab at Obama's celebrity, equating it to the vapidity of Paris Hilton and her ilk. While there is a certain humor in pointing out that a candidate for president has the media presence of a movie star, not all saw it as that humorous, Paris included. Obama fired back with a jokey response about how McCain should tell us what is great about him, instead of what is bad about Obama. It was all forgotten a week later.
News cycles move faster this election year than any previous. What is major news one week is overcome by some other brush fire the next. Why focus on Obama's far more important trip to Europe and the Middle East when you have a commercial (and a humor-tinged one at that) to discuss? Thank you, media.
Then again, moving focus from the trip to commercial artfully dodges questions about Obama's conduct overseas. Look, I even talked about it second!
So Obama left the country for a while and visited foreigners. He talked with heads of state, citizens of other countries, generals, tribal leaders, the foreign press. Two items caught real attention: the Berlin speech and the Iraqi tribal leaders meeting.
The former saw him performing for a packed audience before the Victory Column, trying to capture the same feeling as JFK or Ronald Reagan when they gave their big speeches ("Ich bin ein Berliner." "Tear down this wall!"). While his German audience reacted very positively, the analysis stateside of the speech wasn't as high. Simply put, we've heard this stump speech at most campaign rallies and post-primary celebrations. Nothing new for us, per se, but if the election were held tomorrow, and in Germany, Obama would win.
And that has a lot to do with Obama's multinational appeal and approach. He has stated he wants to sit down with everyone of importance (and in some cases, infamy) to discuss how we all move forward as one people, one world. Bring the US back to the international table again. Kerry tried this four years ago, to less-than-stellar returns. The result - a stunning electoral and popular vote loss - means that US citizens want to be the focus of the campaign, not Europeans.
In Iraq, Obama got to see first hand the progress the military and Iraq was making in securing and rebuilding a country that suffered under a totalitarian regime for decades, as well as three major wars (Iran/Iraq; Persian Gulf; Iraq War '03). It's no secret Obama has been preaching withdrawal since day 1, but when faced with tribal leaders who requested - pleaded? - for the US to keep a military presence in the country, what did he do?
While he did say he wanted withdrawal, preferably the 16-month plan, his language had softened to a lingering American presence and to when this all would be pushed through. Perhaps that also had to do with Gen. Petraeus urging Obama to rethink his withdrawal policy, since it operationally tied his hands by binding him to a timetable. Positioning his position as more stately a "drawdown" of troops, as opposed to rasher timetables earlier desired (everything gone by spring 08 and damn the surge!), helps him with those who supported the war and said the surge would work.
"I believe that the situation in Iraq is more secure than it was a year and a half ago," Obama said. "I think that the definition of success depends on how you look at it." No doubt he judges it a smaller failure than the invasion, since the security level should've been where it is today several years ago. No argument on that last bit (though I think the surge has been a great success, following the Powell doctrine more than Rumsfeld's).
Still, the overall effect of the trip was to solidify in foreigners' minds that Obama is thinking of them as much as US citizens, and would continue to do so if President. The end of "cowboy diplomacy."
Who vill vin da veepstakes? Obama knows, but he isn't telling.
Did you know Evan Bayh (Sen. IN, D) was for the Iraq War? He appeared with Bush in 2002 in support of action in Iraq. That's one way to win over hawks. Add to that his appeal in a Republican state, and I think you're looking at the next VP.
Biden says he isn't the guy (code maybe, hinting at a woman?), but Vegas odds still places him at the top of the heap. The other big names (Clinton, Sebelius, Kaine, Webb, Hagel) have been quiet about this topic.
And rightly so. Edwards' nod as Kerry's VP was leaked and deflated the announcement. "Who is Obama's VP?" is a loaded question: who will our next VP be, the media asks, who will stand by President Obama, be the shoulder to lean on, the adviser, attack dog, etc?
