Monthly Archives: January 2008

The January 31st Democratic Debate

After playing some pool, I went back upstairs to watch the Democratic debate, the first one featuring just Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. On my way back to my room, I saw that there were a lot of people in the common area watching the debate on television. I decided to watch it with them, a diverse group of college students, both men and women.

Every time Clinton was talking, the room erupted into conversation. She would begin speaking, and then start rambling. We would then start chattering with people next to us. She could not keep our interest. Was it a case of our pre-decided dislike of Clinton, or was it that she failed to communicate with those college students sitting there?

By itself, this would not be that important. College students not paying attention to political conversation is not very surprising. Yet when Obama spoke, the room was quieter. And even if the people didn’t agree with everything he said, they were listening. The contrast was startling.

Now I return to that question. Was it Clinton, or was it us?

Contrast Clinton and Obama on how one brings about health care reform. Clinton talked about a coalition of business, labor, and doctors. Obama wanted to enlist the American people.

It wasn’t us.

Clinton only cares about the American people insofar as getting their vote. Obama wants to bring the people back into the process; he wants to restore faith in government. What a wonderfully radical idea. Obama wins because he wants to communicate with us.

Maybe Clinton held her own in the eyes of the pundits. I tried listening over the din of conversation. She said some effective things. But in that room — in that room full of young people — she lost.

Clinton’s performance was worst when she talked about Iraq. Every time a catfight broke out in a previous debate, I kept waiting for Obama to play the trump card. Clinton voted for the war, and she refuses to call it a mistake. Today, he finally hammered that point and hammered it hard.

Her vote for the war is a sign of a serious lack of judgment. Now, everyone makes mistakes. But on an issue so large and so important, and when the time constraints aren’t debilitating, one should not make that mistake. Moreover, she was privy to more intelligence information than others were. She had the opportunity to grill the generals. She (and other Democrats) were given a position of responsibility, and they failed to live up to that responsibility. Clinton made an egregious error.

Her inability to call it an error, though, is an even more damning argument against her candidacy. It reveals the inner workings of her mind. She says if she knew what she knows now, she would not have made the same vote. That tells us that she thinks the mistake was in the information she received, not in her judgment. However, Obama had the same information — no, even less — and he came to the right conclusion. On the stage, Obama articulated the position well. The United States has limited resources and cannot afford preemptive warfare. The war in Iraq has distracted us Afghanistan and strengthened al Qaeda. The information was out there. The ability to make the right decision on Iraq was out there. Clinton did not make the right decision. It was a result of faulty judgment. Furthermore, she does not recognize that she made an error. She makes the excuse that no one thought Bush was so obsessed with war, but she should have realized the disastrous consequences of such a war. She should not have authorized military force in that form. In this instance, she cannot blame Bush; she can only blame herself. That she doesn’t says her judgment is still faulty.

If you want change, don’t vote for Hillary Clinton. She will bring this same faulty judgment to the White House. That she voted for the war in Iraq is damning enough, but that she refuses to recognize it as a mistake disqualifies her for the presidency.

New De-Baathification Law Clear as Mud

We’ve heard it before. When Prime Minister Maliki was in, they shouted “Progress!” Saddam captured — we may be turning a corner. So many times they’ve held up false symbols of progress in Iraq.

Now this new De-Baathification law is supposedly a sign of progress in Iraq. Instead, the Washington Post points out that it’s a mess and could actually lead to a purge of Sunnis from the majority-Shiite government. Correct me if I’m wrong, but this seems like the exact opposite of political reconciliation, which was the stated strategic goal of the surge until it became inconvenient.

“This is a bomb on the road of reconciliation,” said Kareem, a former director general in the ministry. “This law does not bring anything new. This does not serve national reconciliation that all Iraqis are hoping for. On the contrary, it envisions hostility, hatred, discrimination and sectarian strife.”

I’ll remain skeptical about the surge, unlike some of the recent presidential primary debate moderators. I’ve been fooled too many times about Iraq already.

Damn you, Fred Thompson and Regis Philbin

I watched an all-new episode of Law & Order on NBC tonight. I rather enjoyed it. However, I loved Sam Waterston in his old role; this new guy isn’t half as good. So damn you, Fred Thompson for changing the cast of Law & Order. You ruined it for a half-hearted run at the presidency? What’s up with that?

