Archive for September, 2008

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Why I’ve given up on McCain

September 30, 2008

Until recently I was fairly ambivalent over which Presidential candidate I was going to vote for.  Both candidates have their strengths and weaknesses and neither have all the answers for the problems currently facing our country.  McCain appears stronger on foreign policy and defense whereas Obama has advantages when it comes to the domestic side.  But my decision to support Obama was made when McCain picked Sarah Palin as his running mate, and here’s why:  Palin is a political choice, and an obvious one at that.  Of course, all VP selections are ultimately political choices designed to win over different demographics that the Presidential Candidate cannot win by themselves, but at least in most cases, the selection is someone who one could reasonably envision as being able to take over should something happen to the President.  This is not the case with Palin. 

At first I was hesitant to automatically discard Palin, despite the obviousness of her selection, thinking there was no way McCain would pick someone who knows nothing about the economy, Iraq, Iran, Islam, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Russia (aside from its geography), but after having heard her interviews, it is clear that McCain’s choice was not just a political choice, but a bad one at that.  Yet McCain still has the audacity to claim that Palin represents a dramatic change to Presidential politics?  She is serving the exact same role that every VP candidate in history has ever done, she just happens to be doing it in high heels.  

Despite what McCain says about Palin being a maverick like himself, one who will shake things up and Palin’s emphatic claim that she is ready to serve, her selection is completely and unbelievably transparent.  Does anyone actually believe that Palin would be in this race if not for the prospect of her being able to win over disenfranchised Hillary supporters?  Of course not, because that is why she was selected, after all, why else would McCain have picked her?  Seriously, identify one other thing Palin brings to the table other than the possibility of winning over disgruntled democrats.  Accepting for the moment that a female republican VP can win over Hillary supporters, are you telling me that the Republican party has no one else who is both a woman and competent in the matters of national security and the global economy?  If so, that is a sad statement about the GOP, but that is a discussion to be had another time. 

So, shame on McCain for selecting a VP pick whose only job is to rally the republican base and win over independents and disenfranchised democrats, but who is completely and utterly unprepared to take over should something happen to the oldest man to ever run for President during a time when our nation is involved in two wars.  How can a man who is running on the idea that he is better prepared to defend and safeguard this country choose a running mate who is completely unprepared to take over?  As a former military officer, I want my 2nd in command to be able to take over the instant I go down, not someone who knows nothing about the mission we are involved in or how to complete it.  One would think that as a celebrated war hero and descendant of a long line of Admirals, McCain would understand the importance of an unbroken chain of command.  Sadly, I think McCain does understand this concept, far better than I ever could, yet he is choosing to ignore its time tested wisdom and instead base his decision solely on political scheming, which is exactly why I’ve given up on McCain.

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Pink Shirt

September 23, 2008

Yesterday I decided to wear to work a pink shirt. Yes, you read that correctly, a pink shirt. For those of you not aware, I recently started a new job as a defense contractor working at the Pentagon. There are not a lot of pink shirts at the Pentagon. In fact, I feel confident in stating that of the 50,000 employees present at any one time at the Pentagon I was the only male wearing a pink shirt. (There may have been someone wearing one in one of those secret rooms you see in movies, but I wasn’t authorized to go in and check.) The shirt wasn’t one of the ‘in-your-face hot pink’ numbers that some people wear. This was a much more subdued pink with white running through it to further dilute the potential embarrassment the wearer may experience.

I found that wearing a pink shirt actually changes your perspective on a lot of things. For one, you start noticing other things around you that are pink. (My ID badge, the color of the bricks on the sidewalk, the highlighter our secretary uses, etc.) This doesn’t seem to happen when you’re wearing a more commonly accepted color, such as white or blue. You don’t start saying to yourself, “wow, my shirt matches the sky!” (Or clouds, depending on which of the two previously mentioned colors you are wearing) I also found that you tend to stand up a bit straighter and walk a bit taller. This is not derived from any sense of superiority for having been brave enough to defy conventional fashion sense but that you simply feel that you need to project a stronger sense of masculinity in order to compensate for the femininity that others may believe you are now exuding. Of course, the notion that pink is a feminine color is an inherently flawed idea as my wife so keenly pointed out when she stated that pink is in many ways a more masculine color than blue. According to my wife, since pink is simply a shade of red, which is an intense, passionate and manly color, and blue is more subdued and calming, pink can actually be construed as the more masculine of the two. Try telling that to the Marine Colonel who looked like he wanted to deepen the shade of pink I was wearing by stabbing me with his K-bar and letting the blood flow freely all over my freshly laundered shirt.

