Saturday, February 03, 2007

How About We DON’T Nominate A Loser?

To some folks it will doubtless appear to be nothing but hindsight, but it sure looks to me that the nominees sent up by the Republicans and Democrats are sometimes incredibly predictable losers.

Yes, there were times when certain polls showed John Kerry ahead in the numbers, yet I never saw even one poll where folks expected him to win. Bush started ahead in that category, never really trailed, and frankly it was because everyone figured out pretty early that Kerry was a loser. Why, exactly, the Democrats tabbed him for their mantle is one of those unexplained mysteries.

Not that the Republicans have a perfect record. I mean sure, Bob Dole was a very honorable man with a solid record, but like Kerry there was never a serious sense that he would beat Bill Clinton in 1996. The GOP had other, better, names they could have chosen, but they went with Bob anyway.

And some guys who almost won still lacked those qualities of charisma, wit, and energy that we all look for in a potential President. Al Gore, Gerald Ford, Mike Dukakis, Walter Mondale … these were “right stuff” guys? Again, I’m not attacking their honor or accomplishments, but really, when did these guys look like they should be leading the pack?

Old news, I know, but it’s relevant when we see the choices we have now. The Democrats are pushing Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Al Gore (again), and Barack Obama as their top tier choices. Of those, only Obama can claim anything like freshness, and he does that because he’s done nothing in his one term in the Senate. Yes, John Kennedy was young, but at least he could and did answer specific policy questions.

And the Republicans? John McCain, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani and so on remind me of a bunch of stereotypical politicos – former notables past their prime, wannabes who never had a “prime” on the national level, and screamers like Tancredo who can’t manage a single thought beyond their one core issue – and that issue is not the defense of the United States. Sorry, but that is a recipe for losing, not leadership. While these men each have their strong suits, there’s not one of them that reminds anyone of Dubya’s caliber, let alone Reagan.

The current state of the Democratic Party makes me slow to suggest that I could vote for any Democrat to be President, but the Republicans had better think long and hard about what we are selling to the American people. Because what we have right now, doesn’t pass the smell test.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Peace and Rest to Molly Ivins, Solace to Her Family and Friends

I never liked Molly Ivins very much. I never met her in person, so I’m talking here about her articles. I never felt inclined to spend money on her books, although I’m told they are much like her articles, only more so. I always found Ivins representative of that self-devoted clique of liberal narcissists in the media who thought they owed no honor to anyone with whom they disagreed, and like the KKK were inclined to shrug off protests from decent folk regarding their conduct – they know better than we common folk, don’t you know?

But Ivins passed away this week, and from breast cancer to boot. Since my own diagnosis I have learned quite a bit about cancer. There is no peaceful, gentle way to die from it. Cancer kills a lot of people, from every demographic group and gender and age, and even the survivors are ravaged by the fight against cancer, and never know for sure that it won’t come back. And in Ivin’s case, the damn thing came back, and she beat it again, and it came back yet again, an evil monster that finally beat her body and stole her life. Cancer has been in the news a lot this past month, actually. In addition to Ivins, Art Buchwald died from cancer, and so did Richard Kelley, President Clinton’s stepfather. Marcheline Bertrand, the mother of actress Angelina Jolie, died from cancer in January, and so did Deborah Orin of the New York Post. Vern Ruhle, pitching coach for the Cincinnati Reds, died from cancer in January along with NASCAR driver Benny Parsons. You get the idea, and we have not touched the thousands of ordinary, decent folks who died from a disease they did nothing to cause and could not hope to stop.

But cancer didn’t beat Molly. Of that I am sure. Ivins, for all my disapproval of her politics and rhetorical tactics, was a fighter, no shrinking violet, and she would hardly sit still and let it beat her. What’s interesting as well, is that Ivins showed an uncharacteristic modesty where her fight against cancer is concerned. Maybe it’s other cancer patients she had in mind, who must fight for their lives without enjoying the fame and fortune of being a well-known author, or maybe it’s just that facing the end of your life as you know it – or worse, your independence – so suddenly is humbling and sobering. No one deserves cancer, and I am impressed with anyone who is not turned into a blobbering case of self-pity when they realize what they are facing. And those who stand up and fight the disease with all they have, cannot help but earn my admiration. Ivins fought hard, every step of the way, and while she died from cancer, it did not beat her.

