Saturday, January 19, 2008

South Cackalacky

No this is not a misspelling. My friend and Southerner Ed Kilgore taught me that is what you call the Palmetto State.

Anyway, McCain needs to thank Fred Thompson, who sucked up 20% of the vote in key conservative counties--mostly at the expense of Mike Huckabee. Thompson have his farewell speech at about 8 PM EST and blamed it on the bed time of his grandchildren, when it really was his own bedtime he was worried about.

Huckabee is now up giving his speech, and claiming he ran with honor. Now I try not to take sides these days, but I need to call BS. He has a 527 making millions robo-calls attacking all of the other candidates. He is trying tell his people not to blame Thompson for their 3 point loss...but wait next week when Fred endorses McCain in Florida at some old folks home. Huckabee is saying very nice things about McCain now because he probably realizes that his best shot now is to be McCain's running mate. While that might help McCain with some social conservatives, it really will drive the fiscal conservatives and immigration activists nuts.

So now I wish to correct my earlier post about this primary and the GOP primary. The media will largely ignore Romney's win in Nevada and build up his win in New Hampshire too. Because he let them interview him all the time and had an open bar in the bus. That's how easy it is to win the press over. Now McCain is the leading candidate, and he will probably win Florida. At least my dog is excited about him.

(Photo credit: Mrs. Oldenburg)

And another point I want to make. I don't care what the delegate count says for this race or the Democratic one. About 5% of all delegates have been declared and right now Romney probably still is in the lead and Obama is virtually tied overall against HRC (minus the super delegates) but wins are what matters in this compressed schedule. I seriously doubt that the overall delegate count number will make any difference in the end. Someone will start racking up wins, and voters in future states will follow. That's the way it has happened every other time before. Even if somehow it come down to a brokered convention on either (or both) sides, that's where insurgents lose. Obama won't win a brokered convention because Bill Clinton will twist enough arms of super delegates to secure the nomination for his wife.

In order to win the nomination, Obama has to knock Clinton out, which is even harder now that he lost New Hampshire and Nevada narrowly. I don't know how he is going to do it, but that race won't end for a while.

Again, Ron Paul beat up on Giuliani. So Paul has beat Rudy in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina (I don't remember Wyoming) Mr. 9/11 is TOAST he is already behind McCain AND Huckabee in Florida...while he has been all by himself for weeks.

So the Republicans are down to three with McCain probably going to win it all (and Romney and Huckabee with outside chances). And the Democrats are down to two, with Hillary looking like she has the inside track.


Here I was thinking that the Clinton's tiff with the Culinary Union would cost them the caucuses in the Silver State, and yet they seem to have won it by about 6%. The big news to me seems to be that:

  1. the Culinary Union was all talk and no substance, Hillary's institutional support from big name Democrats mattered more.

  2. Edwards' support disappeared. Four percent? That is Rudy Giuliani territory (more on that later). That was so embarrassing that he might have to fold up his tent soon.

  3. Republican turn out was much, much higher than Democratic turnout, even though only Romney and Paul campaigned here and Obama and Clinton set up shop here for the week. This was counter to the trend we saw in all the other states thus far, but it could be due to my next point. I guess the numbers on CNN are delegates? From the NY Times:
    state party officials said more than 114,000 Nevada voters attended the caucuses. It is the third state in the row to achieve record-setting turnout in the Democratic presidential nominating fight, which party strategists believe is a referendum on the Bush administration and a strong call for a new direction in Washington.

  4. Mormons came through for Romney in a big way--20% of GOP caucus voters were LDS, more than double their state population. (42,250 people caucused for the GOP today.) He has about 19,000 votes right now, Clinton got about 5,200 (Obama got about 4,600) and Ron Paul got about 4,500. With reports of bad weather and voting problems in areas with lots of old people, could Romney get a strong "bronze" in SC? I would say he is the new front runner even if Huckabee ekes out a win in SC, because the press will talk down Huckabee as a regional, religious candidate.

  5. Republicans have voted in 5 going on 6 states now, and Giuliani has been in the bottom 2 or 3 every time. How can you expect to win the nomination, let alone the presidency without being even a factor in the first month of voting? I will say it again, he won't win Florida, Huckabee or McCain will. I am starting to think it will be the Huckster.

