Thursday, November 27, 2008

Shallow Success

I've been talking about politics too much recently... and I need to expand out into things I care about just as much. Yesterday, I sat and looked through my old copy of Les Miserables and noticing some things I underlined when I plowed through the book a few years ago.

This piece on success really caught my eye:

In passing, we might say that success is a hideous thing. Its false similarity to merit deceives men. To the masses, success has almost the same appearance as supremacy. Success, that pretender to talent... Success: That is the theory. Prosperity supposes capacity. Win in the lottery, and you are an able man. The victor is venerated.... Have luck alone and you will have the rest; be happy, and you will be thought great.... [But] contemporary admiration is nothing but shortsightedness. Gilt is gold....

That mighty genius, by which one becomes a Moses, an Aeschylus, a Dante, a Michelangelo, or a Napoloeon, the multitude attributes at once and by acclamation to whoever succeeds in his object, whatever it may be.... They confuse heaven's radiant stars with a duck's footprint left in the mud.

It amazes me that something written so beautifully in the 1800s is so applicable today. We live in a world that gets so caught up in crazy definitions of success. And, so often we confuse success with actual ability. It doesn't matter how stupid somebody is... if they are rich, they must be smart.

I grew up in a very wealthy area... and I am amazed at how stupid some rich people are. Wealth and success seems to make some people stupider, in fact, and that idiocy passes on to their children. Maybe I'm too sensitive on this subject, because I realize I grew up as a relatively privileged child... I'd even describe myself as spoiled. And, maybe that is one of the reasons I am so touched by Victor Hugo's description of success.

Greatness in this world requires so much more than money, power, success, or mass appeal. It requires self-control and development of real talent and supremacy. It will require me to improve myself and become a better person all around... no matter how much money I make.

Don't get me wrong... I'd like to be successful. But, my primary definition of success will have very little to do with my personal balance sheet. Maybe I can attain "heaven's radiant stars"... and not just be a duck's footprint in the mud.

That is all.


(Hugo, Victor. trans. Lee Fabnestock and Norman MacAfee. 1987 Les Miserables. New York: Signet Classic. 51-2)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

ابيد البيت

A new audio tape claiming to be from Ayman al-Zawahri (أيمن محمد ربيع الظواهري literally: "faithful guy from zawahir"), the current "Number 2" in the Al-Qaeda القاعدة‎ organization. In this case, Number 2 is rather descriptive.

But, the big thing they are talking about is that Ole' Faithful called President-Elect Barack H. Obama (along with former-Secretary of State Powell and Secretary of State Rice) an "abeed al-bayt"... literally a servant of the house. Al-Jazeera was nice enough to translate it without any ambiguity: "house negro".

I hope Barack will respond in the correct way to any such expressions of racism... by blowing this guy off the planet. I mean, that is what would happen to any person in this country who publicly use the term. I mean, Mitt Romney got attacked for using "tar baby" to refer to a sticky situation (which is the original, literal meaning).

But, at this rate, I suspect he will just sit down and discuss it with him... because, we need to talk with these people.

That is all.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Obama: Best NET Choice for POTUS

Ok... so I've come to an interesting conclusion:

On a net basis, Barack Obama was the best choice for President of the United States.

Don't get me wrong here, kids. I don't agree with almost anything that Barack Obama believes. I'm a conservative that tends to vote Republican, because Mitt Romney quoted Reagan's classic line that "It's not that liberals are ignorant... it's just that everything they know is wrong." I'm still under the impression that Obama is an honest socialist--in that he actually believes what he says--but I think he is dead wrong.

But, in the long run, I think there are many reasons why he was the best choice for President of the United States in the 2008 Election. Hopefully you think my reasoning is relatively salient:

1) The Republicans (especially John McCain) didn't deserve to win.

The Republican party has earned this losing streak. While I tend to be more lenient than most with the Bush administration, often it does not deserve leniency. The Republican Party is currently in shambles, without direction or any ideological anchor. The party lost a congressional majority in 2006 because they had forgotten to be fiscally conservative... they lost for the exact same reason that the Democrats lost in the 90s under Gingrich: they stopped representing people.

To make matters worse, John McCain ran a MISERABLE campaign. I mean, really bad. They mis-handled Sarah Palin (who became, undeservedly, the laughing-stock of the election), and generally failed to present a convincing argument about why he deserved to be President. The Republicans lost this election on January 4 when Iowa picked Huckabee instead of Romney. The minute the GOP picked McCain, they rolled over and gave up to Obama or Hillary.

So, add John McCain to the annals of Republican history right next to Bob Dole. The party nominated the guy who "deserved" it, not the candidate who could actually win the election and govern the country. Just look at '96 and '08... the results were the same.

