Big Mac Attack in Florida

It’s in, and it’s final.  John McCain has won the Florida Primary.  He proved he could win a closed primary, where only Republicans can vote.  He won a state where Rudy Giuliani had pegged his entire campaign on, and Mitt Romney spent a boat load of cash to try and win.  Yet still John McCain managed to take the victory.

The win not only generates a lot of momentum for McCain, effectively ends Rudy’s campaign (he’s expected to endorse McCain in California today or tomorrow), but vaults him into the lead in terms of delegates over Romney.  This was a big win for the McCain campaign, one that should lead to a significant boost on February 5th, with McCain hold significant leads in key states such as California, New York, and New Jersey. 

Mitt Romney may be all but finished as well.  He trails McCain in several large, key states (as mentioned), and trails Huckabee in several smaller states as well.  Mitt has a chance in California to take a few delegates, because of California’s rules, but I don’t think he will do much of anything in New York, New Jersey, or Illinois.  I think that Romney’s biggest problem is that he doesn’t come across as sincere on issues to many people.  Like I’ve been saying, he can’t really pass the “would you buy a used car from this guy” test.  Even his ads, even his “attack ads” just come across more like your local used car dealer, or maybe Crazy Eddie (for those that remember him from NYC).  Plus, he’s a bit of a political chameleon, much like Hillary Clinton, in that he will say what he thinks he has to to get elected.  If he was more established, and had more of a record in public office, he might have been the run away candidate this year.  But he doesn’t, and that I think has hurt him.

Mike Huckabee has vowed to continue on, making comparisons to base ball and the St.Louis Cardinals.  Well, he was in Missouri after all.  Huck doesn’t have a shot at the nomination, not a realistic one anyway.  But he could play spoiler to Romney.  Huck’s “Southern appeal” plays well in some Super Tuesday states, where he does hold a lead in several.  Even if doesn’t win any states on February 5th, he may drain enough votes away from Romney to give McCain a nearly clean sweep. 

The circus that is Ron Paul is also carrying on.  What’s left to be said about this?  If only Lyndon Larouche got this kind of press back on the day…

Meanwhile, Rudy Giuliani is done.  I’ve said for quite a while now that this focus on Florida and the big states strategy was doomed to failure.  Once Iowa was over, Rudy was a non-factor, even while he still lead in the national polls.  Rudy made so many mistakes with this campaign, it’s a wonder he made it as far as he did in retrospect.  He didn’t bother with Iowa, and gave up in New Hampshire.  Worse, he appeared to give up in New Hampshire, jetting off to Florida.  He had absolutely awful damage control with his persona affairs (in all senses of the word), and with the Bernie Kerik debacle.  Once he lost the backing of some key and influential NY’ers (Al d’Amato, Jack Kemp, Ed Mullins-President of the NYPD Sargeants Benevolent Association), we knew the end was nigh for Rudy.  Rudy still has a political future, either in a cabinet post, or he could run for the Senate again here in NY (preferably against Chuckles Schumer).

Over on the other side, they had a “beauty pagent” (as CNN so succinctly described it) in Florida.  Hillary won what was essentially a meaningless contest, where only she campaigned.  Of course, as Florida had its delegates stripped for violating pary rules, the win does nothing really.  Oh, it should be mentioned that Hillary vowed not to campaign in Florida (or Michigan), publicly so, but went ahead and did anyway.  So while Barrack Obama and John Edwards were traipsing across the Super Tuesday states, she held a fund raiser or two, and gave a few speaches in Florida.  In addition, just prior to this, she was mounting a push to have the delegates of Florida and Michigan restored (she won big in both by the way).  How desperate is she to get delegates, if she has to resort to getting delegates from states which were little more than uncontested contests for her?  I suppose she could be following U.S. Grant’s advice: “If you can’t win fair, just win.”

Next up for the GOP are the Maine Caucuses, which will probably be a win for McCain.  But the real fun will be on next Tuesday, when it could very well all be over except the crying.

Illegal Immigration-Fighting the wrong battle (UPDATED)

There is still a lot of hoopla and sound and fury concerning the issue of illegal immigration.  But there is a fundamental problem with the whole debate on all sides.  They are on target in that the issue is important, but they are all fighting the wrong battle.

 First off, walls don’t work folks.  A wall didn’t keep the Mongols from conquoring China.  A wall didn’t keep the Picts from invading Roman Britain.  A wall didn’t stop people from fleeing Eastern Europe.  A wall didn’t stop the sectarian violence in Derry and Belfast.  They make for nice symbolic gestures, and can generate some jobs, but ultimately they don’t work.  Like the old adage, build a better mouse trap, get a smarter mouse.

As far as deporations go, forget it.  We are not about to put ourselves into the same category as Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot by forcibly removing some 12 million people from this country.  It’s not going to happen.  Even putting the moral/ethical aspect aside, it’s just too impractical.  The amount of money, manpower, time, would be such a significant drain as to be prohibitive.  It would detract from far more important matters where law enforcement and our intelligenc assets should be focused on.

No, the real battle is not being fought.  In fact, it may have already been lost.  Sure, we can have a wall, but it will only be 50% effective as long as Mexico refuses to secure their side of it.  And unless we turn that same wall into a “death zone,” like existed in East Germany (specifically East Berlin), it will hardly be much of a deterrent.  BUt the real reason why illegal immigration has flourished as it has is for one simple reason.  No need to assimilate.

We have become so obessed with “diversity,” and “multiculturalism,” that we have nearly lost sight of what unifies us as a nation.  I’m all in favor of having “diversity,” and respecting and honoring our cultural and ethnic pasts.  BUT, we have gone so far overboard on promoting this, that we have only ended up creating a nation of cultural pockets.  Even with in single cities, the old barrios and neighborhoods have become entrenched, permanent institutions almost.

In the “hey day” of US growth through immigration, these neighborhoods served a vital purpose.  Immigrants from where ever would come to this country, and initially move to where the things and people were familiar.  They would then move on, out from these Little Italy’s and such, and to other places.  These comunities served as a stepping stone to assimilation.  They provided a non-governmental way of bringing these new arrivals into the American mainstream.  This was where they learned English, how to conduct business, learned the politics, learned their new neighbors.  But no more.  Now it’s an end point, and not the launching point for a new life.

