Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Obama’s High Water Mark?

Reverend Jeremiah Wright was back in the news this weekend and Senator Barack Obama has found himself in a position he doesn't want to be in. On Monday he again defended the Reverend (he claims before he actually saw the comments). Then on Tuesday, he disowned Reverend Wright in very strong, personal language. I think this "break" with Reverend Wright has revealed the real Obama.

Many supporters early in the campaign labeled Obama as a candidate above politics, a candidate of "change". I was very critical of Obama's speech in Philadelphia. One quote from the speech regarding Obama's pastor of 20 years now really stands out. From an ABC News transcript:

"I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me…but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street…"

I think this quote is an important insight into Sen. Obama. The focus at the time was how Sen. Obama was throwing his grandmother under the bus. How Obama was equating a few remarks made in the privacy of his grandmother's home, to the hateful rhetoric spewed from the pulpit at Obama's church in front of one of the largest congregations in Chicago. However, at the time, it was also a sign that Obama was willing to sacrifice his grandmother, the woman who loved and sacrificed so much for him, in order to win a few primaries.

Now, with Rev. Wright taking center stage this weekend, and Obama disowning him on Tuesday, the comments take on a new meaning. Obama could no more, "…disown him than [he could] the black community." How should supporters and critics view these two statements? I think the answer is very simple: Obama is a typical politician.He is not the messiah his supporters have made him out to be. He is a politician of the ilk we see in Washington and in movies. He is a politician willing to say anything and sacrifice anyone to get what he wants. Reverend Wright's comments this weekend were no different than the ones Obama was responding to in Philadelphia. However, the comments continue to plague the Obama campaign, and with Rev. Wright on the national stage, it became easy to disown him.

Sen. Obama should have said what he said on Tuesday back in Philadelphia. However, he didn't. Instead he has revealed himself as the power hungry politician his critics have accused him of being. Make no mistake; Reverend Wright will continue to be associated with Obama into the Democratic Convention in Colorado. If Obama is lucky enough to win the nomination, Reverend Wright will follow him all the way to Election Day. The Super delegates know this. They also know which of their candidates has won the big states and which hasn't. Will Reverend Wright give the Super delegates enough cover to nominate Hillary Clinton? Only time will tell.

Monday, April 28, 2008

A Bit of Historical Perspective

Without a good understanding of history, it is very difficult to understand the context of today's events. Those who don't study the past are doomed to repeat it. We have all seen or read statements like the last two. Bill Bennett is fond of pointing out how short the history of the United States is. Many of the events we think of as "history" were witnessed by our own relatives who weren't too distantly removed from us.

I truly enjoy studying history. On one level, I see history as a story with characters that really lived. On another level, history can help frame debates and ideas in today's world. There are many, many lessons to be learned from the wise people who lived on this planet before us.

I just finished Joseph Ellis' Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation. The book was very enjoyable, and I will probably write a book review on this site for anyone interested in it. However, one passage I came across deserved its own space. Looking at the political climate of today, it is easy to believe that we are at a low point. There is an unpopular President in Office, the Iraq war is unpopular, none of the current Presidential candidates are that appealing, the U.S. Congress seems happy to do absolutely nothing, and there are those who believe we are destroying the planet simply because man exists. However, put in it's perspective, things could always be worse:

[John] Adams inherited a supercharged political atmosphere every bit as ominous and intractable as the tangle on the international scene. It was a truly unprecedented situation in several senses: His vice president was in fact the leader of the opposition party; his cabinet was loyal to the memory of [out-going President] Washington… political parties were congealing into doctrinaire ideological camps, but neither side possessed the verbal or mental capacity to regard the other as anything but treasonable; and finally, the core conviction of the entire experiment in republican government – namely, that all domestic and foreign policies derived their authority from public opinion – conferred a novel level of influence to the press, which had yet to develop any established rules of conduct or standards for distinguishing rumors from reliable reporting. It was a recipe for political chaos that even the indomitable Washington would have been hard pressed to control. No one else, including Adams, stood much of a chance at all.

To recap, John Adams took office with a vice president who was in charge of the other party, Adams followed the most popular president in history, the two party system was just developing and considered the other party their sworn enemy, and the press had no standards at all. During his Presidency, Adams would have to avoid war with a major European power with all of the rest of this going on.

Things have changed (except for the press), and I would argue mostly for the better. I don't believe we should ignore the events of the day, but I do believe we should keep history in mind when discussing issues like "the housing crisis" or "the credit crisis". Things may seem bad, but they could always be worse…

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The World is Just Awesome

I don't believe I have ever written an entire blog post about an add campaign before. However, the new campaign by Discovery Channel deserves the attention.

I am a fan of many of the shows on the Discovery Channel. I will watch almost anything with Mike Rowe on it, and really, who doesn't like "Shark Week"? The Discovery Channel is running a new add called "Musical Mashes: Boom De Ah Da!". The add features cuts of many of their most popular shows, with the lyrics being song by the "hosts" of the shows. I almost tear up every time I see the host of "Future Weapons", Richard "Mack" Machowicz, fire a grenade launcher while singing the chorus.

