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    Wednesday, February 27, 2008

    Which Primary?

    Life was easy before I turned 12. I only had one primary to go to. I moved up from Sunbeams to CTRs to Valiants to Blazers ...

    ... but now I have TWO primaries to choose from, and I don't know where to go.

    Image from Wikipedia.

    I took some time off from studying Reproductive Biology and dropped by the League of Women Voters, one of the most awesome non-partisan groups out there. I always read their flier before elections, because they get all the candidates to respond to questions, and it helps me stack them up side-by-side. Except this year Mike Huckabee "didn't qualify." Dunno what that means...

    And then I went to Harris Votes to get my sample ballot, so I don't waste time deciding on a candidate running in another district. If every county doesn't have something like this, they should, because between the two links above, it is SO easy to be a good democratic citizen of the USA.

    However, all of my footwork found that the Democrats have 18 contested positions this primary, and the Republicans have 16 contested positions and 3 ballot items that will be party platform issues.

    So now, after all this hand-wrangling over the next president of the USA, it's not at all about that anymore. Heck, everyone knows it's the local laws and leaders that affect us the most. So, do I join the Democratic party, or the Republican party?

    Which primary do I go to?

    Monday, February 25, 2008

    Them Fightin' Words

    I'm not a Clinton supporter, but let's face it, Obama is a snake oil salesman

    Finally, something's happening. The gloves are off. Clinton should have done this three weeks ago, early into Obama's run of 11 straight state popular vote victories.

    (CNN) -- A visibly angry Sen. Hillary Clinton lashed out Saturday at Sen. Barack Obama over campaign literature that she said he knows is "blatantly false," while Obama called her outburst "tactical."

    Clinton jabbed the air with her hands as she told a crowd in Cincinnati, Ohio, that two Obama mailings spread lies about her positions on universal health care and the North American Free Trade Agreement.

    "Shame on you, Barack Obama," she said.

    ...With Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland nodding in agreement behind her, Clinton accused Obama of emulating the tactics of Karl Rove, President Bush's former political director who is reviled by Democrats.

    Obama "is continuing to send false and discredited mailings with information that is not true to the voters of Ohio," Clinton said.
    Now, I'm not a Clinton supporter, but let's face it, Obama is a snake oil salesman.

    He comes to town and he spouts change. He talks of hope. People love his charisma, so they forget that he has ZERO experience. He spins it by saying he's not from inside the beltway. People forget that he has ZERO experience outside the beltway too. He pulls fast ones on us -- saying he doesn't support outright bans on selling guns, but wants a law that would outlaw selling guns within five miles of any school or park (if you look, you'll quickly realize, that's tantamount to banning guns in almost every state but Montana). He makes you yearn for the good old days of 1963 (although we forget that those "good old days" included a populace overcoming its second war in as many decades, an entrance into a Vietnamese conflict bound for disaster, and the start of incredible growth of illicit drug use and std's). Yeah, I guess those were the good old days.

    Clinton, until now, has been content to be his lapdog. She fawns at him during debates. He reciprocates. You'd think the two were dating. Now it's clear that people are buying what he's selling. People want hope. They're willing to forget that the strongest executive in the world could be run by someone who has NO executive experience, because they want to believe America is -- they are -- still great.

    Clinton, until now, has been content to be his lapdog ... You'd think the two were dating
    The only way to stop a snake oil salesman is to expose him for what he is -- a fraud. You have to catch him in lies, show his product to be nothing more than lemonade (understand my last post now?). When a candidate's whole platform is based on hope and change, he must be credible for that to work. Clinton is now finally attacking that chink in his armor. She holds the moral high ground after that stunning blow at the end of a losing debate, when she talked about her faith, and soldiers, and trials. Now, if she can show Obama isn't as clean as he says, she has her victories.

    But she can't stop now. She should have done this three weeks ago. Now she must be angry, vindictive, the woman scorned. We have all seen her cry, and wax philosophical, now we must see what happens when a mother sees her baby hurt. We must see her go for the jugular. The next debate needs to be vicious, it needs to be fiery. Each word needs to be a blade to dig into the man of hope. She needs all her staff to find other examples of "untruths," and she needs to turn this love fest into a credibility war. Turn it ugly, and she has a chance. If she doesn't, it's over. They'll head into the National Convention separated by about 150 delegates and they'll be wrangling over super delegates' votes, and nobody will come out the better.

