Friday, July 25, 2008

Obama smeared over phony troop snub

I got this email the other day forwarded to me by my brother-in-law who is in the Army National Guard. It describes a visit by Barack Obama to a military base in Afghanistan where he supposedly does not take the time to shake hands and visit with the soldiers.
I can understand why something like this would upset him. The only thing is I don’t believe it is true. Here is the bulk of the email:

As you know I am not a very political person. I just wanted to pass along that Senator Obama came to Bagram Afghanistan for about an hour on his visit to 'The War Zone'. I wanted to share with you what happened. He got off the plan and got into a bullet proof vehicle, got to the area to meet with the Major General (2 Star) who is the commander here at Bagram. As the Soldiers where lined up to shake his hand he blew them off and didn't say a word as he went into the conference room to meet the General. As he finished, the vehicles took him to the ClamShell (pretty much a big top tent that military personnel can play basketball or work out in with weights) so he could take his publicity pictures playing basketball. He again shunned the opportunity to talk to Soldiers to thank them for their service. So really he was just here to make a showing for the American's back home that he is their candidate for President. I think that if you are going to make an effort to come all the way over here you would thank those that are providing the freedom that they are providing for you. I swear we got more thanks from the NBA Basketball Players or the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders than from one of the Senators, who wants to be the President of the United States . I just don't understand how anyone would want him to be our Commander-and-Chief. It was almost that he was scared to be around those that provide the freedom for him and our great country.
If this is blunt and to the point I am sorry but I wanted you all to know what kind of caliber of person he really is. What you see in the news is all fake.

In service,
Battle Captain
TF Wasatch
American Soldier

I took the name off so as not to disparage anyone. The person who wrote this didn’t necessarily make it all up. From their perspective, it may have been accurate as far as what they saw. But they clearly didn’t see the whole picture.
Since this email has come out it has gone viral on the Internet and now it turns out not to have been true afterall as I suspected.

Army officials refute claim of Barack Obama snub in Afghanistan
By James Gordon Meek
Updated Friday, July 25th 2008, 10:05 AM
WASHINGTON - The latest chain e-mail smear against Barack Obama: He "blew off" troops at an Afghan base to shoot hoops for a publicity photo.
The letter was apparently written by a Utah Army National Guard intelligence officer in a linguist unit at Bagram Airfield who claimed the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee was rude to G.I.s.
"As the soldiers where [sic] lined up to shake his hand he blew them off," wrote the Task Force Wasatch "battle captain."
But angry Army brass debunked the Obama-bashing soldier's allegations, which went viral Thursday over the Web and on military blogs such as Blackfive.
The e-mail claims Obama repeatedly shunned soldiers on his way to the Clamshell - a recreation tent - to "take his publicity pictures playing basketball."
"These comments are inappropriate and factually incorrect," said Bagram spokeswoman Army Lt. Col. Rumi Nielson-Green, who added that such political commentary is barred for uniformed personnel.
Obama didn't play basketball at Bagram or visit the Clamshell, she said. Home-state troops were invited to meet him, but his arrival was kept secret for security reasons.
"We were a bit delayed ... as he took time to shake hands, speak to troops and pose for photographs," Nielson-Green said.
E-mails to the officer who made the charges and a call to his wife were not returned.

It didn’t make sense that any politician worth their weight in salt would be so politically obtuse as to “blow off the troops” during a campaign stop at a military base. And certainly not a politician of the caliber of Barack Obama. It’s nonsense. Would John McCain blow off a bunch of union workers during a visit to a factory so he can hobnob with the fat cat CEO? Of course not. And Obama isn’t snubbing our troops during his tour of the Middle East.
There are going to be a good number of people who are going to vote against Obama regardless, but if they want to have a reason for voting against him they should look for something legitimate, like a disagreement over a policy issue, and not something bogus and exaggerated like this.

Joe Barton may retire

Congressman Joe Barton may retire in 2010, according to this post by one of his former primary opponents. (H/T to Brains and Eggs)
This delights me to no end. There is probably no one in Congress who I despise more than “Smokey” Joe Barton, mainly because of my personal connection to him. He was my Congressman when I was at Texas A&M and the last reminder of the huge mistake I made in 1984, the first year I was old enough to vote. That year I was completely enamored with Uncle Ronnie and his “Morning in America” tripe. And so I cast my first-ever vote for “the Gipper” and then proceeded to vote a nearly straight Republican ticket which meant that I voted for both Phil Gramm for U.S. Senate and Joe Barton for Congress. Reagan and Gramm are both gone now, but Barton has endured all these years, finally rising far above his level of compentence to become chairman of the House Energy Committee.
Fortunately, the Democratic tidal wave of 2006 brought that travesty to an end and stripped Barton of his chairmanship. Now it seems that his all-but-certain minority status for the forseeable future plus some unfortunate health problems are leading him to consider retirement in 2010 (and no doubt entry into a lucrative lobbying career for the energy industry that he has catered to all these years.)
Barton was always a reliable rubber-stamp for the “movement conservative” causes and has most recently used his senior status on the Energy panel to throw roadblocks up on efforts to address Global Warming issues.
Barton’s retirement will finally relieve my conscience for the huge mistake I made two dozen years ago, but it probably won’t result in better representation in Congress since Barton’s district is heavily Republican and will likely elect someone equally as wingnutty to his seat - just with less seniority.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Obama nails a 3-pointer

You know things are going well for the Obama campaign when you get photo-ops like this one:

He gets it on the first try. How cool is that?

