Fringe Audiences

The recent outbursts at Republican debates are exactly why I always refer to myself as a conservative and not a Republican. Cheering for capital punishment, condemning a hypothetically sick 30 year old to death, and, most abhorrently, booing an openly gay soldier serving in Iraq doesn’t attract mainstream voters. It repels.

To be fair, the left has more than its fair share of crazies. Just look at some of the fringe elements blocking roadways and harassing New Yorkers on Wall Street this week. But, the Republican crazies, to my disappointment, seem to be the more hateful and hypocritical of the bunch.

Either way, if the Republican Party wants to win in November it better take the microphone and spotlight away from these types of people who make it harder for independent voters and disaffected Democrats to vote for the name next to the R. Because now they’re only creating campaign fodder and allowing the media to cast a negative light on the race to unseat President Obama. Just look around the Internet for the number of articles talking about the outbursts, which could instead be dedicated to more meaningful political discussion.
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Life in Okinawa

Life in Okinawa is good so far. As someone who likes traveling to different places and experiencing different cultures, I was worried that the US military presence on Okinawa might have diluted the Okinawan culture here. However, that is definitely not the case. Once you leave the gates of the many bases here on the island, there’s no question that you’re in Japan. There are some restaurants and bars on the closest blocks to base that cater to American servicemen, but you’d be hard pressed to find many English speakers or signs closer than that.

Though I’m told the hottest days are past us for the year, most days are hot and humid in the mid to low 80s with pretty steady winds. It’s typhoon season, so it seems like we’re always on watch for one or feeling the remnants of a system that passed by. The coasts and beaches look really nice, with Caribbean-like waters and lots of coral. The scuba diving and snorkeling is supposed to be some of the best in the world. Inland, the island resembled the LOST island, with lots of mountains full of trees and greenery. Okinawa Island is 65 miles long and only 2-15 miles wide, so it’s a pretty small place. The population is just over 1 million people.

Okinawans (and now myself) drive on the other side of the road. Getting used to driving on the left hasn’t been as difficult as I had expected, as you usually just follow the guy in front of you. I always tell myself to keep my right knee on the yellow line. But, inside the car, I keep forgetting that I’m on the other side of the vehicle. You can tell an amateur like myself by seeing windshield wipers wiping when there’s no rain, turned on instead of a blinker. I also walk to the wrong side of the car to get in, reach for the wrong side to unbuckle my seat belt, and look to the wrong side for the rear view mirror. Cars on the island are generally older, but very low mileage because there aren’t many places to drive. I bought a Toyota Altezza from an Air Force guy a few days ago. I bet there’s more Toyota Altezza’s on Okinawa than anywhere else in Japan, because it’s as close to an American car as you can really get on island. They’re everywhere. Otherwise, you’d be driving a little box on little wheels with a little Japanese engine. And all Japanese cars are silver or white. Not much variety.

Since base housing is full, I should soon be living out in town, which is exciting. That will force me to get away from the comforts of Subway and Dunkin Donuts on base, where I’ve pretty much been eating every day. Though, I have experienced a fair share of Japanese and Asian foods, including sushi at a place that delivers sushi on a rotating conveyor belt throughout the restaurant and delivers special order sushi on a race car shaped tray that zips to your table on the conveyor.

For contact, I bought a US Skype number (781 544 4908), so that people can call from home for free. The Skype app on iPhone is awesome. If someone calls that number, the Skype app knows to automatically open and it rings through Skype instead of the actual Japanese cell phone service, which would be expensive. I’m 13 hours ahead of EST here.

That’s all for now. Week two on Okinawa begins tomorrow. I’ll post more pictures to the site or Facebook soon.
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iPhone

Bought an iPhone 4 out here in Okinawa, as there aren’t any Blackberries to be found. I generally like it, though I miss my Blackberry sometimes. The Internet on the iPhone is awesome compared to the Blackberry, and I like using apps for frequently used websites like Politico and for personal services like banking and credit cards. The camera is also way better than the one on my Bold.

