Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Congratulations President Obama

Many congratulations to our new President. May his time in office be successful!
Yesterday's inauguration was indeed historic, because for the first time, a black man became President of the United States of America. Yet for me, apart from the history of that event, President Obama's skin color has no bearing on his work as President. It would appear I am not alone in that view. Juan Williams has expressed similar thoughts (of course, much better than I could!). In all, I think that his thoughts and mine are also summed up in those famous words of Martin Luther King Jr. about a man being judged by the content of his character not the color of his skin - truly great words.
I am sure I am not always going to agree with President Obama, but when I do disagree, I hope that I can do so within the guidelines set forth in this article by Andy Levy. If I can do that, I will not only be doing good things to advance political dialog in the US, but will also be showing myself to be more mature than those who have suffered from BDS these last eight years. A worthy goal, I think!
So, here is my first area of disagreement (didn't take long, did it - but that is the beauty of the US - I am FREE to disagree with anyone!). Instead of a bunch of stimulus spending that is inevitably going to be earmarked, wasted and go to feed political and other types of corruption, why not simply suspend the payroll (FICA) taxes for one year. Everyone who earns pays a little more than 7% of their wages in FICA taxes on the first $100K or so of their earnings. The company that employs them (or they themselves, if they are self employed) matches this payment. To not pay it for one year would reduce government income by $625 billion (see this report). This is less than the $850 billion (and climbing) currently proposed in this (first) stimulus package. Plus, this puts one's faith in the ability and collective wisdom (or lack thereof) of the American people, as opposed to the ability and collective wisdom (or lack thereof) of a bunch of politicians in Washington DC. How about it President Obama?

Friday, January 2, 2009

Starting to Think About Energy

Just some initial thoughts about the US energy situation. We use energy as a nation primarily in three ways: we use electricity, we use energy for travel (primarily gas and diesel at present) and we use energy for space heating (some of this is electric, some gas, some heating oil, some wood burning, some coal, and no doubt a little bit of geothermal and solar).
Any coherent energy policy has to think about all these uses, rather than just one in isolation. As an example, suppose we decide that our policy is going to be to encourage electric cars (plug in hybrids or some such). We had best plan on increasing our electrical generating capacity significantly or we will not be able to charge those hybrids when needed.
Wikipedia has an interesting overview page on energy usage in the US. It includes a number of charts and so forth which provide some useful background. The above chart shows energy usage (not just electricity) in the US in 2004. About 45% of the residential usage is for space heating and water heating, while about 19% of commercial usage is for those purposes. Most of transportation is oil based, whether aviation (12% of transpo), diesel (21%) or gasoline (61%). The net result of this is that at least 60% of the total energy usage in the US (probably more than this, since some of that space and water heating will be electrical) has to be generated by electricity.
All of this will have to play into the mix as we try (if indeed we do try - as far as I can tell we haven't had an energy policy ever in the US, so you could argue that we don't need one now!) to work out an energy policy for the US. More to follow!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year's Day

Greetings to all my loyal readers (which, of course, assumes I have any, which in turn seems unlikely!):
It being New Year's Day, and all, it seems an opportune time to do some thinking about the coming year. First of all, how about grounding me in reality - take a look at my last few blogs (from before the election) and see just how wrong I was - talk about Oops! In fact, about the only prognosis from last year on which I was remotely correct was one I did not talk about and did not (to my own loss) act upon. And that was my prediction that the price of oil would drop down to below $100 a barrel before the end of the year. I actually thought it might get as low as $80 a barrel, so I did not see how low it would go, but if only I had shorted oil when it was $147, I would now be amazingly rich! Of course, much more likely is that would have guaranteed that the price of oil stayed high. So, what do I know?
All of which means that my prognostications are not terribly useful, so I will try and refrain from them for the duration of the year. However, what I will do on this blog is share my thoughts about what we need as a Nation (after all, why aim for simple things?) especially in regard to energy, infrastructure, and education (about all three of which I know a bit) and the economy (about which I know almost nothing, but that won't stop me :)).
In regards to my goals for the year, well I turn 50 this year, and I need to get myself fit and healthy (a good way of celebrating that birthday milestone). To get specific, I have to lose significant weight, with a goal of 168 lbs (although I would be thrilled with anything below 180!). How big is that challenge? Well, I am 211 lbs today, so...
Of course, to get there I will need to follow the Bloom County diet - eat less and exercise! I want to do some exercise every day on either the treadmill or the elliptical, and cut back on fattening foods. On the food side, I want at the end of each day to be able to easily identify five fruit or veggie servings I have had that day. So far today, three - two satsumas and an OJ. I have also done my exercise today (48 minutes on the treadmill) so for one day at least I am being pretty good.
Other resolutions - I will have to think about those some. One good thing though - I got the last of four reports submitted yesterday, so my desk is clear of major writing assignments at this time. That means I should be able to finish one book this year, and get another well forward, and yes, those are resolutions.
So, in between my postings on energy and the like, I will try to intersperse my progress on my resolutions - we shall see...

