Jan 21, 2009


A six year old worked on this.  He never considered his use of color.

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Alternate Worlds

Nov 2, 2004

John Kerry, in his acceptance speech, thanked voters for his victory. “I want to thank everyone for looking past niggling issues such as the war on terror to vote me into office. By the way, I was joking. I really am a liberal.”

His running mate and soon-to-be vice president Hillary Clinton chirped in with some thoughts of own, speaking about aggresive legislation they would help put on the books. “My first act as co-president will be to introduce a bill outlawing extramarital affairs. Violators will be castrated.” Follow-ups with members of congress resulted in many shocked faces and harried brows.

Ok, ok, this didn’t really happen. Well, it did happen but only during a game of The Political Machine, a fascination of mine this election cycle. The game challenges you to win the election. It allows alternate realities. I had a lot of fun knocking around my man George by simply changing the subject of the debate.

That said, I don’t see something similar happening tonight. I certainly could be wrong but I don’t see Kerry winning this evening. Why? I’m glad you asked.

I liken this election to the one eight years ago. Much like that election, a lot of folks were less interested in voting for a candidate than voting against one. Heck, I voted for Dole and even I, a devote Republican, will cop to that.

Voting against someone generally doesn’t inspire people, even in times of war. You need something to push folks to the polls. I don’t think a lack of confidence does that.

If Kerry does come out on top, I believe that a general hatred of our war in Iraq will be the reason. That said, I wouldn’t cash in the meal ticket too early. I’ll agree that the folks that disagree with the war in Iraq have certainly been loud. I’m not yet convinced they have the numbers they claim. Are they a vocal majority or simply vocal?

By tonight we’ll know for sure. I have my opinion. I’ll place my vote and I’ll stand behind the winner, no matter who it is. In the meantime, Kerry might want to visit Stardock and make a purchase. In fantasyland, he and Hillary make a perfect match.

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Way back in 2002, I opened my votes on the coming election to the general public. I’ve decided to continue the tradition.

I have to say it was easier this time around. There are far less offices up for grabs. Finding information on each candidate was only a google search or convenient voter guide away. Below is my full ballot for tomorrow, Nov. 2nd.

President and Vice President: George W. Bush and Dick Cheney

This choice was the easiest of the lot. I’ve been exposed to the issues and I’ve had a lot of time to think about it. I feel comfortable with my choice. Here’s why.

I’m not a huge fan of the President when it comes to a lot of things. He spends way too much money. The government has grown in both size and power since he took office. These are hardly the acts of a conservative man. While we may agree on the issue, his plans for a constitutional ammendment on gay marriage is a waste of time on an issue that should be settled by the states. There are are other issues I’d rather consider when pandering to the religious right.

Does all of this matter? Not really. The War on Terror has center stage. It’s the issue that directly affects me and my family. It’s the issue that determined my vote this time around.

I’m of the opinion that President Bush has done good and, sometimes, great job of fighting terrorism. In the wake of the terrorist attacks on 9/11, we’ve shown resolve. We’ve chased terrorists into their holes. We’ve taken their money. Today we fight them on their soil, not our own. We’ve found a language they can understand: force.

You can argue that we’ve screwed the pooch in Iraq. I’d disagree. There’s some tough work to be done there. A declared enemy is gone. The efforts of our military have freed millions from an oppressive regime. We’ve done some good. We’ll continue to do some good.

On this issue, Bush wins clearly.

Kerry offers change. He promises cooperation. He expects France and Germany, the two missing pieces of our alliance against Iraq, to throw their hat in the ring just because of a changing of the guard. That’s very optimistic. I fear he doesn’t understand how international diplomacy thing works.

Kerry promises that he won’t turn the keys of our military over to the United Nations. He says he’s a moderate. I don’t believe him. His voting history and words betray him. We don’t need a global litmus test. We need to act like the most powerful nation in the world and, sometimes, we need to act in our own best interests.

I know only one candidate I trust to do that.

U.S. Senator: E.J. Pipkin

This choice was difficult. On one hand, Mikulski‘s long tenure in the Senate positions her well to protect the interests of Maryland. From what I’ve seen, she’s done exactly that. Her record on national defense can be questioned. Her commitment on issues of terror cannot.