    Sunday, February 24, 2008

    The Snake Oil Salesman

    Just one swig a day

    Before a snake oil salesman comes to town, most townspeople polled say they'd never buy anything from him -- it's hogwash. But then he comes, "clip clop, clip clop" as the hooves hit the ground, a single donkey pulling a wooden wagon behind. The donkey's trimmings are nonchalant -- faded reins that once were bright red and blue -- and it slowly chews cud as the iron shod wheels squeak to a halt.

    The wooden planks of the wagon are weathered but solid, and soon everyone is gathered at the town square. Little street urchin boys climb trees to get a better view, and mothers in bonnets admonish their daughters to act demure although the heat of noonday is strong.

    And then at once, the window of the wagon swings open, revealing bright colors and beautiful bottles. From around the back steps a man impeccably dressed in a black tuxedo, addressing "sir and madam" as he smiles brightly. "Surely this man, who looks so believable, can't be that bad?" a young man thinks.

    The tuxedo man shakes hands with those toward the front, his strong grip and sure look --eyes never deviating from the person he's engaged with -- invariably leave each onlooker smiling. And then he steps onto the crate; his makeshift podium, and begins to speak.

    Oh the oration! "Are you ailing? Have you lived the last 4, no 8 years in agony? Perhaps it's a stomach problem -- you feel sick don't you, sir?" as he points to someone in the second row. "Yes, we all know what you have, what you've used to deal with your problems, these last 8 years. Yes, we all have heard the spiel from your 'doctors' that have helped you all this time. But you're not better yet, are you?"

    Oh he's good. He knows the town he has reached. "I grew up learning about your town. I came here as soon as I could. Why? I hoped I could meet you, learn from you. I've read about the many great things you've done in the past. Look at Jimmy," he says, motioning to a well-known teenager in the middle of the group, "I've read of his exploits in school. You all know him well, and I know he's a good boy."

    "This man's one of us," an older, well-to-do lady says, as she fans herself.

    The orator continues. "I believe in you. I know what you can do. I hope for a better tomorrow. It was that hope that has brought me here -- to share it with you. I've found the cure for the last 8 years in this," and with a whirl he whips out a nice crystal bottle from the racks in the window. Stopped with cork, this tall thin crystal bottle contains a clear, slightly blue, liquid. He brandishes it for all to see, smiling brightly, and then continues.

    "You see, I had what you had -- this indigestion, this upset stomach, this feeling of unease for the last 8 years. I hated what I was told -- it didn't make sense. I read about your exploits, and I knew there was good in this world; things to strive for. I hoped for something better, and that hope led me to this."

    It was that hope that has brought me here ... I've found the cure for the last 8 years

    With a flourish he popped the cork, and took a swig. The audible "gulp!" and subtle bounce of his Adam's apple resonated against the sweltering noon-day sun. "Aaahhh...so refreshing. I found this, my friends, which I've named H&C Tonic for hope and change. I share it with you because I look up to you, I feel I'm one of you," and he looks at one of the urchins in the tree. "I was raised by a single mother, school teacher, who herself was bred in Kansas -- the heartland of this great country. I spent the last 8 years, like you, with indigestion and worries about the future. But I found H&C Tonic, and a swig of this a day has changed all that. The pains, the upset stomach, it's all gone. My worries are faded, and my hope is magnified. I know there's a great future ahead, and I don't sit up at night grumbling about it, or dealing with my queasiness. Just one swig a day, as refreshing as you just saw. Sure you can take more, it won't hurt, but even just one swig a day -- and your pains and worries will float away like mine."

    "But what's in it?" a skeptical old man in the back asked, as he raised his cane -- but the orator had done his homework.

    "Oh, physician Brown! I'm glad you asked." With a smile he turned back to the crowd. "Oh it's got a water base, some flavorings and vitamins. Things you all know to be good. But ol' Doc Brown, he wants me to give up my proprietary formula so he can go into business for himself! Now that wouldn't do, now would it, doc?" and the salesman laughed, the crowd joining with him. "Ol' Doc's a good man," he said, "but how come he's been treating you your entire lives, and you still have these symptoms. My proprietary blend of Hope & Change Tonic will cure your ills and bring you back to the days of your youth, when you could run and not tire, fall asleep under the stars and not worry about the morrow. Just one swig a day!"

    With that, the tuxedo man started passing out bottles. Coins changed hands. Old Doc Brown mumbled under his breath and walked away. A street urchin picked the pocket of the old lady with the fan, so he could take a swig himself and see what it was like, and slowly, the crowd dispersed, until only the salesman and his mare were left.