I think he nailed this one too.

Lyle Larson shirks his responsibility

The Bexar County Commissioners Court had to make a big decision last week on providing additional funding for the University Health System in San Antonio. UHS is the only civilian Level I trauma center for Bexar County and the surrounding communities. It handles 65 percent of all the trauma cases in the area - about 70,000 per year - in an ER that was designed to handle about half that number.
There is no question that an expansion of the hospital is long overdue and the longer we wait the more expensive it will be. Last week, the commissioners court approved a $900 million expansion project for UHS that will require an 8 percent property tax increase (about $19 per $100,000 valuation).
The plan was approved on a 4-1 vote with Commissioner Larson voting against. Was Larson’s “No” vote a principled stand against a project he does not support? Not exactly. Larson told the Express-News:
“I'm 100 percent behind the expansion of the health system. I just differ in one way, and that's how we pay for it.”

How does Larson think we should pay for it? He doesn’t say. He just wants to throw the whole issue into the voters’ laps and have them vote on it in a referendum.
But this would be grossly irresponsible. Not only would it waste time and make the project more expensive in the long run, but it would be disingenuous. This is not some whimsical pursuit like a publicly-funded sports arena that should get voter approval first. This is a vital public necessity. A “No” vote would not be acceptable. And yet, when it comes down to making that decision, Larson wants to shift responsibility on to the largely uninformed and ignorant masses. Isn’t that why he was elected in the first place? To make sure he is well informed and make key decisions that are in the best interest of all of us? Why even have elected representatives if we are going to hold referendums on every major issue?
If Larson wants to shirk his responsibility as a county commissioner on this vitally important issue, why should he be promoted to higher office as a U.S. Congressman? Larson is the Republican nominee for the 23rd District of Texas challenging incumbent Democrat Ciro Rodriguez.
In an editorial after the vote, the Express-News said the four members of the Commissioners Court who supported the UHS expansion project will be held responsible by voters in the near future. But it is Lyle Larson who should be held responsible for his spineless and weasel-like actions on the commissioners court.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Pardon me

As Ann notes today, we should not be surprised by the presidential pardons that Bush is bound to dole out before the end of his term.
To date, he has been exceedingly stingy with his power to commute sentences, handing out about one pardon for every 10 that Reagan granted during his eight years in office. But he still has time. Clinton waited until the final three months of his second term to pass out nearly half the pardons he issued (slightly more than Reagan did in total).
The New York Times noted that felons are currently seeking pardons in record numbers. Some of the prominent people seeking pardons from Bush include billionaire junk bond king Michael Milken and former U.S. Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham. Other prominent pleas come from former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards, American Taliban John Walker Lindh (fat chance!) and Olympic sprinter Marion Jones who was nailed for doping recently.
Could Bush issue some blanket pardons to folks like Karl Rove, Tom DeLay and Dick Cheney, the way his father did for Casper Weinberger? Perhaps Scooter Libby will get the full pardon he still lacks. The possibilities are limitless.

2008 Movies

This is turning out to be quite a big year for “must-see” movies in my opinion. There seems to be a plethora of geek-centric movies coming out this year compared to the relatively thin offerings in 2007.
My list of “Must See” and “Must Own” films (not always the same) is getting rather lengthy compared to last year.
So far, I’ve seen three films in the theater this year, the kid-friendly “Horton Hears a Who” and “Kung Fu Panda” and “Iron Man” which I managed to see one week when my wife and kids were out of town.
But the number of movies that I want to see “eventually” is piling up and quite a few are already on my list for eventual inclusion in my video library.