Friday, October 31, 2008

Only four days to go

Well, the end is nigh, but will it be the end that the mainstream media is predicting, or some shocking twist at the end of the complex plot that has been the 2008 election campaign?
In truth, the odds are very high that Obama will win this, but... all of that rests upon the supposition that the polls are telling a semi-coherent story. Are they? Who knows, but let's consider a few things.
First, most polls have relentlessly over-polled (according to historic norms) democrats. In 2006, the dems had a 3% advantage in voters. In 2004, it was a tie between dems and pubbies. So, any poll that samples 10% more dems than pubbies is suspect. And, to be honest, that is most of the polls.
Second, the early voting numbers are very confusing, to say the least. I have frankly not been able to make head or tail of them. Anyone who says that the early voting numbers prove that one side or the other is running away with one state or another should note, of course, that while we may have party affiliation for who has voted early, we do NOT have any hard information on which way they have voted. Also, note that the exit polls are likely to be wrong this time, just as they were wrong in 2004.
Third, the various states in play are perhaps not what the polling would lead us to expect. It appears (to judge both from who has been visiting the state in the last few days, as well as some other info out there) that Iowa is very much in play. Hmmm...
So, what of my prediction back in August that McCain would win:
McCain will win with 338 to 200 electoral college votes (how? Well, of the swing states he will get NH, FL, PA, OH, MI, IA, MN, CO, NM, and NV - I think that gives him 338 votes). I think either Romney or Palin will be his VP.
Well, I was right about Palin! As for the rest, well, I think that FL and OH are safely in McCain's hands now. I suspect that MI and MN are safely in Obama's hands. If the others (NH, PA, IA, CO, NM and NV) go McCain's way, he wins 311 to 227. If he loses CO, NM and NV it is 292 to 246. If he loses IA and NH too, it goes to 281 to 257. In short, PA is key. Its 21 electoral votes add up to 2 less than CO, NM, NV and NH.
So, can McCain do it? Well, the polls say no, but (see above) the polls are likely a little too optimistic about Obama's support. Also, Obama is not closing well, by which I mean he is not getting clearly above 50% in many of the places where he needs to get that number. For example, he is polling at 47% to 43% with 9% undecided in PA.
Isn't this all rather going against the conventional wisdom? Well, yes, it is. Why might that be? Well, perhaps the conventional wisdom is derived primarily from the mainstream media (MSM) and perhaps, the MSM are completely in the tank for Obama, and perhaps, because they are so completely in the tank for Obama, the MSM do not want people who support McCain to go out and vote, so perhaps they are trying to create the impression that it is all over, so that people who would vote for McCain will not do so? Ya think? Maybe..
There is only one cure for that, to whit - go vote!
Of course, all this analysis is likely me grasping at straws, and Obama likely has this so far in the bag it ain't even funny, which means all you folk who are thinking about voting for him don't need to do that:)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Even I did not think it would come to this!

But now, it looks as if even New York might be in play for McCain - wow! If, and let's be up front and say this is a HUGE IF, this is true and stays even close to true, then stick a fork in Obama - he's done, and this will go down as a bigger debacle than Dukakis, Gore and Kerry rolled into one. This could be good for the Democrats in the long run, but only if they use it to evaluate truly what happened. A major casualty will be the mainstream media and the liberal coastal elites. BUT, all of that is rather moot for now. This remains to be confirmed and we are still more than 7 weeks away from election day, so we shall see how it all turns out, but nonetheless, WOW!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Loosing the Grip

Well, I thought life was bad for Obama after the lipstick-pig thing, but he has managed to make it worse. He put out an advert yesterday that mocked McCain for not using e-mail. Turns out that this is wrong on so many fronts somebody in Obama's campaign should be fired.
First, McCain has injuries that make it difficult for him to type. In other words, the Obama advert just mocked a heroic war veteran because the injuries he sustained have handicapped him - that will go well. As Glenn Reynolds said:
Oops. Another unforced error from the Obama campaign, which seems to have had a lot of those lately. The above is from 2000 -- don't these people know how to use Google? Or NEXIS? Or something?