On the other hand, Mikulski and I disagree a lot. Her opponent, E.J. Pipkin has done little to impress me and still wins my vote by default. I’ll take solace in the fact that he doesn’t stand a chance in hell. Four more years of Mikulski is par for the course.

Side story: I once met Mikulski at the state fair years ago. She was handing out banners. I expressed no interest in attaining one. What followed was an odd exchange of refusal. I didn’t realize it was her doing the solicitation. If I had, I would have been more receptive to her attempts to label me with a sticker. She gets my apologies. She still doesn’t get my vote.

Representative in Congress, District 2: Dutch Ruppersberger

Ruppersberger and I also disagree a lot. That said, we agree more than Mikulski and I. He isn’t a bad choice and is better qualified for the job than his upstart opponent. Hopefully, this vote will balance out my vote above.

Judge of the Circuit Court, Circuit 5: David S. Bruce, Michele D. Jaklitsch, Rodney C. Warren

The difficulty of this selection lies in the lack of information I have to make a decision. Who are these people? My guess is that the first three on the ballot will win. However, I’ll buck this sure to be trend and go for the incumbents.

Judge, Court of Special Appeals at Large: Joseph F Murphy, Jr.

This vote is for a continuance in office. Given that I haven’t heard anything bad about Mr. Murphy, I’ll fall happily in line.

County Question A: Purchase Contract Limits: Nay

In their second attempt in as many election cycles, the county wants to raise the minimum value of a purchase that they can make without having to open the purchase up for competitive bidding. I might not have a problem with a slight raise. However, they want to raise it by 2 1/2 times its current value. That’s too much. Do your homework, officials. Go get us a good price.

That’s it. With my choices made, I plan to hang around the TV a lot tomorrow evening. It’s going to be an fun race. If you are still undecided, feel free to print out the above and copy it down at the polling place of your choice. I won’t mind. Trust me.

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Conventional Thinking

Sep 1, 2004

Like a lot of folks, I was pretty impressed by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s speech at the Republican National Convention last night. I was surprised to find myself watching the television coverage of the dog and pony event and more surprised to find myself a little entertained.

And Arnold was entertaining. His speech was engaging. His delivery, despite his accent, was strong. His speech was, dare I say, inspirational. It had the words and conviction you want to get behind, even if you don’t necessarily agree with its content. It was an interesting pick for a speaker — I certainly wouldn’t have chosen Schwarzenegger to stir emotions — but a good one. Arnold got an opportunity to prove he’s more than an actor. Apparently, he’s a legitimate politician.

It also continued a trend of positive messages coming from the convention. What I’ve witnessed to this point is a message that stands in contrast to the negative message offered by that other convention held not so long ago. The Republicans want you to believe everything is rosy. The war is going better than reported. The economy is an inherited problem rather than a creation of this administration’s policies. The Democrats want you to believe the opposite. The war is a failure. Our economic problems are the fault of the current president.

I don’t completely agree or disagree with either position or party but, like most everyone, I lean one direction. Like many, my mind is already made up, making wonder why I spend any of my time watching these standing parades of like-minded people.

But I can’t help myself. I’ve yet to check out the DNC speech of State Senator Barack Obama that caused a bit of buzz but I will. I’ll be sure to read the RNC speech of Maryland’s Lt. Governor Michael Steele to see if a local boy did us proud. But my expectations are low. I don’t expect to hear words that could change my vote. I only hope to glean a couple details from the personalities that stand at the podium.

The conventions, like my mind, present a decision made up long before the crowds gathered. Let’s get on with the interesting stuff. Let’s debate. Let’s start pulling levers.

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Wedge Issue

Aug 4, 2004

The Slate has an article up about stem cell research, an issue the democrats hope will drive a wedge between the Republican party and its voters. I find the whole issue of stem cell research pretty interesting for two reasons. One, the issue itself is full of unknowns and promises. Two, I’m with the Democrats on this one.

