Sunday, August 24, 2008

Pre-Convention Update (E-72)

Instead of waiting for the sixty-day mark, I decided to pull numbers right before and right after both parties' conventions. Without further ado, the numbers:

Strong D: 214 (-17)
Lead D: 46 (-7)
Toss-up: 102 (+5)
Lean R: 64 (+19)
Strong R: 112 (-10)

Total D: 260
Total R: 176

The major change from last time: McCain came out swinging. It was risky, inherently risky, but so far it looks like it's paying dividends. He's put Ohio back in the toss-up column, which makes it a real race again, at least potentially. He retains the problem that he absolutely has to run the table on the toss-ups to win, but it's mathematically possible now. It wasn't, before.

Now, the weekend's big news is that Barack Obama has picked Joe Biden as his running mate. The announcement has pretty much sucked all the oxygen out of the room, and no one on the news channels can talk about anything else. He's not my favorite guy in all the world, but was there another choice? Biden brings experience, and a bit of gravitas. He's got as much foreign policy experience as anyone in his party at this point. He's got some experience with economic issues as well. Mostly, this kicks off their convention spiel two days early. That puts some pressure on McCain's campaign to drop a bombshell late Friday or early Saturday.

Now, we're going to look at each of the toss-ups, and see who'd win if the election were today. Caveat Emptor: I'm awarding the votes to whoever has a plurality. Almost by definition, nobody has cleared 50% support in a toss-up state.

Alaska: D +3
Nevada: D +5
Montana: D +3
Colorado: D +9
Ohio: D +20
Virginia: D +13
New Hampshire: D +4

Total D: +57

North Dakota: R +3
North Carolina: R +15
Florida: R +27

Total R: +45

Projected D: 317
Projected R: 221

This projection is worth exactly as much as you have paid for it. But the polling data, in aggregate, tells a sad story for Republicans.

What John McCain must do: McCain is going to have to endure a week-long media blackout, unless something really interesting happens at the Democratic convention, and all Hell breaks loose. He's going to have to ruthlessly exploit any mistakes the Democrats make during their own convention, while simultaneously batting it out of the park during his own. He's had a good run these last few weeks, pulling 24 EVs from the Democrats while adding 9 net EVs to his own tally. He's got to keep that train rolling. He has to win all but eight of the EVs on the toss-up list. Which is to say, he can live without Nevada and Montana, but has to have all of the rest.

What Barack Obama must do: Obama has lost the initiative. This isn't an existential crisis for his campaign, not yet, given the size of his EV lead. He only needs to pull ten EVs from the toss-up list to win. That's Ohio or Virginia. But it's still troubling. He can't continue to sail above the fray. He's got to engage McCain's campaign head-to-head. He knows how -- anyone who matriculated through the Chicago school of politics knows every dirty trick ever invented, and then some -- but has chosen not to respond in kind so far. He, or someone from his campaign, has got to get in the pit and start swinging. Otherwise, they may yet snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

The Way to Bet: Obama still owns a substantial lead, but has lost the initiative. I'm hesitant to call it, but I still think Obama wins. It's not a landslide, but not a squeaker, either. And if McCain continues to chip away at the middle, it'll get tighter yet.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Thoughts on Miranda

Not too long ago, while convalescing from an illness, I found myself watching an episode of COPS. Why, I'm not entirely sure, since it's not something I ordinarily seek out. Near as I can tell, I fell asleep watching Ninja Warrior, and that happened to be the next thing on the schedule.

You learn all kinds of interesting things from COPS.

For instance, it always pays to stay sober and to keep your shirt on. The dudes on COPS that are drunk and shirtless almost always get a free ride downtown. "What'd this one do, Leroy?" "Dunno, Bob. But he was drunk, and wasn't wearing a shirt. Hadda be doin' something." "Works for me. Book 'em!"

What it really got me thinking about, though, was the Miranda warning. Based on what I saw, Miranda is in sore need of an update.

