Friday, May 30, 2008

Mastering the arcane -- how Obama beat Clinton

Interesting piece in the AP describing how Obama beat Clinton for the Democratic nomination. It contains a lot of information about the arcana of the Democratic nomination process and why the Obama campaign's mastery of it helped him win:

As part of the proportional system [that the Democratic party uses to award delegates from a given state based on percentage of votes won], Democrats award delegates based on statewide vote totals as well as results in individual congressional districts. The delegates, however, are not distributed evenly within a state, like they are in the Republican system.

Under Democratic rules, congressional districts with a history of strong support for Democratic candidates are rewarded with more delegates than districts that are more Republican. Some districts packed with Democratic voters can have as many as eight or nine delegates up for grabs, while more Republican districts in the same state have three or four.

The system is designed to benefit candidates who do well among loyal Democratic constituencies, and none is more loyal than black voters. Obama, who would be the first black candidate nominated by a major political party, has been winning 80 percent to 90 percent of the black vote in most primaries, according to exit polls.

"Black districts always have a large number of delegates because they are the highest performers for the Democratic Party," said Elaine Kamarck, a Harvard University professor who is writing a book about the Democratic nominating process.

Plus, Obama's campaign had the foresight to plan for a long primary season because the Democratic Party's nomination procedures are designed for that:

The system enables strong second-place candidates to stay competitive and extend the race - as long as they don't run out of campaign money.

"For people who want a campaign to end quickly, proportional allocation is a bad system," [Democratic strategist Tad] Devine said. "For people who want a system that is fair and reflective of the voters, it's a much better system."

Back and on track

The Monk has returned from his vacation in the Far East.

Japan is a fine place to visit and Monkette wants to do so again. More details at some point in the not distant future.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Obamaniacs are not democrats

On the aol homepage today there is an article that Democrats can't fully restore delegates [from Florida and Michigan] - this is part of Hillary's last gambit as we noted here.

It had one of these web polls attached to it. The question was:

"Do you think all delegates from Michigan and Florida should be seated?"

I voted to see how the breakdown would go. The results were not surprising:

(Click here for a web image of the poll)

No: 53% [34,749]
Yes: 41% [26.833]
Not sure: 6% [3,393]

I voted "Yes" as would most of my persuasion who wants to see the Democratic battle continue to the Convention. But let's analyze these numbers for a second. Certainly it is unscientific but the raw numbers are so large that it really doesn't matter.

Most conservatives, Republicans and McCain supporters would vote YES for the same reason I did. That would reasonably be a significant portion of the YES votes. The rest of the YES votes would be Hillary Clinton supporters though Democrats who use the web are probably Obamaniacs.

About the 53% who voted NO: A slim number of these probably consider that rules are rules and should be followed. Fine. The rest are Democrats who are Obama supporters who only want to see their man win, LEGITIMATE VOTES BE DAMNED.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Obama Fact

House Minority Leader John Boehner delivers a stinging blow to Obama in the WSJ:

"[He] has been a member of the United States Senate for three years and four months. And he has done exactly one thing for three years and four months: Run for president. He hasn't done anything. Whoever heard of a subcommittee chairman never having had a hearing?" (Mr. Obama chairs a Senate subcommittee on European affairs, which has not held a policy hearing since he took over as chairman in January, 2007)


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Rain on the scarecrow, 2008 style

The iconic anthem detailing the plight of the family farmer in the American Midwest is John Mellencamp's Rain on the Scarecrow, which was essentially the theme song of the various Farm Aid concerts and which reflected public perception of the family farmer struggling to make do financially.

Not now.

As the WSJ reports, "At a time when Americans are squeezed at the grocery store, they will now see more of their taxes flow to the very farmers profiting from these high food prices." Prices for wheat (87%), corn (94%), barley (56%), soybeans (70%), and rice (79%) are far higher than their five-year averages. And the Congressional farm bill, which will continue the high subsidies the farmers receive (which are supposed to compensate for having to lower prices to meet world market price, not just remain an income stream), even adds to the list of subsidized commodities because "[o]f the 17 most subsidized commodities, only rice and cotton will get a slight reduction in payments, while the bill extends the farm welfare net to lentils, chick peas, fruits and vegetables, and even organic foods. There are new programs for Kentucky horse breeders and Pacific Coast salmon fishermen, and your tax dollars will help finance the dairy industry's 'Got Milk?' campaign." Only farmers with incomes over $750K per year won't qualify for the subsidies.