Starting with my Must Own list I have:

Horton Hears a Who
Kung Fu Panda
Iron Man
Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull
The Dark Knight
Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
Nim’s Island
Speed Racer
and Hell Boy II: The Golden Army (which I will probably get as a package with Hell Boy I)

And then there are the films that I want to see that I may or may not eventually buy copies of including:

The Spiderwick Chronicles
Journey to the Center of the Earth
The Incredible Hulk

Then there are the movies that have not been released yet which I will probably add to my collection eventually:

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
Star Trek
James Bond No. 22
The X-Files Movie

Other films currently out or set to come out in 2008 that have caught my interest include:

“Wanted” - a Matrix-like action film with Angelina Jolie
“The Happening” - M. Night Shalmayan’s latest spooky film
“The Lovely Bones” - It doesn’t sound like a movie I would want to see, but since Peter Jackson (i.e. Lord of the Rings) is the director I am automatically interested nevertheless.
“Where the Wild Things Are” - based on the classic children’s book. If it is as good as Polar Express it will end up on my Must Own list as well.
“Valkyrie” - About the attempt to assassinate Hitler during WWII starring Tom Cruise.
“The Changeling” - Another film I’m not sure about but Clint Eastwood is directing which raises the interest level.
“The Curious Case of Ben Button” - Based on an F. Scott Fitzgerald story about a man who lives life in reverse and starring Brad Pitt.
“The Day the Earth Stood Still” - A remake of the sci-fi classic with Kenau Reeves in the lead role.
“Angels and Demons” - Apparently a prequel to The DaVinci Code with Ron Howard directing and Tom Hanks starring again.
“Frost/Nixon” - Another Ron Howard project about a post-Watergate interview of Nixon by David Frost.
“Shantaram” - I don’t know anything about this film except that it stars Johnny Depp.

It ain’t gonna be close

Michael Grunwald at Time finally spells out what should be obvious to every astute political observer in the country right now - John McCain is toast.
This election is not going to be close no matter how many headlines from now until November try to play up the race as a horserace going down to the wire.

John McCain might seem like a long shot. He's the Republican nominee at a time when the two-term Republican President is wildly unpopular and Republicans are losing elections in perennially Republican districts and the party base isn't exactly drooling over him. He supported the president's unpopular efforts to transform Iraq and revamp Social Security; he was against the Bush tax cuts before he was for them. He's a 71-year-old Washington hand in a change election. And his 46-year-old opponent is a lot better at raising money, delivering speeches, drawing crowds and registering new voters.

Oh, let's just admit it: John McCain is a long shot. He's got a heroic personal story, and being white has never hurt a presidential candidate, but on paper 2008 just doesn't look like his year. And considering what's happening off paper, it might be time to ask the question the horse-race-loving media are never supposed to ask: Is McCain a no-shot?

Yes, he is a no-shot. Any Republican candidate this year would be a no-shot. The best Republicans can do this year is whine about how Obama has “flip-flopped” on a few issues (but nowhere close to the number of issues McCain has flip-flopped on) and point out his supposed inexperience. But in a change election, “experience” is not always a positive factor and stubbornly refusing to change positions when circumstances warrant it is precisely what got us into our current jams both foreign and domestic.

I can’t imagine even the most hard-core Republican can watch the new McCain ad that tries to blame Obama for the run-up in gas prices and not snicker or roll their eyes. They are desperate to the point of self-parody.

As Grunwald concludes, it is really quite simple at this point to predict the election outcome in November:

The media will try to preserve the illusion of a toss-up; you'll keep seeing "Obama Leads, But Voters Have Concerns" headlines. But when Democrats are winning blood-red congressional districts in Mississippi and Louisiana, when the Republican president is down to 28 percent, when the economy is tanking and world affairs keep breaking Obama's way, it shouldn't be heresy to recognize that McCain needs an improbable series of breaks. Analysts get paid to analyze, and cable news has airtime to fill, so pundits have an incentive to make politics seem complicated. In the end, though, it's usually pretty simple. Everyone seems to agree that 2008 is a change election. Which of these guys looks like change?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Back to work

OK, I’m back and I’m swamped at work.
In the meantime, here is an interesting article about how the roots of today’s politics were mostly planted in 1978, not 1968 as some have claimed.

Everyone seems to be telling us that if you want to understand 2008, you have to look back 40 years to 1968. "It's the year that changed everything," wrote Newsweek last November. Seen through tie-dye-tinted glasses, Iraq is the new Vietnam, Barack Obama is the new Bobby Kennedy, and bloggers are the new student activists.
But are we commemorating the right year? If we really want a time that defined the way we live now, we should look back not to the romance and trauma of the '60s but to the gloriously tacky '70s, to the year that made modern America -- 1978. Look beyond the year's bad disco and worse clothes; if you peer deeply into the polyester soul of 1978, you can see the beginnings of the world we live in today.

My biggest problem with the article is this concluding line.... “But from politics to technology, from civil rights to foreign policy, 1978 marked the start of the age we live in. Thank God, disco didn't survive.”
Disco didn’t survive?? I’m sorry to burst that bubble, but “disco” didn’t die. It mutated, evolved and now dominates today’s musical landscape. You can call it Hip-Hop, Electronica, Eurobeat, Synthpop, Diva Rock or what have you, but it is all just dance music and it is everywhere.