November 03, 2008
Nothing to See Here... Move Along...

Twice tonight, I've assembled exquisitely argued posts regarding the choices we face in this year's election cycle. Twice, I've decided to save my essays in "draft mode", likely never to make it to the site's front page.

Why?

Because no matter what I type, it will inevitably be divisive. I love a good debate, especially with the fine, intelligent folks who might spare a few moments to visit my little corner of the world wide web; but now that we are down to the wire, it's becoming increasingly obvious that there's little room for reasoned debate. I happen to think that both major party candidates pose the very real possibility of making things much, much worse than the Bush 43 or Clinton administrations . . . and they (Obama and McCain) also have the potential to make things much, much better.

The odds, it seem to me, point more toward the notion that whichever candidate we choose, we as a nation have embarked upon a pendulum swing toward severe political unpleasantness that could take decades to correct -- if it's ever corrected. And for all that, history suggests that all *will* get better, but it will, indeed, take a long time. That's another topic for another day.

I may get into these topics after the dust settles from this election. Again, I love to get into a good, well reasoned debate. In the meantime, vote early and vote often. If your candidate wins, whichever one he be, I hope that whatever good you see in him turns out to bear fruit.

Posted by at 03:41 AM in the following Department(s): Tidbits III | Comments (0)
 November 04, 2008
Into the Breech, Part I: Both Candidates Are Flawed

If you've read my most recent post, you know that I've been conflicted about getting into an in depth discussion about the current national elections happening today. Late last night, I worked on a private e-mail response to one of the commenters on my blog regarding my "checks and balances" missive. I sent it off, worried that it would not be well received, but I still felt I had to respond.

Well, this morning, I woke up with the realization that, as an extrovert and a writer, I'm only hurting myself by adding yet one more topic to the list of things I'm not discussing on my blog. I decided that it was both okay and, perhaps, an imperative to keep the conversation going. Then, when I checked my e-mail, I found a response from my friend that was exactly what I needed: an excellent continuation of the dialog. I'm going to ask her permission to post her response here (which she, in turn, ends with an excellent question, that begs another response from moi). In the meantime, here's the "brief" note I sent last night. Again, this is a follow-up to my post, and her comment, on checks and balances.

Hi, Amy.

This is just a quick note regarding the points you brought up in your comment on my blog.

In my e-mail late last night, I tongue-in-cheekly mentioned my intention to persuade you (regarding preferences for the Oval Office), but the fact of the matter is, it doesn't matter. Both candidates are reprehensible. Both are intent upon dismantling various sections of the Bill of Rights -- they only differ as to which sections they want to dismantle first. Both have stated very clearly, both on their web sites and in public speeches, their intention to steer us further into a police state, going beyond the excesses of the Patriot Act, et al.

Like you, I am disgusted by McCain's choice of a running mate. Like you, I am appalled by his switcheroo in his stance on abortion. I disagree with some of the other things you said, and I did, in fact, type up a detailed explanation as to why, but it doesn't matter. I don't want to be in the business of defending McCain, because I don't like him as a choice for President. (I did, eight years ago. In fact, I did, up until he started kissing neo-conservative tuckus in February.)

I meant what I said about checks and balances, though, because let's face it: a Democrat-dominated Congress would never allow McCain (or, if it came to it, Palin) to steer our government any further to the right with regard to domestic policy. Such a Congress might also end up working *against* the notion of becoming more of a police state. The same is not true with Obama as President. If he actually follows through with his promise to create a national police force that is as well funded, trained, and equipped as our military, I don't think we can count on the Democratic congress to stand against him -- just as we couldn't count on the Republican congress early in Bush's administration to stand against Bush, despite the fact that almost everything he has done as been as un-Republican as you can get.

Ergh. Every time I get on this subject, I get riled up, and I don't want to get riled up. McCain may be as bad as you appear to feel, but I think it's for different reasons. I do think that his foreign policy would be better than Obama's, but there's no way to tell, since Obama is a cypher in that regard.

When you get right down to it, all Presidents-to-be are cyphers. None of them end up performing quite as we expect. When was the last time a President lived up to (or down to) our expectations of him? Nixon?

McCain was a good man, up until a year ago, so I confess to being a little defensive about him, even though he has clearly lost his way. That said, Obama has the charisma and cult of personality that I find simultaneously fascinating and disturbing. I don't trust cult of personality. I was a history major; how could I? His speeches are vacuous. Read them in their text form some time. (I wrote about this in more detail in an earlier blog post.)

