July 26, 2008

Smoke And Mirrors

These kinds of things are the reason that I think that the longer this campaign runs, the more you will see Obama's numbers drop. By and large, I think Americans are not as stupid as the Obama campaign thinks we are.

“It is not going to be a political speech,” said a senior foreign policy adviser, who spoke to reporters on background. “When the president of the United States goes and gives a speech, it is not a political speech or a political rally.

“But he is not president of the United States,” a reporter reminded the adviser.

“He is going to talk about the issues as an individual … not as a candidate, but as an individual, as a senator,” the adviser added.

Oh...as a senator. I see.

Can someone point me to the section of the speech where he spoke about Illinois?

Isn't That What You're Being Criticized For?

I saw Senator Obama interviewed in London (you can read the gist here) on the tube, and was struck by the fact that yet again, he relies on the American public being too stupid to see through the empty rhetoric. In response to the criticism that he failed to follow through on his trip to visit wounded soldiers at an American military hospital in Germany, Obama and his campaign said that he had planned on going, but finally was afraid that it would be seen as political and therefore scrapped the visit.

Here's Robert Gibbs, Obama spokesman:

Gibbs said Obama had decided several weeks ago he wanted to visit wounded troops in Germany. Asked whether either the senator or aides had considered that the trip might be viewed as political, he replied, "We had taken some of that into consideration but we believed that it could be done in a way that would not create, it would not be created or seen as a campaign stop."

But after hearing from the Pentagon, he said, "We decided, Senator Obama decided having made that decision he was far more willing to take the criticism from some political people or political opponents in a political atmosphere than to put our troops in the middle of our campaign back and forth."

Sen. John McCain's campaign spokesman Brian Rogers criticized the decision, saying, "Barack Obama is wrong. It is never 'inappropriate' to visit our men and women in the military."

Gibbs brushed that aside, and said Obama would have faced criticism if the trip had taken place.


Isn't the whole point of the criticism that Obama cancelled his visit because he was afraid of being criticized for using wounded soldiers as "a campaign stop"? And isn't that exactly what Obama's camp just confirmed?

Oh, sure...on the surface it looks like Obama's trying to protect the soldiers. But read through that quote above again, and ask yourself what it really says.

My paraphrase:

We wanted to make a good-looking political move by kissing babies visiting wounded troops in Germany, and fully believed it wouldn't look too obvious.

After the Pentagon told us we had to restrict any political activity on the visit, we figured we'd be better off taking the heat for not going than wasting our time on a pointless visit.

John McCain said "Man, are you stupid. Don't you realize that it's much worse politically to look like you're ignoring and unconcerned about American servicemen than to look like you're using them to help your image? Did I mention I was a soldier and a POW?"

Gibbs said "um...hello? If Obama had visited the soldiers, he would have been criticized. We didn't want that."

One line in the article is particularly telling:

At the Pentagon, spokesman Bryan Whitman said Obama was told he could go to Landstuhl, but the visit would have to conform to Defense Department guidelines that restrict political activity on military installation. That meant campaign staff would have been barred from accompanying him, he said.

Yes, that's right--after being told by the Pentagon that he couldn't turn this into a photo op (which, as the article makes clear, Obama's camp failed to mention initially), he then made the decision not to go.

And that's what it comes down to in the end--Obama made a decision that he would rather protect his political image than visit wounded American servicemen. This is exactly what he's being criticized for.

Let's not pretend his decision was out of concern for the troops, shall we? Everybody knows that this "fact-finding mission" was nothing of the sort. I'm not seeing him adjusting any policies in light of this trip; it's the same old same old. The only fact that seems to have had any impact is Obama finding out that troops are watching Fox News. No, this trip was to help get rid of an image of Obama as someone weak and uninformed on foreign policy.

I'll leave you with this thought: If Obama wanted to visit wounded troops without the impression that it was a "campaign stop," he had plenty of time to do that before he became a nominee for president. You know...when McCain and many other politicians did it.

July 25, 2008

Well, It's Not Like The MEDIA Is Going To Do It.

Thanks to Ken for alerting me to this examination of Obama's speech.

I found this great editorial from David Aaronovitch in the U.K.'s Times Online by following some links from the link above.
But even if [Bush] had been a half-Chinese ballet-loving Francophone, he would have been hated by some who should have loved him, for there isn't an American president since Eisenhower who hasn't ended up, at some point or other, being depicted by the world's cartoonists as a cowboy astride a phallic missile.
It's definitely worth a read.