    The sun, fading behind the mountains, signaled the end of another good day. The jingling of coins in his purse made the man smile. "Well old girl, one more state down -- only a few more to go, and we can stop this business. We'll have enough saved up to get us out of this small wagon and into the big white house we've always dreamed of." He closed the wagon's window.

    "Oh, it looks like we're out of lemons and blue food coloring. We'll need to pick up some more in the next town over -- can't run out of this tonic before we're through!" Then he took another swig.

    "Aaahhh...gotta love lemonade, huh girl?" And the donkey just kept chewing.

    Tuesday, February 19, 2008

    Response to "A Fairy Tale for Unwitting Adults, Part 1"

    Last Saturday, Xanghe posted "A Fairy Tale for Unwitting Adults, Part 1" which got me wasting study time and thinking about religion.

    After much rumination and pondering, I responded in part on his blog, but my thoughts kept coming, and I have decided to publish the remainder here. Mind you these are remarks to parts of his post, not the whole post. Please follow the link above to read the whole thing.

    "As I look back and begin to catalog all of the perceptions I've heard from both sides of the spectrum, I feel like I'm in the middle of a high-school love triangle. To make an analogy, I guess the person that both sides are fighting over would be Jesus (I hope that's not irreverent). Both sides want so badly to be looked upon by Jesus as the best and most faithful but, as high school students often do, each side feels insecure in their diligence and position and therefore belittle the other to attempt to compensate. Inaccurate as it may be, that analogy seems to reiterate itself every time I hear the born again vs LDS debate. But that's just my perception."

    POINT 2:
    That being said, I disagree partly with two points you made and agree with one. First, I don't think we're quite the high school analogy you said, although I get your point. It seems more to me like a football analogy.

    Mainstream/"Born Again" Christianity is like running some sort of wishbone in college 30 years ago. It's proven it gets results. All the old timers still run the single wing or power I (Catholicism). They're classic. Then comes along this new iteration of football -- the forward pass. Sure it's still football, and the other offenses have forward passes in their repertoire, but now someone comes along and says you can achieve your goal by passing MOST and running LEAST.

    Woah...that's heresy. Get to the end zone in another way? No more slugging it out on the ground? And so the backlash ensues.

    Who's right? Of course you can score touchdowns with both offenses, just like both denominations believe in Jesus. But fundamentally the proponents balk. It changes the game they're used to, they love, they "signed up for." Whether one is actually the “right” way to play football is not something someone can say in the midst of things. Only 100 years after the fact can you truly look back and say, yes, putting a scrimmage line in football was the “right” thing. With religion it's like that but complicated, because we all believe that there is a right way, but nobody now has the infinite foresight to say unequivocally what is correct. We have only faith.

    "The delineation between born again non-denominational Christians and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has nothing to do with doctrine or beliefs or anything of substance - it's pure perception."

    This is complicated by the second thing that I disagree with: Christianity's inherent Nihilistic dichotomy. “The delineation between born again non-denominational Christians and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” has everything to do with “doctrines, or beliefs, or anything of substance.”

    Christian doctrine says you go to Heaven or Hell. Sure man tries to put a fudge factor in there (purgatory?), but the basics boil down to black or white. Jew or Gentile. Saved or not? This dichotomy is deeply ingrained in Christian theology from Genesis onward. Cain or Abel?

    Given this, it makes perfect sense why Born-Again Christians tell me “you don't worship MY Jesus Christ” and I can sit and nod when I hear a prophet of God tell me to be “a peculiar people,” or “be in the world, but not of the world.”

    For the same reasons one of my friends told me the other day that “we're all prophets of God,” I can say with conviction “God has called a new prophet today, President Thomas S. Monson.” Because they believe the Bible is infallible, and the only Word, and I, at the crux of my faith, say almost exactly the opposite – I “believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; [I] also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God” (AoF 1:8, italics added) and therefore Joseph Smith was his prophet and revelator, and therefore only through faith on Jesus Christ and baptism into His church (i.e. THIS church) can we return and live with him forever.

    "In the end, it's got to be both sides who decide to put doctrinal differences aside to seek for a higher level of understanding. We live in a world full of mislead perceptions blown out of proportion that result in hate and crime and war and death. Values and morals are shifting as religious institutions - Christian or otherwise - lose their foothold in society. The last thing we need is bickering and stubbornness between the individuals who call themselves Christian and who should be uniting to do good for Jesus' sake."

    Yes, you're right that we have a lot in common. Yes, you're right that we should build on these commonalities for the betterment of our society and humanity. Yes, I feel it's petty to use these differences to split apart political candidates – or to vote based on someone's religious label without looking at their actual track record, stance on real issues, and experience qualifying for the office. Yes, I believe that the best people on this earth are spread about through many religions and not hoarded in mine or another. Yes, I believe it's puerile to focus on denigrating other religions instead of focusing on building your own.