So, this is why I've "saved in draft form" a couple of e-mails to you and a couple of posts to my web site (and taken down to previous posts): I don't want to be the cranky old man who sounds all paranoid and bitter, and I don't want to alienate my good friends, many of whom are nonetheless getting wound up, themselves, about this election.

Most of my friends seem to be taking as obvious the flaws of one candidate and the virtues of the other -- and I mean, they take these as *way* obvious -- to the point where they can't acknowledge that their candidate of choice has just as serious flaws and the opponent has just as substantial virtues.

And yes, I must concede that both Obama and McCain have tremendous virtues, just as I worry over their tremendous flaws. Which one will be or would be the better choice? When all is said and done, we'll only be able to speculate, because only one *will* be president.

I hope that before too long, we'll have a chance to chat over these and other fun topics. But, as you and I agree, the stakes are high, and as we near the finish line of this stage of this particular race (please, oh please, don't let lawsuits drag this out for months like they did in 2000), tensions are a little high.

I share your pessimism about McCain. I suspect you don't share my pessimism about Obama. My blog entry was kinda tongue-in-cheek, but kinda not. I have concerns. As you pointed out, our current administration (and, I would argue, the last sixteen years) have done an amazing amount of damage to the American system of government. The next president could continue that pathetic tradition. Or not.

On a lighter note, the day after the results of the election are known, I'm thinking that our company will start offering "Don't blame me! I voted for (the losing candidate)!" bumper stickers. I think there will be good money to be made there.

Vote early and vote often!

--Allan

Posted by at 12:36 PM in the following Department(s): Tidbits III | Comments (4)
 November 10, 2008
Quick thoughts on Lieberman

In a previous post, I mentioned an on-going conversation between a friend of mine and me regarding the recent Presidential election. I will post a follow-up or two on that shortly. However, I need to spend my writing time right now on a novel-in-progress, so my blogging time is short.

That said, I wanted to share my thoughts on an interesting little story that is playing out, even though I realize I'm not the only blogger out there to hold these particular opinions:

Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman found himself in an interesting situation when his party leadership pulled their support for him during his most recent election cycle, even though he clearly had some strength behind his candidacy for re-election. He had annoyed party leadership by supporting the war in Iraq, and when he and his Democratic challenger split the primary and caucus phase of the campaign, party leadership backed his challenger. Lieberman left the party, campaigned as an "Independent Democrat" (or some such designation) on the positions to which he had stayed true, and won the seat.

Interestingly, the D's found themselves needing him, even though he clearly owed them no favors. With Lieberman, the D's would claim a Senate majority. Without him, The R's would hold on. Lieberman had always identified himself as a Democrat, so the choice was easy for him to make: he'd caucus with the Dems in exchange for chairmanship of an important Senate committee.

This past Presidential election cycle, Lieberman endorsed and campaigned for Senator McCain, with whom he shared many of the positions he himself had run and won on. Because the Democrat leadership had worked against him in his bid for re-election, Lieberman was not feeling particularly bound to support a Democrat candidate with whom he had little in common.

Okay, that's enough of the re-cap. What I find interesting about the events playing out now is that the Democrats have a larger majority in the Senate, and therefore no longer need Lieberman to hold onto their control. So, what do they do? Apparently, the majority leader wants to punish Lieberman by taking away his committee chairmanship.

This should come as no surprise, and I'm actually kinda glad that Lieberman is facing this possibility; Lieberman took a calculated risk, and he should be prepared to pay the consequences. Lieberman, like McCain (I assert), is a man of principle, and both honoring and violating those principles must necessarily entail consequences. (I suspect McCain might be paying consequences for violating his own principles, but that's an essay for another day.)

Lieberman wants to continue caucusing with the Democrats, but he has also said that he will not do so if they decide to strip him of his committee chairmanship. I'm glad he is taking this stand. I'm glad he continues to stand for what is important to him, even to the extent that it may harm his political career. (The committee in question is Homeland Security, which deals with issues of particular interest to the Senator.)

But here is where standing firm may provide a win-win or a lose-lose proposition for all of the parties involved.

I have read that President-Elect Obama has let it be known that he wants Lieberman to continue caucusing with the Democrats. Had I written this essay a couple of days ago, as I'd intended, I'd have suggested that the President-elect do just that, for reasons that should be obvious.

