Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Oh the Webs We Weave...

There are three interesting points that really mess up picking who is going to be the Democratic candidate for President. I'm a political junkie who actually enjoys debating the strategy behind the election more than discussing the issues. Mostly because the issues are of no value in these types of elections. We should focus more on character.

First, the Edwards factor. He will continue to pile up delegates so long as he wins fifteen percent of the vote in any given primay. If the race is a close in August as it is now, someone is going to have to give Edwards something pretty good to get those delegates.

Second, the "Super-Delegates." The super-delegates actually take power away from the people. If Obama wins the majority of delegates through popular vote in primaries but loses because of super-delegate votes, the Democratic Party will look foolish. After all, the proportional voting system was supposed to encourage minority representation, while super-delegates are all about putting the power in the hands of the party elite.

Lastly, Florida and Michigan. Both states had their delegates stripped because they violated party rules by holding their primaries too early. But, once again, if the race is close, you will actually have canidates of the same party making legal arguments for and against the inclusion of these delegates. How fascinating is that?

All of these factors can work for and aginst the Democrats. Clearly, the focus is currently on Obama and Clinton. They will want to use that publicity for as long as they can. But, if Clinton "unfairly" wins the nomination because of super-delegates, that could drive Obama supporters to vote for McCain. Truly, this will be a fascinating turn of events that I will watch very closely.

Monday, February 11, 2008

What the Hell is a Super-Delegate, Anyway?

I mean, do they get to wear a cool uniform to the convention or something? And why the hell are there so many more Democrat delegates as opposed to Republicans?

There are no rational answers to most of these questions, but basically a "super-delegate" is a Democrat office holder(Senator, Congressman, Governor) or party member who can hold the candidates by the short hairs by pledging their vote to the other candidate. They vote at the convention for whomever they please, regardless of how their states vote. It's really kind of cool when you think about it, but most people do not take the time to understand how they work or why they're around at all, so they have an animus toward it. Sort of like hockey in the South.

The super-delegates are a response to the dimished power the party leaders held after the changes of the McGovern-Fraser Commission were instituted--see, simple, right?
Delegates used to be chosen in secret after caucuses were held by the party leaders of the state, giving no true power to the voters, and especially dimishing the vote of minorities. So the commission comes along and says that delegates have to represent, proportionally, the percentage of votes the candidates received.

This left the party leaders feeling vulnerable, so they created the unpledged delegates made up of elected officials and party leaders. They represent approximately 20 percent of all the delegates, so, in a close race, like this one, the super-delegates hold a great deal of power, especially the ones who wait to the last minute to endorse a candidate. Some super-delegates hold no power, like Joe Liebermann whose super-delegate status was stripped when he endorsed John McCain. Tough luck, Joe, but you know the Democratic Party has no use for a man who votes his conscience instead of toeing the party line.

The Republicans have a similar group but they represent only around five percent of the total delegates, so their impact is not as powerful. As well, nobody seems to know what the hell is going to happen with the Michigan or Florida delegates, so this whole thing could blow up in our faces worse then Dade County in 2000. God, I love politics.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Ain't Life Grand?

In nine months we will have to choose between John McCain and Hillary Clinton. I'll let that sink in for a few moments...

Wow. I can't believe that's what rises to the top of the political heap these days.

Hillary Clinton, running on her experience(8 years as a senator, but more than 25 as a politician's wife) even though she's the junior senator in her own state! Oh my goodness that's quite an impressive resume. She cares so much about children and health care, but she was on the board of directors for Wal-Mart, a corporation not exactly known for the benefits to lower and middle class workers. She campaigns against the War in Iraq, but voted for the use of force resolution. She's done a fine job of playing both ends against the middle as she portrayed herself as a moderate who supported President Bush early in his administration, but now attacks him as she has become the candidate for change(although Obama has pretty much stolen that banner from her right now).

And then there's McCain, a wolf in sheep's clothing if I've ever seen one. Goverenor Schwarzenegger praised his skills in cutting spending all of his years in Congress. Great job on that $3 trillion budget, Senator! Many applaud his apparent integrity, until they recall the Keating Five and McCain's involvement. He's definitely a conservative on family values: unlike Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh, McCain has only been married twice. But I do agree with on the need to reform immigration laws. But I think that we need to secure the borders first, then decide what we do with the ones we allow in. By focusing on guest worker programs, McCain has put the cart before the horse.

McCain vs. Clinton... Where's McGovern when you need him?