July 23, 2008

What's In A Word?

I shouldn't be surprised by now, but I was a bit taken aback by the two headlines, one on top of another, by the Associated Press:

Obama Tells Israel He's Committed To Its Security

McCain Denies He Misstated Timing Of Iraq Surge

Look at that--Obama is "committed" (reuters had him "assuring" them he's a "friend); McCain "denies" and "misstates." Go figure. What's really interesting is that if you read these stories, you'll see that both articles report that each candidate made a "misstatement."


At issue are McCain's comments in a Tuesday interview with CBS. The Arizona senator disputed Democrat Barack Obama's contention that a Sunni revolt against al-Qaida combined with the dispatch of thousands more U.S. combat troops to Iraq to produce the improved security situation there. McCain called that a "false depiction."

Democrats jumped on his comments. They said McCain's remarks showed he was out of touch, because the rebellion of U.S.-backed Sunni sheiks against al-Qaida terrorists in Iraq's Anbar province was under way well before Bush announced in January 2007 his decision to send 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq.

McCain asserted he knew that and didn't commit a gaffe. "A surge is really a counterinsurgency made up of a number of components. ... I'm not sure people understand that `surge' is part of a counterinsurgency."


Obama said Israelis could be certain of his commitment to Israel's security by looking at "my deeds."

"Just this past week, we passed out of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee, which is my committee, a bill to call for divestment from Iran, as a way of ratcheting up the pressure to ensure that they don't obtain a nuclear weapon," he said.

However, Obama does not serve on the banking committee, and McCain's campaign seized on the mistake.

"Not only is it not his committee, but he's not even on the committee, he didn't vote on the bill, and he had nothing to do with its passage," McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said in a statement issued Wednesday.

Now, be honest--which one of these seems more egregious to you?

It's funny that Obama's "mistake" (a kind term, I think) didn't make it into the headline, isn't it?

UPDATE: Well, that was a quick update. I just noticed two other things: a headline for an AP video that claims McCain "flubs" timetable, and a link to Politico stating that "McCain Gaffes Pile Up." If you think Obama hasn't made his share of "gaffes," you can check my post here that references a few. The one that comes to mind is Obama thinking that Hillary was winning in the Kentucky primary because she was from "the nearby state of Arkansas," apparently forgetting that his state, Illinois, actually borders KY. I think that's actually a little more embarrassing than McCain's commenting on an imaginary Iraq/Afghanistan border, considering that Obama is actually from one of the places he screwed up.

July 22, 2008

Holy Schadenfreude, Batman!!

I'm seeing a lot of reports, especially on the television news, that Christian Bale was arrested for assault.

At the same time, I'm seeing (fewer) reports that this may be a case of verbal assault, which is apparently a crime in London. If this turns out to be the case, then shame on the media for jumping the gun on this one, because most reports are not making the distinction. In fact, some have even seemed to promote the idea that this was a physical assault.

UPDATE: I've been trying to post this info on Greta Van Susteren's website for about 10 minutes, but it's not going through. (Greta happened to be one of the people I saw who didn't make the distinction. I was watching for that story of the missing girl with the crazy mother and grandmother.) Someone posted there--so take it for what it's worth--to say that his father was a worker in the hotel where this supposedly happened and the father said that the mother and sister (who are estranged from Bale) were there demanding money, and seemed inebriated. Maybe they thought that Bale himself made all that money this weekend.

UPDATE #2: Leave it to the British papers to do it right. Looks like Bale "is alleged to have pushed and shoved his mother Jenny, 61, and sister Sharon, 40..."(emphasis mine). Later on, though, it's pretty clear that Bale maintains he never touched anyone, never threatened anyone with violence--basically that he had a fight with his family. Surprisingly, the mother and sister both claim that they never called the police, and that the matter was "a family matter." Strange.

July 21, 2008


This is the most bad-ass thing I've ever seen. He must be the Jet Li of Leopards.

July 20, 2008

The Pope Calls The Kettle Black

While I applaud him for officially apologizing for sexual abuse by priests, I have to wonder what Pope Benedict XVI was thinking when speaking out against materialism at Australia's World Youth Day in Sydney.
Summing up his message, Benedict told young pilgrims at a Mass in Sydney that a "spiritual desert" was spreading throughout the world and challenged them to shed the greed and cynicism of their time to create a new age of hope.
This seems a lot like Lindsey Lohan speaking out for celibacy.