I think you can trust my judgment on enjoying this particular episode of Law & Order, but there’s a reason you might not find it too trustworthy. I had previously watched part of that new shitty-ass game show Moment of Truth. What a piece of trash! It’s so freaking fake! Anything is good compared to that show.

Part of the blame must lie on Regis Philbin. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire changed the aesthetics of game shows. Compare Drew Carey’s two game shows. The Price is Right is all bright and glitzy. It has a pre-Millionaire look. The Power of 10 is all dark. I blame you, Regis, for the way Moment of Truth looks, which I find really, really annoying.

Can I really blame Regis Philbin for this? After all, he didn’t design the game. I think the game wouldn’t have been half as popular without Regis, and thus wouldn’t have been as powerful an influence. It’s the same reason I blame the genius Robert E. Lee for the Civil War. (Just kidding.)

Millionaire is even partially responsible for ruining American Gladiators; you can definitely see how Millionaire affected the aesthetics of American Gladiators. The worst part of the new American Gladiators, though, is the player profiles. I don’t give a shit about how much you want to win this, or your stupid sob story. This may make me sound un-American, but I’ll take Ninja Warrior over the new American Gladiators any day of the week. Ninja Warrior is grueling; it is a true test of amazing physical ability. The old American Gladiators is great though. You can sometimes catch it on ESPN Classic.

In conclusion, Fred Thompson ruined Law & Order, and Regis Philbin ruined American Gladiators. Sorry Fred, sorry Reg, love ya both, but it’s true.

Revisiting the Realignment

I’m once more pondering the prospect of a Realignment. For a long time now, I’ve felt that a shakeup is coming in terms of the way the parties are composed. Still, I could not figure out how the pieces would realign. With Obama appearing on the national scene, I’m now wondering if a generational battle may be brewing.

My generation is being saddled with debt. As the Boomers retire and eat up more medical costs, we’ll be the ones who’ll have to pay. There’s also an environmental debt. The atmosphere has been used as a dumping ground and it seems as if we are starting to pay for it. And then there’s the debt that Bush and Congress have been building. At times, I feel resentment.

While we’re several years into the 21st century, it doesn’t feel like it yet. Politics are the same. I’m not about transcending politics as usual, though. I’m about moving into the 21st century and having new debates. I don’t want to face the challenges of the 21st century while blinded by the mindset and preconceptions of the 20th century. A Clinton presidency threatens to drag us back to the 1990s. An Obama presidency appears to be more forward-looking. There’s a divide among young voters. They disproportionately prefer certain candidates, like Obama. Additionally, voter turnout is increaing among the youth which may suggest that something is changing.

Yet is this a valid data point? Have young people preferred certain candidates in the past where there was no “realignment”? I dunno. I haven’t done the research. Right now, I’m really in brainstorm mode.

The Boomers are aging, though, and it’s only going to become more noticeable. Then, there’s a fundamental cultural divide: Some of us grew up with the internet, and some of us didn’t. A case may made that our values are different and our ways of viewing the world are different.

Is this enough to say that a generational conflict is brewing? I truly don’t know. I put it out there for you to ponder and tell me if I’m way off base or if I’m actually onto something.

A Dream with Blustering

I’ve been having bizarre dreams lately. Dreams fade quickly, so the only thing I remember is their bizarreness. I did manage to hold onto one dream, though.

I’m on a spaceship, about to enter into peace negotiations. I’m not the captain or anything; I have the distinct feeling that I’m an outsider, some type of rookie. In fact, I’m someone from the past (frozen, a long time ago).

I start to think about what I’m going to say and realize how unprepared I am. One needs to be thoroughly prepared for events like these. But now that I’m in this situation, now that I have been given the chance, I cannot back down. I will enter the negotiations with the mindset that I will bring peace; I am confident.

As soon as the enemy spaceships arrive, one of our men begins firing. “Cease fire, cease fire, damn it!” I shout. As I shout it, it sounds ridiculous, like I’m some salty guy from a cheesy movie. The guy stops, but it’s too late. The enemy ships disappear and suddenly reappear (hyperspace jump?) on our flank, firing away. Luckily, it is not a long engagement and we survive the surprise maneuver.

Later on, I’m angrily saying to someone that I would’ve brought peace if it hadn’t been messed up. On one level, I know it’s bluster. I want others to believe in me. But on the other hand, it’s not as if there was a 0% chance I would’ve been successful.