Today, these neighborhoods are little more than colonies from foreign nations.  We have entrenched “respect for their native cultures” so deeply, that there is little or no reason for the immigrants to assimilate into the larger US society.  There is no pressure for them to move out and on, to become part of the greater whole that is the United States.  We have such social welfare programs that there is no need for these people to leave the conclaves to find work.  We provide them with translators to vote or go apply for government programs, so they have no need to learn English.  We have effectively told our law enforcement people that they have to act differently than usual in these areas, to “respect their culture,” allowing them to effectively circumvent some laws. 

This has, in effect, created “safe zones” for illegals.  They can hide in these areas, and don’t stand out.  They in fact “hide in plain sight” as there is no way to distinguish them from legitimate residents.  Employers can’t immediately tell if someone is questionable or not.  Nor can law enforcement or any civil servant.

So what’s to be done?  I guess this is where my conservative credentials get revoked, as I think there should be a path to citizenship for those already here, and who do not have a criminal history.  But this alone is not enough.  Yes, it will alleviate some stresses on our systems, yet there would be more needed.  We need to put the pressure to assimilate back on.  We need to finally establish a National Language (English), which will be mandatory for all government documents and forms.  We need to stop providing translators ad infinatum.  We need to stop having a living platform in terms of social welfare, and return it to the helping hand it was supposed to be.  We need to encourage, even enforce, the things that should unify us, and stop with the “diversity” that has essentially divided us.  And employers who knowingly and willingly hire illegals should be penalized severely.  Some companies encourage and facilitate this sort of thing, even going so far as to import illegal labor, and this must be stopped cold.

If we do this, and I highly doubt it will ever get past all the well funded special interests, it will have a profound effect.  It will make those who come here illegally more apparent, more visible.  They won’t be able to hide among the populace as easily.  Employers, Law Enforcement and others will be able to better identify potential illegals, and earlier.  This would truly make it harder for an illegal to come to this country and just belnd in.  It would be much more of a discouragement to this sort of activity than a wall.

UPDATE

It seems that at least one person in Washington gets this.  Sure, this comes from a solicitation for a campaign contribution, but still.  So here’s a kudos to Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), as well as his message:

My name is Jim Inhofe and I am the Senior U.S. Senator from Oklahoma.

Do you agree with me that English should be the official language of the United States?

For years now, it’s been a lonely fight in Washington to make English our nation’s official language. I have sponsored legislation in the Congress to make it official only to have it blocked by special interest groups and Democrat Senators. In fact many of my opponents on this issue try to claim that those who support official English are “bigots” or “anti-immigrant.” The fact is, recent polls show that 84% of all Americans — including 71% of Hispanics — support official English.

It is just commonsense.

If you moved to a foreign country – say Germany or Italy – wouldn’t you realize you needed to learn German or Italian in order to fully assimilate into that society?

I’m sure you wouldn’t demand that those governments be required to provide services in English just because you decided to move there. As you can imagine that plain logic makes my opponents pretty mad.

A direct consequence of my efforts to make English our official language is that the liberals in Washington don’t like me much. Which means only one thing: I must be doing SOMETHING RIGHT! As the most conservative member of the United States Senate (as ranked by the American Conservative Union) and a proud sponsor of this legislation, I am the left-wing’s worst nightmare.

For Oklahomans and for Americans nationwide, I work every day toward keeping our taxes low, controlling spending, cracking down on illegal immigration, and making our nation more secure.

Because of my actions and beliefs, I am being targeted

(the solicitation was removed, if you’re interested in that, I can provide it)

NACBL Draft Rounds 3 and 4

Two more rounds done now.  Just waiting to get through the 5th and 6th rounds, before I have a “break” as I’ve traded away my 7th and 8th round picks.  Quality in this draft went quick, with back ups going in the 3rd round, and a few even in the 2nd round. 

My first 3rd round pick (#55) was used on Matt Chico (P).  Not the greatest, but I did need starting pitching. My other 3rd round pick (#67, acquired in a trade with Atlanta), got used on Dmitri Young, aka “Da Meathook.”  Dmitri is not long for the team, as he’s already been traded away.

Round four was a bit of a toss up for me.  It was either Jerry Owens (CF), or another pitcher.  I ended up taking a flyer of Kameron Loe (P).  A bit of a risk, but as he’ll be in the 4 or 5 slot in the ortation, what he gets in terms of wins will be a bonus.  His main upside is his youth (relative), ans has a shot to be an average pitcher in the MLB.

So here I await my turn in round 5…

Three PS3 Game Reviews

I dropped a wad of cash Monday and Tuesday on video games for the Play Station 3 (PS3).  One was a preplanned purchase (I had reserved a copy), one was an “impulse buy,” and the other was after borrowing and playing through the game.  So here they are:

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare:  Believe the hype on this one mostly.  Graphically, and sound wise, this is a very impressive game.  The scenery and characters are amazing to look at, and the music and sound effects are outstanding.  The game play is very solid, and those familiar with the Call of Duty franchise will have no problems at all.  Even relative noobs like myself will have few issues picking up the game play aspects. 

The basic story line is very cinematic, and very Tom Clancy.  You can even “play” through a couple of story line cut scenes, which is a very cool feature.  You play one of two characters, and which you are is mission dependent.  One is a rook SAS commando, the other is a USMC Force Recon Sargeant.  You get a good assortment of modern weapons, from the M4 carbine, to the stock Soviet era RPG launcher.  The pistols are generic, but you’ll hardly ever use them.

Some of the missions are very unique.  Two in particular should be noted.  First is the AC-130 Gunship mission.  You get to play with the weapons load of this flying tank, from the 105mm to the 20mm. The annoying thing here is that you can only “see” in black and white thermal, and need to pay attention to where the blinking figures are, as they are your guys.  The other is a “flashback” sniper mission.  You’re the 2nd guy in a two man sniper team.  The hard part here is to avoid the Soviet mechanized company that you encounter in an open field. 

But not all is perfect here.  The single player game is far too short.  I completed the SP game in just about 6 hours.  The single player aspect could have used another 4-6 missions, which would have made this a truly outstanding game.  Instead a good deal of focus was put on the multiplayer aspect.  This is all fine and good, but I don’t play online, and don’t enjoy it.  So all that effort is wasted on me.  There are also some interesting physics and reality bending at play, but that’s to be expected in a game like this (such as grenades being tossed around like baseballs). 