The add ends with the tagline: The World is Just Awesome. As sappy and mushy as it may sound, the World really is just that: Awesome. I don't want to inject any politics into this one. Click on the link above, view the TV spot, and really think about just how incredible and awesome this planet is! While you do that, know that just like the guys from "Deadliest Catch", I am ready to break into song!

Monday, April 21, 2008

And the Winner Is....

Political Friends was announced as the winner of the latest Mystery Topic Challenge! I was very excited and surprised. There were some very good entries and I am honored to have mine picked as the winner. Thanks to those of you who voted for me, and those of you who put up with me writing about something other than politics on here.

However, winning does have it's disadvantages. As the winner of this challenge, I am required to name the next topic to post about. I am going to draft my readers for this. What suggestion can you come up with for the next challenge? It can be silly, serious, political or not. Do you have a question you love to ask people? Have you seen a good Miss Universe question? Is there something you have always wanted me to write on, but I have never tackled?

Leave me your questions. If there is one I really like, I will use your topic for our challenge. If I don't use it, but I think it is interesting (or other readers like it), I may make it the topic of one of my posts. Try to keep it clean, but anything else is open. Thanks ahead of time for your suggestions.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Something That Changed My Life

From time to time I participate in the Mystery Topic Challenge over at Blog Ninjas. This very rarely has anything to do with politics, so today's post will be a little off topic.

The topic is “describe someone or something that changed your or someone’s life, but the change agent has no idea that it or they had any affect on you.”

It is hard to pick something or someone that had a profound impact on your life, but had no idea they had done it. I was thinking about my last "Quick Notes" post, and remembered the first time I ever went SCUBA diving.

My wife and I went to Hawaii for our honeymoon. I had thought about getting into SCUBA diving, but didn't want to spend the money on it only to find out I didn't like it. I walked into a dive shop in Maui and saw they offered a "resort course" for $100. You didn't have to be a diver. The course gave you the bare basics, then you did two dives with an instructor. I quickly signed up.

The morning of the dives, I spent a few hours learning about diving in the shop. The instructor showed me some of the equipment, and had me watch a few videos. After lunch, we got our gear together, loaded onto the boat, and headed out.

The dive was at a location referred to as "Turtle Reef". The instructor thought there was a good chance we would see green sea turtles, but wasn't sure. We were the last to get into the water because I was a newbie, and had to be checked out on my skills. I will never forget the first moment my head went under water and I was still able to breath.

We spent about 30 minutes swimming around. I was amazed at the coral and the tropical fish. The instructor signaled that it was time to head back to the boat. As we approached, I saw something at the edge of my visibility. I stopped and tried to figure out what it was. I was about 30 or 35 feet underwater, the boat was behind me, and my instructor was in easy arms reach. The "shadow" I saw moving towards us looked like a small airplane. As it came into view, I realized I was seeing my first green sea turtle. The turtle continued towards us, then slowly swam above our heads. For a brief moment, the turtle was between me and the surface. As it crossed in front of the sun, its shell was outlined in a gold halo that I remember to this day. I was amazed at the size of the turtle, and it's total lack of concern that people were in the water with it.

Back on the boat, I asked the instructor how big the turtle was. I knew that size is hard to judge underwater, but the turtle had looked like a monster to me. The instructor told me that he guessed the turtle had about a seven foot diameter shell. He also said it was the biggest turtle he had ever seen in the area. I knew one other fact the instructor may not have known...I was hooked on diving.

I came back to Atlanta, and eventually got certified as a SCUBA diver. I now have numerous SCUBA certifications including Rescue Diver, Master Scuba Diver, and Deep Diver. The SCUBA certification also helped me get the job I have now. I have over 100 logged dives, and I can't wait to get back into the water.

I am quite certain that turtle had no idea it would change my life. The turtle barely even acknowledged that I existed that day. But my life was forever changed.

Please visit the Mystery Topic Challenge Blog to view all of the other entries. Once you've read them all, please be sure to vote HERE for your favorite.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Quick Notes: Sharks, Global Warming, and Islam

I have another issue of Quick Notes for you from my tropical retreat. There has been a pretty lively debate on a few of my previous posts, so feel free to catch up on some of the comments there.

Sharks: While on vacation with my family, I made a new friend. She is a six foot White Tip Reef Shark. She was kind enough to let me get within arms reach of her, so I thought I would make her famous and include her on my site . Enjoy!

Global Warming: I came across this article while reviewing Rush Limbaugh's site. The article, Scientists Clueless over Sun's Effect on Earth, discusses recent research on how the Earth handles sun light. The overall point: we don't know exactly how the Earth handles sunlight. I would encourage everyone to spend a few minutes reading this article. I have said time and time again that we don't know enough about our Earth's climate. I usually site our lack of knowledge on clouds. This is just another area we don't know enough about.