You see, Obama is slated to win by most calculations, so it's very important to know who'll be filling the position Dick Cheney made far more powerful over the last eight years. Few VPs really rise above the perception of being the President's right-hand lackey, and none other in the post-war era have been as dynamic, controversial and influential as Cheney. Can the next VP measure up to his stellar (regardless of politics, the man is smart, and his execution of the position of Vice-President well-crafted) example of what the office can do?
McCain has stated he'll announce his VP on Aug. 29. I'll bring you more on his choices after we know Obama's. McCain has to match the energy Obama's announcement will make. Who to choose? The strong rumor is Romney right now. Inside sources say McCain selected him, but hasn't offered.
So Georgia (again, breakaway Soviet Republic). Still bitter over there, Russia hasn't left, is most likely violating the cease fire, has Georgian prisoners. Now they are threatening retaliation "beyond diplomacy" for the missile shield defense system the US is partly building in Poland. Not the point. Joe Biden wants to give Georgians one...billion dollars(!!) for reconstruction...and Obama agrees.
Talk amongst yourselves whether this is a good idea in "tough" economic times. Hm.
Poll aplenty! Look who's ahead....
John McCain, according to recent polls, has shrunk Obama's lead to a statistical tie. Historically, Bush did this to Kerry four years ago at the same time (Swift Boat ads) and Kerry never regained the momentum. Obamamentum is a different beast, however, and after a good VP announcement and convention, he'll add 4-7 points, bringing him to a comfortable lead. I bet he crosses 50% after his acceptance speech.
Here are some numbers, compiled by the good people at RealClearPolitics.com.
Obama has led McCain by as many as 12 points since February - and he's hit that benchmark several times! But somehow, the mix of experience, savvy ads, direct message and mounting success in Iraq have slashed in half and half and half again Obama's lead. Going into the convention, I can't imagine anyone thought Obama would be ahead only by an avg. of 1.4 points.
What does this mean? McCain is not Bob Dole. That affable old codger ran against Bill Clinton in 1996 and his age overshadowed everything else in the campaign (that and the goofball VP candidate, Jack Kemp). He was also seen as just another old white man with boring old conservative politics. I'd wager none of this applies to McCain, as it stands.
With his military experience, "maverick" tendencies within the Republican party (he crossed the aisle...at least twice!) and "straight talk" personality, coupled with a pointed ad campaign that targets the the lingering doubts people have about Obama (raise taxes? no foreign policy exposure...ever? universal health care paid for HOW?!), the AZ Senator presents a renewed candidacy with numbers not seen for months.
The "old white man" tag that Dole struggled and failed under isn't as applicable to McCain who, despite some rotary cuff issues, is spry for a septuagenarian and healthy as an ox. There's no really getting around the white part, unless he takes a page from Robert Downey, Jr.'s book (GO SEE TROPIC THUNDER! It's amazing!), but he can position himself as not defined by his caucasian-ness. Were he to appear with lots of brown people, that would help more.
He knows Bobby Jindal....
Next time on...The Political Hoedown:
Item! Red State/Blue State/...White State?
Item! Rick Warren vets faith, morality, sound bites.
Item! So [NAME] is Obama's VP! WOW! I'd never have guessed it. What does this mean, oh political seer?
Item! Conventions are upon us. Will Hillary's stormtrooperettes bring the hurt down on Obama? Or does "party unity" mean more than smiling while planning the other's destruction?
That's all, popsicles. Stay cool.
Read on, faithful few!
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Intoxicated man gives officer condom box instead of driver's license
Any interest from the peanut gallery in a Buckshot devoted to interesting arrests/dumb crooks?
Thursday, August 14, 2008
IT'S NEWS, PEOPLE!
UPDATE (1:30 PM):
So it's not all inter-party conflict, but rather a play for party unity.
...more after the jump.
Unity...or the crushing pressure of Hillary's estrogen-charged supporters?! Dun dun duuuuuunn!!!!
I kid ("j/k" for all you hipsters out there [j/k fayhot]).