I wonder how the negotiations would’ve gone. Bluster, force of will — these are no substitutes for preparation.

And there we go, I understand the dream now.

Delusional Snickering, or the January 5th Republican Debate

I think I’m about two debates behind on what’s happening, but I want to get this out because I said I would.

Ron Paul suggested that our foreign policy just might have some teensy effect on the choices of others. His opinion is supported by the 9/11 Commission’s report. Giuliani replied, “It has nothing to do with our foreign policy.” Wow. The ignorance of such a statement is breathtaking. Yet what disgusted me most was not Giuliani’s idiocy, but the snickers of the other candidates sitting around Ron Paul. They snickered at the mere suggestion that what America does has consequences – that knocking down governments and propping up dictators can create blowback, that American can do wrong in the world. They are the snickers of childish Manichaeans, who believe that people would only harm us because they are evil. The Republican Party supports a forever-war because it has created a shadow enemy, Islamofascism, which combines disparate groups into a global menace.

Giuliani also turned me off with talk about a tamper-proof ID card. That’s utter bullshit. You’ll never create a tamper-proof ID card.

Romney looked very wonkish on healthcare, which was actually quite impressive. Then, Gibson, the moderator, cut them off, “We’re in the weeds now on this.” God forbid that a presidential primary debate might get into details! Gasp! Of course, Romney lost me when he said that spending hundreds of billions of dollars on healthcare would “break the bank.” Somehow, though, a one trillion war in Iraq won’t. Just for the record, a trillion is a thousand billion.

One of the best moments of the debates was when Romney said, “Don’t try to mischaracterize my position.” And Huckabee replied, “Which one?” I thought it was hilarious. But then, the attacks continued. By the time I got to McCain’s agreement that Romney was “the candidate of change,” it was getting really old and I was slightly peeved. McCain seemed to take a vicious glee in the personal attack. It seemed like a tired attack by a man who lacked a way to launch a substantive argument. In retrospect, though, the attacks seem deserved. Romney boldly lied that his ads did not call McCain’s plan amnesty. They did. (Go look them up on YouTube.)

The debate confirmed Huckabee’s rockstar status. He was the master communicator on stage, looking like the authoritative voice on several issues. Romney looked smart. The moderator had asked McCain, “Why not Obama?” and McCain trotted out his experience. Romney rebutted that Obama’s Iowa victory told a different story. But when Huckabee started talking about Obama, he looked like he really understood Obama’s appeal.

I will end with one last quote from Ron Paul, a damning criticism of the current Republican party, “You can’t pay lip service to the Constitution without obeying it.” That’s the party today, but not just on the Constitution. They pay lip service to small government and fiscal responsibility too. I imagine that if you were to ask them why a Democrat would be any worse on fiscal responsibility after the Bush presidency, you would only get snickers in response.

But I’ve Been Playing Wii Madden NFL 08

Alright, I know, I should’ve written about the Republican half of the debate by now. I’ve already watched it, and I have my notes sitting next to me. But I’ve been playing Madden NFL 08 on Wii. I’m addicted. I just started the franchise mode. I know you don’t care, but: The 49ers are 2-0 right now, scoring the most points per game in the league.

Quote of the Day

“‘Do not be led astray by a false sense of honor,’ said the Athenians. ‘Honor often brings men to ruin when they are faced with an obvious danger that somehow affects their pride.'” — as quoted in Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power

The January 5th Democratic Debate

This weekend has been really exciting with the NFL playoffs beginning. If you had told me 5 years ago that I’d think watching football was more important than watching a political debate leading up to the primaries, I’d think you were nuts. You probably would’ve been nuts too, considering that I had no interest in football at the time. Despite the increased importance of football in my life, I still love politics (and occasionally think that it can be more important). So I searched the internets for video of the January 5th double-header Republican and Democratic debate in New Hampshire. This debate comes on the heals of Obama’s Iowa victory and precedes the upcoming New Hampshire primary. After the Iowa caucus, Biden and Dodd dropped out. With Gravel and Kucinich getting practically no support, the field has whittled down considerably. Only four candidates were invited to the debate: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Bill Richardson.

