Hey Buddy, Can You Spare Some Change?

obama_poster_bob_hopeI feel compelled to write something about Tuesday’scoming events for some reason.  I’m not sure what exactly and to be honest I’ve been avoiding any and all talk about the Inauguration, save for the brief clip I saw of the parade of Obamalovin’ bands giving a concert at the Lincoln memorial the other day in which Joe Biden looked like you might expect a 66 year old white guy to look while attending a performance by Usher and Stevie Wonder.  That was pretty solid.

The night of the election I wrote how I was surprised by the feeling of pride I felt in watching Obama’s acceptance speech.  Not because I voted for him, which I didn’t, but because of the historical significance of it all.  For that reason I will most likely find myself tuning in to the coverage at some point on Tuesday.  Being a history buff of some degree it is something I will definitely want to see.  So I guess in that sense I’m excited about it.

In every other sense, excited is not the word I would use.  Just as I was surprised by the pride I felt that November night, I’m a little surprised at what I’m feeling now.  I’m feeling a little annoyed, and a touch peeved.  I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but I think I’m feeling this way in anticipation of the way the media is going to cover his presidency, at least early on:  with kid gloves.  It isn’t as if it hasn’t already been happening.  The collective girlish, pensive sighs from the talking heads and news anchors on just about every network were nearly audible all throughout his campaign.  In a way that’s to be expected.  Obama is rhetorically skilled, young, hip, mysterious, and is seen as bursting with Kennedian potential.  What’s not to love, right?  So, I could handle that.  But what about when the things he says and does actually mean something?  When they start effecting my life?  Will the adulatory anchors put his feet to the fire then?

Or maybe I’m just Obamaed out.  So many commercials for commemorative coins, plates, t-shirts, license plate holders, do-it-yourself Obama shrine kits.  That now ubiquitous HOPE poster (parodied above).  And I thought Miley Cyrus was overexposed (is that the second reference to Miley Cyrus on this blog within the week?).  I supposed if I believed in Obama the way so many people do, I wouldn’t be bothered by any of this, and even though I am not among the true believers by any stretch, I’m still a bit surprised its irked me as much as it has.  I don’t know, maybe its the weather (wait, its been in the 70’s for over a week in January, guess that can’t be it).

Well, there.  I’ve satisfied my bizarre urge to wax forth on the coming Inauguration.  To what end?  Who can know.  Its not like I had anything better to do on a Monday night.

Thoughts On President Elect Obama, From the Loyal Opposition

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So here it is, November 5th, 2008, my 31st birthday, and what do I get?  President Barack Obama.  Those three words said in that particular order are enough to elicit every possible emotional response across the gamut.  Everything from abject euphoria to quivering fear to a burning anger.  As I watched, first John McCain’s concession speech and then Barack Obama’s acceptance speech last night, I tried to determine what emotion I was feeling.  At the time I couldn’t really put my finger on it, and only now have an inkling of what it may have been, and its quite surprising.  I think it was pride.  Not because I voted for Obama, because I didn’t, and not because I think he’ll be a particularly good President, I have some very real doubts, but because from this point on no one will every be able to say again that America has never or will never have a black President.  That has to be a good thing.  It was as recently as forty or fifty years ago that in large areas of this country a black person couldn’t use the same drinking fountain as a white person.  Now a black man will hold the highest office in the land.  Pretty incredible.

Listening to his speech last night there were two things Obama said that grabbed me.  The first was this sentence, “If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.”  Particularly the words dream of our founders.  Despite the fact that many of them were themselves slave-holders, Obama recognized them as our founders.  Not just white America’s founders, but his as well.  Our founders, though often mythologized, were not perfect, but they’re dream of an America where anyone can succeed through hard work and determination perhaps has never been more realized, whether you agree with his politics or not, then it is in Barack Obama.