On the surface — and, I should note, we are often encouraged to look at only the surface — it sounds like a simple issue. Barriers exist, in the form of a lack of Federal funding for human embryonic research. These barriers hamper scientific progress, science that has the potential to save lives. In the name of Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and more all efforts must be made. Those barriers must be removed.

This one is personal. My father and father-in-law have diabetes. My grandfather died of Parkinson’s, a disease I couldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Trapped in your body, unable to function is not the way to go. Parkinson’s is another checkmark in my family medical history, that list where an empty checkbox signals strength and a pencil mark echoes with fears of the future.

This fear drives my interest. Stem cell research feels urgent, something that can’t come fast enough. I’ve seen a battle lost to a disease that stem cell research seeks to cure. I witness battles still in progress.

I worry about the role of the religious right, a group I often feel a part of, in the President’s decision to limit federal research. Ron Reagan, at the Democratic National Convention expressed similar worries:

Now, there are those who would stand in the way of this remarkable future, who would deny the federal funding so crucial to basic research. They argue that interfering with the development of even the earliest stage embryo, even one that will never be implanted in a womb and will never develop into an actual fetus, is tantamount to murder.

A few of these folks, needless to say, are just grinding a political axe and they should be ashamed of themselves. But many but many many are well-meaning and sincere. Their belief is just that, an article of faith, and they are entitled to it. But it does not follow that the theology of a few should be allowed to forestall the health and well-being of the many.

Compared to Reagan’s grandiose remarks, the actual policy of the President seems muted. It seems reasoned and well thought out. It appears sensitive to the issue of life.

Unlike Reagan, I can appreciate the concept of an embryonic life. I don’t necessarily agree — much like my thoughts on abortion don’t coincide with the Republican party — but I can appreciate the debate. What is and isn’t life is a sticky argument. It’s a fight I don’t feel particularly qualified to weigh in on, even if a position in this argument appears essential to taking a strong position with the entire issue of stem cell research.

Also unlike Reagan, I recognize that no funding of certain types of embryonic stem cell research is not the equivalent to no funding at all. It might not be obvious, particularly if you spent the last week looking through the windows of the DNC, but quite the opposite is true. This issue isn’t the Democrats’ issue alone. The issue isn’t about the pie. It’s about a piece of the pie and how big that piece really is.

Politicians — and, in some respects, researchers alike — want us to believe that stem cell research is a cure all. That’s unlikely to be the case. It does, however, provide a great source of hope, both nationwide and within my home. That hope feeds my fervor. On this one issue, I waver, surprised to find myself leaning towards the other side of the political fence and concerned about political plays on my hope. A wedge issue has been found, even if the Democrats go out of their way to overstate their case. I hope they are careful with it.

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Limbaugh Lines

Oct 2, 2003

It looks like Rush Limbaugh is down to one job again. His ESPN gig is up, thanks to some controversal comments on Sunday and a semi-voluntary resignation today. Here’s exactly what he said. Go ahead and watch. I’ll wait.

Ok, I’ll come clean. I’m a fan of his show. It’s made for this sort of stuff. It’s rattles a Democrat’s nerves and makes a Republican smile. I like him because he’s willing to go over the top and willing to stick to his guns when he does.

ESPN got exactly what they wanted: controversy. They listened to his show. They wanted social commentary on sports issues. They should be familiar with his general hatred of the media. They can’t say they didn’t see this coming. I bet their ratings will be up this week. Their executives should be very happy.

Peter King, one of my favorite members of the sport’s media, wrote that Rush’s comments weren’t racist but they were boneheaded. I agree. This was a miscalculation by Rush. Ruffle feathers. Don’t lose job. But the reaction was off the charts. A white man spoke his mind about racial issues. Heaven help us. Let’s forget that he might have a point.

He’s might not even be wrong. Years ago, a black quarterback was a new thing. Doug Williams was one of very few in his playing days. More recently, Steve McNair is often credited with ushering in a new era of quarterbacking (We could only hope. Steve McNair is, quite simply, the man, injured or not.). Back then, of course the media would want black quarterbacks to do well. It was the story. Success is something we can all get around. If there happens to be a lot of print around on the subject, so much the better.