2) This country needs to get over the spectre of George W. Bush.

President George W. Bush has been one of the most effective Presidents in recent history. Whether you like his policies or not, Bush has clearly been nigh unstoppable with his agenda. At the same time, he has also become one of the most widely-hated presidents in history. I personally don't think he deserves the hate and rancor against him... but we must admit that it exists. After all, hate is never rational.

If John McCain had won, people would have never gotten over this irrational hate for George W. Bush. I honestly think if McCain had won, he would have just perpetuated all the rancor against Bush, just transferred over to a much less-capable leader.

With an Obama presidency, we can let all the people who hate Bush without even knowing WHY just chill out and relax for a few years. And, they'll probably start to realize that George W. Bush was not the earthly embodiment of evil. To quote a former aide to John Kerry, the treatment of Bush has been a disgrace! Hopefully we can all get over it and MOVE ON.

3) With an Obama win, Black people can finally get over a major portion of their perpetual victimhood. The consequences of an Obama loss would have been expensive and messy.

Barack Obama just broke through the ultimate glass ceiling. He came from poverty and has achieved the American dream. And, watching the faces of Black Americans leads me to believe that they are proud of this accomplishment. Personally, I am tired of being told constantly that Black people can't make it in this world... and hopefully they are tired of believing it too.

One of the greatest results of an Obama win is relatively unrelated: the political death of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. My greatest hope is that by electing a well-spoken black man who isn't so caught up in slavery self-pity that he can't see straight, those who have claimed the mantle of Black Political Leadership for the past decade can quietly fade away. They can continue to indulge themselves by pontificating... but hopefully they can be overshadowed by a more articulate representative of black society (whether or not he's "black enough").

On the other hand, I truly fear the damage that would have accompanied an Obama loss. I can only imagine the riots and damage we avoided by picking the Black dude over the Old Fogey.

4) The Republican Party needs time to regroup and work some changes in leadership

With such a crippling loss, I have hope that conservatives can get together and turn the Republican Party into a more rational group. We need to take the pseudo-religious rhetoric and reunite Social, Fiscal, and National Security conservatives again. There are clearly more conservatives in this country than liberals (contrary to Hollywood's fantasy), and if we could unite around some competent leadership.

Personally, I'm still hoping for Mitt Romney in 2012. But, I'm open to other options. Regardless, it would be nice if conservatives could put up someone relatively competent.

I'm sure there are more reasons... but those are the big ones...

In short, I am bracing myself for four years of miserable leadership, socialist policies, and economic downfall. I'm going to turn more money than I should over to an incompetent government so Barack Obama can pay people to sit on their butts and wallow in their poverty.

But, when all the dust settles, I think Barack Obama is a MUCH better option than John Kerry... and not that much worse than John McCain. So, in the long run, I think he was the right person to be elected. But, I'm already anxious for 2012.

That's just my opinion.

That is all.


Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Onion is doing REAL news now??

Obama Win Causes Obsessive Supporters To Realize How Empty Their Lives Are


As I watch the political landscape, I noticed an article from the Washington Post titled "Obama Team Shifts to Transition Mode". But, the most interesting thing about this article wasn't what the Obama team is doing, but what the BUSH team is doing.

Now, remember that in January of 2001, the departing Clinton administration TRASHED the White House offices. I have heard first hand accounts (that is... I have talked to a person on the Bush Administration staff who was there on the very first day of his administration) that Clinton staffers broke things, and tore the "W" letter off most keyboards in the Executive Offices.

In contrast, take this citation from Bush:
In remarks delivered from the Rose Garden, the current occupant of the White House called Obama's election "uplifting."

"It will be a stirring sight to watch President Obama, his wife, Michelle, and their beautiful girls step through the doors of the White House," Bush said. "I know millions of Americans will be overcome with pride at this inspiring moment that so many have awaited so long. I know Senator Obama's beloved mother and grandparents would have been thrilled to watch the child they raised ascend the steps of the Capitol and take his oath to uphold the Constitution of the greatest nation on the face of the Earth." First lady Laura Bush also called Michelle Obama to offer her congratulations.

President Bush, for all his faults, is an amazingly gracious person. And, Laura Bush is just amazing. But, I just impressed by the different tone of this transition.

What about the bureaucracies? The article specifically discussed defense and intelligence agencies:

The Pentagon has begun a robust political transition effort, seeking to minimize disruptions during the first wartime presidential turnover in 40 years, senior Pentagon officials said.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates met with the senior Pentagon leadership and "charged everyone to make sure we don't drop the baton, and to be as collaborative and helpful as possible," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.