  6. Obama HAS to win South Carolina big now. He need Nevada, and he can talk about how the raw delegate count is still relatively even (if you don't count super delegates) but he needs wins to knock down Hillary to have a chance in states like California and Texas.

  7. African-Americans are now going nearly 4-to-1 for Obama over Hillary several states in a row. Yes I am counting Michigan, which was probably due to Rep. John Conyers getting his people out to vote for "uncommitted" but this is a trend that could help Obama win all of the Southern states on February 5th (save Arkansas)

  8. Clinton's lead in Nevada was around 55% prior to Iowa, and Obama's share was somewhere in the 20-25% So it seems that all that happened was Edwards' support collapsed to Obama, and a bit of the Hillary supporters and some undecideds broke his way. But he never fundamentally changed the dynamic there, even with the union endorsements and winning Iowa.

  9. The race to the nomination for both parties is going to get tighter and nastier as the weeks roll on. To me, it seems like it has come down to two on both sides: Clinton and Obama, with Clinton having the upper hand; then Romney and Huckabee, with Romney having the upper hand. Assuming these bits of news out in South Carolina are true, it seems McCain is in big trouble.

  10. If McCain loses tonight (still a big if) this will be yet another primary where he failed to get Republicans to vote for him in sufficient numbers. Even in New Hampshire, he lost the GOP vote to Romney. Maybe he should have ran as an independent in 2004 after all.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

What were they thinking?

The Clintons, like the Obamas, and the Edwards, are lawyers--both candidate and spouse.   But you knew that already.  And you know the talking points about the failed lawsuit to block the at-large precincts along the Vegas strip.

Let's assume for a moment that Bill Clinton is right that these precincts carry an unfairly disproportionate voting power.  

But remember again that lawyer thing.  Bill and Hill didn't just go to any law school, they went to Yale.  And they weren't just "average" Yalies (if there is such a thing), they were first and second in their class (Hillary was first).  And she is the junior Senator from New York.

Just yesterday, the US Supreme Court unanimously ruled that New York State's crazy law that allows party bosses to effectively pick judges was OK-dokey.  And this wasn't a surprise.  I went to oral arguments and everyone who I talked to who was there was betting 9-0.  The case is a follow up to another case that also said political parties can make up basically any internal rules and keep their First Amendment associational rights.

If they didn't know this, they should have.  Or at least someone on their staff should have.  

I guess my real point in all this is to say the Clinton's knew the lawsuit would probably fail, even if the optics weren't so bad--using one union to block voters from another union after that union doesn't endorse you.  So why join the losing side in advance?

Besides being otherwise brilliant, the Clintons are known by both Republicans and Democrats as having the keenest political mind.  So again, why pick this fight?  

..but liquor is quicker

"Candy is dandy but liquor is quicker" -- Ogden Nash

To something but dandy and quick, corporations created Achopop:

(Image Courtesy of The Science in the Public Interest)

The LDS Church has decided they don't like these flavored malt beverages too much:
Church spokesman Mark Tuttle said today leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints support the Utah Attorney General and the state's alcohol-control board in their belief "that the sale of distilled spirits - including so-called alcopops - should be restricted to state liquor stores. To allow the sale of distilled spirits in grocery and convenience stores promotes underage drinking and undermines the state system of alcohol control," Tuttle said in a prepared statement.

Let's be honest, these drinks are basically beer, only taste sweeter. Studies have shown that underage children are watching ads featuring these drinks, but I have yet to see any studies that say more youth are drinking these rather than any other alcoholic beverage, especially one with similar alcohol content.

In fact, if anything, the market is taking care of the "problem" beverages all on their own.
When "malternatives" bubbled onto the scene in 2001, beverage companies everywhere could almost taste the sweet opportunities. A new category sprang up nearly overnight: 87 million cases of the stuff sold in 2002.

