Digital Chum - Virtual fish guts and other nonsense


“Folksy” doesn’t belong in the White House

Say "nuclear"

Say "nuclear"

I’m dismayed by the number of people who seem to think that being “folksy” is a good qualification for a presidential or vice-presidential candidate. Being able to connect with people is one thing. Using slang, bad grammar, and incorrect pronunciations for common words is something altogether different. Comedians and television writers get damned good mileage from it, but do we really want it from our public officials?

Personally, I want someone smart in public office, especially in the office of President of the United States of America. When I say “smart,” I don’t just mean IQ. I mean having enough of an education to know how to speak in public, to use proper grammar, to pronounce common words correctly, to know enough about science to talk intelligently, to process information rationally, to negotiate effectively, to look at evidence objectively, and to know when to ask for help. There’s more to it than that, though. Someone “smart” understands that appearance matters… visually, audibly, and behaviorally.

Folksy appears uneducated. It probably doesn’t appear that way to uneducated people, but to anyone else (who has an ounce of honesty)… it does. However, everyone looks favorably upon well-spoken, even folksy people. Well-spoken doesn’t mean using big words, literary flourishes, clever allusions, and mythological references. It means having the ability to get your point across cleanly and clearly, using proper grammar and a relatively solid grasp of the English language. That doesn’t offend or alienate anyone.

That’s what I want in the office of President. We haven’t had it for 8 years now and, although McCain has it (or used to), his runner-up has precious little of it. Obama has it in abundance. Biden has it, too. When I visualize our president sitting down with other world leaders to discuss matters of global importance, I cringe to think of someone saying “new-cue-luhr” and “you betcha” and winking and stumbling over facts and simple scientific issues. If that happens, it reflects poorly on us as a country. It looks laughable. It looks farcical. It looks sad.

Culturally Moderate

I read a article today from The Washington Post’s E. J. Dionne Jr. about how Republicans are divided about the McCain/Palin ticket, which he attributes to a number of different causes. That aside, he also made the following statement.

Conservatism has finally crashed on problems for which its doctrines offered no solutions (the economic crisis foremost among them, thus Bush’s apostasy) and on its refusal to acknowledge that the ‘real America’ is more diverse, pragmatic and culturally moderate than the place described in Palin’s speeches or imagined by the right-wing talk show hosts.

I don’t know about conservatism having “finally crashed” but I do agree about its refusal to acknowledge that America is more “diverse, pragmatic and culturally moderate” than what the right-wing seems to believe (even leaving out the absurd conservative caricatures of Limbaugh, Coulter, and the like).

I believe that moving too far from center on either side will have negative consequences. I don’t want Democrats controlling the Presidency and all of Congress any more than I want the Republicans controlling it all. There needs to be a balance… something that will force both sides to meet in the middle because, as we’ve seen before, if there’s nothing forcing them to do it, they won’t do it.

You’ve got to be kidding me.

I just watched a video on Fox News of a Sean Hannity interview with McCain and Palin. It had its share of the usual claims that you would expect from either party’s candidate during a campaign, so that was no surprise and was expected. Both McCain and Obama regularly make claims about the other that are misleading (and sometimes blatantly untrue).

What really struck me in this interview, though, was McCain’s statement that Palin is “probably one of the foremost experts in this nation on energy issues.” He backed that up by saying that she was responsible for a 40 billion dollar pipeline bringing natural gas from Alaska and that she’s been on a board that oversees natural gas, oil, and other Alaskan resources. He says, “There’s nobody more qualified to take on our mission of becoming energy independence.” That’s not a typo. That was the quote.

I was dumbfounded by the claim that Palin is one of the foremost experts in this nation on energy issues. …Because she was the governor of Alaska? I suppose if you consider “energy” to be only oil and natural gas, that claim might not be quite so outrageous, but it’s still pretty far out there.

The 40 billion dollar pipeline claim is partially true, but misleading. She was partly responsible for moving the project closer to realization, but construction has not been started and the project isn’t a done deal yet. TransCanada, who is to be the builder, estimates that it will take 10 years to complete and will cost about 26.5 billion dollars, not 40 billion.

Either way, claiming that, because she’s been governor of Alaska, Palin is one of the leading experts in the country on energy is like saying that I have foreign policy experience because I can see Russia from my back yard.

Oh, wait…

Vice-Presidential Debate Impressions

My wife and I watched the entire debate last night and I felt a little bit disappointed. It was like watching a NASCAR race without a crash or a hockey game without a fight. Biden kept his loquaciousness under control and Palin didn’t make any Couric-esque blunders.


Sam Harris on Sarah Palin and Elitism

In an editorial by Sam Harris, this passage really struck me.

Ask yourself: how has “elitism” become a bad word in American politics? There is simply no other walk of life in which extraordinary talent and rigorous training are denigrated. We want elite pilots to fly our planes, elite troops to undertake our most critical missions, elite athletes to represent us in competition and elite scientists to devote the most productive years of their lives to curing our diseases. And yet, when it comes time to vest people with even greater responsibilities, we consider it a virtue to shun any and all standards of excellence. When it comes to choosing the people whose thoughts and actions will decide the fates of millions, then we suddenly want someone just like us, someone fit to have a beer with, someone down-to-earth—in fact, almost anyone, provided that he or she doesn’t seem too intelligent or well educated.

The rest of the editorial expressed similarly thought-provoking views, but this one specifically caught my attention because the whole idea of “anti-intellectualism” has been on my mind lately, especially with regard to religion and politics.

Here’s the link to the entire editorial:

God as Denial of Responsibility

I just read this editorial today and found it very interesting. It’s in English, translated from Norwegian.

God as Denial of Responsibility

Editorial criticism is the only place where religion and politics should meet.

Classic Political Shenanigans

A great example of classic “I am above the law” political shenanigans.

Troopergate probe appears to be unraveling

Though I’m sure both sides partake in this type of nonsense, the Bush administration has perfected it in the last 8 years. It looks like Palin has jumped on that bandwagon as well.

Boy, can she handle a gun!

Yesterday my wife stopped by the barbershop and, while she was in the chair getting her hair cut, an older man walks in and starts a political monologue while he’s waiting. I’ll be nice and just say he was a “conservative,” but his most memorable comment was…

How ’bout that Sarah Palin! Boy can she handle a gun!

Now I didn’t hear the comment myself, but my wife’s interpretation was that, in context with the other things he was saying, he was indicating that this was a strong point in her Vice Presidential qualifications. I can’t say I was shocked, but I was saddened (and amused, but in a mocking sort of way).

Upon telling that humorous/saddening story to a friend, he made a counter comment which I found hilarious because it mocked the guy at the barbershop AND the current Vice President.

It’d be nice to have a VP who could put her boobs in your face as opposed to a load of buckshot like our current one.

Oh my god.