Thursday, October 28, 2004

Snafu University

. . . because everyone deserves a college education. Apparently.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Electoral College Scenarios

Things are getting a little dicier for President Bush. Though it seems increasingly likely that Bush will win the popular vote, it also seems increasingly likely that he will lose some "cushion" states in the electoral college. Obviously, the latter losses are all that matter, so it's time to get a little concerned if you're a Bush fan. Let's work through some situations, starting with some reasonably pro-Kerry assumptions:

Let's assume Kerry wins Delaware, Connecticut, Washington, California, and Michigan. That gives him 181 electoral votes (I won't list all the certain states). He needs 270 to win (a 269 tie kicks it to the House, where Bush will almost surely win). So Kerry needs to pick up 89 more votes. I think Kerry is going to win in New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Maine, despite all being within the margin of error on some recent polls, giving him 23 more votes.

Now Kerry needs to pick up 66 votes from: Oregon (7), Minnesota (10), Pennsylvania (21), New Mexico (5), Iowa (7), Ohio (20), Wisconsin (10), West Virginia (5), Florida (27), North Carolina (15), Nevada (5), Colorado (9), and Arkansas (6). I consider all of these states to still be in play. They add up to 147 votes total.

If Kerry wins all of the above states, except Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida (the big ones), he'll have 79 votes, more than enough to win. This scenario is unlikely (I'd say less than 5% chance), but it goes to show that you don't absolutely need to win some combination of Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio to win the election.

Now let's say that Bush wins North Carolina in the above scenario. A recent Survey USA poll, largely unfavorable to Bush in other states, still gave him a 3 point lead here. Many other polls show it at about 7 points. Now we're at 64 votes for Kerry, and Bush wins.

I'm going to keep making educated guesses. Now let's say Kerry wins Pennsylvania, which the same Survey USA poll gave him at 6 point lead in. Kerry now has 85 votes, and Bush loses, even if he wins Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina. This is a tad more likely scenario, and again goes to show how Kerry's efforts in smaller states, combined with a win in one big one, gives him some chance of winning.

What kind of chance? Still not a good one. In the scenario above, Bush needs 20 more votes to pull of a victory. This is very likely to happen. Just winning Nevada, Colorado, and Arkansas will do it, and Bush is winning in all of those states, as he has been for a while.

So Kerry can't settle for just winning Pennsylvania in my scenario, even if he has a chance of winning with it alone. In reality he needs to aim for either supplementing Pennsylvania with any one of Nevada, Colorado, Arkansas, Ohio, or Florida. How likely is that? I give him better than 50% odds, if just slightly better. Call me a pessimist.

If Kerry picks off Nevada, Colorado, or Arkansas, Bush could compensate by winning a state like Iowa or Oregon. Iowa's the best bet there - that race is exceedingly close, equally likely to go to either side. But if Bush can't compensate, he loses.

Now let's say Bush keeps Nevada, Colorado, and Arkansas, but loses Ohio. This makes things tougher for the President, obviously. He needs to win West Virginia and New Mexico, which now lean slightly for him, plus add Iowa and a more unlikely small state, like Oregon. I give him less than a 25% chance of doing this. Or, Bush can win Wisconsin and any two of the states above. This is more likely to happen.

So Bush can lose Pennsylvania and Ohio, but still win the election by taking Nevada, Colorado, Arkansas, Wisconsin, and any two of West Virginia, New Mexico, Iowa, and Oregon. Overall, I'll give Bush a 33% chance of winning if he loses Pennsylvania and Ohio, an event that could very well happen.

But all of this analysis assumes one thing: Bush wins Florida. The same unfavorable Survey USA report has Kerry winning by 1 point now. If Bush loses Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, he's sunk. If he loses Florida and wins Pennsylvania or Ohio, he needs to win Nevada, Colorado, and Arkansas, plus gain an additional 22 votes somewhere. If Bush wins Iowa, then he must win either of Minnesota or Wisconsin, and then win Oregon, or New Mexico and West Virginia together. Obviously, winning Minnesota and Wisconsin will also do the trick. Still, the odds are sinking pretty low at this point - less than 25% chance of Bush winning with a Florida and a Pennsylvania or Ohio loss, I'd say.

Of course there's many more scenarios to throw out there, and my percentage predictions are about as reliable as Mariano Rivera was tonight. But hopefully this gives some idea of where the candidates are at - assuming things keep going Kerry's way, Bush's chances are diminishing quickly. Keep watching those Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania polls people, and keep ignoring those deceptive national polls showing Bush with a lead. They may be accurate, but they aren't helpful.