Even so, the intesity of the game play, the interesting and engaging story line, and the amazing graphics and sound over come a lot of the drawbacks.

8/10

Rock Band:

I fooled around a bit with this on Sunday at my brother’s place.  So did my daughter.  By the time we got home, it was pretty much decided that we’d get a copy for ourselves.  So Monday afternoon, off we went to Game Stop, and dropped the cash for the bundle.

At $170, it is a bit of a steep investment, especially in a video game.  But it’s worth it IMO.  The $170 bundle comes with three “controllers.”  You get “guitar,” just like the one for Guitar Hero, a “drum kit,” not any different than the electronic drums from the 80′s, and USB microphone, plus the game itself.

The game plays simply enough.  Pick up your “instrument,” and follow along with the “notes” on the screen.  The concept is simple, the execution is hard.  But once you get used to it, you find that you do get better and better.  The game has several levels of difficulty, from easy to very hard, and applies to each song.  Singing is a bit different, as you have to match the pitch of the song (the words don’t actually matter).

The song selection is wide.  There’s something here for nearly everyone, though there is no country or disco (THANK GOD!).  But there is classic rock (Rolling Stones, The Who), Heavy Metal (Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden), New Wave (David Bowie, Police), Alternative (Nirvana, REM), Punk (Ramones, Clash), and modern tunes. 

Beyond the playing aspect, you can do a number of things, and in fact have to to get all the songs.  You can create an avatar of your “musician,” with a wide variety of customizable aspects.  You can play solo (just pick an instrument and go), or you can form a band.  Forming a band is interesting, as you can do it “locally” with people on the other controllers, or over the net.  We formed a band ourselves, and started our “tour” careers.  You need to score high enough as a band on available songs to unlcok new venues to play at as well as additional songs to play.  Where you can play is in part determined by how many fans you have, how many “stars” (a combination of fame and skill) you have, and what type of tour bus you have.  You start with nothing, and have to play your way up.  You can also download from the net additional song packs to expand the number of available tunes to play.  We have yet to do this, as we’re only just starting.

In just two days this has become the “family” game, replacing Burnout and its crash parties.  My daughter can’t wait to get back to trying songs on the drums (I “play” guitar, my wife sings), and even my wife finds it to be a good stress relief after work.  It’s a great way to: A. Be a way to get the whole family involved; B. Introduce people to new music; C. Get people interested in playing the actual instruments; D. “Good, clean” family entertainment.  This game is highly addictive (“Just one more song!”), and entertaining.  It’s a ton of fun, and is not dependent upon “game skills.”

A note for those with the newer PS3′s, the ones with only 2 USB ports.  You’ll need a multitap of some sort to if you want to form a band in your home with more than two people, as to get the functionality from the three included controllers, you’ll end up using all four ports.  Even those of us with the “older” 4 USB port models will have to get one to add in a bass player (sold separately of course!).

9.5/10

Burnout Paradise:

I only picked this up today, and have only played it for a few hours.  But my impression of this game so far is mixed.

I loved the previous Burnout intsallments.  The crash mode, and crash parties, the road rage events, and in Dominator the traffic check events were solid fun, and good for a quick bit of stress relief.  But this latest game leaves me wanting so far.

First the good.  The game has amazing graphics, and the music selection is terrific as always.  Game play itself is good, as the controls are OK once you adjust to the minor changes.  Sensitivity is an issue, but not a major one.  You now have the GTA like ability ot “free roam” over Paradise City, Burnout’s fictional metropolis.  This alone can be entertaining, but does lose its appeal after a short while.

Events can be found all over the city.  In fact, at any intersection that has a stop light.  You are not bound to do any event, or in any order.  Your advancement is completely dependent on total wins.  You do need to get the hang of stopping at the lights, and the r2-l2 triggering mechanism to start the event.  Several standard events are to be found, races, road rages, and bruning laps.  Burnout Paradise introduces two new events, marked man and stunt drives.

Marked Man events are like races.  You have to get from point a to point b.  But instead of a time limit, you must avoid having your car totaled before reaching the finish, all while several other vehicles try to smash you up.  Stunt Drives are where you take your car, and pretend you’re a Hollywood stunt driver.  The object is to accumulate points by performing “stunts,” such as boosting into oncoming traffic, going off jumps, barrel rolls, etc.  The more “stunts” you string together, the more points you get per combination.

The lack of a dedicated crash mode bothers me.  Paradise has a “showtime” mode, where you do cause crashed, with a cash target value, but I have not yet been able to trigger it despite having the requirements.  I can bring up the right indicators, and crash forever, but I never seem to trigger the “showtime” mode.

Multiplayer has moved entirely to the online arena.  This too sucks, as crash parties and even races were good “party games” for when people were over.  Much like with COD4, this whole aspect is wasted on me.  As I’m not a fan of online play, I doubt I will ever take advantage of this.

7.5/10 (for now)

More Primaries and Fred Bows Out

The Republican primaries in Michigan and South Carolina are in the books, as is the Nevada Caucases.  While Michigan went with in expectations, and Nevada was a fore gone conclusion, South Carolina did give a surpise or two. Now it seems that South Carolina has proved to be the death knell of a candidate.

Fred Thompson, after his 3rd place finish in South Carolina, has decided to drop out of the race.  I truly believed that Fred had a shot at winning in the Palmetto State, but he failed to capitalize on his credentials and Southern residency.  He never managed to materialize the sort of energy he needed, and was available to him.  So Fred has bowed to the inevitable IMO, and has dropped out of the race to attend to a sick family member.  He’s issued no endorsement as yet, with some saying won’t endorse anyone.  I kind of doubt that, so expect Fred to make an endorsement some time just before February 5th.  Fred can still play king maker in this nomination cycle if he times it right.

Instead, John McCain, in a reversal from 2000, won the State over Mike Huckabee.  Mac, building off his win in New Hampshire, along with the lack of a campaign by Rudy Guiliani, and Huckabee still appearing to be a flash in the pan, carried the State that brought him such pain in 2000.  Credit should be given to Lindsey Graham and the SC campaign staff for this one.

