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


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:  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!