Wearing a pink shirt is also a great way to determine who amongst your co-workers is secure in their masculinity. For some reason, people see their own fears and anxieties reflected in a pink shirt. I think it’s because they start to question whether or not they too would be able to stand wearing such an outfit. Those who have no trouble with their own masculinity tend not to say anything, but those who silently question themselves give voice to their fears by making off-handed comments. At my office, only one person said something, and it was exactly the person I expected would. Interesting… On the other hand, women love a guy wearing pink. My wife could probably sue me for infidelity the number of times I got checked out on the Metro ride home! So, note to single guys who hang out bars patronized by young professionals: If you want to stand out from the crowd and exponentially increase your chances of getting laid (by a woman, I can’t comment how well a pink shirt would work on attracting men) then wear a pink shirt.

Another thing you notice when wearing a pink shirt is just how little fashion diversity there actually is amongst the Pentagon work force. Almost every single person is wearing something along the lines of a white or blue shirt. (not counting the people in uniform; those guys all look the same!) There may be some attempts to branch out into clothes that are more expressive than others, but those rare few can only be considered variations on a theme, such as a subtle pin stripe or herringbone pattern. Every now and then you may actually see someone wearing a light yellow or green shirt, but these are few and far between. Part of me wonders if the lack of diversity amongst peoples’ wardrobes is symptomatic of a possible lack of diversity in thinking, which helps explain the ‘group think’ phenomenon that has been known to occur amongst the defense industry. In the end, if you’re not wearing blue or white, you are going to stand out, which is not necessarily something that you want to do at a place like the Pentagon.

Does this mean that I won’t wear the pink shirt ever again? Absolutely not. And not because I like standing out or being different or warding off the angry looks of Marine Colonels, but because my wife thinks I look really damn good!

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Iced Coffee

September 19, 2008

This morning as I exited the Crystal City Metro stop on my way to work, I immediately found myself surrounded by a large number of relatively attractive young ladies.  No, it wasn’t the new pink shirt I was wearing (more on that in a future posting), they were simply there promoting some new product.  The most visible thing about these women was that they were all wearing oversized shirts that said ‘change’ on the front in big bold letters.  My first assumption was that they were there on behalf of the Obama campaign, as I had seen at other Metro stops.  Having already registered to vote and not needing to hear about politics first thing in the morning, I ignored the sirens’ call and continued on my way towards my office.  It was not until I had walked about five minutes that I realized that the last of the vixens to have spoken to me before I crossed the street had asked if I wanted a free iced coffee.  I wouldn’t say this stopped me dead in my tracks, but it did set off a cascading flow of questions such as ‘was I really that oblivious to things occurring around me?,’ ‘If so, was I oblivious by choice or by accident?,’ and if I was oblivious by choice, then that would certainly qualify me as the type of self-important Washington DC contractor who delights in tuning out the pleasantries of the world in the interest of maintaining a façade of aloofness to all things not directly related to fulfilling my clients’ needs.  (If that sounds like a description of a prostitute, well…)  It took my mind about two minutes to process these ideas, at which point I began to wonder whether or not I should turn around, strap myself to the mast and return to that mythical isle so that I could lay claim to the Iced Coffee I now so desperately craved.  It was at this point that I had another thought, one which immediately caused me to stop dead in my tracks, check my watch, and promptly turn back towards the Metro. 
        Not too long ago, Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post wrote an article about people getting off the Metro and walking past a world famous violin player performing at the Metro entrance but disguised as a hobo.  The main point of the article was that people can’t recognize beauty unless it is properly packaged, but the underlying message is that all Washington DC employees are so deluded by their own sense of self-worth that they can’t even sense a good deal when it’s right in front of them.  I knew at this point that I would have no choice but to turn around, bravely march back, and demand my free iced coffee.  Within about 7 minutes I had returned to the Metro and found to my delight that the ladies of the morning where still plying their trade upon unsuspecting commuters.  I noted with even further delight that no one else was stopping to retrieve their free iced coffee.  I proudly walked up to the closest woman, figuratively lowered my metaphorical window, and proudly asked if I may have a free iced coffee, to which she immediately replied, “I’m sorry, we’re all out.”  Disheartened and feeling utterly stupid for having blown an opportunity for free iced coffee, yet feeling strangely smug at having made it a point to turn around and redeem myself in both my eyes and those of Gene Weingarten, I continued on to my office, where I immediately went to the local convenience store and purchased what my ego had prevented me from acquiring for free.  It was delicious.