Of course, this boondoggle also gives huge benefits to America's sugar producers -- among the largest beneficiaries of Congressional largess and one of the strongest agricultural lobbies in the country. And the GOP in Congress will roll over and probably vote for this in a veto-proof majority.

What a travesty.

Climate skepticism 101

The most preposterous part of the climate change madness that has infected governments throughout the developed world (the fastest developing undeveloped nations -- India and China -- have no use for this nonsense) is the lack of cost-benefit analysis. The Monk took the ridiculous carbon footprint analysis at and learned that as a somewhat lower than average carbon emitter among Americans (I don't drive even 8000 miles per year), he'd have to cut his carbon footprint by 90% to meet the organization's baseline average that would ward off climate change.

I'm not living in a box and sleeping under pelts in winter in the ludicrous hope that what I'm doing will save the world.

Seriously, there is no climate model in existence that accurately replicates the behavior of the world's climate for any period of time -- the world warms, it cools. The overwhelming majority of climate change is related to the Sun's activity. In the early 1970s Paul Ehrlich and his followers warned of a coming ice age, now he and his ilk warn of a man-made overheating of the world. This is simply bunk.

But it's fashionable bunk and when some belief is fashionable, those who haven't adopted it are the ones who are wrong. After all, the "majority" has spoken -- despite manipulation of evidence (hockey stick graph), politicization of science (the IPCC) and rampant demagoguery (two words: Al Gore). So the ends justify the means, you gotta crack some eggs to make an omelette, blah blah blah. Why examine effectiveness, cost-benefit ratio, or even need for the action? After all, the best part of the climate change mandates will be to cripple the US economy and restrain capitalism -- a definite goal of the environmental movement since Rachel Carson wrote that mendacious travesty that started the whole thing more than 40 years ago.

Programming note

The Monk will be away in the Far East for the next week and a half, so posts will be even more minimal than they have. This is The Monk's first trip to a place where he not only does not know the language, but is also a complete illiterate -- at least in Greece (the only other place I've been without a Roman alphabet) I could figure out most of the words because I knew the Greek alphabet pretty well.

Hopefully between now and my return the Yanks will average more than 3 runs per game.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Burning out injustice

Kudos again to The FIRE (and the ACLU) for its efforts to smarten up the administration at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis (better known as IUPUI) after its Affirmative Action Office branded janitor Keith John Sampson a racist for reading an anti-Klan book on his breaks.


Read his piece in the NY Post.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Hillary Gambit

Why is Hillary Clinton staying in the race?

Three reasons: Ambition, Calculation and Strategy

The obvious answer is that she possesses ambition to shame Brutus and Antony together. But while true and what is ultimately driving her its also trivial.

Stubborn she may be but she's crazy like a fox. An announcement by her campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe today that the race for the Democratic nominee will be over by early June exposes light on Mrs. Clinton's final toss. Why is early June important? All the primaries will be over by then but more importantly the credentials committee that determines whether the Michigan and Florida delegations will be seated meets on May 31.

The Obama crazed media doesn't like to mention it but if the delegates from those two states are seated it makes the gap between Obama and Clinton materially closer. Let's look at the numbers.

In Michigan where Obama removed his name from the ballot Mrs. Clinton won 51% of the popular vote which is worth 80 delegates. 35% of the electorate voted for other candidates which works to 55 delegates.

In Florida where Mrs. Clinton beat Obama by a 50-33% in the popular vote which would mean a delegate advantage of 113 to 72 or a difference of 41 delegates.

If you add the two Mrs. Clinton makes up 121 of the approximately 150 by which she currently trails.

Clinton will win West Virginia and Kentucky handily which could make up the 30 delegates left which could mean a dead heat before the superdelegates are counted. The Clinton campaign is betting that the DNC dare not antagonize both Michigan AND Florida and while the likelihood of the math working exactly as I've described is small the Clintons are hoping for a successful Hail Mary.

Finally there is a minute but possible chance that Obama accidentally says what he thinks after losing West Virginia by 25 points, namely, "Only DUMB white people vote for Hillary"

Even if that does not work winning 6 out of the last 7 major contests could make her a more plausible VP nominee.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Chain of fools

What happens when a variety of New York Times restaurant reviewers go to chain restaurants to review what the average folk eat? Some hilarity, some snobbery and a lot of surprised satisfaction.

