Monthly Archives: August 2008

Would You Use This Toilet?

This is really freaky–you can see out, but not in. Theoretically. But would I fully believe that nobody could see in? I’m not sure. Definitely not for the faint of heart or hyper-modest.

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Sarah Palin

I like Sarah Palin. A lot. She’ll come under fire for lack of experience and gravitas (could she go toe-to-toe with Putin?), but I think she’ll do fine. She’s good people, and pretty spunky from the sounds of it.

Four good candidates. For me, it’s a win-win election. I have definite views about what the country needs right now and where we need to go. For that, I lean rather strongly toward Obama. I have concerns about him, but more concerns about McCain and areas in which his views don’t represent where I feel we need to go. If we hadn’t just undergone eight years of George Bush’s wrecking ball, with debris scattered everywhere, I would easily vote for McCain.

But they’re both good men. To me, there’s no need to demonize any of the four candidates, and I hope (with little real hope) that this campaign can stay civil. They’re all good people, and I’ll probably be happy whichever way it goes. (Cindy McCain would make the best First Lady.)

Two months to go. Lots could happen. One of the biggest McCain negatives, for me, is that he’s using a Karl Rove disciple to run his campaign, and we’re seeing Rovish tactics. This turns my stomach, and I hate seeing McCain diminish himself this way. If Obama bows to similar tactics, I’ll be similarly disappointed.

But right now, I want to, for the most part, rejoice knowing that whoever wins, the country will be better off.

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Who is McCain’s VP?

Watching Morning Joe right now. The press is going nuts trying to figure out who McCain’s VP will be–with the announcement only two hours away. They keep ruling out people–Pawlenty and Romney, for sure–and keep putting people back into play.

I say: Tom Ridge. Yes, he’ll anger the pro-life base. But I’ve thought Ridge ever since the Rick Warren thing, when McCain said, “My administration will have pro-life policies.” Doesn’t mean everyone will be pro-life personally. But the policies they put forth will be pro-life.

Or at least, that’s what McCain is saying in the interests of getting elected. If elected, I wouldn’t expect exclusively pro-life policies.

I just think McCain will go with someone he likes and can get along with, and by all accounts, that is Ridge.

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Keith Olberman has to go

Great speech, as expected, by Barack Obama. But I want to talk about the post-speech pundit coverage.

Keith Olberman has to go. He is so utterly, profoundly partisan. He loves–absolutely loves–to hear himself talk, and he does wax with considerable poeticness. He’s an articulate guy. But tonight, I heard him practically giving political speeches in favor of Obama. He gushed like a geyser. I kept switching back to Fox News, the bastion of Republicanism, and found far more objective, balanced coverage. And for me to say that is quite an admission.

Olberman has to go. NBC is flush with great journalists–Brian Williams, Tom Brokaw, David Gregory, Chuck Todd, Andrea Mitchell. Why, of why, do they feel compelled to put their most partisan voice, Olberman, as anchor of their political coverage? It just amazes me. Because on all other fronts, MSNBC has the best political coverage, in my book.

CNN just doesn’t have the stable of heavyweights. And although I consider Wolf Blitzer to be fair and objective, I just can’t listen to him. The beard and voice combine in some insidious way to drive me nuts.

Olberman has to go. I like his show–he’s a very, very good show host. It’s a creative, funny, fun show. But please, don’t let him out of that cage.

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The Other Line Always Moves Faster

Ate at McDonald’s today. In my quest to place my order ASAP, I deftly weaved back and forth between the lunchtime lines, picking my spots and seizing openings. However, it didn’t seem like I was gaining any ground.

Finally, people cleared out and I realized: I was the only person still in line. Everybody else, including people who arrived after me, had placed their orders and left.

That, my friends, is the very definition of servanthood.

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Household Upgrade

So now we’ve got a new furnace, heat pump, humidifier, and water heater. The shower sputtered rusty water for a few seconds this morning.

A green-lit touchpad thermostat now hangs on our wall. It has all kinds of options. I believe I can adjust the new humidifier to make it rain inside. I’m wondering what happens when, some morning, it is displaying a Green Screen of Death. Will I need to reboot the house?

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MSNBC: Getting Along

This morning, sparks flew on MSNBC’s Morning Joe when David Shuster, in kind of sideways manner, told host Joe Scarborough that he was being unduly biased in favor of John McCain. You don’t come on somebody else’s show and accuse him of something. Joe basically tore Shuster apart. It was not pretty.

Just now, I watched Chris Matthews talk condescendingly toward his co-anchor, Keith Olberman, and Olberman grimaced over it. I’ve seen this one coming for a long time. MSNBC is putting Olberman front and center, even though he’s a lightweight compared to Matthews (staffer in the US Senate, speechwriter in the Carter administration, six years as an aide to Tip O’Neill, and 15 years of print journalism for the San Francisco Examiner and Chronicle).

If I were Matthews, I’d be a bit perturbed at being forced to play second fiddle to Olberman, a sportscaster who was re-engineered into a political pundit. Matthews brings a tremendous sense of history to politics. Olberman is highly articulate, funny, and quick on his feet–but he’s a lightweight. And an extremely partisan lightweight.

So as I said, to me, it was only a matter of time before Matthews had enough letting a sportcaster anchor MSNBC’s political coverage.