You know, when the Pope shows up in one of those sack-brown robes, and stops riding in the holy-copter, and gives up his Mercedes Pope-mobile, and a number of other things, then I'll listen to what he has to say on the subject of materialism.

I mean, the event was held at a horse racing track, for you-know-who's sake!

Is It Just Me...?

...or does everyone think Obama's progression regarding the Middle East is a bit wonky? First, he comes up with "his" plan, which must have been difficult, considering he hadn't been to Iraq or Afghanistan.* Now, after visiting Afghanistan...
Obama told CBS News that Afghanistan has to be the central focus in the fight against terrorists.
I guess that means instead of Iraq. Except he still hasn't been to Iraq!!! This is like saying "apples taste better than oranges, without ever having tasted an orange. Oh, sure, you can study oranges all you like. You can have people describe what an orange tastes like, but if you're going to make a decision regarding the nation's oranges, you ought to have tasted one for yourself.

Which is obviously what this trip is about. This is no "fact-finding mission." That would imply that the events could have some impact on the outcome. Clearly, that's not the case here. Obama has made up his mind and his policy--at least until it suits him to change it--and this trip is merely to deflect the (valid) criticism that he had no firsthand knowledge of the region.

*I know what you're thinking--"DS,I'm sure that you have an idea of what should be done in the ME, too. Have you been to those countries?" No, I haven't, Mr. Smarty Pants. But my plan also doesn't have a chance in hell of being implemented, which really makes it less of a "plan" and more of an "opinion."

UPDATE: I freely admit when I'm wrong. It seems Senator Obama did make one trip of two days to Iraq back in 2006. I think that the point still holds, though. He's comparing Afghanistan today to a 2006 Iraq. A lot has happened in that two years.

July 18, 2008

Oh. My. Sweet. Lord.

While you might mistake Katie Holmes for a boy (although, frankly, she's cute enough that I doubt it...unless you stand back and squint a little), there's no mistaking Rosario Dawson for a member of the male persuasion. And speaking of male members...(feel free to make up your own joke here.)

Man, look at the face on that kid in the background. Thanks to Rosario, I think he just hit puberty!

"Now, Can You Make Your Voice Lower?"

Over at "What Would Tyler Durden Do?" he's asking what's wrong with Katie Holmes's hands that she seems to be hiding them. I think the more interesting question is: did Tom make her cut her hair short and wear those clothes and sneakers so that she looks like a 12-year old boy?

A Tom Cruise joke? Man, have I sunk low.

The (perceived) Power Of Words

I'm sure by now, everyone's heard about Whoopi Goldberg and Elisabeth Hasselbeck mixing it up over the use of the "n-word" on "The View" the other day. What I'm really surprised is that after listening to Whoopi and Sherri Shepherd essentially say that the word has "different meanings" depending on whether it's used by blacks or non-blacks, no one has thought to go all the way back to 1993, when Whoopi herself defended then-boyfriend Ted Danson for appearing at her Friar's Club roast in blackface and using the word several times.
When Goldberg got her chance for rebuttal at the end of the x-rated evening, she opened with, "Nigger, nigger, nigger. Whitey, whitey, whitey. It takes a whole lot of courage to come out in blackface in front of 3,000 people. "She stated emphatically, "I don't care if you don't like it. I do."
So apparently it is okay for a white man to use the word, as long as Whoopi thinks it's okay.

I think this speaks to exactly what Hasselbeck was talking about. Whoopi and Sherri were arguing that the difference exists because of intent...but frankly? That's bullshit. First of all, it isn't really intent; it's perceived intent. That is, it's what the "recipient" thinks the user meant. Just look above--Whoopi thought it was all right for a white man to dress in blackface and use the word, so she defended Danson. A lot of others in the audience that night didn't.
Celebrities on hand who stared in disbelief when Danson entered in blackface included dais guest Jasmine Guy, Sugar Ray Leonard, Shari Belafonte, Vanessa Williams, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Anita Baker, Beverly Johnson and Mr. T. Others in attendance included Michael Douglas, Robert Guillaume and talk show host Montel Williams, who stormed out of the ceremony.
Two drastically different views over the same use. See the problem?

