Digital Chum - Virtual fish guts and other nonsense

August, 2008:

Yay, Palin!

Okay, well… not so much “Yay!”

I’ve been on the fence about who to vote for in this election. I want out of Iraq, which McCain won’t do and Obama says he will. I don’t want an overtly religious president, which Obama definately is and McCain is not. Obama seems all about fluff talk while McCain seems to give more spin talk. McCain seems like an old-school, tow-the-line, Washington insider politician and Obama seems like a smiling used car salesman who’s going to take your money and send you off in a run down beater with ripped vinyl seats.

So I heard that McCain picked Palin for his running mate and did some reading about her… anything from mainstream news site articles to Wikipedia. She seems pretty straightforward (other than some ethics investigation or somesuch, but what politician isn’t guilty of some kind of ethics impropriety?)… classic Republican fit-the-mold type.

Then I read that she had advocated teaching creationism along with evolution in high school, which immediately disqualified her from my ever considering supporting her role as a government official. However, that isn’t really the whole story. She’s not, evidently, some sort of hard-core creationist pushing it down the throats of school boards. She followed up her creationism support statement a day later by saying that it doesn’t have to be part of the curriculum, but if debate about it comes up, it shouldn’t be disallowed

As Charles of Little Green Footballs said, “Looks like Palin made an off-the-cuff statement during a debate on a hot topic, didn’t really expect the criticism she’d get, and then softened her position considerably in a follow-up interview.”

So now I’m wavering again.  Perhaps she is supportive of creationism, but just wanted to avoid the uproar or perhaps she did simply make an off-the-cuff and uninformed statement. Either thing is pretty bad in my book, but I’ll have to dig into her biographical information a little more before I disavow her completely.

“American Values”

I really hate hearing politicians making claims of representing “American Values” and it’s never more apparent than during an election year. McCain is all about American Values. Obama is all about American Values. Bush is all about American Values. Everyone claims to be all about American Values.

Yet nobody ever actually defines what constitutes American Values. You hear quotes like the “values upon which this great nation was founded” or the “values that make this country great” or the “values that we Americans hold sacred” along with similarly vague descriptions.

I understand it’s all about staying vague because if any politician ever specifically defined what his or her values are, it would alienate a huge percentage of the voter base. Generic references like “valuing freedom” (one of Bush’s favorite values, it seems) sound great on the surface, but under that surface, everyone has a different definition. You can even narrow it down to, for example, “valuing freedom of religion” and people will still have hugely variant views on what that means.

So you’ll hear politicians say things like “I cherish the American Values that have made this country great! Values like freedom, honesty, bravery, and hard work!”

You’ll never hear them define any of that. You won’t hear “Values like freedom… of religion, speech, choice… where everyone is equally free to chose what they believe without interference from the government; where people have the right to openly speak out against personal or governmental injustice; where people are free to choose their own lifestyle without persecution.”

Even that is a bit vague, but it’s far clearer than politicians dare to go. The danger of alienating a voter base by providing a point for disagreement is far too great.

But until there’s more definition, American Values can mean “freedom, honesty, bravery, and hard work” or it can mean “racism, intolerance, hatred, and violence.” Both sets represent the values of some Americans… and without further definition by a politician who claims American Values, one set could fit with just as much validity as the other.

Anytime on the Bay

This past weekend, I went on an overnight boat trip on the Chesapeake Bay with some friends and had a blast. The boat is a 40 foot vintage Hinckley B40, of which only 203 were made and we sailed on it from 7:00 PM on Saturday until 6:30 PM on Sunday, going across the Chesapeake and into the Choptank river… all at night.

Saturday evening was phenomenal with clear skies and a full moon. We were the only boat on the bay running with no engine noise and just the gentle splash of the hull through the water and the quiet flapping of the sails. We sailed to the Choptank river and then anchored in the middle of nowhere, while the captain grilled steaks and cooked corn on the cob. Having dinner on a boat in the middle of nowhere during a full moon with a bunch of friends just completely rocks.

More info on the boat and the charter can be found at

AnytimeCrewSunset Stage 1

Sunset Stage 2MoonriseBreakfast

Dr. Horrible… Rock on!

I just heard about and watched a new internet movie by Joss Whedon and friends called “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog” starring Neil Patrick Harris (Doogie, etc), Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Slither), and Felicia Day (The Guild).  You have have also now heard about it. You now need to go watch it. Seriously. Go. Now. Click the picture.

Did he actually SAY that?!

Did he actually SAY that? … with a straight face?!

I just saw a video of President Bush talking about the Russia/Georgia situation. The speech was fraught with hypocrisy, but then he got to this line…

 Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century.

In the immortal words of Phoebe Buffay, “Hello, Pot? This is kettle. You’re black!”

I’m thinking that the speechwriter had to have put that line in on a bet.

“Dude, I bet I can get him to say this with a straight face!”

“No way.”

“Betcha $50!”

“You’re on!”

I am just constantly astounded that George W. Bush is the man who is the “leader” of our country.

Here’s a link to the video: Bush addresses the Russia/Georgia issue

Terrorism a threat for decades?

I have mixed feelings about a report by Defense Secretary Robert Gates last week. It makes me uneasy, but the quotes that I read seemed pretty rational. Things like this…

“Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates says that even winning the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will not end the “Long War” against violent extremism […]”

I think what I like is the acknowledgement that “winning” in Iraq and Afghanistan won’t “win” the fight against terrorism. I think what makes me uneasy is the use of the term “Long War.”

Another bit that sounds good…

Gates embraces the “Long War” term that his predecessor, Donald H. Rumsfeld, invoked to equate the fight against terrorism with struggles against Soviet communism and Nazi fascism. His strategy, however, departs from Rumsfeld’s focus on preemptive military action and instead encourages current and future U.S. leaders to work with other countries to eliminate the conditions that foster extremism.

Eliminating the conditions that foster extremism sounds like a much better plan to me than “blowing them up.” However, again there’s the “Long War” term. It strikes me as very Crusade-like… as in “The Crusades.” As long as there are opposing religions in the world, you’re going to have this situation. Eliminating the “conditions that foster extremism” would probably lessen the amount of extremism, but it will never be eliminated as long as there is religion… and religion isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. I’m not talking about any particular religion, either. Just religion in general.

One more quote from Gates…

“Success in Iraq and Afghanistan is crucial to winning [the war on terrorism], but it alone will not bring victory.”

This gives me more conflicting feelings than the other quotes. First, as I stated earlier, it’s good that he recognizes that “winning” in Iraq and Afghanistan won’t solve the problem. However, the idea that a “war on terrorism” can ever be won… period… just seems absurd. We haven’t even won the “war on drugs” and that problem is just based on greed. How can you expect to win a “war on terrorism” which is based on fanatical faith?

I don’t have a perfect solution, but getting a realistic and rational perspective on the issue is the first step to finding one. Making enemies by blowing people up and occupying a country (or two or three) isn’t going to help. Maybe Gates is on track with his idea of eliminating the conditions that cause extremism, but I doubt he’s including religion in his idea of “conditions.” Taking care of the other “conditions,” however, is a great start and I hope he gets to run with that plan.

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