There is probably some truth to the theory that Obama's and Clinton's camps came together on this to avoid some sort of 1968 replay, but with middle-aged women replacing war protesters and nervous DNC officials stepping in for baton-happy cops ("Dammit, we like Roe v Wade, you shrill harpies!").
A little more info has come out, and it looks less sinister, but still waters blah blah blah. There will be a "unity" claim in the press releases later, that both sides came at this together in honor of her spirited campaign, so let's hold hands and wish her well and give her the cheers she deserves...but only a few delegate votes on the floor.
Symbolic for women (You've come a long way, baby!), it would've been less demeaning if they'd not done this together and let the DNC keep her name on quietly, hear the roll and the delegates she won, and then let her gracefully concede for real as Obama gets the thunderous majority. But that's not the deal worked out, and the full story of how it came into being won't be known until after election day.
There can be respect in politics without telegraphing it to the media first so they know you respect the other because you're the Bigger Man and for changing the cynicism rampant today etc.
If word sneaks in about any behind-the-scenes tomfoolery, you'll be the first to know (after freakin' ABC's blog scoops me again at Drudge, the hookers...). I'll fold more about this into the second part of my "Notes from the Wilderness."
The latest just in, and this hasn't hit the main airwaves yet, but Hillary Clinton will be on the ballot for President at the Democratic Ballot. She has not taken her name off, in other words.
Guerrilla campaign to get her on the ticket?
This may not seem like breaking news, as many thought it'd still happen, but it could mean a lot to the Democratic Party and the election in the Fall. Check back later at the Den for a little analysis. But I thought you'd like to know.
Possibly Part 1 of a Series
So Mrs. Buck and I were sitting outside Mary Coyle's Tuesday night, enjoying some homemade ice cream, when we noticed a young African-American man walking down the opposite side of the street. He was clean-shaven, with medium-length dreadlocks. He was also shirtless, and wearing his black sweatpants in the style of the time, which meant they were so far below his waist we could see the silver track shorts he had on under them. He had on some odd-looking red suede heavy shoe/workboots, and was texting on his cellphone as he walked. In his other hand, he was carrying a hammer.
-Buck Read on, faithful few!
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
The Political Hoedown
Stuff, Gas, VPs: Recap Part 1
In this wild time between primaries and conventions, anything goes, from kooky ads that mean next to nothing, to the ideals that are supposed to build a big tent. A lot has happened since we last met at the Hoedown, but very little matters.
The biggest draw on our wallets seems to be gas, and we've been in a tizzy over high prices at the pump. Well, so have the politicians. But out of all the huffing, the biggest proposal to gain any real traction is drilling in the Gulf of Mexico (or in any place where the US is said to have untapped oil reserves). Both candidates have been again it in the past, to a degree, but in light of the gas-price crisis, and the exposure to foreign oil markets, McCain came out first - and strong - in favor of drilling wherever we can.
Obama, at first against offshore drilling, came out in limited support in the beginning of August.
What does it mean? Both candidates have altered their stance to some more politically realistic and popular. It doesn't matter. Energy policy is so deeply mired in controversy, back-stabbing and posturing that it's highly unlikely anything said in the run-up to the next president's term will resemble the final legislation. McCain wants four dozen new nuclear plants; Obama wants massive changes to fuel efficiency in cars over the course of the next 22 years (forced on the automakers). Is either plausible...really?
(This writer is a proponent of nuclear power, and wonders how the Democrats and those to the left of them can decry such a source of energy when Morally Superior Socialist France bolsters their country with the power of the atom.)
So we have our number 1s. Who're the number 2s?
We know it won't be John "Oh yeah, I hit that" Edwards, with his admittance to an extra-marital affair (while his wife was sick with cancer), now faces a potential federal probe into his campaign finances, as allegations have popped up of $3-5 million in payoff money to the babymama (and another potential babydaddy candidate...talk about covering your bases). Even if he doesn't go through a lengthy court process, his political career is dead. He'll have to endure jokes like, "Does John Edwards' "two Americas" refers to one for each of his women?"
