Sunday, January 27, 2008

It Happened in South Carolina, Part II

Barack Obama kicked some serious backside in the Democratic primary in South Carolina. He won 55% of the total vote, Clinton got 27%, and Edwards got 18%. Admittedly, many Democratic voters in SC are, like Obama, African-Americans. Nevertheless, he did surprisingly well. Obama got two votes for every one Clinton got, and she in turn got three votes for every two that Edwards got.

SC is probably the highwater mark of the Edwards campaign. Absent catastrophic revelations about the other candidates, it is doubtful that he will do better than 18% anywhere in the future. However, given the proportional nature of Democrat primaries, he is gaining delegates in each state. Should the two leaders fall short of a first ballot majority at the Denver convention, Edwards could have the power to pick the Democrat nominee.

Our next primary benchmark will be the GOP primary in Florida, where McCain is looking somewhat less unstoppable than formerly. Unfortunately for Rudy, the person giving McCain problems is Romney.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Humor Alert

The following bit of whimsy came in via email, from I'm not sure exactly where:

On the first day, God created the dog and said:'Sit all day by the door of your house and bark at anyone who comes in or walks past. For this, I will give you a life span of twenty years.'

The dog said: 'That's a long time to be barking. How about only ten years and I'll give you back the other ten?' So God agreed.

On the second day, God created the monkey and said: 'Entertain people, do tricks, and make them laugh. For this, I'll give you a twenty-year life span.'

The monkey said: 'Monkey tricks for twenty years? That's a pretty long time to perform. How about I give you back ten like the Dog did?' And God agreed.

On the third day, God created the cow and said:'You must go into the field with the farmer all day long and suffer under the sun, have calves and give milk to support the farmer's family. For this, I will give you a life span of sixty years.'

The cow said: 'That's kind of a tough life you want me to live for sixty years. How about twenty years and I'll give back the other forty?' And God agreed again.

On the fourth day, God created man and said: 'Eat, sleep, play, marry and enjoy your life. For this, I'll give you twenty years.'

But man said: 'Only twenty years? Could you possibly give me my twenty,the forty the cow gave back, the ten the monkey gave back, and the ten the dog gave back; that makes eighty, okay?''

Okay,' said God, 'You asked for it.'

So that is why for our first twenty years we eat, sleep, play and enjoy ourselves. For the next forty years we slave in the sun to support our family. For the next ten years we do monkey tricks to entertain the grandchildren. And for the last ten years we sit on the front porch and bark at everyone.

Life has now been explained to you.There is no need to thank me for this valuable information. I'm doing it as a public service.

Quote of the Day

My quote of the day comes ABC's The Note political blog. They report the words of Barack Obama, speaking about his primary opponent, Hillary Clinton:
I have no doubt that once the nomination contest is over, I will get the people who voted for her. Now the question is can she get the people who voted for me?

Or will they stay home? Do you have any doubt that he is asking the right question?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Dems Fight

In a debate among the three Democratic presidential candidates, Obama and Clinton accused each other of lying. Undoubtedly, many of these accusations were accurate, on both sides. As we all remember, if a politician's mouth is moving s/he is lying.

As a voter who usually votes GOP, I enjoy watching Democrats beat up on each other. Whatever the loser says about the winner will be ammunition for whichever GOP candidate ends up being the nominee.

These folks didn't learn the Great Communicator's Eleventh Commandment: never speak ill of a member of your own party. Reagan understood there was no point in Republicans beating up on their own folks.

Cold Wave Hits Northern States

This Associated Press story reports serious cold in Idaho, Wyoming, Maine, and upstate New York. Even Indiana is getting some below zero temperatures, according to the other DrC's online students there. For example
In the northern Rockies, Butte, Mont., registered 32 below at 8 a.m. — with a wind chill of minus 47, the weather service said.