Second, turns out that McCain pioneered the amazing use of the Internet that has powered the Obama campaign, and McCain did that in 2000 - some Luddite he! What on earth is going on here? This suggests a level of incompetence that is almost unbelievable.
Partly I think this is the cocooning issue I discussed a couple of days ago. Nobody in the Obama campaign could think beyond the message they wanted to send, to see what negative repercussions it might bring. In short, they cannot see beyond their own (inevitably limited, by which I mean all of us have limited vision, not just the Obama campaign) vision. In a campaign that can be bad, but in a Presidency this can be disasterous. It further makes clear just how stupid Obama's claim that his experience running the campaign qualified him to be President - it don't!
Of course, all of this might have no effect, but it looks very much as if it is beginning to have a major impact. First, the Palin phenomenon continues. Increasingly, commentators are drawing attention to the solid values inherent in small towns, and inherent in the experience of many women (a far broader group than coastal elites). Neither of these aspects of her candidacy are easily comprehended by the mainstream media, so they miss the import of these insights.
But, the voters do not. And the polls are beginning to reflect that, not only in the National numbers, where change would show up soonest, since National level polling occurs daily, but also at the State level, which is of course where it actually counts.
If you look at those State level numbers, you see that of my ridiculous projections for McCain to win, the numbers do not apparently look good.
Currently in the "leans" or "likely" GOP column, I have Florida and Ohio. Three of my states are in the toss up category CO, NM, and NV. Of the remainder NH,PA, MI, IA are in the "leans" Democrat column, and MN is in the "likely" Democrat column.
That would seem to suggest absolutely no chance of my prediction that all of these would go for McCain. Add into the mix Virginia, which I had assumed would be for McCain and is in fact shown as being a toss-up. However, if we look a little closer we see that many of these States have old polling. MN for example, is based on an August 14 report at which time Obama led 46 to 42%. Think that might have changed a bit? NH was polled August 20 at which time Obama led 47 to 46%. Iowa was polled August 11 (46 to 41% for Obama). Other polls are more recent (typically September 8 or 11) but these three states (MN, NH, IA) will almost certainly show numbers more favorable to McCain when they are next polled. Obama has taken a significant hit in the last two weeks, it is only now beginning to show fully in the State polling, and if he does not move his game up several notches, he will be toast. He has to get back on message and quit making mistakes in the next week, or he may not get back into this race.
It would appear that I am not the only one who is feeling this way. Senior Democrats are beginning to panic, and polling indicates that FL and PA are moving out of contention.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Lipstick and the OODA Loop

Well, what a to-do. Obama makes a comment about pigs and lipsticks - was it an attack on Palin? McCain's campaign has put out a quick response ad that suggests they think it was. Is this much ado about nothing, or is this a blatantly sexist attack by Obama on Palin?

I think the answer is yes, to both! How do I get there? Well, anyone who seriously examines Obama's attacks on Clinton will see some fairly strong sexism there, so it is not like he has not done this sort of thing before. On the other hand, the phrase about lipstick on a pig is one that has been around for a long time and does not necessarily connote sexism.

BUT, clearly the crowd at the Obama rally took it to be an attack on Palin (given her pit bull/lipstick joke at the convention) and pretty clearly Obama knew it would be taken as such. I have to think that comments of this nature are considered by candidates before they are used, to determine whether there is a downside to their use. If Obama used this phrasing without recognizing that it could be considered an attack on Palin, then he is really dumb. What he probably wanted was a nasty little attack, with plausible deniability. And that is what he thought he got, but he didn't.