But today the market for flavored malt beverages, or "alcopops," is struggling, with 2003 sales down 14.6 percent, according to Information Resources. Individual brands (including the best-sellers) fare even worse: Sales of Bacardi Silver plunged 62.4 percent last year, Skyy Blue's dropped 58.1 percent, and market leader Smirnoff Ice's slid 33 percent. Others, like Diageo's Captain Morgan Gold, have disappeared altogether. United Kingdom-based Diageo took a £24 million write-off last year--about $42 million at today's exchange rates--to deep-six the product. Miller Brewing abandoned three of its four malternative brands, forcing a $40 million write-off in fiscal 2003 due to "excess production" of Sauza Diablo and Stolichnaya Citrona. Only its drooping Skyy brand remains.
Of course, this was in 2004, but I don't see any other stories about this type of drink other than the one about what Utah's liquor commission decided to do on a problematic 3-2 vote, "with the three nondrinking commissioners outvoting their two imbibing colleagues to send the proposal to the Utah Legislature." I just don't get what all the fuss is about.

I wonder if stores will sue the state on this legislation (assuming it passes).

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Its that time of the year again

The legislature is starting up next week for another marathon-but-time-wise-short session. Per usual, the papers are reporting the most controversial bills, which benefits liberal activist groups, conservative activist groups, and the conservative legislators that push them. Today, we have one on abortion, an old stand by for conservative legislators to push. Utah has always been on the bleeding edge of abortion laws, testing what is the outer limits of restrictions on the US Supreme Court's interpretation of the right of privacy. Some times they lose, most times they just follow what other test states have done that was upheld.
Currently, state law allows a minor to get court permission instead of parental consent for an abortion in certain cases, and parents are never notified their child is petitioning the court.
That doesn't seem right to [Rep. Stephen Sandstrom] Sandstrom [(R-Orem)].
"For something as life-altering as an abortion, parents should have a right to say," Sandstrom said.
Sandstrom also would like to reduce the reasons for requesting a bypass to only cases in which the pregnancy was the result of incest or if her parent previously was convicted of child abuse. Currently, minors have to convince the court the pregnancy has put them at risk of death or debilitating injury, it was the result of incest or that the minor's parents will abuse her if they find out she's pregnant or wants an abortion.
... Only eight minors have filed since the law was enacted in 2006.
Now lets go back to the last monumental case on Abortion--1992's Casey v. Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania (The 2007 case which upheld Congress's ban on so-called "partial-birth abortion" (Gonzales v. Carthart) explicitedly stated it was not overturning Casey even if its reasoning was directly at odds with O'Connor's opinion in Casey). Anyway, here is relevant part in Casey:
We next consider the parental consent provision. Except in a medical emergency, an unemancipated young woman under 18 may not obtain an abortion unless she and one of her parents (or guardian) provides informed consent as defined above. If neither a parent nor a guardian provides consent, a court may authorize the performance of an abortion upon a determination that the young woman is mature and capable of giving informed consent and has, in fact, given her informed consent, or that an abortion would be in her best interests.

We have been over most of this ground before. Our cases establish, and we reaffirm today, that a State may require a minor seeking an abortion to obtain the consent of a parent or guardian, provided that there is an adequate judicial bypass procedure. See, e.g., Akron II, 497 U.S., at 510 -519; Hodgson, 497 U.S., at 461 (O'Connor, J., concurring in part and concurring in judgment in part); id., at 497-501 (Kennedy, J., concurring in judgment in part and dissenting in part); Akron I, 462 U.S., at 440 ; Bellotti II, 443 U.S., at 643 -644 (plurality opinion). Under these precedents, in our view, the one-parent consent requirement and judicial bypass procedure are constitutional.
And then in 2005, the court issued an unanimous opinion against a NH law that was similar to State Rep. Sandtrom's. It was called Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England The court only reversed the First Circuit's invalidating the entire statute because it wanted the NH legislature to tweak the provisions relating to whether a doctor needed parental consent even if the conditions for a judicial bypass (The minor is pregnant as a result of incest with the parent or guardian OR The parent has abused the minor OR The parent has not assumed responsibility for the minor's upbringing) or health of the mother exceptions existed. That is, the legislature was basically asked to make sure the existing exemptions under abortion jurisprudence (health of the mother and judicial bypass) remained intact and not subject to parental notification (and approval).