But things are a bit different now. It’s 2003, by the way. Black quarterbacks lead 28% of the teams in the NFL right now (32% when Michael Vick returns). Having a black quarterback is no longer an anomaly. It is no longer worthy of news. Along with that newsworthiness, the media’s interest in the success or failure of black quarterbacks is now very low or nonexistent. Rush is wrong, even though he is still defending his view (and rightly so).

That doesn’t mean that we can’t all discuss this issue without the thought police of Al Sharpton or, even scarier, Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark shouting for the man to be fired. Just because Rush says it, doesn’t make it true. Just because a statement involves race shouldn’t mean that it isn’t worthy of debate. Race shouldn’t matter, either in quarterbacking or discussion. The former is still up in the air. There are plenty of Sundays for quarterbacks of all races to prove themselves (and let’s not forget that black and white are not the only two colors, or races, available). The latter, unfortunately, was answered again today, if you didn’t know the answer already.

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Bet on Current Events

Jul 30, 2003

Although the Senate has already pulled the plug, I couldn’t help but raise an interested eyebrow at DARPA’s latest proposal. For a second there, it looked like everyone would be able to bet on the likelihood of events in the Middle East. The best part was that bookie would be the US government.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency recently proposed a project that would have set up a futures, or idea, market on future events. It’s like any other market, stock or otherwise, except that, in this case, the stocks aren’t anything tangible and we get to talk about Saddam’s head.

Is this funny idea totally out of the question?

Sure, morally this is problematic. It’s like an advanced version of a celebrity death pool. The democrats were quick to point this out. “The idea of a federal betting parlor on atrocities and terrorism is ridiculous and it’s grotesque,” cried Senator Ron Wyden. I can’t disagree.

Politically, it could be a nightmare. I’m sure it would make those late night telephone conversations with the president interesting. Wouldn’t the king of Jordan just love to know the current odds on his assassination? No, no sir. That doesn’t really mean we think you’re screwed. Really.

But what was lost in the very quick and public effort to brush this under the rug was a real analysis of its virtues. After all, a futures market is hardly a new idea. This Wired articles points out a few of them out. The Iowa Electronic Market is used to predict election results. The Hollywood Stock Exchange gives us a peek into the Oscars. These exchanges can produce interesting, if not useful, results.

Discounting the simple dabblers into the dark arts of political betting, serious investors would put their confidence and sources into such a market. It could tell us what people are thinking. More importantly, it could tell us what the money of people is thinking, something with far more weight.

For all my enthusiasm, I’m not convinced it could ever yield any substantial results. It’s much more likely to be a political tool – a running poll, if you will – than an instrument of divination. The potential for misuse is just too great. There’s more than enough red tape floating about the hallowed halls of Washington DC. We need not add the flash of Las Vegas to the parade of government abuse.

It would, however, fascinate the darker fantasies of the public. Hey mom, I’ve got $40 on an unconditional surrender by France.

Update: Here’s a good article on the Slate that takes more of an analytical view, rather than an emotional one. It makes a couple of good points, including one described quite well in the quote below:

The more it succeeded on policy, the more it would fail as a market, and the sooner it would collapse.
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The other day John Scalzi used his Whatever column to ask his readers what is happening over there in Iraq. More specifically, he asks is it a war and muses that Iraq could be only a single campaign in a larger war.

If this is the case, he wants to know why the current administration doesn’t tell us more about it. Is it being patronizing? Does it really know what it is doing? This led me to chime in.

I believe there could be another, more directed, reason for all the smoke and mirrors of this wider campaign: military strategy. As you mention, Iran and Syria certainly have an inkling that they are next. Astute, and even not-so astute, observers of US politics have drawn the same conclusion. A public display of The List would solidify those fears, and hatch new enemies and political nightmares along with it.

Not only is it easier to convince the world and the citizens of the US to fight one evil at a time, it’s a much better alternative than having to fight them all at once.

His response, of which only an excerpt is provided below, makes a very good point.

But I personally wonder at what point does our citizenry’s right to question and understand the motives and actions of its government supercede the government’s need for clandestine action.