The second thing that struck me about his speech, particulary the first part of it, was the sense of our collectiveness.  Not in a socialist/communist way, but just in the sense of our being one country.  I guess it was again the use of the word our.  Since 1789 every President who has addressed the nation and used the word our, the face has looked pretty much the same.  Now it is decidedly different.  It seems that in the past when a prominent African-American used the word our in a speech it was in reference to black America.  When Obama used it last night, it was in reference to all America.  The face of the United States is a different color for the first time ever.  The prime representative of us to the world does not look like most of the population.  For some this will take some getting used to, but hopefully they will adjust.  Many will dislike this President, but hopefully even the opposition will be based on performance and not color.

Like I said, I didn’t vote for him and I’m not especially confident that he will do a good job.  I know for a fact he will make decisions and enact policy that I disagree with, even strongly disagree with.  But I hope, if I may have the audacity to do so (nyuk, nyuk, nyuk), that I’m wrong.  I vote for a President because I want what’s best for America, not some political party.  I know some wish failure on presidents they don’t see eye to eye with, but I think they forget that the failure of the President usually coincides with the failure of the country.  Its fine to be the opposition, but be the loyal opposition.  We’re all still Americans.  As I watched the speeches last night, it would have been very easy to be cynical about all the flowery talk of unity and change.  I’m not a cynic, but I am a realist.  I don’t cling to some mythical notion that there will be partisan peace in the near future and all of our many problems will be solved with few impassioned speeches and symbolic reach-across-the-aisle gestures.  But I’m also an optomist.  America has faced tougher times, much tougher times, before and managed to overcome then.  Is Obama the man who can get us through?  The jury is still way out, but I hope even in disagreement people can be civil to each other and not resort to the kind of vindicative madness we’ve seen against Bush for the past eight years.  It may be a pipedream, but, hey, its my birthday, I get to have a wish.

Jam The Vote!

I don’t get political too often here at Life of Ando, mostly because I don’t get too political in the real life of Ando.  As I’ve mentioned a time or two before, I stay informed enough to cast a resonably responsible vote and to not look like a total ignoramus when the conversation turns political, but I’m not one of these politics junkies that hangs on every soundbite and has every policy position of every candidate memorized by heart.  My level of engagement ebbs and flows with however I happen to feel at any given time.  When a particular event or issue does grab me, like this years nominating process did, I’ll follow it with the passion of a rabid sports fan.  But that passion eventually fades and I return to my laid back, more abstract method of observation.

Part of the reason for this approach is that it keeps me sane.  The whole 24-hour news cycle and endless analsysis and disection of every uttered syllabul is as overwhelming as using a tidal wave to douse a match.  If I had spent every waking moment worrying about how much someone spent on a suit, or who lives in who’s neighborhood, or what shady character contributed to so-and-so’s campaign, I’d probably have to drop a piano on my brain and be done with it.  Not to mention all the distortions the candidates themselves toss out there.  So for the sake of my own sanity, I temper my engagement.  Maybe this is cowardice, but to be honest, and I’m not saying politics isn’t important, I have other things to worry about and life is too short.

All that said, here is my quick take on things before we all hit the polls tomorrow.

Barack Obama – Come Tuesday evening–and farily early I think–we can no longer say the United States has never had a black President.  Other than John McCain and maybe his kids, I think everyone in America expects Obama to win.  Though I won’t be voting for him, for a number of reasons, unlike the two previous Democratic nominees (and most of their other hopefuls) I can see his appeal.  As hollow as his words may turn out to be, they are eloquently delivered and send a message that is vastly more positive than has come from a Democrat in a long, long time.  With Gore, Kerry, Edwards,  Hilary, et al, the tune was the same, “America is in trouble and if you don’t vote for me its going to get worse.”  Americans don’t respond well to doom and gloom.  Ronald Reagan knew it and and Obama is the first Democrat to figure this out in a long time.  He offers hope to those who previously had little.  Now, whether that hope will become a reality or not is anyones guess, especially since Obama has virtually no record of doing anything.  Which is why even though I understand his appeal, I can’t understand the massive lovefest.  Yes, he says nice things, but has he done nice things?  Or any things?  Its a little like those highly touted college athletes that are drafted and given ginormous contracts before they even step onto a professional field.  Do you really know what you’re getting?