I sure hope all those folks along the northern tier are enjoying this global warming.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

It Happened in South Carolina

Congratulations to John McCain on winning the Republican primary election in South Carolina. He beat Gov. Huckabee by about 4%. Still, in a multi candidate field, McCain only managed to get about one vote in three. It could be argued that Huckabee and Thompson split the social conservative vote. However, in SC there is a very large national defense conservative group, many active duty and retired military, and their families. Much of this group voted for McCain.

Meanwhile, in the Nevada caucuses Hillary edged Barack in the popular vote while he actually got one more delegate than she did. The big loser in NV was Edwards who got like 4% of the folks supporting him. On the Republican side Romney won handily as (a) he was the only candidate who campaigned there and (b) NV has a large Mormon population, nearly all of which votes Republican.

So...this round of contests did not produce the kind of puzzling outcomes that the earlier ones produced. In a week we'll see the Florida primaries and watch Giuliani either redeem his campaign strategy, or more likely, crash and burn. Hunter is dropping out and one expects Thompson to do likewise, if not this week, then surely after FL.

We likely saw the high water of the Huckabee phenomenon in Iowa, although he ran a strong second in SC. His populist message doesn't work for most mainstream Republicans but he remains one of the most talented campaigners in the party. He has more unforced, natural charm than anybody running, with the possible exception of Barack Obama. He could well end up as a VP candidate.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Russians Brace for Deep Freeze

Lay in an extra supply of vodka anti-freeze. This article reports that the weather gurus in Russia are predicting/expecting exceptionally cold weather this winter in central Russia. It normally is quite cold, they expect it to be colder than normal. No doubt this is another result of global warming.

Political Humor

Check out this report of a speech Barack Obama gave in Nevada. He was having some fun at the expense of the Clintons and Edwards, and the audience loved it. Here is a sample:
Obama (mentioned) another Clinton answer in the debate, when she said that she is happy that the bankruptcy bill she voted for in 2001 never became law.

"She says, 'I voted for it but I was glad to see that it didn't pass.' What does that mean?" he asked, again drawing laughter from the crowd and himself. "No seriously, what does that mean? If you didn't want to see it passed, then you can vote against it! People don't say what they mean.

Read the whole article; I begin to understand why he appeals to the more educated, successful Democrats. This might actually be a Democrat whom I could listen to, albeit briefly, without hitting the mute button or wanting to throw something at the TV.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

He Did What???

Barack Obama's pastor, one Rev. Jeremiah Wright, drew an interesting parallel in a recent sermon. The Baltimore Sun reports as follows:

Some argue that blacks should vote for [Mrs.] Clinton "because her husband was good to us," he continued.

"That's not true," he thundered. "He did the same thing to us that he did to Monica Lewinsky."

I think that might do for my quote of the day.

Greenland Shivers, Chicken Little Burns

In recent years there has been concern about shrinkage of the Greenland ice cap. This story in The Copenhagen Post is therefore good news. It reports that Greenland is having near-record cold weather.

The one characteristic of climate about which science is certain: from time to time it changes. Always has, always will. Get over it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Flashman, R.I.P.

Christopher Hitchins writes in the National Review Online of the demise of the author of the Flashman novels, George MacDonald Fraser, dead at age 81. Taking a minor character from the earlier novel Tom Brown's School Days by Thomas Hughes, Fraser asked himself what happened to the bully Flashman after he left school.

Fraser's answer to this question was deeply subversive. His grown-up Flashman was a coward and a rotter who did very well in life, earning many kudos and awards which he did nothing to merit. As a reader of the Flashman chronicles, I had to conclude that Fraser believed many of the honored heroes of the British Empire were in fact four flushers and con artists. If Flashman could do it, why not other iconic figures of the 19th century British Empire?

People who've read one or more books in the series are never indifferent, you either loved Flashman or hated him. I thought the books were great fun, the other DrC couldn't stand them. I am sad that there will be no more of them, alas.