Certainly the citizenry’s ability to debate what may or may not be next is something our government and constitution hold in high regard. It’s something we undoubtedly want but when can we be allowed do this? When should we be privy to the plans of our government?

In times of war, I don’t know if the answer is as obvious as I wish it was. I want to know it all. I’d like the scholars to chime in with their opinions so I can better form my own. What I don’t want is Syria to realize that they will be served for dessert.

Further complicating matters, the current administration hasn’t really had the chance or inclination to debate its current position and plans. Some of reason is timing; we didn’t schedule Sept. 11. Some of it was the necessity of swift action. Much of it, I fear, is that when the voting booth seems so very far away, well, what’s the rush?

I should note that, to this point, I don’t believe I have a whole lot to complain about. Whatever your qualms about the politics behind our current situation, the military actions of our government seem just, even logical. We knew Iraq was on the hot seat. We had plenty of advanced notice. It’s just that there’s something about having the choice to pull that lever that gives me a warm fuzzy.

The mystery of our future may lead to a type of preminition politics. If I were a protester today, I’d get my ass up off the street and start preparing my views on the possible wars of tomorrow. Your chance to debate the war on Iraq is long past. Don’t want us heading to Iran? Fine, but your time to speak of it is now, not if or when the Bush adminstration points out their evils. Want to call the adminstration on their actions? You better get one step ahead.

Depending on your state of agreement with the current administration, this might sound like a harrowing proposition. Deal with it. It will be a while before the next election day. By then, I have a feeling we won’t be discussing Iraq. We’ll be discussing the economy.

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Shoe Fly

Apr 9, 2003

Bagdad Falls

The pictures of this war have settled deep into my memory. The images of this day are more hopeful than I could have expected. This day – the day that Bagdad fell.

Amid the celebration, the looting, and, not so very far away, the continued fighting I can’t help but notice the shoes. Iraqi men are shedding their footwear and slapping Saddam’s likeness with them. His picture meets the sole of one man. The head of his statue meets the soles of many.

This supreme insult is a welcome act of defiance to an oppressed people. Many images usher in this historic moment. The image above is definitely one of them. Somehow a simple shoe can be just as telling.

The Iraqi people will remember Saddam as a ruthless dictator. He was their oppressor – their personal devil. I’ll remember him as the man who was repeatedly hit with a shoe. He deserved it.

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The Sleeping Parrot

Apr 7, 2003

Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf is a funny little fellow. His statements would border on hilarious if they didn’t involve the slaughter of Americans. His outright denial of the obvious is shameful and a perfect indicator of a regime that’s on the way out. Really, who does he think he’s kidding?

I suppose he’s kidding the general populace of Iraq. Those folks who have spent their lives being force fed a load of crap from the television in the living room and radio on the mantle. Those folks who cower in their home as each bomb drops, hopeful or maybe even fearful that he’s telling them the truth.

I can’t help but liken him to a character of a Monty Python skit; denial of the obvious is a regular staple of their comedy.

Mr. Praline: I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it, my lad. ‘E’s dead, that’s what’s wrong with it!

Owner: No, no, ‘e’s uh,…he’s resting.

Mr. Praline: Look, matey, I know a dead parrot when I see one, and I’m looking at one right now.

Owner: No no he’s not dead, he’s, he’s restin’! Remarkable bird, the Norwegian Blue, idn’it, ay? Beautiful plumage!

Mr. Praline: The plumage don’t enter into it. It’s stone dead.

Owner: Nononono, no, no! ‘E’s resting!

Public appearances of Mr. Saeed al-Sahaf come off in a very similar manner.

Reporter: Look ‘e’ there. US troops are heading up the parade route.

Mohammed: No, no. That’s the republican guard. They’ve returned from a victory south of Saddam International Airport.

Reporter: Actually, I think it is called Bagdad International Airport now. Are those American flags on that tank?

Mohammed: Do not believe those stupid Americans and their lies …

Reporter: Uhhh, DUCK!

Sometime soon a US soldier will tap him on the shoulder and, in no uncertain terms, let him know the ruse is up. Now that will be an interesting interview.

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