John McCain – To follow through on that sports analogy, McCain, like a seasoned veteran, is a (relatively) known quantity.  Yes, he is known for maverickness, but that’s the point:  he’s known for maverickness.  He might not be my first choice, in fact I had no first choice this time around, but at least I have some idea of what I’m getting.  Maybe that’s not the most sophisticated method for choosing where to cast my vote, but what other choice do I have (Pipe down you Ron Paul-ites!  I’m being serious here)?  Unfortunately, McCain ran a lousy campaign, focusing too much on Obama’s ties to undesireables (William Ayers & “Rev.” Jeremiah Wright) and other “he-said-she-said” type personal stuff, and not enough on his “spread the wealth around” economic plans.  I’m not saying the Ayers/Wright thing isn’t important–its a concern for me more as showing a lack of judgement than as some underlying Obama radicalness–but I just don’t think its the kind of thing that is going to really resonate with people who are undecided and may well work to turn them off.  Of course, you can’t talk about McCain without talking about Sarah Palin.  I’m kind of on the fence with her.  She’s no doubt a talented and accomplished woman, and many of the attacks on her have been absurd and even sexist, but I do think the experience question is legitimate.  And from a purely campaigning viewpoint, is it really a good idea to choose someone with so little experience when that is the exact argument you are making against you’re opponent?  Doesn’t seem too logical to me.  But this is politics, so, to paraphrase Tina Turner, what’s logic, got to do, got to do with it?  But the most egregious mistake the McCain-Palin campaign made was not taking advantage of the obvious and incredibly awesome name combination that would have resonated with voters:  McPain.  Just think about TV spot that went something like this: “Which would you prefer, Obama vs. Osama or McPain vs. Osama?  That’s what we thought.  McCain-Palin in 2008.  They’ll bring the McPain to the terrorists.”  Tell me that wouldn’t lock up the national security vote.

Anyway, I guess you could say I’m throwing the coveted Life of Ando endorsement behind John McCain.  I’m sure this is just the sort of late breaking November Surprise he needed to propel him to the White House.  Whoever ends up winning, I hope they do right by America, because all parties and colors and ideologies aside, that’s what we all want.  Except for Noam Chomsky.

Here’s a video that hopefully will show you how important it is to register to vote (sorry couldn’t embed).

Seriously? Abba?

With the election just a little over a week away, its time to get down to brass tacks and really examine the important issues that seperate the two presidential candidates, John McCain and Barack Obama:  what’s on their iPod and what are their favorite movies.

A month or so ago the Film Chat blog linked to and commented on an article written by Roger Ebert which sought to find out what sort of films the White House hopefulls enjoy.  Peter Chattaway, Film Chat‘s proprietor, made an interesting point about how McCain’s choices seemed eccentric and more personal, while Obama chose well known and well respected films tha almost make his picks seem “poll-tested.”

Just yesterday Right Wing Film Geek posted about the candidates’ music choices and got the same vibe:  McCain’s choices appear to be more honest, while Obama’s seem to be a convenient list spanning genre classics to the latest hip tunes.  A little too hip perhaps.

What does it all mean?  Well, nothing really.  But I do find it a little interesting that Obama’s selections seem to go hand and hand with his slick, manufactured image and McCain’s seem to reflect his penchant for (to beat a dead horse, if I may) maverickness.  I mean, no one would admit to loving Abba unless they really actually liked Abba.

At any rate, check out both posts if for no other reason than a little election tid-bit on the lighter side for a change.

McCain Nabs Crucial Vietnamese Jailer Endorsement!