Despite all the good, I really miss the Blackberry key board and the message indicator light that blinks when you have an email or text/bbm. If you miss the vibrate or ring on the iPhone you have to wake up the phone for it to search for new messages. I wish Blackberry hadn’t screwed up the Torch, which is only offered by AT&T and has a full touch screen with a full keyboard hidden underneath, but has horrendous reviews. Maybe by the time I get back to the States Blackberry will have an answer to the iPhone (if they’re still in business by then) or the iPhone will introduce some sort of physical keyboard.
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Labeling Japanese Drivers

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Old people (70+) have to place the orange and yellow stickers on the front and back of their cars, while new drivers (<1 year experience) have to display the yellow and green stickers. Therefore, you can steer clear of them on the roadway.

They should do this in America! The ACLU wouldn’t sleep until that rule was overturned, though.

Also, cars with small engines have yellow license plates so you know it’ll take them a little longer to accelerate or make it up a hill. Cars with larger engines have white plates.
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Goodbye, Scituate

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Perry Debates

The past two Republican debates have been a rude awakening for Rick Perry, who has been attacked on all sides both nights. The attacks have clearly gotten under his skin. The images of a smooth, tough-guy politician we saw when he announced have given way to a flustered, sometimes incoherent debater.

The fringe candidates like Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann have hit Perry on conservative issues that aren’t on many people’s radar given the state of the economy, such as immigration and parental rights. While the more mainstream Mitt Romney has fired away on his positions, record, and rhetoric with regards to the economy and social security. The combination of these attacks has caused the far-right to question his conservatism, which was previously undeniable as one of the tea party favorites, while political operatives now question his electability further than his obvious weakness of reminding people of President Bush.

A Gallup poll released yesterday has President Obama ahead of Mitt Romney by only four points, but ahead of Rick Perry by double digits. Both strategists and voters who once thought Mr. Romney had an electability issue because of his perceived sliminess or too-perfect image, have had the tables turned. Romney’s camp must now relish the fact that they can make the electability argument to voters. The presence of the fringe candidates over the past months has really made Mitt look pretty mainstream. And his strategy of talking about nothing but the economy and his plans for turning it around seems to be paying off.

The coming months have many more GOP debates. We’ll see if those months give Rick Perry the time he needs to polish his debating style, fortify his positions and talking points, and reconvince primary voters that he’s the swift, strong answer to President Obama that he was made out to be when he entered the race.
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Jobs Speech

I don’t understand how President Obama gets away with giving an overly political speech that could have doubled as a campaign speech, while bashing the current political climate. Does he not think that a bunch of foolish lawmakers zealously clapping or booing his magical teleprompter act is political in itself? If the President was serious about tackling the jobs crisis in a non-political manner, he would have given an address from the Oval Office or simply released his jobs bill to the public without all the pomp and circumstance (and controversy, given the original date his picked) of a partisan room of lawmakers.

President Obama is the Politician in Chief. He has mastered the skill of politicking, yet has struggled enormously with leading. His speech the other night was a big hypocrisy.

With regards to the content of his speech and the jobs bill, the President needs to stop proposing these short term solutions such as payroll tax cuts for 2012 and focus on creating a long term business friendly regulatory and tax environment so that American companies, which are sitting on record levels of cash both at home and abroad, will spend their resources to hire workers. The President has obviously never run a company if he thinks that a one or two year tax credit for hiring long term unemployed Americans or a decrease in the payroll tax will increase hiring. What kind of company only looks a year or two in the future? The costs of hiring that employee (especially with the full effects of Obamacare set to take place in 2014) greatly outweigh any short term saving to be had by this type of bill. Why not permanently lower the capital gains tax or reduce the barriers for bringing foreign money back into the United States?

And if anyone thinks that these construction jobs that the President proposes are going to be any more “shovel-ready” than the last ones funded by the massive stimulus package... I heard Big Foot was spotted in downtown Boston yesterday.

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