If you run on a campaign of "change" and "hope" and getting away from "partisan politics as usual", then your bluff is being called when a situation like this arises. Many so-called Progressives of the Democratic Party want to see Lieberman punished for breaking from the party leadership -- never mind who ditched whom at the big dance. But if our leaders are to move forward in a spirit of hope, change, cooperation, working together, etc., etc., this is where they start to reveal their true colors. Be vindictive, or welcome into the fold and move on.

If the Democrats ultimately decide to punish Lieberman, and Lieberman stops caucusing with them, both Lieberman and his party are impoverished. Lieberman, because he loses some political clout (at least, for the time being), and the party, because they lose credibility and the active participation of one of their more thoughtful voices.

On the other hand, if the D's welcome Lieberman back into the fold without vindictiveness, Lieberman and his former party are both enriched. Lieberman's stature grows, and the party is strengthened both in number and in quality of voice.

If it's true that President-elect Obama has, in fact, weighed in on the side of reconciliation (keep in mind that Obama can claim "injured party" status because of Lieberman's participation in McCain's campaign), and is willing to use some of his influence to help make that happen (the ball already having been set in motion toward punishment and vindictiveness), then I say... good.

I disagree with much of the President-elect's politics (just as, quite frankly, I disagree with much of the politics of his challenger). But if he's willing to call "bygones" and be all the stronger for it, then maybe, just maybe, there is hope for the notion that standing on principles actually matters.

There's more I want to say on the subject, but my novel-in-progress (as well as my bed) awaits.

Posted by at 10:40 PM in the following Department(s): Tidbits III | Comments (0)
 November 11, 2008
Into the Breech, Part II: That's What She Said

This post follows a thread that began with my musing about checks and balances, continued with a follow-up comment posted by my friend Amy (click here to see both), and continued further with my response to Amy's response (and my friend Allen's response to that). It was the note below that made me decide to keep this conversation public, because it touches some very interesting points (and I loves me some good conversation. Join in the fun, you other readers of mine!).

It is her question at the end that I intend to make the subject of an upcoming post. And, while you wait for baited breath for my answer, think about how you might respond. (And, as always, feel free to post your response by using the "comment" link below.)


Hey Allan,

Thanks for the e-mail. You're definitely right about one thing in particular -- I've been getting myself good and riled up about this election too. ;-)

Hmm, where to begin? Well, I'm not as pessimistic as you about Obama as a candidate, but at the moment I'm incredibly pessimistic about this country, even if I get the result I want today. I think econonically the next decade is going to suck. I have two friends who've lost their jobs in the last month. My bank failed. (Wamu -- by the way, I deliberately didn't withdraw my money when I knew they were in trouble, because I didn't want to be part of the cause of the failure!) I think if Obama wins, and even if there's a filibuster-proof House, that the Republicans will spend the next four years inventing new and creative ways to sabotage him, at the expense of ordinary people. I think there will be more than the usual number of attempts on his life and that greatly concerns me in terms of racial tension and overall country morale.

Oh, and I hate hate hate speeches, so I've not listened to his speeches -- I've been getting it all by reading (and I'm heartily sick of it all, too). So at least I'm not just swayed by the cult of personality.

I think the reason I reacted so strongly to your post (overreacted, it's fair to say) is because I thought you were implying that no matter how bad the Republicans screw up, it's the voter's duty to say "oh well, they done wrong, but it's my responsibility to count the seats and make sure there's the right level of checks and balances. Guess they get a free pass this year." My feeling is that if the Republicans are so worried about checks and balances, they should have tried not to alienate so much of their base for the past eight years, and they should try to keep their hands out of the cookie jar, or at least not get caught. Your post said (IIRC) that what Stevens did was wrong, and he'll be punished, but don't let that tank the country's future = vote for McCain. But it seems illogical to suggest that some undecided voters out there were going to say "Oh, Stevens was bad! Now I'll vote for Obama -- that'll show 'em!" And anyone already decided either way, on McCain or Obama, should not have to take Stevens' conviction into account.

I don't think I'm explaining this well, but I guess it's a pet peeve of mine when people imply that the average voter is required to not only weigh policies and character, but to try to analyze to the nth degree the effect of their vote far beyond the race in question. Months ago, I had a discussion with a friend who was seriously pissed off at people who voted for Hillary Clinton in the primary in California, because he felt that Hillary absolutely couldn't win the general election, and therefore those people were deliberate traitors to the Democratic party.  Even though I was already supporting Obama at that point, I maintained that they may have been voting for Hillary because they genuinely agreed with her policies more, and they certainly have the right to do so. I also believe people have the right to vote for Nader if they want to. I cringe at the result, but they still should be allowed to take a stand for a candidate that they want.