    That is why President Gordon B. Hinckley called on others to bring their good with them and see if we can add to it. That is why we should be careful about how we view people of other faiths. That is why I agree with you that we should band together to achieve common social goals – but not at the expense of our faith. We cannot soften our stance on doctrine. There is something fundamentally very different between our faiths. For when push comes to shove, I believe I belong to the “only true and living church” (D&C 1:30). That, as President Spencer W. Kimball said, “is an absolute truth.”

    Saturday, February 16, 2008

    Predicting the Texas Democratic Elections

    I was going to write this amazing post about the upcoming Democratic primaries/caucuses in Texas, but after researching it for a hour and a half, I realized that 1) I don't have the time right now, and 2) someone's already done it.

    I'm not sure if I agree 100% with the outcome, especially since it's done by an open Obama supporter, but I think it's pretty close. In fact, if anything, I think Obama might win more delegates.

    The key will be the caucuses. Over the last couple weeks, I've been working with some other students and the Harris County Medical Society (HCMS) to get a spokesman from both the Clinton and Obama campaigns to speak about the candidates' stances on medical care. The Texas Medical Center, the largest medical center in the world, seems like the ideal place for such a discussion. Now seems like an ideal time, given the primaries are March 4th, and the Democrats seem like ideal candidates, since they're locked in a bitter battle for delegates.

    However, all is not well. Clinton has a well-run organization in Texas. It was easy for a student to contact her campaign and get a staffer willing to do the meeting. Obama has no official campaign office. Everything around here is grassroots, and the student found no person with the permission or knowledge to come to our meeting. He even contacted Obama's national campaign headquarters and came away empty.

    So, we're now seeing if the HCMS can come up with anything. With exams coming up, and the primary soon after, time is running thin.

    But this story brings me back to my point that Obama will win lots of delegates in the primary because largely Black districts get more delegates than largely Hispanic ones, and various other demographic intricacies. However, Clinton's well organized campaign staff will do wonders at caucuses. It will be interesting to see how the cards fall.

    The Texas Democrat's political process is incredibly intricate. Go to Election Inspection to get a decent overview of the situation. You can also go to this article by the Houston Chronicle. The writer of Election Inspection has a blog, Texans for Obama, which does the aforementioned good job at predicting the results.

    Tuesday, February 12, 2008

    The Ten Commandments of Political Pundits

    Easily, the one thing that this election year has taught me over and over, is that you need NO knowledge or common sense to be a television political pundit. In fact, those two traits DISQUALIFY you from the job. The only way you can make it on CNN or FOX, is to state the absurdly obvious while passing it off as your unique insight, or to make outrageous comments (that will be proven incorrect a week later but never pinned on you) in order to incite a conflagration among illiterate voters that take your words as gospel.

    Rule #2 of a Political pundit is that you must nod your head like an overstuffed bobble-head at everything your compatriots say, especially if they are of your same party affiliation.

    Rule #3 states that no political poll used by pundits is allowed to be statistically significant. Anything within +/- 3% is automatically thrown out. Of especially good use are the utterly nonsensical polls -- those CNN polls of +/- 7%. That way, you can choose who you want to win while ignoring the 14% swing inherent in the results.

    Rule #4 of political punditry requires all budding pundits to choose only 1 of 2 sources -- FOX or CNN. If you are a Democrat, then you can work as a Republican or Democratic analyst for CNN. If you're a Republican, you can do the same for FOX. In no way are you allowed to switch shows. No Democrat will work as a Democratic analyst for Fox, nor a Republican as a Republican analyst for CNN.

    Rule #5 requires that all MSM outlets decide before the primary process who will win. All reports will be couched to shed favorable light on that candidate at the expense of others, regardless of actual outcome. This will prejudice viewers who would vote for other candidates to either stay home and not vote because their "vote doesn't count," or switch and vote for the pre-anointed candidate -- who was their second choice -- because the first choice "obviously" has no chance.

    Rule #6: If the candidate from Rule #5 is winning an election with less than 10% of precincts reporting, you can declare him/her the winner and spend the rest of the evening talking about his/her landslide victory, even though he or she won by less than 5% of the popular vote. If your Rule #5 candidate is not winning, it is your right to reserve judgement until all 100% of precincts have reported as long as your candidate stays within 5% of the leader.