May God grant you rest and peace, Ms. Ivins, and may all who knew and loved you find solace and know that you won that battle which mattered most.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Press Conference at the Alternate Universe News Network

”I would like to thank the press for attending this conference. I will be making a brief statement, then I will be open for a few questions.

“As you all know, I am a patriot who has fought and bled for our great nation, and the President knows full well the service I have delivered to him and to the Army. So I was appalled to be accused as some kind of traitor.

“This nation knows that I have been three times wounded in battle, and my wife died while I was in service to the nation. I have paid out of my own pocket to supply my men with provisions and meet their needs, for which I was never recompensed by Congress. I earned my promotions through daring and courage on the field; though the President more than once praised my valor and victories, he himself has seldom enjoyed such success as a commander, save when my work made it possible, and he has had the good fortune to escape suffering the sorts of injuries which I and men like me have borne without complaint.

“It is plain to many men like me, that this war we now fight is hopeless, and our best course, likely our only hope, is to plead for negotiation to end the senseless violence which presently tears at our nation.

“Thank you. I will now accept a few questions from the press.”

‘General Arnold, I’m Tory London from the New York Times, and thank you for your service. Do you think President Jefferson is provoking this new war with Tripoli to take attention away from his mismanagement of the economy?’

”I don’t want to speculate about his motives, but you know, it’s something you do have to think about, the possibility that he is sending armed men into foreign countries because he just can’t get over the fact that we really never won that war against Britain.”

‘General Arnold, Forbes Kerry from the Boston Globe…’

”We’re old friends, Forbes, please call me Benedict-“

‘Thank you, Benedict. Some pamphleteers are trying to justify the use of military force by saying we should attack pirates in their lands, rather than wait for them to come over here and attack us. How would you answer them?’

[shakes head] ”That’s just sad, Forbes. ‘Pirates’ is a derogatory term used to marginalize complaints from people who have grievances against the American government, it has no place in civilized debate. And anyone with intelligence would know better than to listen to someone who is not established in the press as you are. I mean, these pamphleteers are just a bunch of know-nothings who like to spout off their ignorance.”

‘General Arnold, I’m Tom Paine and I’m one of those pamphleteers you just insulted. What about men of great standing who publish pamphlets?’

”I know no such ‘great men’. “

‘What about James Otis?’

”Never heard of him”

‘Samuel Adams’

[snorts] ”A loud drunkard”

‘Benjamin Franklin’

“A fat, old drunkard who chases women”

‘Paul Revere’

”A poor horseman with delusions of grandeur”

‘Alexander Hamilton’

”A poor statesman with delusions of grandeur”

‘OK, be that way. What about you trying to sell West Point to the British in 1780?’

”Old news, I did what was necessary to oppose that senseless war.”

‘So you’re not a traitor?’

”How dare you question my patriotism, just because I did not support the war! This conference is over!

[ stomps away from podium]

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Territories 2008

A lot of people say that Florida decided the 2000 Election, in the same way that they say that Ohio decided the 2004 Election. Certainly those states played a role, and the argument can be made that if things in those states had shaken out differently, so would the election, yet in actual fact there were other states which were just as critical, or more to the point, the 2008 campaign may be decided by the location of the key states this time around. It is important to look at every state as a possible win or loss. With that said, I do think we can look at the results of elections in the modern era and get a sense of what states will most likely be in play in 2008. By my calculations [which I will not go into here, except to observe that they are driven by election results and demographic trends], even the District of Columbia has only a 94% chance of landing in a certain fashion, and of the states no state shows greater than 80% chance of going a certain way. Sure, a candidate would like to hold the 80% share, but it does show that ‘certainty’ is a trap which the smart candidate will consider and avoid. Therefore, as a caveat before I go further, I would say I am using three shades of Red and Blue, and none of them absolute.

The deepest properties would be those states or that district which has gone for a certain party for at least the last 10 straight Presidential elections. For the Democrats, that would be the District of Columbia, worth 3 Electoral Votes (EV). For the Republicans, that would be the following states: Utah, Idaho, Nebraska, Wyoming, North Dakota, Kansas, Alaska, South Dakota, Indiana, Oklahoma, and Virginia. Those 11 states are worth 63 EV. Mathematically, that rather explains why Democrats who win Presidential races generally do not enjoy landslides.

