Sometimes, I hate being right.

Eight years is a long time; about 1/10 of an American life span, and I'll bet you already know where this post is going. As I look at this year's Presidential race, I've spent a lot of time thinking about past races; specifically the ones in which I've voted. With the benefit of hindsight, it's enlightening to look back at what I thought then and compare it with how things have gone.

So, the 2000 election reminds me a great deal of the 2008 election. The outgoing President was unpopular, there were economic rumblings on the horizon, and I wasn't wowed by either candidate. In fact, I was downright worried by both of them. One seemed stiff, and out of touch, the other a bumbling country boy. In the end, I marginally favored the stuffy guy, despite serious reservations. In the end, it didn't really matter who I liked anyway, because my state was only going to go one way.

So, eight years later, it is interesting to look back at some of my misgiving about the man who would eventually become President. It's sad to say that I was right about some of them:
  • Nepotism and cronyism: coming from an entitled upbringing with the attached good ole' boy mentality, I was concerned that Bush, rather than picking the best person for the job, would select advisers that most agreed with him. A certain amount of this is to be expected with any political office, but I think that a truly savvy politician will also bring in people of differing opinions and skills to create a well rounded administration. When Collin Powell, an internationally respected individual, departed as Secretary of State and Condoleeza Rice, a mediocre NSA chief, was selected as replacement, I realized that Bush was surrounded himself with "yes" men. Bush's failure in this area reached its apex when he nominated the woefully unqualified Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. I think that the WMD debacle resulted largely from Bush's cronyism, as well as a woefully unprepared FEMA after hurricane Katrina.
  • Ties to oil: the Bush family is well known for its ties to the oil business. Ties to any industry don't inherently make anyone unsuitable for office, but you have to accept a certain amount of deference to that industry while they're in office. In this case, Bush's oil and related energy policies have recently proved disastrous. The industry is enjoying record profits from record prices, which are contributing to the overall slowing of the economy. A more enlightened policy regarding energy, like updated mpg requirements and tighter environmental controls on electrical production might have actually spurred development in alternative fuels and energy as world oil supplies became inevitably tight.
  • Foreign policy: as governor of Texas, one's foreign policy experience is limited largely to Mexico. And, to his credit, President Bush has does well, I think, with our neighbor to the south and immigration policy (though Congress wasn't helpful.) Worldwide, though, gaining a reputation as a bully was certainly not desirable. Though I think we must always act in our own self defense without waiting for international consensus, we must do so considerately and conscientiously. The younger Bush could have learned a great deal from his father in this area, who very delicately handled the collapsing Soviet Union and the first withdrawal from Iraq. Back then, Cheney as Sec. Def., provided a compelling analysis of what would happen in Iraq if Saddam was deposed: sectarian violence and political instability that would require an occupying force. I don't understand, why, then, we were so unprepared for what was going to happen. Needless to say that greater international support might have drastically altered the course of the conflict, particularly given the massive civilian casualties that have resulted in Iraq.
  • Church and State: while I admire President Bush for being a man of faith, I saw his use of the evangelical vote as a double edged sword. I feared that his mixing of religion and politics could have undesirable consequences. This was realized by the failure of many of his faith based initiatives. Though a cause and effect relationship is certainly hard to establish, I find it extremely interesting that teen pregnancy rates have increased (abstinence only sex ed, anyone?) and abortion rates have not fallen. Meanwhile, the Republican party has become significantly more conservative as it has to court the increasingly vocal and fickle evangelical vote.
  • Fiscal/Economic policy: though Republicans are generally thought to be fiscally conservative, their hawkish natures and continual desire to cut taxes frequently have the opposite effect. Bush seemed to fall right in line in this area. It was amazing to me that facing a recession, he elected to increase spending while cutting taxes and sending the nation to war. This ballooned the deficit, lowered confidence in American industry abroad, and began to slow the economic engine of the country. Couple this with the deflation of the housing market, and I think that the current administration shoulders a great deal of responsbility for our current predicament. It wouldn't suprise me too much if we soon find that laissez faire enforcement of the housing market contributed to our current situation.
  • Intelligence: simply put, I thought Bush wasn't smart enough to be President. I'm not talking about his minor gaffes that made for comedy routine fodder, since those things happen to everyone, but I do think that being President requires a truly significant intellect. The economy, foreign policy, and budgetary matters are extraordinarily complex. No amount of bravado, charm, or humor can mask a failure to understand the issues. I think Bush's failings fundamentally stem from this, particularly in dealing with the economy and the budget deficit.
So, this may sound like a huge round of "I told you so", but that's not my intent at all. Nor am I trying to jump on the Bush bashing bandwagon. Instead, these are the things that genuinely concerned me about the candidate. There's no doubt that a similar list could have been made had Al Gore been president. In the end, your concerns regarding a Presidential candidate will almost certainly manifest themselves when the person is in office. Though the extent of such manifestations are totally unknowable, we can at least look at the curent state of the nation to see which flaws would hurt us the most.


Totally random...

