Wednesday, February 25, 2004

But if you must talk about character.... It's a dead hawse, but one worth beating:
Among the questions Bush had to answer on his application forms was whether he wanted to go overseas. Bush checked the box that said: 'do not volunteer.'
Whatever. Yet somehow it's this picture that says it all:

Yes, that's George W. Bush on the right. Caption?

UPDATE: As Uncle Dan notes in the comments, I got a little ahead of myself with this post. I got the link from Josh Marshall's site and I was referring to the fact that Bush's campaign chairman is telling reporting that the only reason Bush didn't go to Vietnam was because although he volunteered, he wasn't selected. But Bush didn't volunteer, and even admits he didn't volunteer.

The danger of harping on this military service issue is that people generally think you're criticizing Bush for avoiding service, or even criticizing the guy for not going to Vietnam for whatever reason. That's totally not the point. Hell, I probably would have done anything to get out of it. In fact, this whole thing is probably more about how badly the prez and his people are handling this from a PR point of view than anything else.

The Vietnam question is sort of weird, when you think about it. Just 30 years ago, a pressing life decision for American men in their 20s was how to avoid getting killed in the jungle like an animal. As George Cerny points out in the comments bin, today they're wondering if they should spent a year in Prague, or in my case seven.

As for the photo of Georgie Jr., to me it's simply funny because a) it appears to confirm, in a trite and superficial sort of way, one's suspicion that the guy was a spoiled brat who drank and snorted and blew bubbles through life until the age of 40, getting by on family money and poppy's political connections and b) old yearbook photos, like cops in donut shops, are one of those jokes that never stop being funny. But I guess you can't really explain humor, can you.
My grandfather had a heart attack recently and just got back from the hospital near Boston. He's more or less confined to his chair in his retirement home. His wife (the grandmother referred to in the post below) of 63 years passed away unexpectedly last year, and he really doesn't like living by himself, so my sisters and I sent him a "get well" gift package. As he wrote in December, "It's no fun living alone, so one of my few pleasures is eating."

Like the good New England WASP that I am (Grampa says hawses, not horses), I wanted to get him something reminiscent of Maine, so I Googled "Maine Gift Basket" and found this. As I was clicking through the order process, at the last minute they asked:

If you would like "Malcolm" the talking moose to personally recite your greeting, then simply check the box below, and we will record your message exactly as you entered it. The recipient will then hear your message playback whenever they squeeze the moose! This adds that extra special personal touch that everyone is sure to enjoy.
Here's Malcolm the talking moose:

It was an extra $19.99, but I thought that was so cool, I figured oh what the heck. We'll see how well it works.
In a way I'm really glad about Bush's announcement supporting a constitutional ban on gay marriage, because it forces people to really think about this issue and make a choice.

The political part of my brain has been thinking lately about what people call "character." People often say the vote based on the "character" of the candidate rather on specific issues, because if a person's has solid "character," he or she will make the right choices in individual situations. I thought about this and I don't agree, partially because "character" seems like a loose, flimsy and rather characterless concept. At the same time, I'm not really an "issues" person either. To me, the real question might simply be a cultural one. Will this person approach public matters with the same intellectual approach that I do? Bush certainly does not, and I instinctively knew that already. I would say so even if I were a hard-core supporter of his (failed) foreign policy. His support for the Federal Marriage Amendment only proves it. Indeed, I'm surprised that people are so surprised at this endorsement. No matter how much we might agree on specific issues (those are getting fewer and farther between), as far as I'm concerned Bush will continue to screw up in profound ways, because we're just not coming from the same place. It's really as simple as that.

Anyway, I couldn't sleep, so I got all political on my Republican mom's ass and wrote her this email. Enjoy. Just doing my little part to stop the internal menace threatening our fair nation across the sea.

-----Original Message-----
From: Scott MacMillan
Sent: Tuesday, February 24, 2004 8:20 PM
To: Janet MacMillan
Subject: Federal Marriage Amendment

I'm sending you this email only because [my late grandmother] isn't around to read it. If she were, I'm pretty sure she'd be on my side because this is NOT your mother's Republican Party.

The President wants to change the Constitution to ban gay marriage. In other words, if a majority of people in a state want to let gay people marry, the Constitution still wouldn't allow it. So much for states' rights!

The Constitution is the final law of the land. It's the document that says, "Let's agree to disagree, because in the end we're all Americans." You can be a lot of strange things, but you always fall back on the U.S. Constitution (or at least the spirit of it) to define yourself as an American.

Now the President wants to change it so that it explicitly discriminates against gay people.

You know I don't like George Bush. But as an American living abroad, I can always look a foreigner in the eye and say I'm still proud to be an American even though I don't happen to like the guy who's president right now. I really hate to think of how I could do that if discrimination were written into the Constitution like he proposes.

So think about this between now and November.

My mom responded: "I'm on your side, too, on this one. You've just got Dad all riled up, too!"

I don't think my mom has ever voted Dem. My dad's a conservative independent who reluctantly voted for Clinton in 1996, comforting himself with the fact that he voted all Republican in Senate and local elections. (As I've written before, they're New England conservatives, not Bible belt conservatives, and I realize that's an important distinction.) I suspect Bush has just lost my dad's crucial swing vote -- for good. If my mom votes against him as well, well blow me down. Northern Succession, anyone? At the very least, Matt Welch will have good reason to crow.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

At least 192 people killed in Northern Uganda attack

Who's responsible for this? Apparently, this guy:

The LRA's child soldiers are told that commands come from these angels, who commune regularly with Mr. Kony.[21] It must have been one of these heavenly messengers who provided Mr. Kony with the holy advice to expand the Ten Commandments to Eleven Commandments--the Eleventh Commandment being "Thou shall not ride a bicycle."