The next-strongest group would be those states which have generally or clearly favored a party over the last 15 elections, but which also have gone for that same party the last 5 Presidential Elections (or 4 of the last 5, with another election decided by 1% of the vote or less). For the Democrats, that list would be Massachusetts, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Minnesota, New York, Washington, Wisconsin, and Oregon. Those 8 states and 88 EV bring the Democrats up to 8 states, one district and 91 EV.

For the Republicans, that second list would be Texas, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, and North Carolina. Those 5 states and 72 EV bring the Republicans up to 16 states and 135 EV, half of what they need to win the White House. They also keep the Republicans 44 electoral votes ahead of the Democrats at this point, with 26 states left to count.

The third-strongest group would be those states which have provided 50% or more of the popular vote in at least 9 of the last 15 Presidential Elections. For the Democrats, that list does not add a single state, but for the Republicans, that list adds the following states: Montana, Colorado, New Hampshire, and – oddly enough – Vermont! Those 4 states and 19 EV bring the Republican tally up to 20 states and 154 EV, and create a 63-vote lead for the Republicans with 22 states left to count.

OK, a 22-state field is still a large place, but we now have a true “starting position” for the race. Granted, even I find it unlikely to believe that New Hampshire and Vermont will go Red in 2008, so I will arbitrarily flip them Blue, and that gives us the following positions, regardless of the parties’ nominees:

Democrats: 10 states plus DC, 98 EV: 172 EV still needed
Republicans: 18 states, 147 EV: 123 EV still needed

If we next consider states which went 4-out-of-the-last-5 for a party, here’s what happens. The Democrats add Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Illinois, California, Michigan, New Jersey, Maine, and Iowa. Those 10 states and 160 EV bring the Democrats up to 20 states plus DC, and 258 EV, 14 EV needed to win.

For the Republicans, that condition adds Arizona and Georgia, 2 states and 25 EV. That brings the Republicans up to 20 states and 172 EV, or 98 EV needed to win with just 10 states left on the board.

Suddenly it looks like the Democrats have a commanding lead. Presuming we extend the last-5-election counter to allow for 3 of the last 5 with 1 under 1% margin, that puts Florida in the Republican tally, which I am inclined to do because of the positive ratings for Jeb Bush there, and the rotten efforts by the Democrats there. That raises the Republicans to 21 states and 199 EV, 71 EV away from a win with 9 states left to look at.

And that’s your battlefield for 2008. Kentucky, Ohio, Louisiana, Nevada, Tennessee, New Mexico, Missouri, Arkansas, and West Virginia.

I can winnow that down some more by looking again the histories of those states:

Ohio: 10 of the last 15 elections went for the Republican, 4 for the Democrat. The Republican claimed 50%+ 8 times, the Democrat 1 time.

Tennessee: 8 of the last 15 elections went for the Republican, 5 for the Democrat. The Republican claimed 50%+ 6 times, the Democrat 2 times.

Kentucky: 9 of the last 15 elections went for the Republican, 5 for the Democrat. The Republican claimed 50%+ 8 times, the Democrat 3 times.

Those three states will go Republican, unless something happens which makes all the other histories unreliable. That brings the scoreboard up to this tally:

Democrat: 20 states plus DC, 258 EV, 14 EV needed to win
Republican: 24 states, 238 EV, 34 EV needed to win

Still At Stake:

Missouri (11 EV), 8-5 Republican in last 15, 3-2 Republican in last 5, 5-3 GOP 50%+
Louisiana (9 EV), 8-7 Republican in last 15, 3-2 Republican in last 5, 8-3 GOP 50%+
Arkansas (6 EV), 8-6 Democrat in last 15, 3-2 Republican in last 5, 7-5 Dem 50%+
Nevada (5 EV), 10-5 Republican in last 15, 3-2 Republican in last 5, 6-2 GOP 50%+
West Virginia (5 EV), 10-5 Democrat in last 15, 3-2 Democrat in last 5, 7-5 Dem 50%+

So, who can win those five states? That might decide it all.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Russia – The Forgotten Threat

AJ Strata has done Pulitzer-worthy work chasing down the trail of the murderers of former spy Alexander Litvenenko and journalist Anna Politkovskaya, not that the MSM will ever admit it. I cannot do better on the specifics of this case, than to point the reader to some recent examples of AJ’s work here, here, here, here, and here.