Even if you don't buy that argument, think about this: if it's intent that matters, then why, when discussing the use of the word among reasonable adults who seem to only have the best intentions for getting to the heart of the issue, do networks and magazines and even the people on the shows (except for Whoopi) feel the need to bleep it out*, or to use that childish-sounding substitute "the n-word"? Certainly, there's no ill intent in those cases. And although Whoopi, et. al would have you believe that between blacks it's used in strictly positive ways, that's obviously not true either.

The truth is, that as long as the word is acceptable when used by one group, but not another, it will be divisive. Period.

Honestly, I just can't understand those who would defend it's use as being "okay" depending on one's race, especially after so many fought so hard to create racial harmony. Those who know their history know that it was once okay to also have separate schools, facilities, railway cars, etc. for separate races. The U.S. Supreme Court decided in Brown v. Board of Education (1954) that (at least regarding schools) the idea of separation was "inherently unequal." Why is still okay today to separate word use?

* I thought it was particularly telling that whoever was in charge of such things at "The View" felt that it was necessary to bleep the n-word, but let the word "polack" through untouched.

July 11, 2008

Necessity Is The Mother Of Interlocution

Barack Obama had this to say about language skills in this country:

It is embarrassing — it is embarrassing when Europeans come over here. They all speak English. They speak French. They speak German. And then we go over to Europe, and all we can say is, 'merci beaucoup'.
Certainly, Obama is implying that we are somehow less intelligent, less educated than Europeans. Is that a fair assessment?

I think knowledge, or rather the importance of knowledge, is fairly relative. For example, I have a friend who works as a mechanic. He has no college degree. If you met him, you might think he was uneducated. However, he finds it unbelievable that some people are willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a car, hundreds a month to fill it with gas, and yet don't have even the slightest idea how to perform the most basic functions to keep it in shape. And he's right. You might be literally be a rocket scientist, but if your car breaks down and you don't know how to fix it, you're just as stranded as everyone else. So who's smarter in that case? The mind tends to be on the whole, eliminative. That is, we may take in a lot, but we tend to retain what we feel is necessary and let everything else slide. So why bother learning about a car when you can pay my friend to do it, right?

Now, I've taught business communication in a four-year university for several years. I can tell you for a fact that any student in any business program worth its salt in this country is learning the importance of communication across cultures, and I also know many graduate programs require students to be proficient in at least one other language.
In fact, Columbia University, Obama's alma mater has a language requirement as part of its core curriculum for undergraduates. Harvard University, where Obama got his JD requires its PhD students in government to be proficient in another language, and its PhD in English candidates to show proficiency in two additional languages. (I actually have to wonder how Obama got where he is without learning another language!) It's an increasingly smaller world/marketplace, and communicating across cultures is important. So this idea that Americans on the whole don't have any foreign language ability isn't exactly true. Those who need it will learn it.

Is there perhaps another reason why Europeans might be prone to learn additional languages?

Let's take a look at France:

France (including Corsica) is 211,209 square miles. It shares a border with Belgium (speaking Dutch/French/German), Luxembourg (Letzeburgish/German/French), Germany (German), Switzerland (German/French/Italian/Romansch), Italy (Italian), Andorra (Catalan/French), Monaco (French/English), and Spain (Castilian/Basque/Catalan/Galecian). Also, the UK is right across the English Channel (English/Welsh/Gaelic). For a comparison, you might look at Texas, which, at 261,000 square miles, is a bit bigger than France, but only borders four states. Now here's the important part:

By my count, if you include the UK, France is surrounded by no less than 13 distinct languages. Armed with that knowledge, answer the following two questions as honestly as you can:

1. If, in fact, the average Frenchie can speak two or more languages, and we neanderthal Americans, only one, which is more likely: that the American educational system is woefully inadequate by comparison and we should be embarrassed*, or that the the additional languages are a result of simple geographic circumstances creating both exposure to other languages and more of a necessity to learn and use them to aid in business, travel, etc.?

2. If the four states that border Texas (NM, OK, LA, AR) all spoke different languages, isn't it likely that most Texans would speak one or more of those languages? I think it's almost a certainty.

We simply don't have as much of a need as the Europeans do to learn other languages. And those who do, will.

