Thursday, October 30, 2008

My last appeal: vote for Obama.

A year and a half ago I predicted that Obama would defeat McCain. At the time I had enormous respect for both men, and to some extent I still do. Yet events over the last few months have made it quite clear to me that Barack Obama is the superior candidate. First, here are three pieces written by conservatives who are supporting Barack Obama.

1. In February, I wrote my Conservative Case for Barack Obama. It is one of my favorite pieces, and everything still applies.

2. Andrew Sullivan's Top Ten Reasons why conservatives should vote Obama. A conservative Catholic British-American, Andrew's blog is one of my favorites.

3. The Economist newspaper finally endorsed Barack Obama. Coming from a right-of-center newspaper with 150 years of support for free trade, that is a powerful statement.

Since my "Conservative Case for Obama" was written in February, it is missing commentary on two important developments that have occurred since then. Obviously, the most important is the financial crisis. My views on economics are more conservative, thus John McCain should easily be able to draw my support on this issue. Unfortunately, he does not.

His first response to the financial crisis was to rashly call for the firing of Hank Paulson. He then suspended his campaign to fly to Washington DC to "help" with the bailout plan (with what expertise, I wonder?). He constantly accuses Obama of socialism - a curious accusation to make, considering we just nationalized all of the banks with McCain's support.

Meanwhile, Obama has had a steady hand and has been surrounding himself with very intelligent advisers. I for one don't believe his populist economic rhetoric; I suspect he is going to have economic policies similar to those of Clinton. Further bolstering Obama is this impressive survey by The Economist. Even controlling for party affiliation, the professionals overwhelmingly supported Obama's economic policies. Obama's principled stance against McCain's stupid idea of a gas-tax repeal earlier this summer also scored him a point.

The end game is that I am not overly impressed with either candidate on economic matters. Obama seems to have a better grasp on things, but I reflexively disagree with any left-wing economic policies, especially in this time of crisis. McCain has been a consistent supporter of free trade and cutting government waste, which I would support. However, his erratic and inconsistent behavior has made me question how he would handle things as president. To get a feel for how bad it really is, consider watching this video where Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto rips McCain a new one for his handling of economic issues.

McCain could have put people like me at ease with the selection of someone like Mitt Romney as vice president. Indeed, a McCain/Romney moderate pro-business ticket would be a very tempting alternative to Obama's populism. Alas, McCain took the low road and selected the most embarrassingly unqualified person to be VP that I could ever imagine. She is George Bush in a woman's body. Boastfully ignorant, hyper-religious, anti-science, and condescending to those who are curious about the world. One of McCain's own staffers was quoted as describing Palin as a whack job. The most important decision McCain had to make up till now was his VP selection, and in that decision he failed on an epic scale.

A month after her pick, I cannot emphasize enough how much I am turned off by Sarah Palin. However, anyone who thinks I am being unfair, reflexively using her as a reason to support Obama is dead wrong. My first reaction to the pick was excitement and support. Its obvious from that post that McCain had room to sweep me (and presumably other centrists) away from Obama. Instead, he threw us moderates under the bus to appease the far right. That decision probably cost him the presidency.

If I haven't been convincing enough, here is a final point. There is one outcome of an Obama defeat in 2008 that we can be sure of. Hillary 2012.

There you have it. We have two good choices, but in the home stretch one of them clearly pulled ahead while the other fell behind. McCain has had a good career and I wish he would have defeated Bush in 2000. Things would be different if McCain had been in charge for the last eight years. Alas, the McCain of 2000 is gone and is not coming back. There is only one real choice. Barack Obama for President in 2008.

Monday, October 27, 2008

This resonates with me

The other day, Sarah Palin mocked scientific research involving fruit flies. My undergraduate research, which had implications for cancer in humans, was based on a fruit-fly model. I suppose we can't really fault Palin for not knowing all of this (ignoring the fact that fruit flies are a common tool in even high school biology classrooms). We can fault her arrogance, though. It always makes sense, if one is to be discussing a subject with such contempt, to make sure said person knows what they are talking about. Otherwise they will be made to look quite the fool.

At any rate, here is a scathing piece on Palin's larger theme of anti-intellectualism and anti-science. A fantastic quote:

"This is what the Republican Party has done to us this year: It has placed within reach of the Oval Office a woman who is a religious fanatic and a proud, boastful ignoramus. Those who despise science and learning are not anti-elitist. They are morally and intellectually slothful people who are secretly envious of the educated and the cultured. And those who prate of spiritual warfare and demons are not just "people of faith" but theocratic bullies. On Nov. 4, anyone who cares for the Constitution has a clear duty to repudiate this wickedness and stupidity."