Let's look at five (D) choices.
Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, a Republican state despite its proximity to and worship of Chicago, is seen as one of the top candidates for Obama's VP slot. Bayh is a two-term Senator, and he's been present for the historic GW Bush presidency, getting to cast votes for all major legislation and nominations (against Rice, Ashcroft, Roberts, Alito), but he also was in favor of Bush's Iraq policy. He's got a lot going for him - red state, clean record, former governor...white male. That's right; Obama's VP will be a white male, because he's black and that can scare people. A white woman wouldn't cut it at this point (unless it's Hillary and let's face it, she's more man than he is), because they need strength, courage, external gonads - things the media tells us to associate with men (granted, the last is a default).
(In a perfect world, we could branch out beyond white males to run with Obama, the candidate of "change," but alas, you gotta get the votes.)
Fmr. Sen. Sam Nunn (of GA), along with the same general characteristics as Bayh, also brings to the table foreign policy and national defense knowledge. AND he's working as CEO of an anti-WMD group, the Nuclear Threat Initiative. The guy has a great reputation, some degree of name recognition and since he has no political office to vacate, picking him means no risky, and possibly Republican, replacement. His problem? He's 70.
Jim Webb and Tim Kaine of Virginee remain in the mix, especially with recent polls there favoring McCain. Webb's firebrand personality might rub the national circuit the wrong way (but his message and stands win them back), and Kaine's background is largely in law and education (though he can claim to be not another beltway insider). Kaine and Obama were both educated at Harvard at some point in their lives, which could lead to "elitist" attacks.
Hillary is sort of in the race. Not really maybe kinda. I can't take her off the top five because of the small matter of 18 million primary votes. That ain't chump change.
Obama will announce after the Olympics to much fanfare via text messaging and e-mail, to be followed no doubt by a joint appearance and speech. So this is technology's face, intruding into politics. For some reason, texting your VP choice seems...cheap.
People still like Gov. Bobby Jindal (Louisiana), but his age and short term as governor probably mean it won't be him. Another governor, Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, is rumored to be on the short list, and is making the most of it. He's younger, clean-cut, and knows how to attack. On his second term as governor, he boasts a ten-year record in the Minnesota state house and a lot of hard-won legislation. While Minnesota is a blue state, that isn't as much a factor; it's unlikely Pawlenty's inclusion will turn it red due to the state's voting habits.
We also remember Gov. Charlie Crist (FL) and fmr. Gov. Mitt Romney (Mass.), as they certainly are in the top five, along with those listed above. I refer you to past Hoedowns/Briefs. Who rounds out the five?
Another governor! Tom Ridge, former Governor of Pennsylvania, former Director of Homeland security and still a pro-choice activist, has been touring around PA with McCain, making speeches, shaking hands, looking like a good Number 2. There's a lot of appeal with him on the surface, and there aren't many blemishes (far-left wingers would point out he headed Homeland Security, i.e., Big Brother). The biggest is his pro-choice stance, which while brave in the Republican party, is also suicidal on a national level. Or is it?
They both need swing voters and the dissatisfied from either side. Which choice secures the votes? Who brings a state to the table that might otherwise be lost?
I'd opine that an Obama/Bayh combination would ease many blue-collar hearts and bring in Indiana, while McCain/Romney would reassure big business and let centrists know that the right-wing wasn't represented. McCain/Pawlenty is my second choice, as is Obama/Kaine.
There is war in Georgia. No, not the land of peaches, golf and moss-draped graveyards, but the small former Soviet country that borders Russia in the narrow band between the Black and Caspian Seas. I won't get into the conflict, as it's one we in the West probably don't understand as well as we think (though Russians are acting a bit...trigger-happy). But watch McCain and Obama as they react. Already, McCain has decried the attacks by Russia as Imperialistic and aggressive, pointing the finger at the Kremlin, while Obama started with general condemnation of conflict, and has moved to a harder stance, similar to McCain's.