A word on Mike Huckabee here.  He’s played his campaign fairly well so far.  But he might need to rethink his choice of “attack dogs,” and watch his comments a bit more closely.  You see, he has two “endorsements” from celebrity types who have been used as fronts for some of Huck’s campaign bits.  First off is Chuck Norris.  Now I like Chuck, really I do.  But his criticism of McCain and his age seems to be a bit out of place and disingenuous IMO, more so give Chuck’s own age.  Then there’s Ric Flair.  Yes, THAT Ric Flair of pro-wrestling fame.  He was up on stage with Huck at a rallly in SC the night before the primary.  This is where Huck needs better handlers.  Huck was up on stage and said “If you don’t vote for me, Ric Flair will put you down.”  Now, I know Huck was not serious about this, but it’s the sort of think people will remember, and will not look kindly upon.  It was a poor choice of words, even though said in jest.  But it gets worse when you add in Huck’s comments about helping to keep supporters of other candidates at home instead of going to the polls.  It’s just bad form, bad for a primary, and if said in a general election, an almost certain defeat.

Meanwhile, a ho-hum caucus night in Nevada handed Mitt Romney an uncontested win, much like Wyoming.  Yes, Wyoming had its caususes a while ago.  You missed it?  So did all the candidates.  This one was never in doubt, as only Romney campaigned in Nevada, and had abandoned South Carolina after his ad blitz failed to produce any results.  So he won in a runaway, helped out by his fellow Mormons. 

But Michigan was a genuine win for Romney, even if he was expected to win.  I don’t think that Romney carrying Michigan was a sure thing by any stretch.  McCain ran a solid campaign, flawed by a misdelivered message on jobs, which I have no doubts cost him support.  But Romney was the “favored son” in Michigan, having grown up there, and with lots of connections across the state. Even though he won, it was not by a big enough margin for him to feel secure in his candidacy.

Yes, yes, yes.  Romney leads in delegates, but he lack luster showing in South Carolina, and his poor polling numbers in several key states for the February 5th primaries, is not boding well for him.  Don’t look for Romney to place higher than 3rd in California, New York, or Florida (on the 29th). 

Now in the “Have You Seen This Candidate” category, Rudy Guiliani.  Rudy has shot himself in the foot with his campaign.  Or should I say lack of a campaign.  This whole “ignore everything before Florida” strategy is backfiring badly.  So badly in fact, that he now trails not only in Florida and California, but in New York as well.  In every instance where polling data is available, he trails the leader by double digits (who happens to be John McCain at the moment).  Even the New York GOP is backing off of Rudy, after all the hoopla over having the big wigs file his ballot papers. No, Rudy is all but dead in the water, and he has no one to blame but himself.

Oh yeah, Duncan Hunter quit the race too.  Snore.

Then there’s the lunatic fringe that is Ron Paul.  Yes, he’s still kicking around, garnering just enough support to keep his campaign on life support.  What amazes me is the sheer willful blindness to his past that otherwise intelligent people have concerning him.  They will pointedly ignore his antisemtic remarks and articles, he associations with Holocost deniers and white supremacists, his all talk no action about earmarks and balanced budgets, and continue to laud him as some sort of second coming of Jesus Christ.  It boggles the mind it does. 

Over on the other side, the “blue on blue” violence continues.  I am thoroughly entertained by the bickering between Obama and Hillary.  Plus I get to watch the comedy show that is John Edwards try and play “peace maker,” and fail miserably.  The last debate showed how testy the race between Obama and Clinton is getting. 

This may be an undoing for the Democrats, even if they nominate the person they should in Obama.  This fratricidal infighting may polarize the party enough that when in comes to November, many Democrats may stay home rather than vote for the candidate who beat out “their guy/gal.”  February 5th should be very interesting on the Democratic side, more so if South Carolina is close. 

My NACBL Draft Rounds 1 and 2

I’ve decided that I’ll blog this upcoming season of the NACBL Stratomatic Base Ball League (http://flory.net/php/index.php?league=nacbl).  My five year plan is looking like it will take 6 years to complete, but hey, nobody’s perfect!

Going into the draft, my woeful NY Mets franchise had a number of significant holes to fill.  There was the usual trifecta of pitching, pitching, and pitching, along with a weak outfield, and decided lack of talent at first base.  Depth around the field was also an issue, but there is always a back up to be had, and cheaply at that.  So, here I was with three 1st round picks, and one in the second round.  The #3, #8, and #21 picks in the first round were all mine. 

With the #3 pick I selected Astro’s CF Hunter Pence.  Bit of a local connection with Penc, as he played for the Valley Cats in Troy, NY a few years ago.  Plus he has a nice card and a good number of AB’s, and is good defensively.  He was high on my “draft board” anyway, and with Dice-K going #1 over all, I had to settle for my second choice.  The #8 pick became a bit of a problem for me.  I had two very good offers for the pick (one involved Ichiro, the other Grady Sizemore), but after drafting Pence, an OF was not high on my needs anymore, even for the likes of those two guys.  So I passed on the offers, and took Tampa Bay 3B Akinori Iwamura.  This allows me to move Garret Atkins to 1B (and keeps his bat in my line up), and is an upgrade defensively at 3B.  I had Carlos Pena (a fellow Northeatern Husky) on my list, but couldn’t justify using that high a pick on him.  I had hoped he would slide to the #21 pick, but that didn’t happen.

With the 21st pick, I got a bit of a gift IMO, as Hideki Okajima was still available.  I was surprised that a reliever of that quality, even if not a full time closer, was still available.  Though getting starting pitching was a priority, I couldn’t pass up on Okajima.  Plus, with Carlos Pena, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Phil Hughes all gone, it wasn’t much of a choice really.

So I wait for the #31 pick, my first in the 2nd round to come up.  Instead of going with youth and potential, I took a solid, if unspectacular starter, Livan Hernandez.  Another Cuban refugee whose age is questionable (he’s somewhere between 35-75 years old), but had an OK season last year.  He’ll eat up innings for me at the least.  I’ll still need at least three more starting pitchers though.

I have two picks in the 3rd round, thanks to a trade with Atlanta just before the draft.  It will be interesting to see who’s still around when I pick at #55 and #67. 

And New Hampshire is in the Books

Two down in the Presidential playoffs.  The results had only one surprise, and that was Hillary’s “come from behind” win.  Though how much of a come from behind win it was is debatable.  But it certainly got enough hype from the media, reinforced by polls, which we never saw what the actual questions were, or the sampling sizes and demographics.  Not that it mattered, it made for enough viewers to justify next season’s ad rates for the various networks.

