Clark's Comments

Now General Wesley Clark has sort of made a name for himself by saying stupid things in front of television cameras, so it is hard to have too much sympathy when his words get completely misinterpreted. But it is dispiriting to watch the media buy the McCain campaign's talking points so unquestioningly. Here's what General Clark said:

I don't think getting in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to become president.

The McCain campaign, which has little argument for victory beyond "war hero = savior from terrorism," immediately jumped at this. While it is a direct attack on their theory for victory, it is not at all an attack on the Senator's war record. In fact, General Clark had just finished praising Senator McCain as a war hero.

Even worse than the media buffoonery is the Obama campaign's surrender:

"As he's said many times before, Senator Obama honors and respects Senator McCain's service, and of course he rejects yesterday's statement by General Clark," Obama spokesman Bill Burton says in a statement.

Here's what they should have said:

Senator Obama honors and respects Senator McCain's service, and of course rejects any attack on it. General Clark was not attacking Senator McCain's service, however, but simply pointing out that being a war hero is no more a qualification for Senator McCain being President than it was for George McGovern or Bob Dole.

Talk about tying Senator McCain to a couple of loser candidates for good. Alas, yet again the Obama campaign failed to clear their talking points with me.

Hilarious

Those who've served overseas or who have family that did might be familiar with the Stars and Stripes newspaper, which is published daily by various overseas printers and provided free on U.S. military installations in the Middle East (I believe it is command-sponsored here, but not elsewhere). It has some independent reporting with a military focus, but also aggregates a lot of wire service reporting, like most newspapers these days.

There's probably some irony in the fact that even though I have as much access to the Internet here as I did in the States, I've actually taken to reading this newspaper pretty regularly. It may be because I am having breakfast and dinner in the DFAC where they have stacks at the entrance, whereas I rarely "eat out" at home. But I think it also provides a sense of normality and domesticity, just another little way not to feel 7000 miles away.

Anyhow, I have always loved the Sunday comics, and thankfully Stars and Stripes includes some of the best strips. This one is a classic:

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When someone finds out I am a vegetarian, the reaction I get can say a lot about the person. Or at least about the assumptions they do or do not make. The caricature in this comic portrays the worst kind of vegetarian (vegan, actually, but I digress), one whose elevation of their personal morals to a religious imperative is distressing no matter the subject, and who feels a penchant for unsolicited intervention. I do think that if I can get all the nutrients I need without an animal having to suffer or die, I should. And on a more general level, I also believe people should make informed choices in the way they live, and I don't think most Americans do that when it comes to food. But so long as no one tries to convince me to eat meat, I will not personally try to get them to stop. I'm OK, you're OK, as it were.

Heat in Kuwait

Prevailing winds in the region have coated the Middle East with dust over the past several weeks. This includes, of course, Kuwait. The upside to all the sand in the air is that it keeps the temperature 5-10 degrees cooler during the day. I am not sure that will make much difference next week, though:

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I think it is especially humorous that 120 degrees is the line between "sunny" and "hot." I suspect it will not feel much cooler than 121 degrees. At least next weekend offers some relief! Ha.

Bush = McCain on Drilling

Maybe I am thinking too hard, or maybe others just are not thinking hard enough, but I do not understand why President Bush has come out in favor of Senator McCain's offshore drilling plan. Let us leave aside the merits of the plan itself for a moment, and just review recent events.

1. Senator Obama's campaign and its Democratic surrogates have been doing everything they can to link Bush to McCain.

2. They have good reason to do so, since the President is very unpopular.

3. Senator McCain just released a new ad trying to distance himself from President Bush's environmental policies.

4. The same day, Senator McCain came out in favor of offshore drilling.

5. President Bush announced his support for the McCain plan.

I would be willing to put a good bit of money that the Obama campaign and its surrogates will now be referring to the Bush-McCain plan for offshore drilling. The President just handed the Democrats another talking point, and I do not see why. How does it make the plan more palatable, more marketable, or more likely to succeed now that it has the imprimatur of a wildly unpopular president? I am at a loss.

For bonus points, in which state is offshore drilling particularly controversial? Florida. And in which state has Senator Obama just opened his first lead in the latest poll? Guess. And that poll was conducted before this offshore drilling debate.