Russian military activity will no doubt be a large part of the next presidential terms. Let's see who understands what.
What more do you want?!
Polls: it's about even. Obama has a slight lead overall, but McCain is still polling better than he should, given Obama's celebrity. The public has said they've been saturated with Obama and are tired of him, so that's a factor. Will they burnout before November? Will McCain solidify the red states gone white (neutral/battleground)?
The overall campaign will exceed $1.1 billion in cost. Is that really money well spent? How many political cronies are being made right now?
No one is talking about Iraq. Why? It's not so bad. Without any gross failure to report, the media has quietly placed articles about voting and returns to normalcy and militia laying down (some of their) weapons (even al-Sadr's men). McCain has held to his stance here, while Obama has given ground, not demanding the immediate pull-out he desired in previous statements.
Mike Gravel has finally withdrawn, lost the nomination for the Libertarian Party and currently supports Green candidate Jesse Johnson.
There will be a second part to this recap, as well as the promised piece on Iraq, mini candidate bios, and chicanery! Much chicanery!
Read on, faithful few!
Monday, August 11, 2008
Buck: Thoughts on Final Crisis #3?
Hooper: I haven't been to a comic shop in a month, so for all I know, Magneto married Lois Lane and defeated the Skrulls by using the superion in the Viltrumites' blood to reverse the polarity of their multiverse, defracturing the infinite possibilities into 37 (in a row?!) new worlds, while at the same time defeating the Kun'Dyah beast that had erupted from Cavendish Hall, permanently sealing the Ogdru Jahad in Earth-: moments before it became Earth-;.
And Spidey unmasked again, this time for money, on the internet, and a little at a time while eating strawberries.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Mostly some amusing images this time around. But really, with a title like that, how can you not click through?
Last week, Mrs. Buck and I visited the Ohio State Fair in glorious Columbus. One of the first things we saw upon entering were the Budweiser Clydesdale horses. And I now present, to you, dear readers, the greatest horse to ever set hoof on this earth:
Among the other interesting sights at the fair were this amazing cake:
And that annual Ohio State Fair tradition, the Butter Cow:
The night ended with a concert by Miranda Lambert and Dierks Bentley, and we enjoyed the heck out of it. I'd post some pictures, but as you can see from the above, the only camera I had on my person was my cell phone, and given how far we were from the stage, the pictures I did take are sub-par to say the least.
Still, during Dierks' performance my ever-bizarrely-thinking brain did make this visual connection:
James Roday, star of Psych.
Mrs. Buck agrees there's a resemblance, so c'mon, USA, let's get Dierks to guest-star as a cousin or something!
And now what you've all been waiting for, the blasphemy portion of today's column. This simply takes the form of some amusing images I've stumbled upon recently that have a religious bent. They allowed Hooper and I to bring back a word we coined a while back but don't get the chance to use all that often: sacristerical.
(Click the pics to embiggen.)
First up, from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal:
Next a recent installment from the always-brilliant xkcd:
And one from Hijinks Ensue:
This one's a t-shirt you can get from Busted Tees:
And these last two I found on My Confined Space. Jesus riding Falcor may be the best thing I've ever seen.:
-Buck Read on, faithful few!
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Josh: What is the name of the white and blue semi that Optimus Prime gives the Matrix to in the movie?
Buck: Ultra Magnus.
Josh: Would you tell Six that he was a different robot, not another Prime.
Buck: Tell him that in the comics they're brothers. That's why they look alike.
Josh: I'll tell him. He told me Rodimus was after Prime and that Ultra Magnus was just an upgraded Prime. And I said oh no no, Buck and I have watched that way too many times.
Buck: Damn straight.
To be fair, when you remove his armor Ultra Magnus is basically a re-painted Optimus Prime, so I can see how our pal got confused:
Does Buck know way too much about Transformers?