This is going to explode in Obama's face with women. They will not be particularly vocal about it (we are already hearing from the vocal women) but they will not vote for him in November, and a significant number of them will vote for McCain. How do I know this? I had a conversation with a friend yesterday (before the pig thing) and much to my surprise, she opened the conversation by talking about Palin (we very rarely discuss politics - she is a liberal democrat, I am NOT!). She was delighted by the selection, did not consider it a token thing, and was clearly exercised to find out more about Palin. For example, she had researched the Bridge to Nowhere, and knew (which I did not) that the airport that was going to be connected was an International Airport! She also knew it was probably one of the world's smallest International Airports! She had sailed through the straight between the two islands that would have been joined by the bridge, and she was quite clear that the bridge to nowhere was completely inappropriate and she fully backed Palin's decision to can it (even if she had, during an election, said she supported it). I was totally taken aback by the degree to which she had investigated this, and seemed to want to have a reason to vote for Palin. I doubt if she has ever voted for Republicans in her life, and I would not bet on her doing so this November, but I am damned sure that she will not vote for Obama, not now, and especially not after the "pig" thing.

Why has Obama miscalculated so badly? Cocooning. He has listened too much to the coastal elites who think that only someone with an Ivy league education is fit to lead the US. He has heard all their sneers about Palin as being some sort of Neanderthal throwback, and he has believed them, because nobody around him thinks any differently.

But out here in the real world, Palin is resonating with folks like nobody's business. Her ability to take on her own party has largely removed the partisan issue from the table, by which I mean that people who have voted Democrat all their lives will feel able to cast a vote for her because they feel she will take on political scumbags in both parties - and given that 80% feel the country is on the wrong track, and only 9% approve of the job congress is doing, there are lots of folks out there who see a real need for someone to take on the scumbags. Plus, Sarah Palin does things like this (warning: hankies may be needed!).

Camille Paglia has an excellent article in which she warns Democrats about their response to Palin. She also very clearly and emphatically states that Palin is a feminist, and indeed goes further to indicate that Palin's type of feminism (basically, get on and do it, gut the damned moose!) is much more relevant and resonant than the dated feminism that still rules the coastal elites. Contrast her thoughtful take with an insult from above the border, and with depictions of Palin as a dominatrix into bestiality. The latter two, of course, serve only to make Paglia's point and hurt Obama's electoral chances even further. And this is why the McCain group came out with their ad which some (see the corner for example) think is a mistake. If it were aimed at Republicans, it would be, but it is not. It is aimed at those for whom the sexist attacks against Palin have been a total outrage, and it will help to ensure that those folk will not vote for Obama in November.

Why is all this happening? Well, McCain, being a fighter pilot, has got right inside Obama's OODA loop. A key quote from the Wikipedia site on OODA loops is:
How does one interfere with an opponent's OODA cycle? One of John Boyd's primary insights in fighter combat was that it is vital to change speed and direction faster than the opponent. This is not necessarily a function of the plane's ability to maneuver, rather the pilot must think and act faster than the opponent can think and act. Getting "inside" the cycle — short-circuiting the opponent's thinking processes - produces opportunities for the opponent to react inappropriately.
And that is what is happening here. Obama is reacting (still!) to the selection of Palin as the VP choice. Yesterday, Palin and McCain had an article on the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bailout. Obama's comments yesterday were the sort of comments you make to fire up your base. McCain has been using all the attacks on Palin to enlarge his base and strip voters away from Obama. In short, McCain is messing with Obama's mind, and it is only going to get worse. I loved one suggestion I read today about a suggested (by Mark Krikorian) suitable response by Palin to the latest Obamablunder:
I agree with the consensus that the campaign shouldn't whine about the lipstick on a pig comment. Instead, Gov. Palin should simply start each appearance by pausing briefly at the podium to touch up her lipstick, and then move on. People who get the joke will love it, and those who don't will have it explained to them by others, ensuring that pretty soon, even those who don't follow the news will hear about it, to Obama's detriment.
There will be nothing more from the McCain camp about the pig blunder other than subtle things like this. They will be onto something else and Obama will be reacting again. At some stage, the meme will start to be discussed that, given the disarray in the Obama camp, his claim that this gives him experience to be President is not that valid.

All of which makes my prediction that Obama was going to lose this election big (338 to 200) seem more likely by the day. To do this, McCain will have to win the following swing states:
NH, FL, PA, OH, MI, IA, MN, CO, NM, and NV
Florida is moving beyond Obama's reach, Colorado and Ohio are moving in that direction too. The trend in the others is all in McCain's direction. Absent a major refocusing of the Obama campaign, he is in major trouble. And that disarray is beginning to show in all the gaffes and errors.