And if we ARE going to take "effects outside the actual candidate" into account..... that's an argument for Obama, in my opinion. There's how the world views us. We elect McCain, and the rest of the world thinks (and rightly so, in my opinion), "Nice, America. Same old shit for another 4-8 years." We elect Obama, and they realize that we finally realize we're way off course. There's also the effect of how our own citizens view us. I work at a community college that's 98% African American. I think it will do this country a world of good to see a non-rich-white-old-man in the White House. These aren't the reasons I voted for Obama, but still, there it is.

Regarding going further into a police state, I do still think the Republicans will be worse for that. How long do you think it will be before McPalin (yes, that was intentional) seats another Supreme Court justice and rushes a challenge to Roe v. Wade up the line? That's a police state. And Palin is just stubbornly, willfully ignorant enough that I wouldn't put it past her to try getting a little more creation taught in the schools -- hey, they'll have time since sex education isn't necessary. Also, McCain has already shown that he will compromise his principles, which to me means that once he's in a tough White House, he'll probably compromise them a lot more, because he's already started down that road. Obama, having kind of taken the high road during the election (admittedly, he could afford to -- I don't know what he would have done if he'd been trailing all along), may be able to maintain standards for longer than McCain.

Anyhow, I'll end by saying I don't think Obama is the second coming or anything. But I am still hard pressed to find virtues in post-February McCain.

By the way, did you catch that bit on the Daily Show several weeks or months ago, probably shortly after McCain picked Palin, where Stewart played clips of Karl Rove, Bill O'Reilly, and Palin herself contradicting the hell out of themselves? It was priceless, and telling.

No hard feelings. Thanks for taking the time to explain some of your feelings. Say hi to Paulette for me!

Oh wait, not ending yet.... I hope you don't mind if I throw this question out there for you, but it's something I've wondered about for a while. Hmmm, there's not going to be any good way to put this. OK -- I have a conservative librarian friend, who constantly bemoans the fact that almost all librarians she knows are Democrat. Unsurprisingly, she's from Texas and she's at least religious enough to go to church. I have often wondered if it doesn't make her pause to realize that the group she has proudly self-identified with -- as a librarian, she's very into Freedom on Information, privacy, etc. -- on the whole completely disagrees with her. I'm definitely not suggesting that anyone should bow to peer pressure in such matters! But I think if the group of people I admire, respect, and self-identify with completely disagreed with me on such fundamental things, it would make me wonder. Now, the same thing goes for science fiction. I know two people in the field who are leaning towards McCain: you and [Someone Else, who is a member of a controversial organization that may or may not employ inappropriate means to influence the views of its members]. So what I'm wondering is, doesn't it make you wonder that the group of people that you admire and to whom you want to belong, almost all disagree with you? I hope I managed to say that in a way that isn't offensive -- I'm just really, really curious about this, andI know you like discussion and will always give thoughtful answers. Although if your head is going to explode if you think about the election any more, don't feel compelled to respond to this!

OK, I'm really done now. ;-)

-- Amy

Posted by at 11:36 PM in the following Department(s): Tidbits III | Comments (0)
 November 12, 2008
Coming Soon! World Diabetes Day!

This Friday (November 14th) has been designated "World Diabetes Day" -- a day when everyone in the world will be struck by diabetes.

No, wait. Let me try that again.

This Friday (November 14th) has been designated "World Diabetes Day" -- a day to dance and sing and celebrate diabetes.

No, that's not it either.

It's more along the lines of an "awareness day". Like "Cephalopod Awareness Day", only not that stupid.

Seriously, did you know there are two main types of diabetes? Type 2 sucks, and it usually hits you when you're a fat old feeb, like me (although some children come down with it, as well). No, I don't have type 2 diabetes. At least, not yet. But, because of my lifestyle choices (choosing to be a fat old feeb), I'm a prime candidate. A relative of mine does have it, and he has even commented about it here on my site from time to time. Who knows? He may choose to comment again. In the meantime, I'll sum up what he has noted in the past: it sucks. But you manage it, and life goes on.

That's the thing about type 2 diabetes: often, one can manage it through lifestyle changes. Occasionally, management of the disease involves taking oral drugs.