Pro-Obama Viral

Now I've never seen any of these anti-Obama smear emails, so I don't know how accurate this is as satire. And I'm sure there are a few sad souls who will think it is either 1) serious on its face, or 2) a serious attempt to mislead the voters. But it is hilarious no matter what:

From: [Redacted]
To: [Redacted]
Subject: WHO IS BARACK OBAMA?

There are many things people do not know about BARACK OBAMA. It is every American's duty to read this message and pass it along to all of their friends and loved ones.

Barack Obama wears a FLAG PIN at all times. Even in the shower.
Click here to find out more!

Barack Obama says the PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE every time he sees an American flag. He also ends every sentence by saying, "WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL." Click here for video of Obama quietly mouthing the PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE in his sleep.

A tape exists of Michelle Obama saying the PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE at a conference on PATRIOTISM.

Every weekend, Barack and Michelle take their daughters HUNTING.

Barack Obama is a PATRIOTIC AMERICAN. He has one HAND over his HEART at all times. He occasionally switches when one arm gets tired, which is almost never because he is STRONG.

Barack Obama has the DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE tattooed on his stomach. It's upside-down, so he can read it while doing sit-ups.

There's only one artist on Barack Obama's iPod: FRANCIS SCOTT KEY.

Barack Obama is a DEVOUT CHRISTIAN. His favorite book is the BIBLE, which he has memorized. His name means HE WHO LOVES JESUS in the ancient language of Aramaic. He is PROUD that Jesus was an American.

Barack Obama goes to church every morning. He goes to church every afternoon. He goes to church every evening. He is IN CHURCH RIGHT NOW.

Barack Obama's new airplane includes a conference room, a kitchen, and a MEGACHURCH.

Barack Obama's skin is the color of AMERICAN SOIL.

Barack Obama buys AMERICAN STUFF. He owns a FORD, a BASEBALL TEAM, and a COMPUTER HE BUILT HIMSELF FROM AMERICAN PARTS. He travels mostly by FORKLIFT.

Barack Obama says that Americans cling to GUNS and RELIGION because they are AWESOME.

I had to stop reading half way through because my co-workers were starting to look at me funny.

If Wishing Made It So

If wishing made it so... this is probably what the news would have looked like this morning (at least for some of us):

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Instead, it looks like this:

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For more wishful thinking, click here. Fair warning though, it is more likely to cause despair than to inspire hope.

Walkable Urbanism

What this article calls "walkable urbanism" could very well have been written about my wife and I, and summarizes pretty well exactly what we will be looking for in a home. It is interesting to see it tied into the current housing/foreclosure crisis:

While the foreclosure epidemic has left communities across the United States overrun with unoccupied houses and overgrown grass, underneath the chaos another trend is quietly emerging that, over the next several decades, could change the face of suburban American life as we know it.

This trend, according to Christopher Leinberger, an urban planning professor at the University of Michigan and visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, stems not only from changing demographics but also from a major shift in the way an increasing number of Americans -- especially younger generations -- want to live and work.

"The American dream is absolutely changing," he told CNN.

This change can be witnessed in places like Atlanta, Georgia, Detroit, Michigan, and Dallas, Texas, said Leinberger, where once rundown downtowns are being revitalized by well-educated, young professionals who have no desire to live in a detached single family home typical of a suburbia where life is often centered around long commutes and cars.

Instead, they are looking for what Leinberger calls "walkable urbanism" -- both small communities and big cities characterized by efficient mass transit systems and high density developments enabling residents to walk virtually everywhere for everything -- from home to work to restaurants to movie theaters.

The so-called New Urbanism movement emerged in the mid-90s and has been steadily gaining momentum, especially with rising energy costs, environmental concerns and health problems associated with what Leinberger calls "drivable suburbanism" -- a low-density built environment plan that emerged around the end of the World War II and has been the dominant design in the U.S. ever since.

Thirty-five percent of the nation's wealth, according to Leinberger, has been invested in constructing this drivable suburban landscape.

But now, Leinberger told CNN, it appears the pendulum is beginning to swing back in favor of the type of walkable community that existed long before the advent of the once fashionable suburbs in the 1940s. He says it is being driven by generations molded by television shows like "Seinfeld" and "Friends," where city life is shown as being cool again -- a thing to flock to, rather than flee.

I think we are looking for a decent compromise. One of the things that drew us to Atlanta is that there are still quiet, residential communities within the city that offer both the safety and luxury of a single-family home and the advantages of urban proximity listed above. And they are relatively affordable (emphasis on relatively), at least for now.