Even with all the hoopla over Hillary’s break down, there was a real story to be told, but only a few dared to talk about it.  While it’s still very early on, the trends starting to form from Iowa and New Hampshire are indicative of a very unusual happening, the potential of having two brokered conventions.  It could very well end up that both parties will have no clear winner, with two or even three candidates vying for delegates.  While it would be boring for most people, for political junkies and pundits, it would be a field day.  But tha’s pure speculation at this point.  I have a feeling that at least one candidate will emerge from “Super Tuesday” on February 5th.

So let’s do a quick break down of what happened in the Granite State….

On the Democratic side, Barrack Obama stumbled a bit.  Coming off his “upset” win in Iowa, Obama slacked off in New Hampshire.  I think he tried to just ride his “bump” from the Iowa victory, and didn’t put in quite enough effort to win in New Hampshire.  He missed a big opportunity here, one where he could have knocked Clinton into panic mode, and pushed John Edwards to the brink.  But it was not all Obama’s fault.  New Hampshire likes Bill Clinton, and he made a lot of trips in support of his wife.  Plus the Clinton’s have a machine in New Hampshire, one which got out the vote for them, over coming the enthusiasm for Obama.  I don’t give much credence to Hillary’s break down in the diner as being a factor here, it came too late, and left too many wondering as to her motivation and honesty in that episode.

As for the snake oil salesman Edwards, well, he was never going to finish higher than 3rd anywhere except in the Carolinas.  He just doesn’t play well outside of his “home turf,” and it shows.  And poor Bill Richardson, the only truly qualified Democratic candidate, is now in limbo.  Conflicting reports as to the demise of his campaign are circulating, with “sources” saying he will drop out, and a spokesperson saying he won’t.  He could stay in, and potentially be a spoiler in the Southwest (Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Nevada), but I doubt it.  I suspect he will drop out after Nevada, and before February 5th.  The only question will be who will he endorse, if anyone?  If it comes to a brokered convention, the few delegates he has may be key, which will put him into a very powerful position.

Meanwhile, on the Republican end of things, Rudy finally out polled Ron Paul.  Whew.  They all had me worried there for a bit.  But other than that, things went pretty much as expected.  John McCain’s showing was right about where I figured it would be.  This was a big win for McCain, as it will give him momentum going into Michigan.  Romney was once again the bridesmaid with his 2nd place finish.  Huckabee finished a respectable 3rd, given that he doesn’t translate well to the voters of New Hampshire.  But I will give him credit for at least contesting the primary, and taking his finish in the right light.  The rest?  Well, I don’t think Fred Thompson ever set foot in New Hampshire, and Duncan Hunter was a non-entity to the state as a whole.

So where do the campaign go from here?

John McCain- He can’t stop, and needs to continue to press hard.  McCain can win in Michigan, though it will be a dog fight with Romney, and Huckabee will play well there as well.  McCain must keep up the startegy that got him the win in New Hampshire.  The traveling town hall format will work well, and gives voters, and potential voters a real look at him, and what he stands for.  A win in Michigan would give him a much improved chance in South Carolina, which will still be a fight with Huckabee and Fred Thompson.

Mitt Romney- It’s still a bit early to press the panic button, but one has to wonder what it will take for him to win a primary.  Michigan will either take Romney off life support, or put him into a coma.  His loss in New Hampshire must have been disappointing, given how mcuh he spent, how much he campaigned, and the fact he was governor of Massachusettes.  He of all the candidates needs to win Michigan, as I don’t think he will do all that well in South Carolina.  Anything more that a 2 point loss in Michigan will leave Romney reeling, as the spread in New Hampshire was more than he could afford.

Mike Huckabee- Huckabee never really had a shot in New Hampshire, but that didn’t stop him from trying, unlike say Rudy or Fred.  He gave it an honest try, but just couldn’t connect with enough of the voters.  He will contend strongly in South Carolina, and may be a surprise in Michigan.  Huckabee will live or die on February 5th, depending on how well he does in the Southern states.

Rudy Giuliani- How long before the “Missing: Have you seen this Candidate” posters go up?  He’s virtually disappeared from the national radar screen, except with a “where is he” comment.  Rudy’s big state strategy, begining with Florida I still think will back fire, and leave him out in the cold.  Then again, I though his whole candidacy was premature, and badly handled from the begining.  Drop out now, and run for the Senate here in NY against Schumer.  Please!

Fred Thompson- This campaign has been mismanaged for some time now.  He’s still alive, and will get a boost from South Carolina, and will contend in many states on February 5th.  But I don’t think he has the gravitas, the campaign message, or ability to contend in the big states to carry him far enough.  I expect that after the 5th, Fred will drop out, and endorse one of the other candidates, which will put who ever that is into the pole position.

Duncan Hunter- Or should I say Don Quixote?  This was a doomed campaign before it began.  He can’t carry California (his home state) let alone any other state.  He’s good in the Congress, but that’s the extent of it.

Ron Paul- Oh my oh my.  Hey, I thought his “revolution” was going to start in New Hampshire?  So, 8% is a “revolution?”  Or maybe people were finally waking up to just what a nut case he is.  If the revelations about where his funding comes from wasn’t enough, there’s the archives of his various “newsletters.”  You can read more about those at LGF or at The Captain’s Quarters, which have the extensive links.  AS I’ve said previously, this guy associated with people that even Strom Thurmond would have slammed the door on.

Barack Obama- Get back to what carried him in Iowa.  Despite a missed opportunity in New Hampshire, he’s still got momentum, and the mass appeal to consistently win right through the 5th.  He benefits from a three way race, as it makes him look the best, with Edwards sniping at Hillary, and Clinton having to divide her attention bewteen Obama and Edwards.

Hillary Clinton- She needed the New Hampshire win badly.  Not so bad as a loss would have been panic time, but close enough.  Clinton needs to knock out Edwards, and do it soon, so she can concentrate on Obama.  A three way race hurts her, as she has to divide resources to combat both Obama and Edwards, which often pushes her off message, and leaves her looking “not so fresh.”  She will carry at least two major states on Super Tuesday (New York, and either California or Florida), but will be in a fight in all the rest.