Thursday, May 3, 2007


I hate elections. I am as far right-wing as a human being can be on certain issues, and as far to the left on others. So finding a viable candidate to vote for is a humiliation of irreducible proportions. The '08 presidential election is going to be horrible. I am actually hoping that Newt Gingrich and Hillary Clinton win their respective party's nominations. That way, perhaps, a third party candidate could be a viable option. This hope springs from the fact that the system by which the United States elects its Representatives is greatly flawed. The plurality system says that each tiny proportion of the country gets to pick its representative. Why?
This results in the disenfranchisement of millions of Americans who see a representative in office who shares very few of their beliefs. This is a particularly dangerous process when you have two parties in control. In Israel, they use a proportional system based on a single "closed list constituency." Basically, Israel's parliament, the Knesset, is filled by voters voting for a party. The percentage of votes each party gets determines the number of seats they get in the Parliament. Because this is a "closed list," the parties themselves determine the order of their candidates who would enter the parliament. In an "open list" proportional system, each candidate must receive a certain number of votes to earn a spot. Open list voting is a little tricky and dangerous. Parties and candidates maneuver themselves so that the party is most successful without pulling too many votes from other party members. While more radical, I prefer the closed list approach and am looking forward to one day seeing it in our country.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

The Thrashers Are In!

While I will generally talk about politics and other topics of the day on this blog, it is my blog and I want to talk about my beloved Atlanta Thrashers. On April 1, the Thrashers clinched a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in their seven seasons of operations. I remember that first Atlanta Thrashers game back in October 1999. I still have my ticket, in the little souvenir display box that we received immediately after walking through the gates. I remember singing the national anthem and watching Bernie "Boom Boom" Geoffrion drop the ceremonial first puck. We lost that game 4-1 to the New Jersey Devils with Kelly Buchberger scoring the lone goal, against Martin Brodeur, on a nice assist from Patrik Stefan.
Bernie Geoffrion is dead. Kelly Buchberger is retired and coaching back in Edmonton. Patrick Stefan is in Dallas of all places.
But I am still in Atlanta and very much looking forward to seeing an Atlanta Thrashers playoff game. Whether it's game 1 or game 2, I will be present and I will lose my voice cheering in Blueland. I will drink too much Guinness and my wife will have to apologize to the fans of the opposing team who I offended. And it will be wonderful.
The history of the Atlanta Thrashers is checkered, at best. Our premier player, Ilya Kovalchuk is despised by many in the league for being a show-off and a braggart. Don Cherry hates him. Mike Comrie isn't too fond of him either. Our best all-around player, Marian Hossa, was traded for, arguably, our most popular player, Dany Heatley, after Heatley requested a trade.
And then there's Dany Heatley and Dan Snyder, a story so tragic I get emotional every time I think about it. Dan Snyder was a wonderful young man who was taken from us far too soon. All Atlanta Thrashers fans remember him very fondly.
The lack of success from a well-built franchise is the biggest albatross hanging around the Thrashers' neck, however. Hockey insiders have, for years, spoken of GM Don Waddell's commitment to building this team from the ground up and he has been widely praised for the deals he has made(Marc Savard for Ruslan Zainullin?!?!) G Kari Lehtonen is believed by many to be on the verge of greatness and coach Bob Hartley has a Stanley Cup ring from his tenure with the Colorado Avalanche. But this team was supposed to make the playoffs last season. Massive goaltending injuries made sure that didn't happen. It was a disappointing end of season and the off-season was tough as well. The team made a couple of moves, but the lineup was fundamentally similar to the previous year. Could this team avoid injuries(a plague on this franchise) and attain the success everyone knew they were capable of?
Yes, yes a thousand times yes!
The Thrashers were off to a blazing start and emerged as a serious threat when they derailed the Buffalo Sabres' quest for a record win streak. They were getting great goaltending from Lehtonen and the defense corps, long our Achilles' heel, was playing well together. Then came the January-February swoon. With the Tampa Bay Lightning playing well, the Thrashers' picked a lousy time to fold up their tents.
And then came the trade deadline. In the past we were either sellers at the deadline, or Waddell felt the price teams were asking was too high. But this year Waddell had to make a deal. He picked up Eric Belanger, Alexei Zhitnik, Pascal Dupuis and Keith Tkachuk. On Monday, February 26, 2007, I saw Keith Tkachuk wearing Cam Neely's number 8 in an Atlanta Thrashers sweater. I was almost moved to tears so giddy was I with excitement.
Since the trade deadline the Thrashers have won 11 of 15 games and are one of the hottest teams in the league. Not a bad way to enter our first playoff hunt.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Why Global Warming Is a Good Idea