Brigadier Sir Harry Paget Flashman, V.C., K.C.B., K.C.I.E., Chevalier, Legion of Honour; rest in peace, you old scoundrel.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

It Happened in Michigan

Isn't this the most fun presidential primary season you ever saw? I love it. On the GOP side we have three different winners in the first three contested states: Huckabee in Iowa, McCain in New Hampshire, and Romney in Michigan (my home state of Wyoming doesn't count since nobody went there to campaign). What if Thompson wins in South Carolina and Giuliani wins in Florida? These outcomes are possible and, to a politics junkie, seductive. Imagine if we had an oldtime convention where nobody won on the first ballot and delegates really mattered.

I was listening to political analyst Dick Morris on Fox tonight. Morris sees the GOP fragmenting into three groups: the social conservatives backing Huckabee, the economic conservatives who are for Romney, and the national defense conservatives who support McCain or Giuliani. To be sure, the party includes all three groups but then it has done so since the Reagan days. Unlike Morris, I'd say that was nothing new.

Romney won Michigan by doing a better job of pandering to Michiganders' fears of an imploding domestic auto industry. He promised them he would fix the industry's problems, and they bought it. I'm not sure why they thought he would or could deliver on that promise, if elected. I guess it was a measure of how desperate they feel, sort of a "whoever is the last to leave Michigan, please turn out the lights" feeling.

On the Democrat side Hillary did well, against Undecided, which was a surrogate for Obama/Edwards. The Obama and Edward names weren't on the ballot since the Democratic National Committee asked them not to file. A closer analysis of the votes showed HRC did well among women, whites, and lower income folks. Obama was favored by blacks, the young, and the more affluent.

Morris is virulently anti-Hillary. He believes it is time for Edwards to form common cause with Obama, in return for a Vice Presidential slot. Together they could run as the true candidates of change, one of the magic words of this campaign. Morris is concerned that the two of them are splitting the pro-change vote, enabling HRC to get the nomination.

On Saturday we learn how South Carolina is going to vote; I can hardly wait for the next episode in this continuing drama.

Unintended Consequences Alert

The federal government will raise the required fleet average gasoline mileage for new cars, or CAFE. Check out this editorial from the Investor's Business Daily which analyzes the effects of the new law and demonstrates that it probably will not accomplish its intended goals, while making driving more dangerous and less pleasant for most of us. This is progress?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Ambrose on McCain

Check out this analysis by Jay Ambrose in The Washington Times of John McCain as a candidate for President. I think he gets the pluses and minuses of the McCain character just about right.

No question, McCain has the right goods on national defense and the war with islamofascism. He has better credentials on these key topics than any other candidate of either party. McCain understood that Rumsfeld was wrong about Iraq and said so, when nobody else in public life had done so.

Unlike Ambrose, I am not especially infuriated by the McCain-Feingold campaign finance limitations. That issue is pretty much inside baseball; that is, of interest primarily to special interest groups with deep pockets who want to buy influence and the politicians who need their money and will sell their votes.

On the other hand, Ambrose is correct that McCain's advocacy of amnesty-with-a-fig-leaf for illegal immigrants shows McCain has a tin ear when it comes to understanding the views of his party's base voters. If stopping illegal immigration isn't issue number one with Republican voters, it is surely in the top two or three.

There comes a point at which being a maverick gets to be a real pain in the neck to everyone else. McCain passed that point and never looked back. I suspect he decided, decades ago in that North Vietnamese prison, that he would do what seemed right to him and the heck with the opinions of others. As long as he represents only himself, that is fine. When he proposes to represent me, then I want him to be interested in my opinions and to attempt to further my interests, not merely his own. He still needs to convince me that he wants to represent mainstream Republicans, to move our agenda.

Does Red = Blue?

The often-readable George Will, writing in The Washington Post, takes a very pessimistic view of Republican chances in the 2008 election. He concludes "Today, all the usual indicators are dismal for Republicans." I presume his facts are accurate, he is too much the old pro to make factual mistakes.

However, I wonder if Will isn't being too negative in his interpretation of those facts. The election in November, 2008, won't be between some generalized Democrat and some generalized Republican. That is what the party affiliation numbers he cites reflect.

