Tuesday, January 20, 2009

On the inauguration

I didn't watch. My family and I went birding. We had a great time. We went to a small local reservoir that we go to often. We saw some Common Mergansers, which I have never seen on that lake before. The highlight was chancing upon a flock of about 10,000 Red-winged Blackbirds. Overwhelming without being frightening. But enough about birds.

I've read the President's inaugural address and have a few comments. Many of these points have been noted elsewhere.

"Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. "

He flubbed one of my favourite trivia questions. Barack Obama is the 44th President of the United States. How many men have been President of the United States? Answer: 43. Grover Cleveland was the 22nd and 24th president, but only one man.

"we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord."

That's right McCain ran on a program of fear, conflict and discord.

"For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sanh."

And Iraq and Afghanistan. To ignore the battlefields of the wars in which are currently engaged is ungracious, at best. (The Argonne and Chosin could have been mentioned as well, but then those are forgotten men from forgotten wars.)

On a broader point those that traveled across oceans, toiled in sweatshops, and settled the West, didn't do it for us, they did it for themselves and their families. We reap the benefits of what they did, but that's not why they did it.

"But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America."

Unpleasant decisions, like committing troops to an unpopular war? Protecting narrow interests, like making it easier for union thugs to intimidate workers by denying them the right to a secret ballot?

"We will restore science to its rightful place."

Meaning we will keep it way from politics? Or use it as a hammer to beat on our opponents? Seriously, science is not equipped to make value judgements. You can use the scientific method to determine the effects of hypothermia by experimenting on humans, But it isn't science that will tell you that it is morally repugnant to do so.

"(We will) wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost."

Aside from the weird use of wield here, technology raises health costs, not lowers it. 1960s health care was much cheaper. It also didn't have today's wonder drugs, MRI machines, robotic surgery, endoscopic surgery, CAT scans, advanced monitering like Oxygen saturation monitors, the list goes on and on. These are great things, but they are also expensive.

"The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works ... Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end."

I look forward to the list of programs that will end, or maybe this is just a rhetorical device to defend big government.

"As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. "

Not so subtle dig here at his predecessor, here.

Sigh, I can't dissect this any longer. A dominant theme was that America needs to change, and change everything. We need to start doing things, many of which we already doing, and many of which don't need to be done. The near past is to be rejected.

At the same time, it is good to here a Democrat speak well of the founding fathers. The president did well to reach to the founders, and forgo anymore strained comparisons to Lincoln.

All in all it was not a bad speech, and he speaks well when he has a script, but, at least when read, it was not a stirring speech. It had some good moments, and it is good to here someone from the left embrace our history and patriotism, although those words might not mean what they think they mean. It had its downsides too. I was obviously a speech from the left, although that was to be expected. The greatest flaw was the inclusion of the ungracious, unsubtle snipes at President Bush. Perhaps he has moved for so long in circles where outright hatred of the right is the norm, he does not realize that oblique insults are still uncouth, given the occasion.

The address aside, I have said that the President deserves the respect due to his office. That does not necessarily apply to his jack-ass, moronic supporters. The left greeted the Bush presidency by throwing eggs at his motorcade after his inauguration, and ended it by booing and chanting na-na-na-na, hey, hey good-bye. In between there were comparisons to Hitler and chimps, ridicule and hatred. To steal a line, now I know what the left means by a classless society

Good Mourning

It is with a heavy heart that I wear black today in honor of lost freedoms to come in months ahead.

Goodbye to freedom of speech, national security and the right to bear arms.

Hello to increased crime rate, higher taxes, record unemployment rates and this is just the beginning.

But it's okay. . . because this is the 'change' that America needs!


As I write these words, we are in the last hours of the Bush presidency. In a little more than two hours Barack Obama will be inaugurated as the country's first black president. I've thought quite a bit in the last few days about what this means to me and to the country. Here are a few of my thoughts.

First, as should be obvious, I am not a political supporter of Mr. Obama. Out of all the major candidates in both parties, he was, with the possible exception of John Edwards, the person I least wanted to win. But he did, so I must come to terms with it.
He, however, will hold the office of President of the United States. I will not indulge in the mindless hatred that the left engaged in for the last eight years. Barack Obama will be my president. If some prominent conservative goes to London and expresses shame that Mr. Obama is president, I will condemn him or her as much as I did the Dixie Chicks. Even though I disagree profoundly with the platform on which he ran, I can nonetheless support him as president because of the unique nature the office. Unlike many other democracies, the President of the United States combine in one person the dual offices of Head of State and Head of Government. As Head of State, Mr. Obama will embody the United Stated to the world. He is the a personal manifestation of American democracy, and as such he deserves respect. And as a loyal citizen of this nation, he will have my respect.

As Head of Government, however, his words and actions, deserve only the respect they earn. If he advocates something that I see as damaging or dangerous to the country, then I, as loyal citizen, have the right and even the responsibility to criticize and oppose him.

All of that could be said about any politician, however. It would be wrong-headed of me to pretend that Mr. Obama's election was only about differing policies. His election demonstrates in a fundamental way the distance that race relations in this country have come in the last sixty years. This a great and glorious thing. It, however, says something that the first black man with minimal qualifications (Jackson and Sharpton don't count) to run for president won. I think that race relations have been much better for much longer than has been commonly presented. I would have preferred to have this be proven by a conservative black, but the times are what they are.

So when after every thing is said, where do I come down on the Obama presidency. As a pollster might ask, do I hope he succeeds? It depends on what one means by succeeds. Do I hope that he will offer that leadership that protects America from its enemies, and that the economy will revive and become again a vibrant powerhouse. Of course I do. Do I hope that he will succeed in enacting his policies and reshaping the American economy on more liberal lines. Well, no I don't. Because I think that he will succeed in the latter, I fear that he will fail in the former.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Obama's speech

I caught the first two thirds of the president-elects speech to day. A few things popped out to me. Early in the speech he said "If nothing is done, this recession could linger for years.", later in the speech he said "It will take time — perhaps many years — but we can rebuild that lost trust and confidence. We can restore opportunity and prosperity."

This strikes me as going to the doctor and being told, "You have a cold. If nothing is done, it could last a week. Spend $1000.00 dollars on this medication and you will get well. It mayt take some time, perhaps a week."

I also like the scare tactict "The unemployment rate could reach double digits. Our economy could fall $1 trillion short of its full capacity, which translates into more than $12,000 in lost income for a family of four." Well, yeah it might average out to 12K per family, but the way it will actually happen is that the 80-90+% of the workers that don't loose their jobs will have no lost income, while those that do will loose much more income. The average is meaningless, but he makes it sound like everyone listening is going to loose thousands of dollars.

Later we get "It (digitizing medical records)will save lives by reducing the deadly but preventable medical errors that pervade our health care system." I'm deeply skeptical about the benefits of digitizing medical records. I've seen nurses struggle for too long trying to extract information from poorly designed systems to give the idea much credit. I also have very real doubts about the ability of digital records to prevent medical errors. For example, I fail to see how having a digital record will prevent a nurse from picking up a sound alike or look alike medication bottle, which is one of the common caused of medical errors. But what do I know, I just hand things to doctors. I wont't even get into the word "pervades".

About this point in the speech, I felt the strong call of classic rock on another station.