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October 12, 2007

Barack Obama: Politics of Hope?

As in... "I hope you can't see the crystal-clear difference between a government negotiating with another government and a world leader meeting directly with another world leader"? That's weak, Senator Obama, real weak... Either he's being dishonest, and he doesn't understand what is--to me--an obvious distinction, or he's being honest and is even more naive than I previously thought. Either way, he continues to be, in my mind, a one-trick pony following his speech at the nominating convention in 2004.

October 11, 2007

Lynne Cheney: "We're talking about American Interests"

Just watched Second Lady1 Lynne Cheney's interview on The Daily Show. I thought she came across as a very reasonable and well-spoken lady, speaking quite highly of the current administration and her husband, recalling stories about growing up in Casper, Wyoming, discussing her recent book, and speaking out plainly against a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as being between a man and a woman.

But that small amount of respect evaporated in the final minutes of the interview. Jon Stewart jokingly asked her about her thoughts on Iraq, and when he then tried to steer the conversation to Vice President Cheney's demeanor at home, Cheney insisted on returning to Iraq. Paraphrased, the conversation went something like this:

Lynne Cheney: I think that when history looks back on this era, they'll see that in September 2001, most people feared another attack would come within six months, or six weeks even. But it's been six years and there's been no attack, and that's no accident. I think that this administration deserves a great deal of credit for that.

Jon Stewart (surprised that she wished to engage on the topic): Well in fairness, the previous World Trade Center attack had been <b>eight</b> years previously, so I'm not sure we should get so excited about <b>six</b> years--

LC: ...Except there were other attacks in between 1993 and 2001: the USS Cole, the embassy bombings,--

JS (a bit incredulous): But... but, there have been attacks since 2001. Bombings in Madrid, in London...

LC: We're talking about American interests. [emphasis hers]

JC: [stunned silence]

Audience: [sharp intake of breath]

Jon Stewart went on to express his apparently mistaken assumption that countries like Spain and England are our allies, but the interview ended quickly thereafter.

What really gets me here is how easily the explanation for why the Madrid and London bombings shouldn't count rolled off Lynn Cheney's tongue. This is a viewpoint that I fear permeates a huge portion of America: when our allies don't support an ill-conceived war with no realistic plan for success, they're cowards; but when they're attacked by the same enemy that we're trying to eradicate, we are uninterested.

Shame on you, Lynne Cheney. Though I guess, in the end, I'd expect no better from a person who married your husband.

1 Wikipedia tells me that I'm really allowed to use that title.

October 8, 2007

An Oregon Wedding

For Labor Day weekend, we traveled to Eugene, Oregon, for the wedding of my cousin, Heather. We snuck away for a few hours on Thursday to visit the Oregon coast.

Oregon Coast

The next couple of days were spent indulging in the company of loved family members that we unfortunately get to see only rarely.

And then Saturday arrived, and we all celebrated Heather and Shane's wedding.

Please enjoy all the photos from our 2007 trip to Oregon.

October 4, 2007

Romney on Abortion

Log Cabin Republicans launch ads questioning Romney's inconsistent stance on abortion over the years.

I'm a bit conflicted here. I can't stand the black-and-white, no nuance, flip-flopping political world we seem to have reached, in which a politician is not allowed to change their mind on an issue. On the other hand (the flip side, if you will), the timing of Romney's change of heart is awfully politically expedient, corresponding as it does with his move away from liberal Massachusetts politics onto the national stage.

I guess we need to look at them on a case-by-case basis. I don't believe that Romney has convictions on abortion one way or the other, though I'm willing to believe at this point that he'll do whatever it takes to earn the support of social conservatives. And from where I stand, it doesn't matter whether he seeks to outlaw abortion because he is morally opposed to it or because it is politically convenient: either way, it's a giant reason for me to dislike him and his candidacy.

The other big flip-flop issue in this campaign is Clinton's vote on the Iraq War. Obama won't let anyone forget that he was against the war for the start (as was Kucinich), but the other Democrats authorized the war. This, too, is a politically expedient position by Clinton. The climate when the war was authorized was such that votes against it were easily branded as votes against safety. A politician who wanted a legitimate shot at the White House couldn't afford--back then--to vote against the war. Today, to win the primary, it is politically expedient to be against the war, and so she is. I do appreciate the nuance in her positions, however, acknowledging the logistic difficulties of an immediate, full-scale withdrawal from Iraq.

So in the end, I expect my political leaders to be intelligent. And I expect intelligent people to change their minds, within reason. So I don't lend much credence to attacks on flip-flopping. Instead, I look at a candidate's current view and evaluate that. And if someone lies, they don't get a second chance.

(As an aside: attempting to discredit the abortion-related attacks because the group is a "gay rights group" and Romney is proud to not support gay rights is both illogical and offensive at the same time. Good going there, spokesman Kevin Madden.)

October 1, 2007

Holy cow: Fred Thompson is an idiot

I've been meaning to start blogging more often about my off-the-cuff reaction to political happenings, and, in particular, to the politicians vying to win the 2008 presidential election. Sorry if anything I say offends anyone: I just call it as I see it.