November's contest will be between either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama and one of several Republicans running. Leaving aside the shortcomings of the GOP hopefuls, it must be said that neither HRC nor Obama is a particularly compelling candidate. Both have major shortcomings, reasons why substantial blocs of voters won't want to vote for them. Is it necessary to reflect that for over two centuries no woman nor African-American has ever been a major party U.S. presidential candidate?

If November, 2008, turns out to be a race between two relatively uninspiring candidates, we could see a low voter turnout on election day. Historically, low turnouts favor Republican candidates. In other words, George, it ain't over till it's over.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Fred Isn't Dead...Yet

This New York Times article suggests that Fred Thompson did himself some good in the debate in South Carolina. Dare we say it is about time he got in some licks? The "fredheads" better hope it isn't too late...again.

Global Cooling???

Check out this Associated Press article which reports that, for the first time in living memory snow fell in Baghdad. Plus last winter Buenos Aires experienced their coldest winter in many years. Now remind me, weren't we supposed to be experiencing global warming?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Bradley Effect Strikes Again

In the 1980s, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley twice ran for California governor. The polls showed he would win; he lost both times. That is, the polls consistently overestimated how many people actually did vote for him. The generally accepted explanation for this phenomenon: Tom Bradley was an African-American.

A significant proportion of potential voters tell pollsters they will vote for a black candidate when they know they will do no such thing. This bias has even carried over into the exit polls, leading news media to predict wins for black candidates who ultimately lose. What isn't clear is the extent to which this Bradley Effect reflects actual racism or alternatively, a fear of unfairly being seen as racist.

So much for the history lesson, now let us examine the Obama phenomenon over the past couple of weeks. In the Iowa caucuses where Democrats have to stand up in the presence of their like-minded neighbors and declare their preference for a candidate, Obama won. In the privacy of the New Hampshire voting booths, Obama lost. Why? The Bradley Effect is a prime suspect. Given that most of the primary decisions henceforth are votes rather than caucuses, expect a Clinton victory. At the very least, discount poll results showing support for Obama.

It Happened at the New Hampshire Primaries

Well, this is a pretty kettle of fish! Neither of the people who won the IA caucuses won the NH primaries. HRClinton won the Democratic primary and John McCain won the GOP primary. Excellent!

This means the primary race continues to be interesting. At least two people have a claim to front-runner status for the nomination in each party. Realistically, the number who could possibly win is probably larger than two and maybe as large as four in the GOP and Democrat Edwards still has a shot, albeit a long shot.

Interestingly, the most qualified Democratic candidates have all been washed out. Dodd and Biden left after IA and I understand Richardson will drop out today or tomorrow. We are left with three very junior Senators: Clinton and Obama still serving and Edwards a former Senator.

Republican candidates are somewhat more seasoned. McCain has lots of Senate (and POW) experience. Huckabee did several terms as AR governor, Romney did one term as MA governor but has interesting industry experience, of which it is always difficult to judge the relevance. Giuliani was a successful (or not) mayor of a tough city and federal prosecutor.

The thing to remember is that successful presidential candidates are most often former governors, not former senators. Lots of unsuccessful presidential candidates have been senators, think Kerry, Dole, etc. The race remains interesting from several perspectives.

Travel Blogging, Part II

The San Blas Islands were generally unappreciated by the passengers aboard the Pacific Princess. Folks weren't prepared for the mostly pre-Columbian lifestyle of the native people who live there. We had fairly rough water getting into and out of these islands. Some passengers didn't show up for supper.

Our ship experienced a minor outbreak of Norovirus over the last three days of the cruise, and the other DrC was one of its victims. It was no fun but she is better today. I gave the last of my seven lectures yesterday and today we are ashore, the cruise is over. Generally, those 26 days were excellent. Pitcairn Island and Easter Island were certainly two places I never thought I'd visit.

To all the friendly people we met aboard and shared a meal or table with, or who attended our lectures, I wish you the old mariner's blessing: may you have fair winds and following seas.