Oh, and thanks to Gerry at Daly Thoughts for providing a great way to keep up with all of this. Check out his Electoral College Breakdown. It's well done.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Jon Stewart v Crossfire

Crossfire is a really bad show. But the addition of the clapping/jeering audience made it so bad that I can't watch a second of it anymore. I think they should introduce the hosts, and then say, "and featuring our Shakespearian crowd of useful idiots! Aren't they great folks?" Thankfully, Jon Stewart's social capital recently rose to a point where he can remind, to Crossfire's face, that it's awful. I don't think that Stewart comes across that great either (the whole holier-than-thou "I'm for the people shtick" is obnoxious, and Stewart deep down does fancy himself a bit of a journalist, despite his "I'm on a comedy show" caveats throughout), but overall I enjoyed the exchange. Watch the video to hear, if nothing else, Stewart call Tucker Carlson a "big dick" as they fade to a commercial break.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Prius or Pancreas?

According to the Sierra Club, it takes longer to get a Prius than an organ. But let's face it, Prius' are much cooler. I could do without a liver if I get keyless driving and bluetooth in return.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Bill Kristol Gets Pissed, or, How Crazy Can Susan Estrich Get?

I happened to watch Greta Van Susteren's post-debate analysis, because I liked that Bill Kristol and Rich Lowry were on the panel. In particular, I think Bill Kristol is one of the very best talking heads on TV - he's scholarly, susinct, and insightful. He is also on the board of my old research institute, college roommate and best friend of my college mentor, and a very nice person. So obviously, I'm a little biased.

Susan Estrich, on the other hand, is a wacko. I think she gets on Fox News precisely because she's a wacko. Who better to have as your token representative of the democratics than a complete lunatic? Fox News couldn't do any better (or worse, I guess). She and Teresa Heinz have to be best buddies; that is, if there's room enough in one building for the both of them.

On a personal note, Susan Estrich is also very mean. She came to a conference put on by the aforementioned research institute a few years ago. To say she was a terror would be an understatement. She yelled at everyone from the moment she got there, acted like she couldn't stand being there the whole time, and generally made the experience very unpleasant for all involved. It was clear that she enjoys making a scene, even at students' expense. I will say that she later wrote a letter of apology to the students she was particularly harsh to, but let's just say the letter wasn't quite enough to make us cool with her. So obviously, I'm biased here too.

Anyway, with that background, check out this transcript from the post-debate discussion:

ESTRICH: I also think, I’ve got to make one more point because I hate it, hate it when people don’t tell the truth. And neither my friend Bill Kristol nor my friend Rich Lowry is telling the truth tonight. Now you may agree or you may disagree with Edwards’s defense of Kerry, but he does defend the record. I refer to the transcript here. He goes on at some length defending Kerry’s record on defense. You guys, you’ve just got to tell the truth. Here it is.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well I got to let these guys respond. So Bill, I’ll start right there first with you.

BILL KRISTOL [THE WEEKLY STANDARD]: Well, I don’t respond to, I mean, I’m not on this show to be accused of not telling the truth, and I don’t--

ESTRICH: It’s right here in the transcript.

KRISTOL --no, Susan, that’s just ludicrous. John Edwards did not do much--did he defend Kerry’s vote against the ‘91 Gulf War? Did he defend Kerry’s oppositions to the defense programs? He just didn’t, and he didn’t--

ESTRICH: Yes, he did.

KRISTOL: He didn’t. I don’t believe he did. You could show me, if you want to waste a lot--

ESTRICH: I want to go back to what the Vice-President just said. “John Kerry has voted for the biggest military appropriations bill in the country’s history. He voted for the biggest intelligence appropriation. The Vice-President, when he was Secretary of Defense, cut over 80 weapons systems, including the very ones”--

KRISTOL: But that’s a really impressive defense of Kerry’s record, Susan.

ESTRICH: He’s going on and on, what do you want--

KRISTOL: He is not going on and on. There are two sentences. Look, OK, fine, you think it was a very fine defense of Kerry’s record. I’ve talked to Democrats tonight who don’t think Edwards did a terribly good job on that. But look, it’s a reasonable disagreement, you don’t accuse someone of not telling the truth, Susan.