John Edwards- He’s never going to get the nomination, but if can generate enough staying power, could play kingmaker at the convention.  He will compete well in the South, and should carry the Carolinas, and possibly three or four other Southern states.  No matter what, he will be finished as a viable candidate after February 5th.

Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich- Go home, and stay there.  Or go hang out with Ron Paul.  Whatever.  You don’t matter, never did, never will.

Bill Richardson- This one is tough.  The guy who should be the candidate is left out in the cold.  Just goes to show you that qualifications, competence, and ability matter less than “star power.”  If Bill can make it another month, he may end up holding the deciding cards, depending on where Edwards finishes.  Richardson can’t make it beyond February 5th, unless he gets soem divine intervention, but if can stay in it untill then, he could become a key player at the convention.  If I was Bill, I’d stick it out through the 5th, then drop out, but not endorse anyone.  Give the media pundits something to chew on, and keep his name in the news for free.

Now to await the next polling disaster…

The Iowa Caucuses

Iowa is in the books for this Primary season.  All the hype produced a somewhat ho-hum result, with few surprises.  No real shockers here folks, just a lot of expected number crunching and over analysis by pundits. 

 On the Democratic side, Obama put up a very good showing.  Slightly better than I expected, but I did believe he would come out on top.  What did surprise me somewhat was Clinton’s third place finish.  She got beat out by the ambulence chaser Edwards.  Admitedly it was close, but still, this can not be a good sign for the Ice Queen’s campaign.  Anything but a win in New Hampshire will put her into panic mode, which it should.  She can not be banking on a nig showing on “Super Tuesday” as many of her “supporters” will have bailed by then if she does poorly in NH.  Edwards too needs a very strong showing in NH to maintain any sort of momentum, though he should still do well in South Carolina.  Dodd and Biden bowed to the inevitable and have dropped out.  And will somebody please put a nail in Kucinich’s campaign coffin please?

Over on the Republican side, it pretty much went as the polls indidcated.  Mike Huckabee took best in show, with Mitt Romney finishing second, and a tight run for third between Fred Thompson and John McCain.  Ron Paul’s 5th place finish, with 10,000 votes was a bit surprising, but only a blip on the radar.  He won’t do anywhere near as well across most of the country.

I sense that this will be Huckabee’s moment in the sun.  While his brand of politics plays well in Iowa, it won’t elsewhere, especially in the big states.  Still, he has some momentum behind him at the moment, and will get a bump in NH and probably South Carolina.  Mitt is looking to be the #2 guy everywhere.  He’s currently running second in the polls in New Hampshire, “his own backyard” to McCain, with Huckabee moving up slightly.  If Mitt loses New Hampshire, in anything other than a close place second, he too will be in trouble, just like Clinton. 

Might as well go canidate by candidate:

Barack Obama- He’s got the momentum, the look, and Oprah.  He just needs to keep it up.  He will run into trouble in the South and Midwest, but should do well in the West and Northeast.  His greatest danger is being this years Howard “The Scream” Dean.  As long as he keeps himself in check, and doesn’t have a melt down, he should be the front runner through Super Tuesday.

John Edwards- He got a bit of an upset in Iowa over Clinton.  But not enough of one to push him to the next level.  But outside of the Democratic party, he doesn’t translate well.  Plus there’s that whole “would you buy a used car from this guy” factor, and his ambulence chasing background, and the $200 hair cuts, and the 14 bed room mansion while crying about poverty…

Hillary Clinton- Ooops.  Like many a political creature, she’s living off her husband, and finding that it will only carry you so far.  She’s made too many mistakes, like the illegal immigrant liscense fiasco and her incomprehensible response to it, to come across as a legitimate contender.  She has name power, the backing of the Democratic party establishment, and all kinds of money from Communist China (Norman Hsu), but it didn’t translate into enough support in Iowa.  Like many a star, she began to believe her own press (inevitable candidate, etc), and fell victim when it turns out not to be true.  Clinton needs to do several things to get back on track: 1. Get consistent on message, and not pander to a pollsters data; 2. Be genuinely warm.  Be something other than patrician Ivy League.  Probably not going to happen; 3. Talk to people not at people.  Obama gets this, which is why he generates such crowds and enthusiasm; 4. Forget about big money.  Can’t she learn from the Hsu fiasco?  Have to wait and see if her handlers will allow any of this to happen.

Bill Richardson- The only donkey I like, barely made the cut in Iowa.  Depending on how long he stays in the race will determine what impact he has.  But I don’t see good things for the Governor.  He will play decently in NH, and maybe in South Carolina, but will get crushed by the big three in the larger states (though Texas may be in play for him).  Even so, I doubt he will finish higher than 3rd anywhere except in the Southwest.

Christopher Dodd and Joe Biden have dropped out.  Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich might as well.  They won’t be a factor even in thier home states.

 Mike Huckabee- This is probanly his moment to shine as I said previously.  While he plays well in Iowa, he won’t be quite so attractive outside the Heartland.  While he’s certainly likable, his strengths in Iowa will be weaknesses elsewhere.  Call him 2008′s Paul Tsongas.

Mitt Romney- He’s got John Edwards disease.  He just can’t pass the “used car test.”  He’s a bit too slick, and doesn’t have all that great a record in Massachusettes.  He also seems to have John Kerry disease, flip flopping on issues (but not the association with organized crime).  He needs a win badly in New Hampshire.  If he gets beat by McCain by anything over than a razor thin margin, he’ll be in trouble.  As sad as it is, his Mormanism will be a detrimental factor in the South, and will probably cost him South Carolina.

Fred Thompson- Sorry folks, I just can’t get behind Fred.  He just hasn’t run a good enough campaign, and he just doesn’t play well off script.  He may be a Veep candidate, and may be able to play kingmaker if it comes to a brokered convention.  He should get at least one outright win, probably in South Carolina, but will probably be a consistent finsher at #3.

John McCain- His showing in Iowa was a bit of a surprise to me, and I back John.  Given that he barely campaigned in Iowa, and his positions on Ethanol and Grain subsidies are not popular in Iowa, his tight finish with Fred Thompson was a boost going into New Hampshire, where he leads in the polls.  McCain needs to stay on message, and make an effort to court the talk radio types.  He needs to avoid the Bob Dole pitfall, and be sure to show his “human side,” his humor and his candor with people.  Being too stiff, to much an officer will turn off just enough people to cost him.