Kuwait

Greetings from the lovely Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. After more than 30 hours of travel, including two intercontinental flights, a couple bus rides, and some quality time on the Kuwaiti highways, I arrived here last night.

As you can tell, I've got internet access. The wireless works even in the open bay that I'm staying in. The bay is actually pretty nice. The mattress is old and soft, but other than that it's not bad. It's not crowded, so most of the bunks around me are unoccupied. I've got a wall locker, plus they have a bunch of "cages" in the middle of the room that you can lock stuff in. One of them was open, so I put all my extra stuff in there.

We didn't get back here until about 0130 Kuwait time. I unpacked as much as I could in the dark and without waking anyone, then took a shower and tried to sleep. It was hard at first, at the end of such a bizarre 30-hour travel day, and I probably only got about 3 hours total before people started being noisy around 0700. But I went back to sleep for another 90 minutes after that and then decided to start my day so that I'll be in sync with the time zone. The NCOs are going to come get me after lunch, so I spent the morning surveying the surrounding buildings. The PX is not too far, which is a good thing because even at 0900, it was almost 100 degrees and pretty windy. Apparently they've been having a lot of dust storms.

I bought hangers, Febreeze, and laundry detergent at the PX. There is a laundry room right next to the bay. The showers and stuff is also right next door. There are a couple big TV rooms, and I watched some soccer on the (several!) European sports channels we get here. Hopefully I'll have time to catch more of Euro 2008 while I'm here.

So that's my first morning in Kuwait. More to follow!

Obama-Lieberman Showdown

What I wouldn't give to have been a fly on the wall during this conversation yesterday between Senators Obama and Lieberman, since that's probably the only way we'd ever know what was said:

Furthermore, during a Senate vote Wednesday, Obama dragged Lieberman by the hand to a far corner of the Senate chamber and engaged in what appeared to reporters in the gallery as an intense, three-minute conversation.

While it was unclear what the two were discussing, the body language suggested that Obama was trying to convince Lieberman of something and his stance appeared slightly intimidating.

Using forceful, but not angry, hand gestures, Obama literally backed up Lieberman against the wall, leaned in very close at times, and appeared to be trying to dominate the conversation, as the two talked over each other in a few instances.

Senator Lieberman is a supremely frustrating figure for me. For most of my teenage years, and even during college, I considered myself a very moderate Democrat, and counted among my political idols moderate Republicans senators like Jacob Javits, Clifford Case, and Edward Brooke. When Al Gore tapped Senator Lieberman for his ticket, I thought it was a very interesting choice and I supported them.

The past seven years, however, have chilled my opinion of Senator Lieberman, to say the least. And I think it is because Senator Lieberman is not a moderate or a centrist in any meaningful sense. On most issues, he is a liberal. On the war in Iraq, he has allied himself with the neo-con right. The war in Iraq is and has been the most important issue for the last 5 years, and the one in which a strong, bipartisan centrist voice has been needed to walk the administration off the ledge. So Senator Lieberman's failure to be a voice of restraint and his enabling of the worst of the neoconservative tendencies has been most disappointing.

Obama's Money Machine

I'm proud to say that so far this year, I've already contribued three times to the Obama money machine. According to Politico, small donors like me have Senator McCain running scared:

If each of Obama's donors gave him a modest $250, he'd have $375 million to spend during the two-month general election sprint. That's $186 million a month; $47 million a week.

During the same September to Nov. 4th period, McCain will have about $85 million to spend since he has decided to take taxpayer money to help finance his campaign activities.

The Republican National Committee, which is charged with closing the gap between McCain and Obama, has $40 million in cash. Obama raised almost as much -- $31 million - from just his small donors in the month of February. His total for the month, $57 million, exceeded the RNC's cash balance.

Obama has more than 1.5 million donors; McCain has a few hundred thousand. If just a million of Obama's donors sent him the maximum donation, $2,300, he could raise $2.3 billion.

With numbers like that, I can understand why the Republicans are nervous. As Senator Obama and the DNC start doing joint fundraising, I expect the DNC will close the gap on the RNC. And as the article makes clear, Senator McCain himself just won't be able to compete with the Obama money machine. Could we really see the first billion dollar campaign? Time will tell.

Obama Victory

What a wonderful sight to see, after a truly historic, hard-fought primary campaign that has clearly strengthened the growth of the Democratic party throughout the country:

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I leave for Kuwait next week. I'm glad I got to see this before I left.