Here's a boilerplate version of the Miranda warning:

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to have an attorney present during questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.

Now, here's my new and improved version:

You have the right to remain silent. Oh please, dear sweet Jesus, remain silent! But no. You'll rant, and rave, and make pronouncements. You'll make all kinds of bold statements that we'll record for the DA's amusement. He'll take those statements, fold them 'till they're all corners, and ram them home where the Sun don't shine. When they're replayed in court, your attorney -- and you can have an attorney whenever you want, whether you can afford it or not -- your attorney will groan, hide his face in his hands, and bitterly curse the day he gave up hanging sheet rock for the study of law. But for now, for right now, you have a golden opportunity to shut the hell up. Please, for all our sakes, take it!

I don't expect it to catch on. But it probably accurately reflects what a lot of officers really feel...

Monday, August 18, 2008

National Aviation Day

According to Wikipedia, August 19 is National Aviation Day. In honor of the event, I would like to present a few of my favorite "aviation oddity" photos.

(1) Adventures in Traffic Enforcement. Please, oh please, tell me this fool wasn't trying to pull a fighter jet over for speeding...

(2) Tail Number of the Beast. Apparently, Satan used to fly a Starfighter for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force. Who knew?

(3) The Things You Find on Google Earth. Methinks some poor Lieutenant got lost trying to park his Eagle at Elmendorf AFB in Alaska.


FROM: Gen. Anger
TO: Lt. Fumducker
RE: Parking at Elmendorf AFB

Be advised that you turn LEFT off the runway to get to USAF Base Ops, and RIGHT to get to General Aviation. LEFT, not RIGHT. LEFT. Next time you do this, your ass is PUSHING that damn jet back.

(Note: I actually met a Major Anger once, call sign "Rage". He's actually a really nice guy.)

(4) Learning to Fly. Learning to fly is good. Learning to land? Even better!

These are my current favorites. More to come, infrequently, as I find them.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Ninety Days and Counting

Ninety days from today, we go to the polls to elect the next President of the United States. While Wikipedia lists ten parties and two independent bids, for all practical intents and purposes we know that the two real contenders are the presumptive nominees for the Democratic and Republican parties, Barack Obama and John McCain, respectively. No one knows who's going to win yet. Three months is an eternity in national politics. But we can look at trends, and that's what I'm going to do in the first week of each month between now and November.

Data Source

I will be using the website for my data. Why this site? Simple. Polls can be misleading, sometimes deliberately so. What these guys do, they take all the polling data available, and and then do some statistical jiggery-pokery to arrive at a best estimate of what the data really say. Which is to say, an individual poll might be full of skew and spin, but taking all of them together averages out any polling bias there may be.

Electoral College Estimates as of 8/6/2008

Strong D: 231
Lean D: 53
Toss-up: 97
Lean R: 35
Strong R: 122

Total D: 284
Total R: 157

Bear in mind that the magic number is 270. The first man past that post on Election Night takes it all. Also, bear in mind that the national trend poll is virtually meaningless. We do not elect the President by national plebiscite, at least not yet. The real election for President still takes place when the Electoral College meets. With this in mind, and looking at the map, some obvious facts present themselves.

What John McCain must do: McCain must win every toss-up state, and also win one of Michigan or Ohio. Look for McCain's campaign to begin targeting one or both of those states, to try to calve it off of Obama's "lean"list. If he doesn't, he's toast; there just aren't enough toss-up states on the table to put him over the top.

What Barack Obama must do: Obama must hold on to all of his "lean" states, as well as all of the states where he enjoys a strong lead. Just that. If he can pull that off, he'll come away with 284 EC votes plus whatever of the toss-up states fall his way.

The way to bet: As of this writing, it's looking like Obama takes it in a not particularly close election. McCain will have to turn up the heat, big-time, and that's a risky thing to do; while Obama simply has to avoid unforced errors. If McCain can carve off either Michigan or Ohio, it's a real race again.

To be continued, sometime in early September...