C. But he didn't mention how Ultra Magnus appears in the Japanese continuity!
-BuckRead on, faithful few!
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
It was with much dismay that I found out I had diabetes, but that subtle bitterness was tempered by the knowledge that I did not have muscular dystrophy (thank you, Wikipedia, for scaring the crap out me with that diagnosis...).
Before March 07 (from maybe August 06), I had been enjoying the caloric intake of a team of marathon runners. My co-workers added up calories an average day, when I had a sandwich for lunch and not something deep-fried or drizzled in cheese or both; the number was well past 5,000. Yet I was losing weight.
Oh, diabetes, you tricksy devil.
But the point is, I was able to have huge breakfasts back then - several breakfast sandwiches, big omelettes and toast and bacon, and the old reliable couple of bagels liberally spread with regular cream cheese. Man! And what luck that I had a cafeteria with enormous, fluffy-on-the-inside/just-firm-enough-on-the-outside bagels. Manna from heaven, or somesuch.
Alas for a good thing...it'll come to an end, too. After the...Diagnosis, I switched to foods less loaded with carbs, but kept bagels in the "special occasion" rotation, for the day I absolutely had to have something other than wheat toast and turkey sausage .
Lo, calamity struck once again!
Though I may live to a century or more, I will never understand the cafeteria on the 30th floor of my building. In their infinite wisdom, they choose the weirdest foods for the specialty table (yeah, I really want my international dining experience to be...Israel?), and often items of so-so quality. It was the latter that ruined my dining experience one morning. They put a lot of thought into their menu selections, which puzzles me even more. I know they don't just ask the help what they'd like to eat (though we do have "south of the border"-infused selections far more often than you'd think; and yes, I mean Mexican. Did you know they work in buildings now?), nor do they poll the mentally-challenged. No one likes breakfasts where the menu has to describe in excruciating detail that the meat-like substance in the egg hash isn't meat, but isn't tofu or soy-product, rather made of some other commodity that they swear is edible! And it's got a Spanish-sounding name!
The new bagels they put out were made of plastic. Hard and shiny industrial Chinese-grade plastic. It's because of my love for foods I shouldn't have that I put a card in the suggestion box. How often do you see these things taken seriously? Not very, I thought. For a while I didn't even know where the box and cards were, though I did see posted suggestions from colleagues on a big board by the registers. Usually, there are two or three items per card, and one bubbly answer about how the second one (more napkins) is possibly by the others (hygenic workers and a friendly staff) aren't within their power.
But a few weeks ago, I saw the note I'd written posted on the "suggestions accomplished" board and noticed the next morning that they'd returned to the old bagel vendor. Big, soft real bagels again...and they added asiago cheese as a variety, so I got that going for me. I've been bold since then, requesting - almost demanding, in my horrible chicken-scratch penmanship - more diet fountain drinks for diabetics...because we're people, too.
And we carry needles.
Not really that exciting, was it? I sort of rambled on about bagels and diabetes for a few hundred words before an expected ending. Who didn't see that coming, the predicted victory over the modern day lunchroom bully, the corporate foodstuff requisitioner? You in the back? Well, you suck.
Joke of the Day
Q: What is the hardest part about roller-blading with your shirt off?
A: (highlight to read) Telling your parents you're gay.
(Special thanks to Kevin J. Smith for that one, from his personal stock.)
Read on, faithful few!
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Friday, August 1, 2008
By now we've all heard of the outrageous case of incest and imprisonment in Austria. A man kept his daughter in a dungeon-like cellar and repeatedly raped her over the course of 24 years; he fathered seven children from her, one of which died shortly after child birth and was incinerated.
For this, you'd think he'd be imprisoned for life, or perhaps summarily executed, if found guilty. He did confess, after all. Guess how long he could get for this.
Go on, guess.
If you guessed life or death, of fifty years or thirty, you're wrong.
Try only fifteen years.
