Some Presidential Musings

Despite my apathy over whether Obama or McCain became the next American President, I do have a few thoughts. Or maybe just one thought with a few facets. I feel kind of bad for John McCain.

To appreciate the raw deal he was dealt by his own party, you need to go back more than eight years to the primaries in 2000, when the Republicans chose their man to run against Al Gore. McCain was enjoying good numbers and the Republicans were faced with a choice between a very electable McCain or a more “conservative” (in the modern, not-at-all-conservative sense of the word) Bush. Then the classic Karl Rovian dirty politics began, and McCain never recovered. From the very start Bush demonstrated the complete lack of ethics that marks everything he does.

The 2000 presidential election was very close (so close, in fact, that there should have been a runoff, but that’s another story), but it is likely that McCain would have fared better — and required fewer dirty tricks. Imagine the last eight years with McCain instead of Dubya!

Well, it was Dubya we got and government without etihcs and McCain plugging away in the senate, while his party became steadily less popular. Not even a historic national crisis (the easiest time to be president) was enough to buoy Dubya’s ratings for long. 2008 arrived, and found the Republicans casting about for the best way to salvage a bad situation.

They faced several problems. The president is so universally reviled that anyone who had worked with him was sure to pick up his stink. McCain had in the past stood up to the administration — but not lately. Still, he was less tainted than just about anyone else. Also, the religious conservatives, a key constituency for Republicans, were getting fed up with an administration that turned their backs on their core issues as soon as the votes were counted. The religious right was getting fed up with empty promises.

Finally, I suspect that there were many high up in the Republican party who saw the writing on the wall a long time ago. They were going to lose unless the Democrats blundered badly. (Hillary Clinton tried to help out, but even she wasn’t enough.) For these denizens of the smoke-filled rooms in Washington, the question became how to lose in the most productive manner. The formula was pretty easy in retrospect: throw McCain under the bus.

Facing not just a decisive loss but downright humiliation, the power brokers were not going to waste the career of a rising star, a potential candidate four or eight years down the road. This campaign was going to mark the end of a political career. So they let the old guy run. He wasn’t going to be a viable candidate next time around in any case. Then they saddled him with Sara Palin. Ordinarily that would be a shock, but it sure made the religious right happy (so I’m led to understand). When one of your core constituencies is tired of empty gestures, give them… a bigger, grander empty gesture than ever before! They were going to lose anyway, so the huge political liability she represented was irrelevant.

Once McCain and Palin lost big, even the idea of ‘maverickness’ would be undermined, which probably appealed to the entrenched power brokers as well.

McCain went out, campaigned, and in the very limited view I had of the campaign, on occasion looked like he would make a pretty good president. The powers that be couldn’t let him stray too far from the old party line, couldn’t let him be a real maverick (his main job was damage control, after all), so what we got was a watered-down version of the McCain that ran last time.

And now John McCain will fade into the twilight. There will be a book or two, appearances on Sunday-morning talk shows and so forth, but his days as a contender are over. He has a lot to thank his party for; he’s had a long and productive career at the highest level of politics. I have to wonder, though, if he harbors a little bitterness as well. Maybe now he can be a maverick.

Election Day

So today America is electing a new president. This election is the source of a great deal of passion, as love it or loathe it, the previous eight years have left people with strong opinions about what is wrong or right with our country. Oddly, I just can’t get worked up over this one. Perhaps it’s just my deep-felt belief that anyone would be better than the current cabal. Perhaps it’s my belief that getting elected is a pretty good indication that you shouldn’t be president.

I just hope that whoever wins displays at least a shred of respect for law. The current gang of thieves has proven time and again that they regard law as an inconvenience to be circimvented when it stands between them and what they want. As far as I can tell what they want is to move money from my pockets into their own. Consider: American foreign policy almost makes sense if “higher oil prices” is considered a favorable outcome. And it is a favorable outcome to a small group of men who happen to be friends of the president.

At home, abroad, at war, at peace, from the top of the government right down, the question is no longer “is this legal?” but “how can we spin this as legal long enough it won’t matter anymore?” Whoever is next, even if they’re incompetent, I will temper my criticism if they simply display a bit of an ethical backbone when the going gets tough. Other than that qualification, go ahead and stick anyone in the oval office you want.

The Little Café… is out of beer!

Three taps may not sound like a lot to those on the other side of the pond, but this is a land of specialization. Three taps is about the maximum, except in tourist places. You choose your pub based on the beer you want to drink. One thing you always know is that the beer you drink will be fresh, because everyone in the bar will be drinking the same beer. A bar with many taps is met with suspicion. How long has that keg of Olde Snake Bite been tapped?

Which is all well and good, as long as there’s another keg waiting when the first runs out.

I asked for a Stella, and Wendy shook her head. “We have no beer,” she said in English. It took me a moment to digest that. “All three,” she said. “None.”

“Are the taps broken?” I asked.

“No, they’ve all been… I don’t know how to say…”

“Drunk,” I said. It’s not surprising she had a hard time with that word, as she knows it as an adjective that is applied to people. “Drunk up,” I added, not helpfully.

Little Café Near Home has been popular, lately. It’s been filled with a younger crowd, so when school starts to exert its fearsome grip on the souls of the nation’s youth, things might quiet down a bit here. While I wish the owner of this place all the success in the world, I’m kind of hoping the chain-smoking children who are noisily drinking the place dry get distracted by other pursuits.

The bar is out of beer. This is the Czech Republic. This should, quite simply, not be possible. In this country I imagine there is a room with rows of people staring into glowing monitors. At the front of the room is the Big Board, which shows the flow of beer throughout the nation. Right now there should be a giant red X flashing over this neighborhood while a klaxon sounds. People are screaming into their phones, and the army is mobilizing. A pub without beer. This is a national crisis.

I will keep one ear cocked for the sound of the helicopters making the emergency delivery, but in the meantime I’ll go next door and have some Budvar.

The Day the Squirrels Took Over

It was on this day in 1903 that Hinsdale, Illinois fell to the squirrels. The city fathers imported sackloads of the the fuzzy menace and declared them a protected species. That the citizens of that oppressed town still have not realized their own slavery and celebrate this day by offering up sacrifices is a testament to the diabolical cleverness of these rodents.

The Scandinavians, apparently, weren’t so easily fooled. According to their legends, the squirrel lives in the tree of life, and is the cause of all our trouble and bad luck. Possibly the nuts as well.

Squirrels manipulated events in England to cause the Pilgrims to seek the new world, then stowed away on their boats and swiftly conquered North America.

Glendale, Ohio fell to the squirrels in the 1940s, when, with the help of Tom “Benedict Arnold” Carruthers III, six black squirrels broke through perimeter defenses and took over. In another indication of the mind-control powers of the invaders, the black squirrel is now the city’s mascot.

All this stuff was culled from even less interesting factiods on this page, and then rephrased to remove the flagrant bias of the original author. I tried to find more details about the Miss America Pageant Disaster, but couldn’t find any dirt except other people quoting the same page.