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The Home Front

Today, as I write, two guys are installing a new furnace, humidifier, heat pump, and water heater at our house–the whole shebang. Just did the roof a couple weeks ago. Molly and Jordi are locked in the bedroom.

A banner year, indeed, for the Dennie Household finances. Bring me your tired, your poor, your endless homeowner bills yearning to be paid.

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As the Olympics comes to a close–a true “coming out” event for China–I thought I’d share some information from Fareed Zakaria’s superb book The Post-American World, which I mentioned in an earlier post. He has lengthy chapters on China and India. Here are tidbits from the China chapter.

  • Today, China exports more in a single day than it exported in all of 1978.
  • Jeffrey Sachs: “China is the most successful development story in world history.”
  • The average Chinese person’s income has increased nearly sevenfold.
  • During the last 30 years, China has moved 40 million people out of poverty, “the largest reduction that has taken place anywhere, anytime.”
  • The 20 fastest-growing cities in the world are all in China.
  • China imports seven times more stuff from the United States than it did 15 years ago.
  • “China will not replace the United States as the world’s superpower. It is unlikely to surpass it on any dimension–military, political or economic–for decades, let alone have dominance in all areas. But on issue after issue, it has become the second-most-important country in the world.”
  • Though China is an authoritarian government, the central government doesn’t have nearly as much control over the rest of China as outsiders think.
  • “Decentralized development is now the defining reality of economic and increasingly political life in China….This problem of spiraling decentralization will be China’s greatest challenge.”
  • An authoritarian government can remain impervious to public opinion. One advantage is that the government can focus on the long-term, rather than the immediate cries of constituents. “While it doesn’t do everything right, it makes many decisions that are smart and far-sighted.”
  • “State control is often at odds with openness, honesty, and efficiency.”
  • “Every day, tens of thousands of people are moving from villages to cities, from farms to factories, from west to east, at a pace never before seen in history. They are not just moving geographically; they are leaving behind family, class, and history….The Chinese state is struggling to keep up with this social upheaval.”
  • “The Communist Party of China–the party of workers and peasants–is actually one of the most elite organizations in the world. It is composed of 3 million largely urban educated men and women, a group that is thoroughly unrepresentative of the vast peasant society that it leads.”
  • “The Communist Party spends an enormous amount of time and energy worrying about social stability and popular unrest.”
  • “With the exception of anything related to Taiwan, Beijing tends to avoid picking a fight with other governments. The focus remains on growth.”
  • In 2007, Chinese TV aired a 12-part series called “The Rise of the Great Nations.” Zakaria says it was thoughtful, intelligent, and “mostly accurate and balanced,” as it covered the rise of nine powers, including Portugal, Spain, Britain, the Soviet Union, and the US. “There are startling admissions, including considerable praise of the US and British systems of representative government for their ability to bring freedom, legitimacy, and political stability to their countries. The basic message of the series is that a nation’s path to greatness lies in its economic prowess, and that militarism, empire, and aggression lead to a dead end….The path to power is through markets, not empires.”
  • “When asked about issues like human rights, some younger Chinese officials will admit that…they see these as luxuries that they cannot afford.”
  • East Asians do not believe that the world has a Creator who laid down a set of abstract moral laws that must be followed.”
  • “Confucianism is simply not a religion. Confucius was a teacher, not a prophet or holy man in any sense. His writings…are strikingly nonreligious. He explicitly warns against thinking about the divine, instead setting out rules for acquiring knowledge, behaving ethically, maintaining social stability, and creating a well-ordered civilization. His work has more in common with the writings of Enlightenment philosophers than with religious tracts.”
  • While Christian and Islamic countries want to spread their views and convert people to their faiths, China has no such ambitions. “Simply being China and becoming a world power in a sense fulfills its historical purpose. It doesn’t need to spread anything to anyone to vindicate itself.”
  • China wants to rise peacefully, maintaining friendly relations with other countries and not interfering in other countries. But “The problem is size. China operates on so large a scale that it can’t help changing the nature of the game.”
  • China buys 65% of Sudan’s oil exports.
  • China has abandoned communism, and has replaced it with nationalism, which is now the glue keeping China together.
  • “George W. Bush is probably the most ideologically hostile president ever to handle US-China relations….But despite all of this, Bush has repeatedly sided with Beijing over Taiwan and warned Taiwan not to attempt secession….On the issue is cares about,Bush has been its ally.”
  • While China is expanding its military, it’s still far behind the US. We have 12 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. China is still working on its first. We have 9000 nuclear warheads and 5000 strategic warheads; China has 20 “small and cumbersome” nuclear missiles that could reach US shores.
  • Writes China expert Joshua Ramo: “Rather than building US-style power, bristling with arms and intolerant of others’ world views, China’s emerging power is based on…the strength of their economic system and their rigid defense of …national sovereignty….The goal for China is not conflict, but the avoidance of conflict. True success in strategic issues involves manipulating a situation so effectively that the outcome is inevitably in favor of Chinese interests.”
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Wars and Rumors of Broken A/C

It’s incredibly hot and humid, and our air conditioning isn’t working. Got a guy coming Monday morning, but by then, it’ll probably have cooled off. We’ve got fans going like crazy, but it’s not helping. Oh, the travails of 21st century American life. Surely, with such suffering on my part, the apocalypse is near.

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