Friday, January 4, 2008

It Happened at the Iowa Caucuses

Something weird happened on the way to New Hampshire. Supposed front-runner Hillary Clinton came in third, behind Barack Obama and John Edwards. Admittedly, the votes received by Clinton and Edwards were very close to identical, but Obama clearly won. It would appear that many Democrats hold the same "electability-of-Hillary" questions that have been expressed in this column. If she loses in New Hampshire her future in supra-Senatorial politics will be in serious question.

On the Republican side Huckabee won, beating Mitt Romney handily. Sure, it was evangelicals who put him over the top and there aren´t many of them in NH but.... I listened to Huckabee´s victory speech to his supporters in Iowa and it was the first time I´d paid him any attention. He is a good speaker, he does "genuine" very well indeed. Thompson and McCain essentially tied for third, and will both soldier on for awhile.

Check out Peggy Noonan´s take on the Iowa happenings. As usual, she is very perceptive on matters political.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Travel Blogging, Part I

Moorea is still the prettiest of the islands of French Polynesia, however much people want to brag about Bora Bora. The mountains there are so spectacular they almost don´t look real. Then we sailed east to fabled Pitcairn Island, where the descendents of the Bounty mutineers live. They are a healthy looking bunch, came aboard the ship to sell trinkets and stamps. The European genes predominated, few of them look very Polynesian. Pitcairn is very vertical, has no beaches and the small boat landing is problematic, to say the least. In some weather a small boat couldn´t even get in there. Pitcairn is, however, quite green and forested.

Easter Island, on the other hand, is largely barren as has been reported. Most of it looks like pasture and relatively poor pasture at that. The great stone statues are even more spectacular in person than they have been all these years in pictures. Man, that is some amazing stone carving. We saw the quarry where they were shaped, one still lying there not quite finished. We heard the whole big ear/little ear battle thing where the little ears won and established the birdman cult. Easter Island is one of those places where you feel like you are on the far side of the moon.

Sailing east from Easter Islands, we took another four days to reach the coast of South America. We put in at San Martin, Peru, which is very barren. The terrain looks like the deserts of northern Chile. It appeared that they were exporting bulk sand, of which they have plenty, probably to refurbish a resort beach somewhere. The next day we sailed to Callao, the port of Lima, Peru. Man, that is one impressive container port. I suspect Lima/Callao is the biggest container port on the west coast of South America. I know it is bigger than Valparaiso, Chile, and bigger than the Mexican ports. Furthermore, it didn´t have a third world look to it. Everybody had a job and was busily doing it, nobody was standing around with their hands in their pockets. Maybe it is run by a first world company, I wouldn´t be surprised.

After a day and a half in Callao, we sailed to Manta, Ecuador. This is a big tuna fishing port, the fleet is quite large and very modern-looking. Many brands you´ve heard of export canned tuna from Manta. We went ashore and had a city tour. Manta has the same down-at-the-heels look as most cities in Costa Rica, Panama, or Mexico. On the other hand, I didn´t see a lot of people just hanging out doing nothing. And, I didn´t see a lot of people who were either ragged or hungry. The architecture leaves much to be desired from an American esthetic but that is my problem, not theirs.

Sailing north from Manta we crossed the Equator and the ship held the usual ceremony to initiate the pollywogs into the Ancient Order of Shellbacks. As old shellbacks ourselves, we skipped the ceremony and did laundry while the laundry room was largely empty.

Today we transitted the Panama Canal, with beautiful weather and stunning views. The Pacific Princess has this lounge at the top in the bow with floor to ceiling sloping windows, comfy chairs, and air conditioning. That is the way to enjoy the Canal, sitting comfortably with a panoramic view and a cold drink. It was a neat day. Now we are at dock on the Caribbean side of Panama, at Colon, and will sail tomorrow to the San Blas Islands of Panama, the next day we are in Limon, Costa Rica, and we´re taking a tour.