Rudy Guiliani- Rudy needs a new campaign manager.  Heck, he needs a new campaign period.  I really question this whole ignore Iowa and New Hampshire strategy.  He’s banking everything on Super Tuesday, and the big states.  I think this is a mistake, and a potentially fatal one for his campaign.  Even NY GOP big wigs are hedging on Rudy, which is not a good sign.  I think that Rudy has shot himself in the foot, and will not be able to recover.  I mean he got outshowed by Ron Paul in Iowa! Rudy, drop out now and run against Schumer for the Senate in NY.  Please!

Ron Paul- Guess all that Aryan Nation money did some good eh?  This guy is too kooky.  More like a soft spoken Lyndon Larouche (a fellow Northeastern U guy).  Maybe he and Kucinich can form a third party bid under the Extremely Silly Party line.  He’s never going to finish higher than 5th anywhere, probably even in Texas, and he is never going to get the nomination. 

Duncan Hunter was done before he started, as was Alan Keys.  Though Alan could take his show on the road as stand up comedy.

If I forgot anyone, well, they obviously deserved it.

The Base Ball HoF Ballot

UPDATE

The BBWA elected one person to the Hall, RP Goose Gossage.  Congrats to Goose, as I thought he was deserving of the honor.  Poor Jim Rice missed by 16 votes, 8 of which I suspect were located in the city of NY.  He’s got one more year, so there’s still hope.

Well, the results of the latest Baseball Writers Association ballloting for the Hall of Fame will be announced next week (January 8th).  The 25 candidates are a varied bunch, some deserving, some leaving me wonder who the heck nominated them (and got 5 more supporters).  This election should be interesting, especially given the impact of the Mitchell Report.  I have a feeling that a few guys may get elected in part as a rebuke to the “steroid generation.” 

BBBWA members of at least 10 years can vote, and can indicate anywhere from 0 to 10 candidates on their ballots.  A player must be named on 75% of ballots to be elected.  I’m not a BBWA member, nor will I likely ever be, but I can still put forth who I’d vote for right?

1. Bert Blyleven.  This guys gets such a bad rap, mainly because of one bad season where he gave up 50 HR.  Everyone forgets that he toiled for a lot of mediocre Twins and Angels teams, racked up a huge number of innings, strikeouts, and kept his teams in many games.  Not to mention avoiding the injury bug, and at one time (before Clemens) was 3rd all time in strikeouts.

2. Jim Rice.  One of the most intimidating and clutch hitters of his generation.  The 1978 MVP was a dominate force at the plate, and though his range in the OF was average at best, he did have a solid throwing arm.  Gets knocked by some writers for finishing his career with less than 400HR and a “mere” .298 average.

3. Andre Dawson.  Much like Rice, one of the pre-eminent hitters of his day.  But The Hawk was an 8 time gold glove winner, could run and steal bases, and had one of the most powerful and accurate OF throwing arms.  Another former MVP (he won while playing for the last place Cubs), he toiled away on bad teams in Montreal and Chicago (Cubs). 

4. Rich Gossage.  If Rollie Fingers is in, the Goose should be too.  The Goose was a closer in the days when such an animal was rare.  He also usually got his saves by going 2+ innings at the end of a game, not this three and out stuff.  He gets knocked a bit because of his time with the Yankees in the 70′s, so some consider him over rated.  But look at what he did for the White Sox before he went to NY, and what he did for San Diego afterwards.

5. Dave Concepcion.  Call him a test case for Omar Vizquel when becomes eligible.  Concepcion was the slick fielding SS for Cincinatti’s Big Red Machine in the 70′s, playing alongside the likes of Johnny Bench and Joe Morgan.  Never one to hit for a high average, or for power, his defense was his stock and trade.  But compare his defense and runs and RBI’s to someone like Ozzie Smith, and you see why Concepcion should be in.

6. Dale Murphy.  One of those “5 tool players” who always hear about.  Dale could hit for average, power, steal bases, and played gold glove defense.  A 30 HR 30 SB guy in an era where that was excpetional.  Not to mention a two time MVP.  Never really got a chance to shine in the post season though.

7. Lee Smith.  This guy was lights out at the end of a game for so many years, and has the save numbers to prove it.  If Dennis Eckersley is in, Lee Smith sould be too.  Smith has more saves, and a better ERA than Eck, though he didn’t get the World Series accolades.

8. Dave Parker.  The Cobra was a poweful and important force for the Pirates alongside Willie Stargell.  While he didn’t put up gaudy numbers over his career, he was very consistent, and a great clutch hitter.  People over look Parker mainly because he wasn’t outstanding in any one aspect of the game, just well above average in all aspects.

9. Allan Tramell.  Here’s a guy who doesn’t fit into the modern concept of a player.  He played his career for one team, Detroit Tigers, was one half of one of the greatest double play combos (with Lou Whitaker), and was a team leader.  His numbers certainly don’t match up with the powerhouse SS of today, and his defense wasn’t as good as that of Smith or Concepcion, but he was the inital prototype of todays Jeter’s and Orlando Cabreras.

10. Jack Morris.  Again a player who didn’t put up outrageous numbers.  But he was the winningest pitcher of the 1980′s, and had his share of post season success.  HIs 1987 extra inning complete game victory for the Twins over the Braves was one of the great performances in WS history.

Guys that didn’t make the cut:

Tommy John.  I watched this guy pitch for years.  And never once did I ever see him as a HoFer.  He probably would have had better numbers if he could have gone longer in games while in Los Angeles.

Chuck Finley.  A solid left handed starter, he strikes me the same as Tommy John.  Good but not “great.” 

Travis Fryman.  I like the “Fry-guy.”  I had him on a Stratomatic team for years.  Played SS and 3B for me.  But he’s not in the same category as a Tramell.

Don Mattingly.  If Steve Garvey isn’t in, neither should Mattingly.  He had one outstanding year, and that’s about it.  Yes, injuries slowed him down, but he never came close to what hecould have done.

Mark McGwire.  Yes, he’s off the list untill his association with steroids is made clear (no pun intended).  He is one of those guys that really disappointed me in all this mess.  There are other guys who played the game right (relatively speaking), and deserve the honor more.

Harold Baines.  The first “true” DH.  He could hit and that was about it.  Yes he played the OF early in his career, but he wasn’t all that good at it.  And unlike say Edgar Martinez, he wasn’t the level of hitter he should have been.  A solid player still, and good leader, but not a HoFer.  Sorry Will!