But I would also like to expand on the matter to reconsider Russia in the context of Global events. It is commonly thought that if a nuclear bomb were to go off, a la “24”, it would be the work of Islamofascist terrorists, a paranoid fantasy carried to grim climax by the short squat dictator in North KantFeedPeople, or perhaps a mistake resulting from the Greed of Halliburton. Statistically however, by far the most likely source of a nuke going off in an American city is Russia; it is not commonly remembered or mentioned in the media that Russia still has more warheads than any nation after the United States itself, many of them still quite capable of reaching the American homeland. Oh, and did I mention that the Russian Command-and-Control of its Nuclear armament is, well, something less than optimal?

With that happy thought in mind, we now turn our attention to the Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti, your old friends and mine, the KGB. What’s that you say? There is no ‘KGB’ anymore? Well, that’s actually the problem. You see, the Sluzhba Vneshney Razvedki (SVR) – which replaced the KGB after Mikhail “Happy Face Comrade” Gorbachev handed over the Kremlin to Boris “Waddaya Got To Drink” Yeltsin – did not need nearly the numbers of employees that the KGB and its counterpart, the Glavnoe Razvedyvatel'noe Upravlenie or GRU used, to say nothing of some of the darker job descriptions. Many of these goons got kicked to the curb, and found employment with the only organization which desired their special talents and could afford to keep them fed; the Russian Mafia.

The Russian Mafia, or Bratva for short, owns and controls a great deal of modern Russia, and what it does not control it still influences. This brings us almost full circle, because one scenario of the Litvenenko/ Politkovskaya murders is the manipulation of President Vladimir Putin by Bratva. While it has not been proven, neither can such a possibility be ruled out; such is the reach and ambition of Bratva. Bratva gangs have been implicated in the United States in extortion schemes involving NHL players and teams, in suburban New York as long ago as 1975, and for brains and muscle, Bratya likes the ’Sword-and-Shield’ for ideas and daring. Just something else to think about; the likelihood that men with no love for America but a clear lust for influence and money, not only have access to nuclear weapons, but contacts with people who would love to use such weapons on America.

Against that, a hundred Jack Bauers might not be enough.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The ‘Bush Hate’ Influence

Real Clear Politics has been tracking Job Approval ratings for Dubya for quite a while now. While I disagree with their methodology, it can still be an interesting, if untrustworthy barometer for the political weather in D.C. (the District of Corruption).

The present numbers say Dubs is at 33.9% Job Approval. Pretty grim. But there’s a range in there worth noting. More to the point, look who is where.

First off, I personally reject as currently valid those polls which are more than 10 days old, so that gives us the following, revised, spread:

Rasmussen: 40%
Newsweek: 30%
Time: 37%
CNN: 34%
CBS News: 28%
NBC/Wall St Journal: 35%

OK, that’s 34.0%, which is about where RCP shows it, but look at the 12-point range between polls in that same period. Folks, that’s not very much of a consensus, especially when you have to add in the 3.5 +/- point margin of error. If these polls can claim to be accurate, there’s really a nineteen-point range of variance in poll positions. There’s a scientific term for that, but in plain English it means that at least some of these polls are worthless, absolutely not worth your trust.

Just another reminder that some folks in the media are quite willing to lie to you.

As a comment for anyone interested in digging into the details, neither Rasmussen nor Newsweek was willing to release the party identification of respondents along with their press release of the poll results. In the CBS News poll, Democrats polled outnumbered Republicans 444-292.

Just something else to think about.

Stupid, Yet Winning

CNN has a gallery of the dumbest tech failures of 2006, including:

Sony’s exploding PC batteries;

The response by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which addressed such problems by advising laptop computer users to not use laptop computers in their laps;

A promotion with the TV show “The Apprentice”, where instead of promoting the client, General Motors, the team produced an advertisement blaming GM for Global Warming;

A McDonald’s promotion in Japan which gave away thousands of MP3 players – infected with computer viruses designed to steal passwords for hackers;’s pre-game sales of UCLA’s NCAA Basketball Championship hats - - - the day before UCLA loses to Florida in the actual game;

AirTran’s collapse of their computer systems in June, leading to denial of boarding passes to thousands of customers at the airport, forcing paying customers to miss their flights while the airline ignored the problem;

and of course YouTube, which collected thousands of popular videos without requesting permission from the original site, sent a cease-and-desist demand to a user who found a way for users to save videos to their hard drive from YouTube.

What’s amazing to me, is that in spite of such “accomplishments”, the U.S. is still the model for business success for the world.