The two best things about chain restaurants are quality control and predictability. Quality control has more than one aspect -- there's the fact that each restaurant must meet specific levels of quality in the food preparation and the fact that each restaurant is rigidly inspected and reviewed by the brand or regional managers to ensure that specific standards are met in operational efficiency, cleanliness, timeliness, etc. Predictability means that when I go to a Chipotle in New York, I'll get the same burrito bowl I get in Dallas if I ask for the same ingredients.

Ultimately, for efficiency, practicality and quality, chain restaurants are generally good. Even the restaurants on the lower end of the scale, like TGI Fridays, Saltgrass and The Olive Garden, have improved the taste and variety of their offerings, and they've done so because they compete with slightly more upscale chains like Chili's, Outback, or Romano's Macaroni Grill.

All to the best, I say.

A Loving woman

Virginia claims it's for lovers . . . but premarital sex was illegal when I went to school there (yeah, sure, that was enforced) and it has never been confused with the home of the interracial enlightenment.

Thus, when Mildred and Richard Loving returned to Virginia from getting married in Washington, D.C., in 1958, Virginia did not recognize their union. They had grown up near each other in rural Virginia and "began courtin'" in 1951. She also became a teen mom, but the negative consequences of that were minimal -- after all, she married the father who was devoted to her and their children.

The problem Virginia had with the Lovings' union is simple: Mildred was black; Richard was white. And Virginia had anti-miscegenation legislation, the Racial Integrity Act -- in other words, no interracial marriages in the state. They were arrested for cohabitating and given the choice -- move out of the state, or go to jail. Instead of going to jail, the Lovings moved out of state. In 1963, they sued to overturn the law. In 1967, they won -- the Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia overturned Virginia's anti-miscegenation law and effectively nullified every other state's law against interracial marriage as violative of the Equal Protection Clause -- a real no-brainer for the Court.

The Monk has personally benefited from interracial marriage, not for his own self but because the product of one is MonkCuz1. And The Monk has no use for the concept of marrying his "own kind" because there's no such thing -- how many Italo-Lithuanian Jews with Catholic fathers are you going to find, even in New York? But sometimes history is made by ordinary people who just want to live their life in peace, like two lifelong lovers who wanted to be married and live in their home state.

So today we salute the aptly named Mildred Loving, who remained married to Richard until his death in a car accident in 1975, and died last Friday at her home outside Richmond at a relatively young 68. Even if love does not conquer all, it conquered a small, mean bit of racism enforced in the Old South.

The high cost of extreme athleticism

The Monk has sprained his ankle so often, especially when he was young and played basketball every day, that he cannot count how many such injuries he had. But only once did I even have to sit out a day. Elite athletes are different: their muscles and ligaments are stretched so taut that if something goes awry, they don't merely sprain, they injure. Thus, the muscle tears and ligament pulls that are nightmares for athletes are far less common among average people who merely perform light exercise like walking.

In horseracing, the stresses on elite athletes are a deadly risk. Pat Forde notes that after the euthanisation of Eight Belles on Saturday, after she finished second in the Kentucky Derby, in five of the past 13 Saturdays counting the Breeders Cup 2005-07 and the triple crown races from 2006-present, a horse has suffered a fatal injury.

Breeding for speed, not endurance, lighter race schedules, and the obscene amount of pressure the horse puts on his legs (5000 pounds of force on each hoof when racing on a bone the size of your wrist) means thinner legs, less ability to recover and danger of fractures.

And a fracture is deadly for a horse for many reasons -- minimal blood circulation, laminitis, drug reactions, and more.

Big Brown, the Derby winner, has been touted as a potential Triple Crown winner. A horse that could finally break the drought that horse racing has suffered both in popularity and relevance because the last Triple Crown triumph (Affirmed) occurred 30 years ago. But after the fall and death of Eight Belles Saturday (and poor taste by NBC to show so much of the revelry after Big Brown's win with not much discussion of Eight Belles' condition), the sport of kings now worries about its further tarnished crown.

Ajami is right

This just in, Fouad Ajami is right!

Then again, this is not uncommon.

And here's the subject:

As Tehran has wreaked havoc on regional order and peace over the last three decades, the world has indulged it. To be sure, Saddam Hussein launched a brutal war in 1980 against his nemesis, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. That cruel conflict, which sought to quarantine the revolution, ended in a terrible stalemate; and it never posed an existential threat to the clerical state that Khomeini had built. Quite to the contrary, that war enabled the new rulers to consolidate their hold.

Over the course of its three decades in power, this revolutionary regime has made its way in the world with relative ease. No "White Army" gathered to restore the lost dominion of the Pahlavis; the privileged classes and the beneficiaries of the old order made their way to Los Angeles and Paris, and infidel armies never showed up. Even in the face of great violation – the holding of American hostages for more than 400 days – the indulgence of outside powers held.