I love the global warming debate. I love the way the media portrays this as a new phenomenon. When did Al Gore write Earth In the Balance? Back in 1992 when he was running for Vice President. He said that the automobile was going to destroy man. Forget the fact that the industry of the automobile might be the single most important technological in the history of the world. The automobile shrunk the world and made trips that would take days, instead take mere moments. Here's a question for you greenies: You're having a stroke, do you me to drive you to the hospital or get the horse and buggy?
Here are some questions about global warming that bounce around my brain:
How can scientists say that the earth will get warmer in the future when they can't tell me if it is going to rain tomorrow, with any degree of accuracy? These same scientists predicted global cooling in the mid-1970's.
Why are scientists who dispute global warming likened to Holocaust deniers and silenced at all costs?
Why is global warming a political issue instead of a scientific debate?
My problem with global warming is that scientists who dispute it are labeled as stooges for capitalism, instead of being debated intellectually. They are threatened or cajoled, denied research grants and generally abused for holding a position that is politically incorrect. The Earth is pretty old(4,570,000,000 years, give or take), and to think that the it is warming because of humans, that's ridiculous. But the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change(IPCC) says it is so. The media jumps on the bandwagon and away we go. In the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report(by the way, that's four assessment reports in 19 years, the IPCC was formed in 1988, guess these guys get paid by the hour) they say there is a 90% certainty of heavy rainfall and a 66% certainty of increases in droughts over the next century. Well, which is it? My college logic professor(Dr. Nishimura) would not be impressed by their simultaneously taking both sides of the one position.
The reaction to global warming will have a disastrous effect on third world countries, particularly in Africa. Maybe this is the whole point. I have become convinced that certain portion of the American population wants to see a return to primitive living. They want to see it without losing their frappucinos and digital satellite dishes, though. So they decide to inflict their vision on other people. They label Africa a pristine environment that cannot be touched. Most of the countries in Africa are run by tribes who spend more time killing each other than hiking and camping. The progress that is attempting to save this continent will never happen if global warming activists get their way.
Who cares if the polar ice caps melt(although some Russian and American scientists reported in 2005 that the Greenland ice cap was getting thicker)? The artic ice cap is a floating piece of ice. If it melts it will not cause flooding. Imagine a glass of ice water. What happens when the ice melts? Does the water level go up, down or stay the same? It stays the same. Any rational thought sees right through this. The hysteria surrounding global warming is ridiculous.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

PEL (Public Education Limited)

I am a product of America's public education system.
I consider myself above average in intelligence.
These two facts are mutually exclusive.
The father of American public education is Horace Mann. It's interesting to note that the two websites I went to find information about Mann were either rife with spelling and grammatical errors or were completely disorganized and made no sense. Mann's wikipedia article, for instance, has been edited in such a way as to look like the person who did it was, in fact, a product of American public schools. Check it out. Mann believed that public education would, inside of a generation or two, eliminate poverty an 90% of all crime, especially violent crimes. Good call, Horace.
But the fundamental issue about public education has nothing to do with the test scores(they're horrendous) or the amount of money we spend on education($10,000 per pupil). The fundamental issue is whether forcing our children to attend government-run educational institutions is such a good idea. There was a time when Americans held a healthy scepticism for the government. Now we hold utter disdain for it while accepting all of its institutions. Get rid of Social Security? But what of the elderly? Remove the safety net of food stamps? But what of the poor, especially children?
And public education is the holy grail of all government institutions. It is simply untouchable. Complain that teachers are unworthy of raises and you get shouted down and laughed at—although $46,000 a year for a nine month job sounds pretty good for people who are failing our children.
Public education is, at best, an opportunity for the government, and, at its worst, a complete failure of those it is supposed to help. Public education has done more to keep poor people poor than all of the other social programs. Public education does nothing more than provide a platform for social welfare advocates as well as providing ample excuses for their failures. They say that they need more money, even though a parochial school education would cost less than a third as much as a public one, and deliver better results. They say they need more parental involvement, but when parents complain about money and quality, they are reminded of all of the hardships public teachers face. regardless of the fact that the educational system in this country has created those problems. Violence and discipline problems do not occur in private schools, because students know that they won't last if they do. An parents know it, too.
The only solution is a complete abolition of the public school system. But that will not happen any time soon, so we must take baby steps.
School vouchers have been around for many decades but the teachers' union has fought them tooth and nail. Not to protect the quality of education, as they say, but—as Mel Brooks put it—to save their "phony baloney jobs." Vouchers work, and they are a great idea. I do not care what the numbers say. The voucher program does one thing that is a fundamental right for all parents and their children. It gives them the choice of who educates their children. Is anything else important?