School teaching Islam in Minnesota: I wrote about this a few weeks back. There is an article on a local ABC news site about the same school. Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy in Minnesota is a charter school that also teaches Islam. The school has some questionable ties to foreign terrorist organizations. The ABC article says that the State of Minnesota is now looking into the school after a substitute teacher felt the school was going to far in teaching religion. Take a look at this article. I suspect we haven't heard the last of this school.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

McCain - Rice '08 ?

In case you didn't know, 2008 is an election year. Hard to believe isn't it? On the Democratic side of the house, everyone is taking turns attacking Obama for his ties to Wright / Rezko or Clinton and her "memory". On the Republican side, McCain has had the nomination in hand for a number of months. This leads to the only "fun" speculation: Vice President.

The conventional wisdom is that McCain will pick someone who is strong in an area he isn't. For example, Romney ( in the field of economics) or perhaps Huckabee (as a slightly stronger tie to conservatives). Many believe McCain will pick someone who share his own ideas, think "McCain Lite". The Governors of South Carolina and Minnesota have both been suggested as well as the former Secretary of Homeland Security.

I really can't see myself voting for Obama or Clinton. Their policies are too similar and too far left for me. I don't really like McCain on a number of issues. I have been hoping McCain would pick a VP candidate who would excite me (Romeny?). So far I have been a little disappointed in the names that have been seriously considered.

A few weeks ago I heard the first possible rumblings of a VP candidate I could get excited about: Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. The first time I came across this was in an editorial in the New Yorker. Hendrik Hertzberg admitted it was pure speculation, but thought it was a fun idea anyways. Mr. Hertzberg outlined a number of good reasons to pick her. She is, "...indisputably the highest-ranking black female official ever to have served in any branch of the United States government." The novelty of a black presidential candidate or a female presidential candidate would be somewhat dissolved. Second, her nomination would also help the Republican party and some of the stereotypes it has been labeled with.

But more importantly, look at her resume. She is the current Secretary of State, has served as the National Security Adviser, she served under the previous President Bush as Soviet and Eastern European Affairs Adviser. She was a Provost at Standford University and a professor of Political Science. She could arguably be the most qualified Vice Presidential Candidate in some time.

There is a chance this wishful thinking is turning into more of a reality. Matt Drudge has a link on his site to an ABC News story claiming Ms. Rice is actively seeking the nomination. Previously, she has said she has no desire for the ticket. If she is actively seeking the nomination, and McCain can be smart enough to choose her, I might have found my ticket for November.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Quick Notes -- Global Warming

It has been some time since I wrote a new installment of "Quick Notes". I am on vacation with my family, but thought I would share a few quick notes with my readers. The vacation is one of the reasons you see the odd times for my responses. Thanks to everyone for your comments. On my recent posts, and on to the new quick notes:

Ted Turner: I normally wouldn't take Ted Turner very seriously. However, in a recent interview, he voiced an opinion that many believers of Global Warming have, but don't share except in private circles. The opinion is what the real solution to Global Warming is: Population control. If we could limit the world's population, then we could solve global warming. This is interesting because most of the discussion around Global Warming is reminiscent of the eugenics discussion during the early part of the 1900's. This theory in a nutshell (the emphasis being on "nut") was to control who could and couldn't have children. This was a serious discussion with an assortment of laws passed to try to combat the "problem" (see the parallels?). For more information see here.

Enter Turner's quotes. According to Atlanta Journal and Constitution writer, "One way to combat global warming, Turner said, is to stabilize the population." Turner goes on to say later in the article that families should be restricted to one or two children. What about Turner's own lifestyle? I have heard he has three homes and five children. But I am sure the cure to Global Warming doesn't apply to him.

Data doesn't fit the theory? Data must be wrong: One of the more recent actual scientific developments on the Global Warming front revolves around scientific buoys reporting sea temperatures throughout the world. According to Global Warming, the sea should be rising in temperature and it should be rising in temperature more dramatically than the land. However, there are around 3,000 buoys that measure deeper ocean temperatures and periodically report this data back. What do these buoys show? Sea temperatures have remain relatively constant over the last four to five years. Scientist are perplexed because this isn't what they were expecting. Under the Scientific Method (a little known, and rarely used technique for doing scientific research), scientist should now re-evaluate their theories. If the data doesn't match, the theory could be wrong, or at least have aspects that are incorrect. However, scientist are instead trying to figure out why the buoys aren't reporting back the data they expect.

One other note. One of the articles I found for this piece mentioned clouds. I have often ranted that climatologists don't understand how clouds work, but they know that clouds are important in the Earth's climate. If they don't understand clouds, shouldn't every model they build be suspect? From the article:

Kevin Trenberth at the National Center for Atmospheric Research says [heat from the ocean is] probably going back out into space. The Earth has a number of natural thermostats, including clouds, which can either trap heat and turn up the temperature, or reflect sunlight and help cool the planet.

That can't be directly measured at the moment, however.

"Unfortunately, we don't have adequate tracking of clouds to determine exactly what role they've been playing during this period," Trenberth says.

Very Interesting...