This is all to say that while Rep. Sandstrom's position may seem right, it is not constitutional at this point. Of course, Ayotte came out before Justice O'Connor was replaced by Justice Alito and maybe the 3 other arch conservatives feel empowered now that Alito (who authored the Circuit court opinion that upheld PA's law that was later overturned in Casey by O'Connor) is with them and they "won" Carthart II. So maybe Rep. Sandstrom's bill is a much more subtle attack on Casey and Roe than the full frontal one the legislature is also considering. Only time will tell if this bill will pass and if the Court will decide to overrule Ayotte.

Sorry about all of the constitutional law crap, but that article brought out the inner con law nerd in me.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Man, did I call it or what?

CONFIRMED:  I am Mitt Romney's bad luck charm.  I had a feeling that he would win, but I couldn't say it, because then of course he would lose.

This is about as scientific as "he forgot his lucky jockstrap" analysis in sports.  But hey, I am doing this on my own spare time.

As promised here is a picture of my dog watching a Republican speak. See how interested he is! Turned out to be Mike Huckabee, but John McCain's speech was rudely prempted by the Mittster.

Oh and I switched over the Democratic debate given that Michigan was an easy call for the networks, and that too was a boring debate, although I am still glad there was no Kucinich...thanks Nevada Supreme Court. Really, the three main candidates on the Democratic side agree on the 99% of everything. They all pledge to get combat troops out of Iraq in a year, all will try to get some sort of universal health care, reform the tax code to go after high income earners and corporations, made trade deals more contingent on union and environmental standards, push for more "alternative" energy, etc. The details are slightly different, but as my mom said tonight, they don't get to decide those details. As I have pointed out previously, that's Congress's job. So Dem voters are stuck with deciding based on the theory of change they like best, personality, or demographics... "Electability" which was the key buzzword in 2004, seems to be a foregone conclusion in 2008 in Democratic thinking.

A friend of mine who is a libertarian Republican (but not a Paul supporter I don't think) still sees this as a Hillary-Giuliani race...maybe Hillary, but Giuliani? He got 3% in the GOP race tonight...Dennis Kucinich, Fred Thompson, and Ron Paul all got more support that Mr. 9/11. Heck, Edwards and Obama weren't even on the ballot and their "undeclared" beat Giuliani on the Dem side by more than 10 times the amount...undeclared almost beat Giuliani on the GOP side as well.

Unless Fred Thompson wins South Carolina, I don't see how Giuliani could possibly win Florida. Who ever wins South Carolina or the national front runner (if the two are different now that Mitt won big in Michigan and seems to be focusing on Nevada rather than SC) will win Florida. Neither of those would be Rudy.

Oh and East Coast media, it is nɨˈvæːdə (Nevăda) not Nev-vaaaa-duh. It really annoys us all out West when you say it the wrong way.

not another prediction thread

Groan, I know, can't he leave this to the pundits that get paid to be wrong?

It has not gone unnoticed here around the Third Avenue that every time I predict Mitt Romney will make a come back from second place to win a primary/caucus, he gets a distant second place. In order to test the theory of being the Mittster's bad luck charm, I will predict that he will come in second to McCain in Michigan, despite some polling trends that have Romney making a late surge.

As an aside, while watching the New Hampshire primary results, my dog seemed to be rooting for John McCain. When the senior senator from Arizona made his victory speech, my little 8 lbs. Poodle/Pekingese mix stood on the couch with rapt attention staring at the TV and seemingly following every word that dripped from McCain's mouth. My wife and I cracked up and starting joking about our dog being a closet Republican, at which point he whipped his head around and stared at us as if to say, "Stop laughing, I am trying to listen to the war hero speak!" He promptly went back to staring at the TV. Tonight we will have the digital camera ready in case our dog again acts like a McCainiac. If so, I will be sure to post it on this site.

It has been painful watching the local newspapers spinning Romney's losses as it has been watching them cover the Democratic side. Somehow they found the worst, most crazied picture of Hillary Clinton during her victory speech (as she was opening her mouth to say something, but it looks like she is trying to swallow you whole). And people wonder why Utahns dislike her so much. Even local Democrats are afraid of supporting her too loudly. I just hope that the coverage for Clinton and Romney isn't too ridiculous from our friends in the print media tomorrow morning.