Josef Fritzl, 73, built a small dungeon out of a portion of his basement and kept his daughter trapped. He built a small bathroom and cooking station, had a bedroom/cell of sorts and an electronic lock on the door. While he was an electrician by trade, there is no way he did this all by himself.
His wife, mother of the captive Elisabeth, knew nothing of what was going on. She was told to stay out of the basement past that 350kg steel door - the whole family was. And so for twenty four years he had a secret. The neighbors knew nothing, nor did his other children, of the rape factory he kept going down there.
It's not like raping his daughter was a new hobby he picked up when she turned 18; he'd been doing it for the prior seven years. The motivations for her imprisonment will surely come out, as will a more rounded story of what happened, of her daily life and the children's. Already we see that he would come down, lock the kids up to have his way with Elisabeth without them seeing it. In short, he was a tyrant over them.
But this isn't about what he did; it's about what the European courts won't do.
According to an AP article by William J. Kole, "Many Europeans abhor the death penalty, and capital punishment is illegal across the 27-nation EU...even convicted murderers handed life sentences seldom serve more than 25 years."
We in American are divided over the death penalty, whether it is right to take the life of one who has done the same, or equivalent. Some states, like Texas, practically kill their harshest criminals for sport, while other states start that way but switch to a moratorium on capital punishment, as Illinois has. Right-to-lifers aren't just anti-abortion, but anti-death penalty. The two often don't go hand in hand, of course.
In the US, were these actions to have happened here, based on the offenses we have been told of, Josef Fritzl would face involuntary manslaughter for the death of the twin, at least six counts - individual counts - of rape, conspiracy and kidnapping. If you add all that up, just the rape, he could face a minimum of sixty years and that's lenient. The stated punishment would probably be over a hundred. The maximum I can hammer out would see him in jail past our tricentenniel, and well onto the quad.
I find it beyond the pale that such a monster could see freedom while he still lives. If ever there was a cause for at least life imprisonment, it's this. Keep this sort of predator away from the general population, separated from "decent society" by layers of iron bars and concrete.
But of course, my personal opinion would not be three hots-and-a-cot until old age took Fritzl. I am a proponent of the death penalty. In my mind, there are some violent offenders so heinous that we need to risk our own immortal souls to see them swept from this earth. Some take a war analogy, the war on crime, and in war there are casualties on both sides. Is it time to take the fight to the enemy? I don't see it that way. Not every violent offender is irredeemable. Our prisons are there for rehabilitation as well as incarceration.
To limit our recourse to the very worst offenses, though, puts society at risk. The death penalty isn't administered in every quarter like it is in Texas, where people joke about an execution a week. Balanced against the potential crime the death row convicts could commit should, as some future date, their sentence be commuted or the havoc wrought on the inside against the "redeemable," Texas has decided to mete out a harsh justice. Unfair to some, medieval and backwards, there nevertheless is message sent that they will not tolerate the degenerate, violent members of society. Not every state operates like the Lone Star state, but 3 of50, plus the Federal Government, exercise the right to execute a prisoner for a capital offense (listed as murder, treason, espionage). Perhaps it is this culture that shapes my views....
For the greater good of our fellow citizens, their safety and ability to pursue boundless freedoms, I find it the solemn duty of the criminal justice system to mete out lethal justice to those who have crossed the line, who cannot and will not let themselves feel remorse. In the cold heart of Josef Fritzl, what regret is there but for the loss of his incestuous lair? If he cared, he would never have started down that road. If he felt guilt for his actions, shouldn't he have let the imprisoned children loose and submitted himself to the will of the courts at a far earlier time - the death of one of them - or when he realized he was keeping people as caged animals?
Nearly a quarter of a century - twenty-four years - have elapsed between when his daughter Elisabeth became a captive and when she found freedom, all the while suffering the most inhuman, abasing treatment at the hands of the man who helped bring her into this world.
There is no earthly justice that can redress the wrongs done to her, but I hope the Austrian courts do their best to try.