I would like to reiterate something of my own. I believe there is indeed some wickedness at work here. There is this sort of pseudo-debate about whether or not evolution is real. First of all, for you Catholics out there, this is a non-issue. The Vatican officially supports evolutionary theory. For other Christian sects, people are wrong if they assume they are forced to make a choice between evolution and belief in God. The two are quite compatible. I'll post on exactly why at a later date.

The crux of the issue comes down to this. I don't personally care whether an individual believes in evolution or not. On the surface, it can sound like a pretty outrageous proposition and without actually having studied it, its easy to have some skepticism. That being said, people in this country have this deep aversion to evolutionary theory because there is a group of people that keep pushing the message that evolution is anti-God and contradicts the bible. It is my belief that the people that do this are evil, manipulative, and are doing it because they know that sewing the seeds of (false) controversy creates an intellectual vacuum that they subsequently fill. Its all about influence and power, and denying evolution is the way these particular men achieve theirs.

At any rate, some will not be convinced; fine. Next time such a person is in the hospital, they should be sure they only accept penicillin for their staph infections. Evolution being false, strains of staph couldn't possibly have evolved resistance to methicillin. Thus these people certainly wouldn't need special antibiotics that can kill MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus), right?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Replace the word "Hindu" with "Muslim"

and I bet this article would be getting a lot more attention. Anyone disagree with that?

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Victory or defeat

I saw this excerpt over on Andrew Sullivan's blog and wanted to repost it here:
On 9/11, Al Qaeda had no expectation of a traditional military victory against the United States. The point of the attack was economic -- to draw the U.S. into expensive and protracted foreign wars that would deplete our resources and destabilize our government. By invading Iraq, George Bush became the happy idiot to assist Al Qaeda in this goal. Now, Sarah Palin and John McCain take the leaders of Al Qaeda at their word when they say Iraq is the major front in the war on terror.

Neither consider the possibility that Al Qaeda wants Iraq to be the major front because it furthers their goal of weakening the U.S. while inflicting minimal damage on their operations.

Seven years after 9/11, we are seeing Al Qaeda's long-term goal being realized: the destabilization and economic collapse of the United States. Even as it's happening, the people who supported it all along want to continue facilitating our own long-term disintegration by clinging to simplistic concepts of traditional military victory and defeat. In this sense, they are possibly the most myopic, least strategic thinkers in the history of this nation.

As Gary Shandling said, with this approach, our only hope of killing Osama Bin Laden is that he'll laugh himself to death.


It is mind boggling how strategically stupid it was to invade Iraq, for so many reasons, the least of which is economic. Meanwhile, the powers that be have no long-term plan for Afghanistan, and are lacking strategic insight there, too. Our problem in Afghanistan is that there are millions of recruits in neighboring Pakistan that are all too willing to cross the border to fight the Americans. The only way you can slow that down is to improve the image of America. Bombing targets in Pakistan and killing civilians is a pretty bad way to do that.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

the VP debate

The only question that matters is this: do you think that your VP pick is ready to lead the United States, and the world, starting in January of 2009?

I don't know how anyone voting Republican can give an honest "yes" to that question.

Over the last two weeks I have seen much that would make me question the depth of Sarah Palin's knowledge regarding crucial issues. Her performance in this "debate" did nothing to dispel my skepticism, and therefore she failed. She managed to not embarrass herself, I'll give her that. Maybe we should be setting the bar a bit higher.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Have you ever seen someone in a terrible relationship?

One of those unhealthy, disastrous relationships that so many people fall into. Everyone knows that the relationship should end. Many friends will even tell the person as much. In response, the person may become angry or defensive. Ultimately, though, you hope the person will end the relationship before it is too destructive. Then, years later, the person will look back and say to their friends, "I wish I would have listened to you sooner!"

This kind of thing is going on right now, on an international scale; the world is telling us who to elect for President in 2008. I know, I know, Americans are the ones who get to vote, and not foreigners. Its our country, we should be able to do what we want...I get it. Still, check out this interactive map on What if the US Election were held worldwide? The rules are the same: nations are given electoral votes based on population, and it is winner-take-all. Right now, the tally of world electoral votes is, Barack Obama - 8,202; John McCain - 8. The margin of Obama's lead in most nations is something like 85% to 15%.

The Economist reader base is well educated, so this is a sample of some of the most informed people around the world. Furthermore, it is a right-of-center newspaper; one would almost expect a McCain bias among readers. Certainly, the Economist has displayed such a bias on its own over the last couple of years. Maybe we should take our international friends' advice, just this once. They seem awfully sure about it this time around.

P.S. There is one nation in the entire world that is leaning to McCain right now. Did you spot it? It is, ironically, Macedonia (ironic because Macedonia is one of my ancestral nations). Makes perfect sense, too. Macedonians want McCain to win, because then McCain starts war with Iran. And, as we all know, the Macedonians' favorite past time is conquering Persia.