Friday, January 04, 2008

All you need to know

Everything you need to know about the Iowa caucus results is right here in this Daily Kos post.

Total Voter Turnout (approximate)

Percentage of total vote

24.5% Obama
20.5% Edwards
19.8% Clinton
11.4% Huckabee (R)

In other words, Obama, Edwards and Clinton each separately had twice as much support as Huckabee, the top GOP finisher. So when the wingnuts are squealing about how Hillary came in third, they need to be reminded that even the third place finisher on the Democratic side has twice as many votes as the GOP frontrunner.

But I do hope that Huckabee hangs in there and becomes the GOP nominee, because he makes George W. Bush seem like an intellectual when it comes to foreign policy knowledge.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Hall of Fame 2008 preview

While the Iowa caucuses are going on, here is the election I’m more interested in. Who, if anyone, will get voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this year? There are 11 new names on the ballot including one of my favorite players - Chuck Knoblauch.
I don’t think Knoblauch had much of a chance even before his name came out in the Mitchell Report. I think his throwing problems that preceded his steroid use and effectively brought his MLB career to a premature conclusion settled that. Nevertheless, as a former Rookie of the Year, Gold Glove winner and lead-off hitter for the 1998, ‘99, ‘00 World Series Champion New York Yankees, I think he merits consideration. Below is the list of players eligible for election this time around:

• Brady Anderson
• Harold Baines
• Rod Beck
• Bert Blyleven
• Dave Concepcion
• Andre Dawson
• Shawon Dunston
• Chuck Finley
• Travis Fryman
• Rich Gossage
• Tommy John
• David Justice
• Chuck Knoblauch
• Don Mattingly
• Mark McGwire
• Jack Morris
• Dale Murphy
• Robb Nen
• Dave Parker
• Tim Raines
• Jim Rice
• Jose Rijo
• Lee Smith
• Todd Stottlemyre
• Alan Trammell

If I were casting a ballot I would pick:

Chuck Knoblauch
Dave Concepcion
Goose Gossage
Bert Blyleven
Andre Dawson

But my prediction for who will actually get voted in this year: Nobody. Because of the HOF’s screwed up balloting rules and the pigheadedness of so many of the sports writers who get to cast ballots.


Here is a great story about Knoblauch’s career and HOF prospects.
Also, it appears that if I had a HOF vote I would get 10 total picks, so here are my additional five choices:

Jim Rice
Tim Raines
Dale Murphy
Tommy John
Mark McGwire

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Iowa track record

The Iowa caucuses have a spotty track record for picking presidents, so the results this time will be only mildly significant. I’d say they have about a 50-50 shot of determining the ultimate winner in either contest.
In 1972, they missed the mark by backing Edmund Muskie over George McGovern in the Democratic contest. They did better in 1976, the first time the Republicans participated as well, when they tapped Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter for the nomination. That pretty much cemented their reputation as the nation’s political weather barometer. But they missed again in 1980 when they backed George H. W. Bush over Ronald Reagan for the GOP nod. They were also wide of the mark in 1988 when they backed Bob Dole over George H.W. Bush and Richard Gephardt and Paul Simon over Michael Dukakis.
1992 was another big whiff when they went overwhelmingly for home state favorite Tom Harkin over Bill Clinton.
But in more recent years they have made a come back in electoral prognostication by helping to boost Bob Dole in 1996, George W. Bush in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004.

For 2008, it looks like the Iowa caucuses are going to swing and miss yet again. I think this is due partly to their cumbersome caucus system which is slow to respond to recent trends. Mike Huckabee, for example, is still considered a rising star in Iowa whereas he appears to have already flamed out in other parts of the nation. And yet, it looks like Mitt Romney’s millions will still win out. However, the really interesting news is that John McCain’s electoral prospects have suddenly rebounded and he is now tied for the lead in New Hampshire and is back in the running in the national polls. In fact, I still think McCain could end up being the Republican nominee as the disgust with Guiliani’s marital problems continues to reverberate through the party and as Huckabee’s religious extremism and lack of foreign policy knowledge continues to weigh down his campaign.
On the Democratic side, I am mostly indifferent to the Iowa outcome as I like all of the leading candidates and could support any of them for president. It still looks as if Hillary could end up as the nominee, but I would be just as happy with Obama or Edwards.

Weasel editorializing

Here is a letter to the editor I just sent off to the Express-News in response to this editorial:

RE: Editorial: Children's insurance extension inadequate
Could someone on the Express-News editorial board please tell me how the Congressional Democrats are supposed to “find a middle ground that would have survived a Bush veto” when you have already made it clear that “right or wrong” President Bush won’t budge on the issue?
Doesn’t it require both sides to give up something in order to find a middle ground?
And yet, after clearly coming down on the side of SCHIP expansion, the Express-News editorial board just can’t quite bring itself to criticize their hero George W. Bush, whom they endorsed twice for president. Instead, we must cast blame on those Congressional Democrats for failing to find a non-existent middle ground.

Needless to say, I had to tone down a lot of what I really wanted to say. This is a prime example of the kind of weasel editorializing that is commonplace at the E-N these days. They say one thing, and do another. They claim to be on the side of SCHIP expansion, and then use it as an excuse to bash the side that is actually trying to accomplish that very same expansion.
Throughout the next year I am going to try and highlight every time the E-N editorializes on an issue such as SCHIP expansion which is inconsistent with their election endorsements. They pretend to take these moderate, mainstream positions, but when it comes to the only time when we can actually DO SOMETHING to make a difference on those issues (i.e. elect representatives who will support them) they suddenly turn away and back the full slate of right-wing Republicans who are antithetical to those very same issues.
For example, they claim to support SCHIP expansion, but can’t bring themselves to criticize President Bush, whose bullheadedness is the only thing keeping it from happening. And you can bet they will endorse Sen. John Cornyn, a staunch SCHIP opponent, for re-election later this year, just like they endorsed his election in the first place, and like they endorsed Henry Bonilla for Congress and every other incumbent Republican for the past dozen years or so.
When the E-N takes a position on something like SCHIP expansion, you can be sure that they are just flapping their gums and will do NOTHING to actually support it coming to fruition.

Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 Movies

Time for my annual accounting of movies that I saw during the past year.

Spider Man 3
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
No Reservations
The Bee Movie
Meet the Robinsons.

And the movies that I still want to see from 2007:

The Bourne Ultimatum
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
I Am Legend
Live Free of Die Hard
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
American Gangster
National Treasure: Book of Secrets
The Golden Compass
3:10 to Yuma
No Country For Old Men
Michael Clayton
Charlie Wilson’s War
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
The Great Debaters
There Will Be Blood
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Bridge to Terabithia
The Simpsons Movie
No End in Sight

Another monstrous editorial

The Express-News ran another monstrosity of an editorial last week while I was gone. It is titled ”Another year, another monstrosity of a budget” and it is right in line with the editorial they ran in November that prompted me to write this rebuke. They even published my letter to the editor on that subject. But it was apparently all for not as in this latest editorial they once again unfairly chide Democrats for passing an omnibus spending package after “failing to pass 11 of the 12 appropriations that fund government operations.”
Sure, passing an omnibus bill at the last minute is not the best way to run the government, but once again the E-N editors are willfully and dishonestly ignoring the Republican shenanigans (record filibusters and obstructionist tactics) that forced us to this result. Thus the final graph of their editorial in which they piously suggest a “better way” to do things...

There's a better way. Congress is supposed to pass all 12 appropriations in a transparent budget process before the fiscal year begins. Presumably, that was part of the Democratic leadership's pledge to reform the way Congress does business.

....Is nothing more than the worst kind of partisan hackery dressed up as legitimate editorializing. It is utterly shameless and the editors who persist in allowing this to be published over and over again are either clueless twits or partisan shills for the current administration. Take your pick.
Also, you can bet that the crockodile tears that they are shedding over the earmarks in the bill will dry up and disappear in a future editorial when they laud those very same earmarks that will fund numerous significant projects in and around San Antonio, including the BRAC realignment that is bringing hundreds of new jobs to San Antonio.

Voice of Reason persists

I really should not be commenting on the frightfully appalling things going on over at All Things Conservative, but I was pleasantly surprised and heartened to see my old friend Mark Harden standing up for what is good and noble and challenging the forces of darkness and ignorance on the issue of torture.
As Bill Crawford stubbornly continues to insist that “waterboarding is not torture” and “even if it is it’s OK because we only do it to really, really bad people”, Mark has suddenly and uncharacteristically stepped forward to serve as the sole voice of reason at ATC and effectively obliterated Bill’s lame and dopey arguments.

For me, at least, "Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity."
You just cannot torture another one of God's children, just as you cannot kill them except in self-defense.


E-N disses Aggies, eviscerates Op-Ed section

I came back from my Christmas vacation to find that the Express-News was hyping a nonstory on its front page meant to embarrass and humiliate the Aggies. How else can you explain this kind of piss-poor news judgment by the editors other than that it was intended to be a shot at Texas A&M?
The fact that an Aggie Yell Leader said something inappropriate at a midnight pep rally should hardly merit an inside story in the sports section, but the E-N chose to put the story on the front page - the above-the-fold, lead story for the day. There is no excuse for this kind of nonsense.
My co-workers tell me there is no question that the E-N is biased in favor of the University of Texas and point to the numerous times when UT ballplayers have been arrested and caught with drugs only to have the story buried inside the sports section if it is published at all. I don’t pay attention to that sort of stuff well enough to know if the charge has any merit, but based on this latest example I now have to wonder.

But the Express-News folks apparently have bigger problems to deal with lately than the wrath of a few die-hard Aggies. Lately they have chosen to eviscerate the Sunday Opinion section. Beginning next week, the Views section of the paper on Sunday will be pared back to just three pages and tacked on to the end of the Metro Section. That means no more Random Notes which I had recently griped about, and no more canned editorial features which I had also griped about recently. And I should also mention belatedly that we no longer have Rebeca Chapa to kick around anymore. As much as I was disappointed with Chapa’s recent editorial contributions, she was one of the only outspoken liberals on the E-N editorial page, not counting the shrill, one-note ranting of Mansour El-Kikhia. While I don’t mind having El-Kikhia express his views once a week in the paper, I do have to object when he becomes the sole voice representing my side of the debate on every issue.
Canning Chapa is just the latest poor decision by the editorial overlords at the E-N, right up there with the decision earlier this year to fire the talented Leo Garza in favor of the insomnia-curing blandness that is John Branch.

But Bruce Davidson assures us in an editorial note that “the commentary department will continue to provide varied opinions from local and national columnists...”
Is that so? One of the only “liberal” syndicated columnists in the E-N is New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, and while it is true that she tends to be politically liberal, she also has it out for Hillary Clinton and spends most of her column inches these days in a concerted effort to bash Hillary at every turn. Meanwhile, the wingnut side of the E-N which was already loaded up with George Will, Cal Thomas, Rich Lowry and Kathleen Parker, has now been beefed up with a new addition - Jonah Goldberg whose latest book is called “Liberal Facism.” It’s as if they decided that having one right-wing neo-con with the initials JG wasn’t enough. Of course, I’m talking about Jonathan Gurwitz, who along with Ken Allard and T.R. Fehrenbach, sets the right-wing tone of the whole editorial section.
Anyway, it looks like I will have plenty more things to grouse about in regards to my local paper during the new year.