Robb Nen.  A fire ball closer.  Had some great post season runs, and racked up a lot of saves.  But his save numbers are a bit skewed, as he rarely faced more than 3 batters, and rarely the “meat” of an opposing teams order.  Not like Gossage and Smith.

Tim Raines. Timmy just misses out on my ballot.  Next time I promise!  One of the all time great base runners, and base stealers.  Lost out on a lot of wider recognition playing for so long in Montreal.

David Justice.  He wasn’t on my ballot before the Mitchell Report, so that had no effect here.  A good player, he tailed off too fast too early in his career for me to consider him.  Does a nice job in the booth calling games though.

And now the “what were they thinking” category:

Chuck Knoblauch.  Excuse me?  He contracted Steve Sax disease while in NY.  He’s named in the Mitchell Report.  His time in Minnesota is over shadowed by his time in NY with the Yankees.  And thus shall he suffer for all eternity.

Brady Anderson.  Ummmm, one year a HoFer makes?  Sure he was a gold glover in CF, but that was about it.  Too many injuries, not enough offensive (excpet that one year). 

Rod Beck.  Nope, he blew too many games.  Way too many.  Sure he had a run of a few good years, but you didn’t fear him.  Not like you did when Smith or Gossage took the mound.

Shawon Dunston.  Once upon a time, I drafted him in the 1st round of a Strat league draft.  Had high hopes for him.  Never panned out.  A good career, but not a HoF one.

Jose Rijo.  The pitching version of Brady Anderson.  One good year (1990), a whole lot of injuries and mediocrity.

Todd Stottlemeyer.  Why?  Because of his father?  Because he played in NY?  Why?

So there you have it.  Be interesting to compare my ballot to the “real” writers and with who does, or does not get elected on the 8th.

Politics and Pop Culture

Hat tip to Arclightzero at Pro Patria for binging this bit of “genius” to my attention.  Read the article here: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/a9d5f5ee-b3ff-11dc-a6df-0000779fd2ac.html?nclick_check=1  It seems that the self indulgent and self important powers that be at Marvel Comics/Marvel Entertainment have opted to for go any semblence of non-partisanship or political neutrality in favor of actively engaging in supprting what can only be described as “propaganda.”  This “partnership” between Marvel and the United Nations is about more than politics though, as I’m quite sure that Marvel will gets its liscensing fees from the UN (paid for in part by our tax dollars).

To be honest, I find this turn of events unsurprising.  This has been building for some time in Marvel.  The writers have run amok, and Joe Quesada (Marvel “Editor” in Chief), has done nothing to bring any semblence of order to what goes on at Marvel.  Clearly obvious political statements are being made in various Marvel titles, with some very over arching ideological themes that can serve no purpose other than to influence young(er) readers, show off the political ideals of the self important writers (I’m talking about you Straczynski!), and advance an agenda that has essentially been endorsed by those with the power. 

This bothers me a great deal honestly.  “Back in the day,” when it was the likes of Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Steve Ditko, Chris Claremont, and others running things and doing the writing, it was never so blatant as it is now.  Thos greats had a style and skill that allowed them to be “subversive” in their creative outputs, with layers of meaning for various types of readers.  But today it’s all in your face, and as subtle as a sledgehammer.  And only in very rare situations was an agenda ever promoted, political and social diversity was cherished among the writers (and reflected in the characters).  Today?  It’s all about ideological hegemony among those that work at Marvel. 

 Where as it used to be that you’d have discourse played out between characters, there was never a resolution.  That was left up to the readers.  Comics were at one time a forum for presenting the debates, not resolving them.  To anyone who has followed Marvel in recent years will know that this is just not the case anymore.  One ideological side is prevailing, one either endorsed by the powers that be, or one against which they are railing (showing it to be “evil” or “malicious”). 

This brings me back to the UN partnership.  The UN has become a moribund entity, one on the verge of collapsing under its own weight.  What was once thought to be step towards world peace has become an institution lacking leadership, legitimacy, and authority.  Where once decisive action could be taken, the UN is now little more than an assembly of ranting demagogues of all stripes.  A Security Council resolution?  Great.  Super.  Try and enforce it.  A resolution form the General Assembly?  Worth less than the paper it was printed on. 

This downward trend began in the 1970′s when the UN, under ex-Nazi Kurt Waldheim, turned its back on Cambodia, and allowed the Khmer Rouge to set up shop.  They’re still digging up the bodies from that bit of “diplomacy.”  Since that time, it’s been one PR muck up after another.  They can’t enforce anything, even with the support of a super power or two. 

Recent scandals, from the disaster at Srbenica, to the Oil for Food scam, to Khofi Anan’s involvement (as UN Secretary General) have brought the instiution of the UN to an all time low.  It’s reputation and “authority” (which is rather nebulous to begin with) is so low, it would take a superhero to save it.  So up steps Marvel and it’s second most iconic figure, Spider-Man to save the day.

The concept is simple.  Make up a comic book, using one of the most recognizable superhero figures, showing him supporting the UN and its “efforts.”  Give it to kids for free, and reap the rewards.  Rewards?  Sure, first off, it’s targeted towards pre-teens, kids in elementary school.  Get them to associate the hero with the UN, and have them annoy their parents until they change thier minds.  Meanwhile, Marvel gets to generate some new readers for its product, on top of the liscensing fees they will accrue.

But this is nothing new.  In WW2 and Korea, the comics industry stepped up to support the war efforts.  Ads featuring icons like Captain America and Superman were used to sell War Bonds, encourage metal recycling, gas rationing, as well as providing a bit of easily portable entertainment for the men and women in the services.  Later on, they took on issues such as racism (The X-Men were all about civil rights), and drug abuse (issues of Spider-Man and Green Arrow/Green Lantern went out with out the CCA Approval).  But these were the exceptions to the usual, where as now it’s the norm at Marvel rather than the exception.

I can call this as nothing more than a crass propaganda effort aimed at children who don’t have the experience or knowledge to properly judge what is being presented to them.  This is dangerous on so many levels.  I find it no different than the White Supremacists, or Communist agitators who have done, and are doing the same thing, though not with so powerful a corporate ally.  So parents be warned, and be prepared to deal with this as it comes to you!