What better way to start than to observe that Fred Thompson is an idiot. From CNN's political tracker:

We can't forget the fact that although at a particular point in time we never found any WMD down there, he clearly had had WMD.

Yes, Fred. Clearly.

Tom Glavine: Winless with a 9.50 ERA

We're all astute at judging performances. We judge the depth of feeling and believability with which an actor delivers his lines. We judge the songwriting, voice, and musical performance of rock stars when we attend their concerts. And of course, we judge the power, speed, and wit with which a professional athlete plays his sport. And that's all fine.

But we don't only judge performances; we also judge people. We judge public figures by all kinds of metrics. Most of them are not fair. It's not fair that I disliked former Mets Brian McRae and Jose Vizcaino because of a perception that they didn't play baseball very well. And it's not fair for me to dislike Kenny Rogers because he walked in the winning run for the Braves in the 1999 National League Championship Series. It's even not fair for me to dislike Derek Jeter because he always gets the clutch hit, is tremendously overrated by fans and media alike, and walks around with a stupid grin on his face. I admit it: it's not fair and I probably shouldn't do it quite so much.

There are, however, some legitimate reasons to dislike public figures themselves, rather than just dislike their performances. Many people dislike John Rocker for the homophobic and hateful comments that he spewed forth several years ago. And many people dislike Brett Myers for abusing his wife. And many people dislike Barry Bonds for cheating his way to a lifetime home run record. These are all character flaws, demonstrations of a lack of respect for other people in the world. And that is, in my opinion, a reasonable cause for disliking a person.

I disliked Tom Glavine when he came to the Mets. After all, he was a Brave, and he'd been beating the Mets for years and years, and such poor reasons for disliking a person do not disappear over night. I spit vitriol at him after his first season at the Mets, when it seemed that time and time again he rolled over and mailed in a poor pitching performance against the Mets biggest rivals--especially against the Braves. But I was wrong to dislike him for that: Dislike his performances, sure; but dislike Tom Glavine the person? Shouldn't have done it.

And then he got better. He was never a truly dependable #1 starter for the Mets, but he had his fair share of brilliantly pitched games. And I was a hypocrite: I smiled and I cheered and I called this person who I had disliked, "Tommy." I think I even gave him a standing ovation in the comfort of my living room when he earned his 300th career win. I began to relish the thought of Glavine executing his 2008 player option to stay with the Mets next year. But as I watched his stoic approach on the mound; as I saw his picture-perfect family interviewed time and time again on ESPN; as I listened to the accolades heaped on him by fans, media, and current and former teammates: Underneath all of it I held onto a vague feeling of distrust.

Over the past month, this distrust was repaid in spades. An article on the Mets historically stunning collapse notes that Tom Glavine, the Mets #1 pitcher, was "winless with a 9.50 ERA over his last four starts of the season." Of course, this was topped off by yesterday's implosion when, faced with the opportunity to pitch in the most crucial game of the season, Glavine managed to record only a single out while giving up seven runs in the first inning and punctuated his outing with a throwing error and by hitting the opposing hurler with a pitch.

But this is simply poor execution by a baseball player, and it's not just cause for disliking Tom Glavine, as much as I might want to. And yet, I dislike Tom Glavine. Strike that. I <i>despise</i> Tom Glavine. And it's not because he's a mediocre pitcher who feeds on batters' weaknesses and the tendency of umpires to give him a generous strike zone. It's because he has no respect for other people.

After the game, Glavine commented on his performance:

I’m not devastated. I’m disappointed, but devastation is for much greater things in life. I’m disappointed, obviously, in the way I wanted to pitch. I can’t say there is much more I would have done differently.

Glavine wouldn't have done anything differently? And he's simply disappointed? Sure, I agree that there are more important things in life. But it is inexcusable for Glavine to not acknowledge his role on a team, his responsibility to the other Mets he's worked with for so long, and--perhaps most of all--the hopes and dreams of the millions of fans who not only cheer the team all season long but help pay their salaries. I'm not the only guy who pours his heart and soul into every pitch of every Mets game of a given season. And while there are lots of reasons the 2007 season ended in abject failure, Glavine seems to be the only one[1] not respecting the effect of his contribution to that failure on the people around him. That's a lack of respect. It's a smugness that takes for granted his teammates and fans, and I find it disgusting. And so I despise Tom Glavine.

Tom Glavine is not a horrible person. He gives back to his communities, and he treats his family well. He probably even thinks that he does a service to people everywhere when he puts baseball in context, compared to the "greater things in life." But in doing so, he's spitting on everyone that counts on him in a big moment to rise to the challenge. One day in the not-too-distant future, Glavine will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. And when they unveil the plaque that will forever immortalize his performance on the field, I can think of nothing better for it to read than "Winless with a 9.50 ERA."

[1] I haven't seen much remorse towards the fans from Willie Randolph either. But Willie clearly is devastated on behalf of his players, which is a start at least. Whether or not he takes his fair share of the blame is a conversation for another blog post.