Election season is always good for a bizarre news story or two and I particularly enjoy all the celebrity endorsements candidates get.  What, Liza Manelli is backing Obama?  Well, I did love Cabaret so I guess I’ll vote for him too.  Almost always ridiculous.  But this one has gotta be one of the weirdest.  McCain’s old jailer from his Hanoi Hilton days has given his endorsement to the Senator from Arizona.  I don’t know which is more strange, the endorsement, or that the jailer is described thusly:  “a 75-year-old retiree and amateur ballroom dancer.”  Must be American election season.

Oil!

In lieu of a YouTube Friday video, I’ve decided to write about something that is even more fun…energy policy.  Actually, I just wanted an excuse to use the phrase “In lieu of.”  If you haven’t noticed, gas is well over $4 a gallon.  Even more shocking than the actual price is the rate at which its rising.  Less then a week ago I filled up for $3.95 at the Arco and just hours ago I filled up at the same station at $4.09.  The Chevron station near my work was $4.09 yesterday, today it was $4.23!  Its crazy.  At first blush this would appear to be a bad thing.  And at 2nd blush, 3rd blush, and probably all the way up to, like, 12th blush.  In the short run it is a very bad thing.  No one was ready for this.  But in the long term, maybe its not so bad.

Ok, before you write me off as a nut case let me explain.  There are basically only two ways to solve a crisis if you happen to be someone who has some measure of power over such things, like a politician for instance.  The first way is to make everybody happy.  Unfortunately this has only happened twice in human history, when George Washington was unamimously elected President and when Mama’s Family was cancelled by an act of Congress.  So the Everybody is Happy option is pretty much out.  It just ain’t gonna happen.  The second option is to make everybody mad.  This one is rarely put into practice as most politcians will try to appeal to one side or the other, their base, and so one side ends up happy, one side ends up mad, they get into a gridlock and nothing happens.  So, if I were All Powerful President of the Universe, or at least the United States, I would enact a policy of Universal Anger.

First, I would do something along the lines of what Tom Friedman wrote in his column today.  Yes I would keep gas prices high.  Look, the only way we can ever get off oil is if people are basically forced to stop buying it, at least in such large SUV powering quantities.  Since gas prices have been on the rise people are changing their habits.  They’re buying hybrids and taking the bus more.  For me its not an environment thing.  If reducing global warming, if that is what is happening (see here for my thoughts on that) is a biproduct of that then that’s just peachy.  But my main concern is a national security one.  Besides Canada where do we get our oil?  Mostly from countires that we don’t like and that don’t like us.  We’re basically funding the bad guys.  So, to curb the guzzling I’d tax gas to keep it high, use the money mostly for infrastructure upgrades, and put some sort of tax break in place for folks under a certain salary threshold, say, earning less than six figures, to offset the gas tax.  This would make pretty much everybody mad at first, especially tax-slashing conservatives, of which I would usually count myself.

Now to balance the scales and get the Left all hot and bothered I’d do a couple of things.  Expand domestic oil exploration.  Sorry tree huggers, that means doing a little drilling off the coasts, but don’t worry the dericks will be so far out you won’t even notice them.  Also, more nuclear!  Europe is like 80% nukes, and we’re like 2%.  Since when do we sit back and let Europe beat us at anything.

So there’s my plan.  Or at least a couple of the major parts of it.  I don’t like paying four bucks a gallon more than anyone else, and at this point there really isn’t much I can do to change my gas consumption habits.  I still have to drive to work everyday and I can’t afford a more efficient car at the moment.  But this is the world we live in.  Gas tax holidays and hoping Hugo Chavez will give us a discount isn’t going to change things.  Sure I’m no expert, and I’m sure anyone with half a brain more than me could give me a laundry list of reasons why these are bad ideas, but unless they’ve got something better to offer, I don’t see any other option.  Maybe I’ll buy a horse.

Life of Ando Goes Green!