    An addendum (Rule #6A) states that this principle applies to delegate counts as well. A pundit can declare the MSM Rule #5 candidate a winner in a state if either a) he or she wins the popular vote, or b) he or she wins the most delegates. If the candidate does not do both, a pundit can conveniently forget who achieved the other goal.

    Rule #7 Every pundit must stick one barbed comment at the person in power of the other party per show (i.e. D's snipe President Bush and R's snipe Speaker Pelosi).

    Rule #8 is the equal opportunity rule. Every political panel must include someone NOT Caucasian. This automatically makes every nonsensical word spoken equivalent to the views of ALL Americans, not just one ethnic subset.

    An addendum to this rule (Rule #8A) states that equal opportunity extends to candidates too. Any candidate who comes from a minority group (women, blacks, libertarians, etc.) must have their platform thrown out the window and be judged solely by the percentage of votes they receive separated by racial background only.

    Rule #9 requires that all campaign donations by political pundits must be confidential. That way, someone pontificating about the ineptitude of Obama can do so without people knowing he or she donated the legal maximum to Clinton the night before. If this information is found out, networks have an ethical responsibility to only air the info after 11pm and to quietly, without fanfare or notice, change the pundit's opining responsibilities.

    Rule #10 states clearly that the only true political information you will receive from pundits comes on Comedy Central.

    Thursday, February 07, 2008

    Romney's Out. Now What?

    Should I spend my vote voicing my opposition to McCain, or trying to determine his conquerer?
    Super Tuesday is over, and I've learned many things about America's electoral (electing? primary?) process. However, what I would have written will take a back seat for a few days while I come to grips with the newest word on the street -- Mitt Romney suspended his campaign.

    First, what does "suspended" mean? In American politics, when you suspend your campaign, you're technically still in the race, but you aren't actively trying to get new delegates. On the Democratic side of the coin, that means you can decide how to use them -- recruit your own supporters and encourage them to vote one way, etc. On the Republican side, the states decide how to divide the spoils. So for Romney, it's really pretty similar to dropping out.

    Now, what does this mean?

    Well, unlike many voters this year, I placed lots of weight on experience over charisma. Especially executive experience. Why should you lead the only superpower of the modern era if you've never lead anything before? I mean, over the last year I've been the president of my school's American Medical Association (AMA) and Texas Medical Association (TMA) chapter. It's night and day different having to run the organization versus when I was just an officer the year before.

    Based on that, here's how my candidate list stacked up as of yesterday:

    1. Romney -- executive experience as governor, led Olympic games, church as Stake President, led Bain Capital
    2. Huckabee -- governor of Arkansas
    3. Paul -- Physician, years of congressional experience
    4. Clinton -- never an executive, but saw her husband do it. some congressional experience
    5. McCain -- lots of congressional experience
    6. Obama -- some state senate experience and one term in congress.

    With Romney gone, those are pretty thin resumes remaining.

    Now things get fun. I could pontificate about the ramifications of Romney for hours, but I'll sum it up thus: I doubt that Huckabee can cover the ground remaining to catch up to McCain -- especially if some of Romney's delegates could end up in McCain's camp (i.e. all of Massachusetts, Maine, etc.).

    Texas has an open primary. I could vote Republican, but here's my dilemma: I like Paul's premise (I am Libertarian, you know), but have issues with certain points (such as eliminating the Federal Reserve). I like Huckabee's health care plans, but haven't heard anything else of substance from the preacher. On both, a vote from me will have little effect on the end result. I chose long ago not to vote for McCain, due to his stance on Vietnam. Explaining that will have to wait for another day.

    So I could throw my vote to Paul/Huckabee, or I could vote Democratic. What am I faced with??

    1. a woman who seems greasier than a used car salesman, has almost zero executive experience, but is a woman (hey! I could make history with my vote), or
    2. a man who says all the right things, but never anything of substance, has literally zero executive experience, but is black (hey! I could make history with my vote).

    Why should you lead the only superpower of the modern era if you've never lead anything before?
    On a healthcare front (I am in medical school) their plans are almost identical except Clinton wants a mandate to buy insurance and Obama says it's not needed and wrong.

    Should I spend my vote voicing my opposition to McCain, or trying to determine his conquerer (yes, I feel either Democratic candidate will beat McCain in a general election)? My vote cannot be bought (legally), but it can be swayed. Should I vote Republican or Democrat? Paul or Huckabee? Clinton or Obama?

    Right now I'm thinking Democrat; possibly Obama. Give me some advice. McCain schemed with Huckabee to pull West Virginia's 18 delegates from Romney. Where should my vote go?