What I am watching for tonight:

1) How big is "uncommitted" (aka Edwards and Obama) in the Democratic primary? The bigger the uncommitted, the more you will hear the media talking about how the Democratic party is rejecting the Clitons. The smaller the number, the greater the potential there is that Dems are crossing over to either vote for McCain, or mess with the Republican primary and vote for Romney.

2) What percentage of Republicans do McCain and Romney get? If either win with Democrats/liberals, the other will try to claim that they had more support of "true conservatives." If the winner wins both GOP and Dem voters, it will be a double digit margin of victory.

3) Where is Huckabee? He too pulled ads out of South Carolina, not because he was saving money for Michigan, but because he was gambling (isn't that a sin for a Baptist minister?) on being able to knock out Romney or McCain by getting second place or better. Right now, he is in a distant third at 10-13% but if the push polls work and he gets his evangelicals out to vote, he could surprise everyone and be much further down the road to sewing up the nomination.

4) Where is Giulaini relative to Ron Paul? In Iowa, Ron Paul beat him, in New Hampshire, a last minute push propelled him to eek out a narrow lead over Paul. If Rudy finished behind Paul again, another round of media reports about the "tanking" campaign of Mr. 9/11 will surely resurface.

I further expect that the winner of this race will either win or narrowly lose South Carolina to Mike Huckabee. If the same person wins Michigan and South Carolina, then they will win Florida and probably the GOP nomination.

On the Democratic side, Nevada is key. Obama has to win both the Silver State and the Palmetto State to recapture his 5-day frontrunner status between Iowa and New Hampshire. If Edwards wins Nevada, the nomination really could get messy. (if HRC wins, I think she wins the nomination) Hillary and Obama's teams have finally agreed to a cease fire on their surrogate-based slime-a-thon, and the Democratic party is better off for it. I wonder who brokered the agreement...the next Secretary of State...or just Howard Dean?

Tonight I guess I will watch CNN, which is less annoying than MSNBC, but it is a race to the bottom as far as I am concerned. Maybe Fox News will provide better GOP coverage. Any advice?

Monday, January 14, 2008

know thyself

We recently have started getting serious about doing some home remodeling that we have talked about for years. On Saturday, we went to IKEA to look at bathroom accessories/fixtures. The next day, we went crazy at Lowe's and bought most of the pieces we needed. When we got home, I went even more crazy and forced my wife to help me clear out the spare bedroom of all the crap we had been storing there Clean Sweep style. Well, we didn't have a yard sale, or a TV show host or a organization guru, but we need create donate, toss, and keep piles. I moved as much as I could into our storage space in front of our car.

Some time in the evening, I got this idea into my head that I could swap out our old bathroom faucet with one we just bought. The box said it was easy as 1-2-3, and our plumber had said it was a snap. Quickly I learned that 1-2-3 might be easy, but first I had to remove the old faucet, which was impossible without some random tool that only (you guessed it) plumbers own. Plus, I really had no clue what I was doing. The most I saw my dad do that was mechanical was put on new bike pedals.

Not that it is his fault. I don't really have the ability to sit down and learn how to do all this stuff. The wait kills me.

When I was 17, I lived in Germany for a year with a couple families. One host father was a policeman...their version of the FBI I believe. I don't know what exactly his job was for that agency, but he coolly told me one day when I asked him to how something worked that I was the type that paid people to do stuff for me and he was the type that knew how to do stuff. At the time, I was insulted. (He also told me I was panicky and not a warm person, but that was because he constantly critiqued EVERY little thing I did, i.e. forget to turn off a light switch once after 30 seconds of non-use.)

But perhaps on this, he was right. After getting a third way through the sink project, I realized I was stuck and that I had broken a perfectly good sink. We had a guest coming over the next day, and she couldn't even wash her hands in the sink because I had an urge to feel like a handy man.

Somehow, I managed to undo all of the dissassembly and the sink seems to work about as well as it did before. But I learned my lesson: go earn some money and leave the home improvement to the professionals.