  • I don't understand lactose intolerance. By which I mean, why is called lactose intolerance? Who was that first person that said, "No! I refuse! I WILL NOT TOLERATE LACTOSE!" Somehow it seems like a misappropriate of a word that already has context in much more distressing issues like racial or religious intolerance. I think we should come up with a different name for lactose intolerance. Something like: "My parents failed me genetically because I can't eat ice cream or cheese without my stomach acting like Mt. Vesuvius."
  • Where do my hangers go? I have acquired no additional clothing, and yet I do not have hangers enough for the clothes I have. The situation gets worse every time I do laundry. As a child I used to stretch hangars over my head and wear them around the house, but my head is of such a size now that they generally break, so I stopped doing that.
  • Growing up, we never could find lids for the Tupperware. We had a whole drawer fully of lids (and twist-ties, thumbtacks, and junk), but apparently the lids went with some OTHER Tupperware. Now that I have my own house, all I have are lids. Seriously. Who is using all this lidless Tupperware? I did use a bunch once to measure how much water my sprinklers were putting on the lawn, but I'm pretty sure I gathered them all up.
  • Why do Americans take perfectly good entrees and turn them into salads? Tacos, burritos, pizza, buffalo wings, etc. All these things are great foods by themselves -- how does serving them on a bed of lettuce with a lime/chipotle/raspberry/vinaigrette/sun dried kumquat dressing make them better? It certainly can't make them healthier...
  • I'm convinced that most of the problems that women have with men result from women assuming that men are much smarter that we actually are. But rest assured, we REALLY ARE that stupid. Need proof? Tom Cruise: divorced Nicole. Tom Arnold: married Roseanne.
  • We see a lot in the news about the dangers of leaving children and pets in cars in hot summer days. (Seriously people, DON'T DO IT!) But what about old people? The other day at Dick's market, there was a very surly looking 80 year old sitting in a sweltering Camry. The window was rolled down, but he looked like he was getting grouchier by the minute.
  • I'm pretty sure that Wal-Mart wishes that the department of homeland security would scale back airport security so they can have their employees back.


The Dog/Cat Debate

I know that people feel strongly about their choice of pets. Me, I'm a dog person. It's not that I don't like cats, but they don't seem to like me. Growing up, my best friend had a Siamese named Rosebud. I was never anything but nice to that cat. But, every time she saw me, she would hiss like I was the undead:

So, I'm not a cat fan. I don't really dislike them though. I'm a sucker for the purring and all that, like anyone without cat allergies. Cuddle factor aside, I think it's pretty clear which animal is superior in the dog/cat debate.

My roommate, Dane, and I had this argument all the time. He thought that the cat's independence and cleanliness made it the perfect pet. He thought dogs were dumb -- primarily because they hung around with people, which Dane also thought were dumb.

And Dane was right. Dogs' have a weak point in that they are slaves to the affection of their humans (and vice-versa). But when it comes down to it, there's one argument that trumps them all in favor of the dog: There's no such thing as a "seeing-eye cat."


Rockets' Red Glare

I love the 4th of July. I live for the 4th of July. It has everything I need: staying up late, BBQ, and pyrotechnics. I only have one problem with the 4th of July, and that is Lee Greenwood. His song "God Bless the USA" drives me crazy. Now, before you brand me some unpatriotic jerk, let me explain:

The song, to be frank, is trite drivel. All the great patriotic songs, the Star Spangled Banner, America the Beautiful, etc, were written by poets; psalms to the hopes of a young nation. There's no way that a pop song, much less a 60's-esque country song, can really capture the majesty of a country that grew from 13 rowdy colonies into a country that became a haven and hope for people the world over.

Greenwood's song, instead, plays off of sentiment -- trying to kindle patriotic support by invoking remembrances of those who paid the ultimate price. The end result is that I invariably feel an odd sense of guilt, because there are times when I'm not proud of what my country has done, and that this somehow dishonors the fallen. I don't think anything could be further from the truth, though. This is a country built on dissent, after all. Jefferson himself said, "a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing."

Ultimately, I think that those who sacrificed didn't do it for any as abstract as a flag or nationalistic pride. When I think of a GI storming the beach at Normandy, I can't imagine visions of eagles and patriotic bunting are in the forefront of his mind. Instead, I see him thinking of his family, his home, and the good things of this life. And that's why he fights, because he thinks that other people should have the right to those good things as well. In the end, it is his hopes and ideals that define him, and truly define what it is to be an American. This is where the flag gets its meaning. America is a reflection of his sacrifice, not the other way around.

When I stand and sing the Star Spangled Banner and my eyes mist, it's not so much because of the flag or even the song, but because I realize that I share the same ideals as those who did sacrifice and am indebted to them. I am humbled and honored to be counted among those that paid the ultimate sacrifice or the sacrifice of a life dutifully lived. In the end, my duty is to live according to the principles of freedom on which the country was founded, according to the dictates of my own conscience. Sometimes this means that I may not agree with everything that my country has done or will do, but it doesn't make me any less patriotic.



I bought an owl two weeks ago. And, as Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up.

....But he looks less like this:

....And more like this:

He's hanging from a branch in my cherry tree, swaying and turning gently in the breeze. You probably wonder if it felt odd to buy an 18 inch plastic owl. Yes, a little. I figure that's why they invented self checkout.

But my sheepishness has yet to be rewarded. The birds that are raping and pillaging the tree for freshly ripened cherries seem completely unbothered by my owl. When I come out of the house in the morning, it sounds like some sort of deranged sale, a cacophony of shrieks, chirps and flapping, like women fighting over the a pair of discount shoes. And then, as I approach the tree, the birds explode out of it, sometimes a half dozen of them. So, this leads me to believe that they are completely unafraid of my plastic bird of prey. Maybe they have a grasp of physics and realize that he's essentially floating in mid-air?

I'm even pretty sure they pooped on him. As if being plastic wasn't hard enough.