VAN SUSTEREN: Wait, I’ve got to at least give Rich--

KRISTOL: You have a different interpretation of the debate. And I’m not amused by appearing on this show and have Susan Estrich say that I’m not telling the truth. That’s just ridiculous.

ESTRICH: Well he did defend it.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well let me at least give Rich his bit. Go ahead, Rich.

RICH LOWRY [NATIONAL REVIEW]: Greta if I could just briefly also defend my truthfulness. Susan, I guess, didn’t hear what I said. What I said is that Edwards didn’t have a good explanation when he was asked by Gwen Ifill who said that France and Germany were not going to come into Iraq even if John Kerry was elected. What I said was Edwards didn’t have a good answer on that, and he didn’t. And I also said he didn’t have a good answer to the question of whether Kerry would have actually toppled Saddam Hussein or not. Susan can read from the transcript on that if she likes, but he didn’t give a clear answer on that because I don’t think anyone really knows what Kerry’s answer is on that question even as [unintelligible].

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, I need to call a halt on it...

I'll try to find video if I can - the transcript doesn't do justice to how angry Kristol was. Even if Estrich was right, the way she attempted to make her point was so childish that the whole thing just ended up embarrassing her. Decent commentators shouldn't have to face the disgrace of being on a panel with her again. I doubt Kristol ever will.

A Headline You Don't See Everyday

Former NFL kicker sought in shooting at Siegfried & Roy home

Note that Hollywood recognized long ago the threat angry kickers pose to our society. Clearly we failed to heed its warning.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

The Election Situation

President Bush changed the topic of his speech today from domestic to foreign policy at the last minute. Very uncharacteristic of him. He also is very displeased with his own performance in the first debate. Because the time to stop Kerry's "momentum" (this could be some variation on "Joementum," mind, since the polls haven't bourne this out yet) is short, he's acting a little more desperate than usual. Republicans will have to hope this doesn't translate in the 2nd debate - he can't show too obvious an attitude change, lest Bush seem a sort-of flip-flopper himself. He should bring out Kerry's record more, but since the debate will be in the context of crowd questions, he should be kind of folksy about the whole thing. Just my advice. Bush never seems to take it, despite being a devoted reader.

And let's not take our eye of the ball - even if Bush messes everything up the next two weeks, it doesn't matter unless Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Missouri care. Without a significant shift in those states, Kerry's toast. Someone should give him some nice "Debate Winner!" trophies in consolation.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Ichiro! and My Predictions

259 hits in one season (and counting). What an achievement.

Before the season began, I made this prediction:

God/Ichiro will really take-off this year, batting .350 and staying strong through September.

This was just about the only thing I was right about (actually I was wrong by about 25 points on the average). Just for fun, let's go through the others:

Jamie Moyer will come close to 20 wins. Wrong!

Freddie Garcia will too. Wrong!

Raul Ibanez will get some attention. Rich Aurilia won't. Wrong!/Correct.

Radical prediction: Both John Olerud and Edgar Martinez will bat around .300, hit around 25 home runs, and score around 100 runners. They've only been doing that every year since the dead ball era (aka the '80s). So, so wrong.

Some superstar-laden team will win the AL East, while some minor league team will win the AL Central. Pretty good, though Minnesota has some good people.

There won't be a subway series. You know, between the Cubs and the White Sox. Yep.

No one takes the red line between those two parks anyway. Why start now?Pitchers won't even bother will Barry Bonds. 600 AB, 600 IBB. He'll end the season batting 1.000, or .000, depending on what your childhood was like. Ok, just saw him hit a game-tying home run. He'll get some of those too somehow. Pretty much right.

Cubs, Cardinals, and Astros fans will all contend that their team is by far the best in the NL Central long into October, despite the fact that only one of those teams will still be playing. About right.

The Braves will win the NL East again, all this Phillies nonsense notwithstanding. Atlanta just doesn't know how not to. Right.

The Padres will feel much better about themselves now that they have new digs. They'll need it, since they're still a bad team. Way wrong!

I guess Arizona will win the NL West. I don't really know. That's what the smart people say. The smart people were stupid, and so was I for listening to them.

Ken Griffey Jr. will get hurt again. Oh wait, that's already happened! Still true.

(Real) radical prediction: The Mariners will win AL West. Anaheim will be a wild card (and thus the peace between my girlfiend and I will be kept until October). Tough luck, A's and Red Sox. Embarrassing.