Pentagon officials have cleared office space with computers and phones for dozens of Obama transition team members, anticipating that as many as 50 aides will soon arrive and, in the words of one officer, "occupy the building."

Gates conducted an inventory of the roughly 250 political appointees at the Pentagon to see who would be willing to stay in their jobs if asked.

The Bush foreign policy team also moved quickly to try to ensure Obama a smooth transition. In a letter to CIA employees, Director Michael V. Hayden wrote that the agency has "two sets of consumers" -- the Bush administration and Obama.

"Through expanded access, greater than what he had in his briefings as a candidate or as a Senator, he will see the full range of capabilities we deploy for the United States," Hayden wrote to his staff. Those briefings will begin today when Obama receives a briefing from Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell.

McConnell said the president-elect's advisers probably will set up a temporary office at the DNI's headquarters. "We are prepared to brief the team on the [intelligence community's] capabilities as well as on significant intelligence issues," he said in a note sent late Tuesday to employees.

This doesn't sound like a bitter transfer of power to me. The State Department, and Condoleezza Rice (who is much-criticized by the liberals in this) is preparing too:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pledged yesterday that her agency will do "everything that we can, and I personally will do everything that we can -- that I can -- to make sure that this is a smooth transition."

The greatest accomplishment for any government or regime is a peaceful transfer of power. Throughout history, it has been the flash point for numerous wars, and the catalyst for death and hate and bitterness. But, in the United States of America, we do it peacefully.

At least, Bush seems ready to do it peacefully. Clinton's folks failed this test.

That is all.


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Hangover: The Morning After

A lot of people have been asking me what I think about the election yesterday, thinking I'm deeply saddened. They seem to think that I'm some football-fan Republican who hates the very idea of Barack Obama. That is NOT true. But, I do have some thoughts on the matter.

My first reaction was: "yep... just as I suspected." The numbers have been pushing Obama for weeks. A friend who thinks John McCain walks on water kept telling me to keep up the hope. When they called Ohio and Pennsylvania for Obama last night, giving him 200 Electoral Votes (out of 270 needed) before California even closed, I turned off the radio and watched TV. It was over. Even then, she accused me of being naive and told me McCain had a chance.

Truth is: Republicans lost this election on January 4 in Iowa. The minute they picked a bumpkin like Huckabee over significantly more qualified candidates, the GOP gave up and played dead. McCain kept up his "dead man walking" routine... but the election was over.

I'm just clad we aren't celebrating Hillary Clinton. She is why I donated to Barack Obama's primary campaign.

But, the big question in my mind is: What's Obama gonna do now?

The man was elected with such overwhelming hero worship, that his entire supporter base has set him up to fail. Obama has been riding the wave of "Hope" and "Change" without the pesky need of proving anything. I'm very interested to see what he is going to do now.

Because, once the confetti is cleaned up and everybody gets back to their normal lives... a President is stuck with the job. He has to make the decisions and lead the people. You can't talk about "Hope" and "Change" when you're the one signing the orders.

And, when Obama takes away my capital gains and makes it harder for small businesses to function--all in the name of "spreading the wealth around"--people have to come to understand a few important facts:
1) Class warfare doesn't breed hope... it makes people hate their boss (whether the boss deserves it or not)
2) Tax increases and wealth redistribution DO NOT WORK... they never have.
3) The people making more than $250,000 per year are the ones creating jobs for everybody else. Why do you want to cut their toes off?

So, on this morning after, I'm not angry or bitter or even unhappy (because I don't think a McCain administration would have been any better). In fact, I think the Obama administration will be a net positive for the country. He does improve our image around the world, just by being elected. But, I fear that we have a lot of major potholes (or sink holes) to get past before we see the true positive effects of the Obama administration.

I hope for one important consequence of an Obama administration: that the conservatives in this country can take a hint, regroup, and nominate a 2012 candidate in who is actually QUALIFIED to lead the country under conservative principles...

I'm currently pulling for Mitt Romney, but I would accept anyone who could run a decent campaign (currently, I don't think this list includes Palin... and certainly not the Huck-ster).

For now, McCain goes down in history as just another Bob Dole--an angry, annoying, old GOP has-been who got the nomination because it was "his turn" and not because he was qualified. On the bright side, McCain wasn't trounced quite as hard as Dole.

I'm watching the next four years (and next 12 months) with great interest to see what Barack Obama is going to do. And, I'm more interested to see what his supporters do when they realize his poop does, in fact, stink.

That is all.


PS: And CA Proposition 8 passed... along with every other constitutional amendment on same-sex marriage. That was a bright, shining bit of news this morn.