Being that today is Earth Day ’08 I thought it appropriate to weigh in on this whole climate change thing that’s all the rage these days.  I don’t know if you’ve heard about it or not, but apparently things are warming up around the globe (I think that’s where the term “global warming” comes from).  Glaciers are melting, tropical storms are increasing, and cuddly, man eating polar bears are losing their habitat.  At least according to Al Gore and who am I to argue with the inventor of the Internet.  Of course there are those who would disagree with ol’ lock box Al, for a variety of reasons I would imagine.  Some on political grounds, some on moral grounds, some on weather-is-cyclical grounds, some because they just don’t think too highly of the almost-President.

I’m not here to argue that global warming is real or it isn’t.  To be perfectly honest I don’t know.  It does appear like something may be going on, global climate wise, but is it the human impact, or, to use the trendy buzzword of the day, footprint that is causing changes or is it merely cyclical weather patterns?  I’m guessing that a cyclical weather pattern goes a pretty long time before completing its cycle, making it a little tricky to accurately determine whether (ha, ha, whether) or not we’re seeing a pattern.  If a weather pattern is, say, 100 years long, how accurate and scientific are the century-old records documenting the other side of this cycle?  We do have something a little more reliable than some old farmers almanac I hope.  Assuming we do, or even using anecdotal evidence, we should be able to get a reasonably good idea.  So maybe it is just a pattern.

On the other hand, ever since the industrial revolution human beings have been spouting all kinds of gunk into the air, much of that time without giving it a second thought.  With the rise of an industrial, global economy, particularly in  China and India, where more and more people are able to have and drive cars and travel on jet airplanes the amount of pollutants has had to have risen even further, right?  I mean, that makes logical sense.  So, can we really say that all of that won’t have an impact on the earths environment?  I don’t think we can.  It has to be having some impact, no?

But the question still remains, how much of an impact does it have and what to do about it?  I’m not an expert on any level, and I don’t keep up with all of the latest goings on in this debate, but here are my uninformed thoughts anyway.  For those on the extreme global-warming-is-real-and-we’ll-all-be-underwater-in-five-years-when-the-ice-caps-melt side that want to slap all kinds of restrictions on everything that emits anything, they need to take a deep breath (of course, they’d retort that taking a deep breath of today’s toxic air is akin to committing suicide).  You can’t just restrict without restraint even if your intentions are good.  There are very real and very important economic issues at work here.  Companies can be hurt, jobs can be lost, and if people aren’t working and don’t have money in their pockets, saving the shrinking ice caps takes a backseat to saving their shrinking waistlines.  The reason the Kyoto deal was no good is that it didn’t include America’s likely economic rivals for the foreseeable future, the aforementioned China and India.  If we restrict ourselves so much while those nations, and others on the industrial-economic rise, continue to spew junk from their smokestacks with impunity while they out produce us, that spells bad news.  Should America be a leader on this issue?  Sure, it’s almost always good for the world when America leads, but it has to lead wisely.

In the other camp, the global-warming-is-a-farce types, to them I would say, “Ok, maybe, but is recycling and finding alternative’s to polluting fossil fuels really so bad?”  To which they would respond, “Well, I guess not, but we can’t cripple America’s economy by doing those things.”  To which, obviously, I would agree.  The problem, which I suppose is always the problem when things get political, is finding that common ground where solutions are born.

Someone I respect, and who would probably put themselves in the “farce”camp, said something interesting to me once, “The arrogance of man to think that he could destroy the planet and even more so to think he can save it.”  This is a good point.  No matter how hard we try, we are not capable of destroying or saving this world.  That is God’s realm.  The book of Genesis tells us that He decided when it was created and the book of Revelations tells us that He will decide when to destroy it.  As hard as we try, we can do neither.  However, the Bible also tells us to be good stewards of the earth.  To use it, yes, but not abuse it.  We can’t destroy it, but we could sure mess it up.  We can’t save it, but we can affect how nice of a place it is to live in.

People on various sides of the debate are starting to come together I think, which has to be a good thing.  It’s important to remember that just because you recycle that doesn’t make you some tree hugging, hippie and just because you prefer an economically feasible policy that doesn’t make you a fat cat, robber-baron.  If we can all agree on one thing however, it’s that the color green has gotten a little overexposed.