My very general impression was that this debate didn’t change any of my opinions. I still lean towards Obama and Edwards, and despise Clinton. I thought Edwards and Obama had strong performances; big surprise. I do recognize that one’s interpretation of key exchanges is tinged by one’s preconceptions of the candidates. I felt as if Clinton was struggling to keep the spotlight on herself. (She wasn’t in the middle as she always was.) Her aura of inevitability has evaporated after her third place finish in Iowa. She seemed less confident and tried to push her message about who’s ready to lead on day one, an argument which I find utterly bizarre.

It’s strange how the media unquestioningly picks up the candidates’ attempts to shape the storyline. One of the moderators asked about the “experience” versus “change” debate. Yet here they are, talking about Clinton’s experience, when she has only served one full term and part of a second as a Senator. Sitting to her right, is Bill Richardson, who has been Secretary of Energy, has been governor of New Mexico, has been a diplomat who dealt with North Korea and Iraq, and has served in Congress. Perhaps Richardson should have explicitly drawn that stark contrast between his cabinet positions during Bill Clinton’s tenure as president and Hillary Clinton’s unappointed position as First Lady. Talking about Hillary Clinton’s “experience” is ridiculous.

Because of his small support, though, the moderator Gibson didn’t that it was too important to give Richardson equal time. Richardson got less than 3% of the vote in the Iowa caucus, compared to Clinton’s third place finish of 28 or 29%. During the debate, he struggled to get speaking time and seemed visibly peeved. Still, with what time he got to speak, he failed to make a convert out of me. I never connected with him, the way I felt a connection with Edwards and Obama. (I can only speak of myself; I will not be like some pundits and ascribe my feelings to the American people in general.)

Today, I felt that there was something special about Obama. Maybe it’s because I’ve been primed to feel that way based on the opinions of others, but I like to think that it’s my honest opinion. He successfully parried several of Clinton’s attacks. When she accused him of being inconsistent on health care, he noted that there was a difference between what he would do if he could start from scratch and his plan since we aren’t starting from scratch. (Ah, such pleasing words to hear for a student of Burke, such as myself.) It was an intelligent answer. Therein is one of the greatest differences between Clinton (or, more accurately, what Clinton represents) and Obama. When Bill Clinton took over, the Republican Revolution happened and he was besieged by an ascending conservative majority. Old-school Democratic politics says that the American people are dupes, who will fall for the Republican’s superior ability in controlling the message. Liberalism contains a taint of haughtiness, or smugness. We saw it in George Clooney’s Oscar speech. We see it in the way they treat the poor out of a sense of nobless oblige. Obama lacks that arrogance. The most striking thing about Obama was that when he used the phrase “the American people,” it actually meant something. They weren’t the unwashed masses; they were people you had to go out and convince in order to build a “working majority,” as he put it.

I love the passion and fight that Edwards has in him. His painting of Clinton as an agent of the status quo was one of the most masterful moves in the debate. He created a contrast between himself and Obama. His view was that we had to fight entrenched interests in order to bring about the change we want. As much as I admire how Edwards has made the fight personal for himself, I must ultimately side with Obama. Obama will work to create that working majority and bring the people back into politics. His method stands in stark contrast to that of the former trial lawyer Edwards, and it is the more appealing vision.

To me, Obama brings something to the table none of the other candidates are even thinking about promising: He wants to restore faith in American government. Unfortunately, Bill Clinton helped to erode that trust, and a Hillary Clinton presidency will carry the same taint.

I can only hope that the people of New Hampshire share Obama’s vision as well.

Tomorrow: The Republican side.

What was I doing in 2007?

Here’s a compilation of my facebook statuses from 2007:

Shawn is using the present continuous tense again. Facebook is so limiting.
Shawn is out of ideas for facebook statuses.
Shawn is SNOW DAY!!!
Shawn is partly cloudy.
Shawn is super duper serial.
Shawn is finding a desire to reconnect with nature.
Shawn is badly grammers. wof,.
Shawn is going to be a moderator at the Iraq War Panel. Please come and bring all your friends.
Shawn is wearing one sock.
Shawn is the measure of all things.
Shawn is fucking fucked. Fuck.
Shawn is tickled by redundancy tickled by redundancy.
Shawn is not a dirty liar. Unlike Kant.
Shawn is going to follow this sentence with a really short one. Or not.
Shawn is desperately trying to live in a world of reality.
Shawn is updating his comic four times a week again. Yes.
Shawn is starting to get bored. There is only so much Law & Order one can take.
Shawn is making funny faces in the mirror.
Shawn is updating his status.
Shawn is good people.
Shawn is going to Vegas on Saturday. You will not be missed. Just kidding.
Shawn is in Baltimore. *sigh*.
Shawn is not going to live a boring life.
Shawn is ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring banana phone.
Shawn is a medical mystery.
Shawn is OMG LT U failed me.
Shawn is not contagious. Hooray!
Shawn is a super fighting robot.
Shawn is upset over upsets.
Shawn is finally fini– oh wait, there’s still one more essay to do.
Shawn is far too busy, being delicious.
Shawn is bored again, after a fantastic weekend.
Shawn is not in a hurry.
Shawn is hiding his girl scout cookies. No, you can’t have some.
Shawn is Scott Baio-wulf.
Shawn is a weevil in a captain’s biscuit.
Shawn is cavorting in the snow.
Shawn is staying fresh, staying cool… with Mentos fresh and full of life!
Shawn is home, bitches!
Shawn will now be using different tenses.
Shawn is no longer Wii-less.

It’s 2008

It’s strange that I’ve seen for many years now a lack of boldness in my character. At least, I’ve seen that as a a weakness and wished to change it.

In 2005, my New Year’s resolution was “seize the day.” In 2006, one of my resolutions was “Every move is a killing move.” In 2007, my resolutions were 1) Get it done 2) Be impetuous, and 3) Live in the present. I notice a common thread through all of them: A desire to boldly do things.

But now, finally, I see a different weakness of mine that has prevented me from living fully: a lack of purpose. Bold actions mean nothing without a sense of purpose behind them. Like I wrote in my weblog the other day, “If you don’t have a strategy, you’re just moving your pieces around and you’re going to lose.” Actions should be informed by your goals. Tactics should be informed by strategy. Boldness isn’t enough. I’m reminded of the Law of Navigation from John C. Maxwell’s The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. You need vision in order to steer.

On October 18, 2007, I have a short weblog entry entitled “Telos,” where I stated that the first step to getting my life back on track, from releasing myself from feeling overwhelmed, was to set my goals. The day before, I thought the first step was eliminating my inefficient work habits. Boy am I glad I caught myself. Otherwise, eliminating inefficiency could’ve been my New Year’s resolution for 2008, and I would be back at square one. The word “telos,” though, no longer resonates with me. “Purpose” does. I will christen 2008 as the Year of Purpose. 2008 will be dedicated to the importance of goals and strategy.

So, what are my resolutions? I want my resolution to be: Have a goal in mind. Then, I need to fill out everything under it, like preparation and planning to the end. But the goal is step 1. I don’t want my goals to be my specific resolutions. I want my resolution to be to have goals in the first place. I want to accomplish things this year.

Secondly, I want a resolution to be “Keep reading.” I would not have learned the lessons I’ve learned this year if I didn’t read. Reading “Fiasco” gave me the distinction between tactics and strategy. Reading about chess made me really feel the importance of strategy. Books teach me, and then they reinforce the most important lessons about life. “Keep reading” is a reminder to keep learning and to keep improving. I want to read at least 50 books this year, including the ones I read for class.

The last thing is not a resolution, but a reminder: Brick by brick. It’s an image I want to keep in mind as I go about achieving my goals. Rome wasn’t built in a day. I must be willing to work brick by brick, and not think that I can take shortcuts and get everything done at once. I must be willing to do the small things that are necessary to my goals.

I’ve tended to think that my old resolutions were failures at the end of the year. But no aphorism can encompass all of life’s lessons. I recently read “Destruction and Creation” by John R. Boyd. No philosophy is complete, or all-encompassing. It is imperative to destroy old paradigms and create new ones. New insights lie outside old systems of thought. Our old systems of thought naturally increase in entropy; disorder increases and we must reject old systems before they become nonsensical. The decay of my resolutions’ value is natural. I must go beyond the resolutions and encompess them in a new philosophy, or I will go nowhere. So, out with the old and in with the new.

Finally, I believe that one year is too long to hold on to the types of resolutions I make. I’ll see you all in six months with an evalution and new resolutions.

For now, welcome 2008. I have great hope that I will accomplish great things.