Type 1, on the other hand, is a colossal bitch. There is a genetic component, and it can not be managed through lifestyle changes alone. Once it sets in, it requires aggressive, annoying, invasive action every day. It generally affects children, and only rarely strikes a person past the age of 15. Here's what a good friend of mine has to say on the subject of having a child with Type 1:

"I can't tell you how much I hope and pray that they will find a cure so my son won't have to go his whole life with 4 injections and 4-8 finger pricks every day. "
Please visit worlddiabetesday.org and spend a few minutes on the site. Check out "the diabetes warning signs" and check out the little booklet they have under "materials".

Parents of children under the age of 15 need to know the signs. Fat old feebs like me need to work on not being fat old feebs. And when you vote, in either local, statewide or national elections, please think about what your candidates' positions may be with regard to scientific and medical research. (That said, if you wanted to donate a few bucks to research for a cure, that could only help.)

Thanks in advance for taking a few minutes to become a little bit more aware about diabetes.

UPDATE: Here are a few other sites that have more information about the disease, and also information about funding research for a cure: the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International at www.jdrf.org, the American Diabetes Association at www.diabetes.org, Diabetes Australia at www.diabetesnsw.com.au, and the TEDDY Study at http://teddy.epi.usf.edu/.

Posted by at 12:43 PM in the following Department(s): Tidbits | Comments (1)
 November 14, 2008
Andrew at Six Months

Yesterday morning, Andrew turned six months old, and I had the presence of mind to take a few photos to capture the event.

Happy half-birthday, little guy.

Andrew at 6 months

Posted by at 05:36 PM in the following Department(s): The Boys | Comments (0)
 November 15, 2008
Diabetes - Quick Follow-up

As readers of my blog will note, I often (although not always) make light of complicated or troublesome topics in order to drive home to a particular point.

A couple of days ago, at the request of a friend of mine, I drew attention to "World Diabetes Day". I hadn't even been aware, until I received her e-mail, that there was such a day. And yet, the topic is of particular concern to me for a number of reasons. As I am often wont to do, I eased into the discussion on my website with my usual attempt at a light touch. Once I started talking about Type 1, I got a bit heavier. It's possible that maybe, just maybe, by implication, I was making it appear that Type 2 is a walk in the park by comparison, which it is not.

One thing I mentioned is that Type 2 can be managed by lifestyle choices, often in combination with drugs. The emphasis here, however, should be the word "managed." It cannot, at present, be cured. It does not go away. The disease (and its treatments) produce a number of complications and undesirable side-effects.

A relative of mine who occasionally is kind enough to read my musings here and post his thoughts contributed a comment to my previous post on the subject, and I'm repeating it here because it bears repeating:

"Type I & II are both terminal. Type II is very difficult for me. It is not the 3 or 4 shots a day, its what it does to your body long term even when it is under control. It never gets any better." --Tony
My previous post included the links of a number of excellent resources. I'm going to post one more for the wikipedia.org online encyclopedia entry on the subject. Just read the first couple of paragraphs. After that, you may decide it's worth your time to read the rest of the article.

Either way, thank you for indulging me on this topic. And if it should happen that you have a few bucks to contribute to a good cause, I hope you'll consider one of the diabetes research foundations I mentioned in my previous post.

Also, if you are pregnant or have a child who is younger than three months, please consider participating in the previously mentioned TEDDY Study. If you have a relative with Type 1, you might want to consider participating in Trialnet.

And now, we return to your politics-ranting, baby picture-displaying, pop culture-commenting, sometimes humor-making blog, already in progress.

Posted by at 02:29 PM in the following Department(s): Tidbits | Comments (0)
 November 17, 2008
A Very Important Question

For all my peeps out there on the Innernets, please give me your thoughts on this most important question.

Facebook: yes or no? Discuss.

Posted by at 03:08 PM in the following Department(s): Technology | Comments (2)
 November 20, 2008
Local Weather

Seattle Weather.Here is the weather forecast for the greater Seattle Metropolitan area:

This morning and afternoon, cool with light rain showers. Highs in the lower 50s.

This evening and overnight, cooler with light rain showers. Lows in the mid to lower 40s.

Chance of precipitation one hundred percent.

Extended outlook:

Tomorrow: the same.

The Day After Tomorrow: the same.

The Rest of The Week: the same.

The Rest of the Month: Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

The Rest of the Year: the same, with highs slowly dropping to the mid-40s and lows to the mid-30s. Some snow in higher elevations.

Long-Range Forecast:

From early January through mid-April: the same, with highs eventually increasing to the mid-50s and lows to the mid-40s. Snow in higher elevations will taper off in mid-March.

Posted by at 10:29 AM in the following Department(s): Humor | Comments (1)

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