Still don't agree? One last set of questions ought to prove my point. You'll notice that Obama specifically mentions Europeans. Are we getting waves of visitors from Mexico speaking German? Or hordes of visiting Canadians speaking Italian? Or do they primarily speak their own language, and that of their neighbor?

As I said, it's all relative.

* We may have plenty of other reasons to be embarrassed by our educational system, but that's for another post.

You Do Realize That Means Dates Will Be Abbreviated B.O., Right?

Spike Lee responded to Jesse Jackson's "off-air" comments about what he wanted to do to Senator Obama for "talking down to blacks." (Hint: what Rev. Jackson wanted to do rhymes with "nut his cuts off.")
"I don't think his (Jackson's) comments help anybody. It's just unfortunate,"
He also speculated about what an Obama presidency might mean:

"When that happens, it will change everything. ... You'll have to measure time by `Before Obama' and `After Obama,'" Lee said during the panel. "It's an exciting time to be alive now."

The presidency of the first African-American will ripple throughout arts, sports and more, said Lee, whose films include "Malcolm X" and "Do the Right Thing."

"Everything's going to be affected by this seismic change in the universe," he said.

And when you think about it, isn't that just what the Obama campaign has been missing--hyperbole?

I do agree with one thing that Spike had to say, though:

Here's the thing: I don't know why people are questioning whether Barack Obama is black enough. For me, that's an ignorant statement."

"There are middle-class, educated black people who speak the way he does. ... We have to try to move away from this so-called image of what black is, which is largely influenced by rap and that type of stuff," Lee said.

I just wonder why Spike didn't "do the right thing" and defend Colin Powel and Condoleeza Rice when their "blackness" was questioned by Harry Belafonte, who compared them to "house slaves."

But what can you expect from the man who called Clarence Thomas "A handkerchief-head, chicken-and-biscuit-eating Uncle Tom"?*

*To be fair, Spike Lee's comment was that Malcom X, if he were alive today, would have placed that label on Thomas, but I think we can agree that Lee at least shared the sentiment.

July 09, 2008

It's A Timing Thing

I heard someone talking about Obama's plan for Iraq. I wish I could quote it word for word, but a very close paraphrase would be something like: He's going to pull the troops out of Iraq, unless it would lead to genocide.

Isn't that a little like saying "I'll go to work today, unless I have a really crappy day"? By the time you've found out, it's a bit late, no?

This One Is For Kenny...

The Greatest Monkeys of All-Bloody-Time.

'Nuff Said.

July 05, 2008

It Depends on What Your Meaning of the Word 'for' Is

I usually find factcheck.org to be pretty fair, but this article of theirs reprinted over at Newsweek.com (hat tip to instapundit) bothers me a little. It criticizes the RNC for padding its claims that Obama voted 94 times "for higher taxes." While some of the RNC's claims are a bit questionable**, Lori Robertson throws out 23 of the votes because they

are votes Obama cast against changing tax rates from what they were at the time. Taxes would not have gone up. They would have been "higher" only compared to the cuts being proposed.


By Robertson's own admission, the votes are for the situation in which the taxes would be higher. What is the problem here? The claim is not that he voted to raise taxes but that he voted for higher taxes. The statement (as it pertains to the votes in question) is correct. I'd even go so far as to argue that the spirit of the claim is correct. The whole point of the RNC making the statement is to illustrate that when presented with a measure to vote on, Senator Obama often chooses the option that means higher taxes. These 23 votes are in line with that argument, and should be included. So who's padding now?

It may seem like I'm once again picking nits (which is what I thought factcheck.org is supposed to do) but think of it this way: If one is presented with a proposal to lower taxes, and one is given three voting options--for it, against it, or abstain--which one of those votes would you consider voting "for higher taxes"? It certainly can't be abstaining (which I suppose he could have done had he not wanted higher taxes), and it just as certainly can't be voting for the proposal, which would lower taxes. So what does that leave?

What upsets me about this? Robertson and factcheck.org should know better. I've found them to be--for the most part--reliable in the past. Now, I really have to wonder whether this was an unintentional mistake, or a case of manipulating words in much the same way that they accuse the RNC of doing. Either way, it's disturbing.

**For example, the RNC counted 17 votes on 7 measures. While multiple votes on the same measure are technically accurate, given the RNC's statement (they didn't claim he voted on 94 measures, after all) I think this one does smack of "padding."