Compare the path of the Iranian revolutionaries with the obstacles faced by earlier revolutions, and their luck is easy to see. Three years into their tumult, the tribunes of the French Revolution of 1789 were at war with the powers of Europe. The wars of the French Revolution would last for well over two decades. The Bolsheviks, too, had to fight their way into the world of states. The civil war between the White and Red Armies pulled the Allies into the struggle. A war raged in Russia and in Siberia. It was only in 1921 that Britain granted the Soviet regime de facto recognition.

Compelling drama = NHL playoffs

The NHL strike and its serial mismanagement over the last 15-20 years is tragic. The Monk remembers when he was small and radios on street corners everywhere in New York tuned in to the Islanders-Rangers playoffs in 1979 and 1981-84. The NHL's fall, which is a tragedy separate from the horrendous mismanagement of the Isles from 1994-present, came from overexpansion, failure to enhance the TV telecast experience, and meteoric salary increases.

But the NHL still has the single most dramatic product of all major sports -- its playoffs. And especially, overtime playoff games.

Indeed The Monk was riveted to his sofa for the last two periods AND the first three OTs of the Stars-Sharks game last night, and ruefully pulled himself away from the game because he needed sleep and a sick Monkling threatened the availability thereof. Back in my college days, I'd have continued watching deep into the night -- my jaw dropped so hard I pulled facial muscles when Evgeny Nabokov made a glove save against Brad Richards in the first OT by spinning and flinging his arm out to stop a shot destined for a wide-open net.

Too bad, the NHL did so much to shoot itself in the collective foot. It still has a fine product come playoff time.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Yanktriots no more?

Ok, we'll take back a bit of our commentary on the Yanks playing funny with the DL -- I'm still suspicious of the Betemit situation, but the bad news for the Yanks is that Phil Hughes is down and out for another half-season. Last year, he popped a hamstring while pitching a no-hitter; this year he has a stress fracture of a rib. That means no pitching for a month and probably no Phil Franchise until after the All-Star break. It also means that the Yanks will lose a year of building up his arm strength -- further delaying his development.

Hughes looked horrible Tuesday -- the fastball was flat, the breaking ball had no bite, and he was releasing his pitches with his hand on the side of the ball and his arm virtually tucked into his side. The injury may explain everything or nothing, but it gives the young pitcher some time to get his head straight, relax, rehab in the minors to rebuild his confidence, and hopefully rejoin the team for a stretch run.

In the meantime, we'll see if Darrell Rasner, who has embarrassed AAA hitters this year, can build upon the occasional success he had with the Yanks last year before he suffered a season-ending injury.

The New York Yanktriots

For some unknown reason, the Patriots listed Tom Brady on their mandatory NFL injury report every week last year with the following injury: shoulder (probable). Under NFL rules, "probable" means the player is 75% likely to play; "questionable" is 50% likely to play; "doubtful" is 25% likely; and "out" is what you think -- he's not playing. The chance that a 75% possibility would occur 16 straight times is a probability of 0.01; in other words 1%. So the Patriots injury report was rubbish -- there was never a 25% chance Brady would sit and the Patriots claimed him on the injury report as a way to mess with their opponents.

The Yankees seem to have taken a page from the Patriots' playbook, with a different purpose -- to skate around MLB roster rules. First, they stuck Wilson Betemit on the DL with "pink eye" because they needed a third catcher when Jorge Posada's shoulder began acting up. Now, they've placed ineffective starter Phil Hughes on the 15 day DL with an oblique strain, after Mgr. Joe Girardi first claimed that Hughes was fine and then claiming after yesterday's game that the problem arose on Tuesday. Hughes said the ailment became a problem yesterday. Now Hughes can go to Tampa for work with organizational pitching coach Nardi Contreras and not have to suffer the indignity of a demotion.

Pete Abraham, the Yanks' beat reporter for the Lower Hudson News (a Gannett paper), had this snide but accurate statement: "The Yankees face the Tigers tonight trying to avoid being swept. It’ll be Ian Kennedy against Nate Robertson. Kennedy [who's been pretty awful too] better pitch well or he could come down with that strained oblique that’s going around."

Sign of the Apocalypse - Mahathir has a blog

Former long serving Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed, known for his jeremiads against the United States and Jews, and who likely trumped up homosexuality charges to disgrace and jail a likely successor and former protege, has started his own blog.