Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Best. Proclamation. Evah!

Just as a back story, over the past year the state of Georgia has suffered a massive drought. It got so bad that the governor Sonny Purdue called for a Rain Prayer to bring about divine intervention. The drought was a combination of things, between the lack of rain and because the state of Georgia had sold too much water rights to the equally parched state of Florida (doh!). As a result, Georgia started talking about re-opening claims of land and river rights along the border with Tennessee in order to build a massive pipeline to Atlanta, both a massive boondoggle and also a slight affront to the rights and sovereignty of the folks of Tennessee.

The city of Chattanooga, which resides right on the border, was going to be hugely affected by that land grab attempt. So in response, the Mayor of Chattanooga issued a proclamation:


WHEREAS, it has come to pass that the heavens are shut up and a drought of Biblical proportions has been visited upon the Southern United States, and

WHEREAS, the parched and dry conditions have weighed heavily upon the State of Georgia and sorely afflicted those who inhabit the Great City of Atlanta, and

WHEREAS, the leaders of Georgia have assembled like the Children of Israel in the desert, grumbled among themselves and have begun to cast longing eyes toward the north, coveting their neighbor’s assets, and

WHEREAS, the lack of water has led some misguided souls to seek more potent refreshment or for other reasons has resulted in irrational and outrageous actions seeking to move a long established and peaceful boundary, and

WHEREAS, it is deemed better to light a candle than curse the darkness, and better to offer a cool, wet kiss of friendship rather than face a hot and angry legislator gone mad from thirst, and

Whereas, it is feared that if today they come for our river, tomorrow they might come for our Jack Daniels or George Dickel,

NOW THEREFORE, In the interest of brotherly love, peace, friendship, mutual prosperity, citywide self promotion, political grandstanding and all that

I Ron Littlefield, Mayor of the City of Chattanooga, Tennessee,

Do hereby Proclaim that Wednesday, February 27, 2008 shall be known as

“Give Our Georgia Friends a Drink Day”

Mayor Littlefield just earned my vote for the President of the United States. We can't spare the man: he snarks!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Cuba Question Part CXLVIII

Yesterday was a momentous time: Pakistan's election openly repudiated Musharraf; Wisconsin's primary openly repudiated Clinton (Jebus! She got creamed by double digits in a blue-collar state that she's supposed to win); Toshiba surrendered to Sony Blu-Ray; and Castro resigned from official duties as Cuba's President.

What's amazing is that all at once Castro's resignation, with obvious signs of old age and illness, both means so much and so little. Even though Musharraf's huge loss has more meaning, Castro dominated the news chatter all day: at the same time, Castro's departure from the main stage doesn't really, honestly, change a thing.

Castro may be leaving office, but he's kept in place a circle of political elites running Cuba that have no incentive or desire to reform their government. His own brother is technically in charge now, and while Raul is talking considerations of reform there's no sign he'll follow through on anything substantial.

The big reason why there won't be any change is because of us, the United States. Our stance on Cuba has not changed in 49 years, and at some points have even worsened, simply because of ideology and stubbornness. While we have legitimate grievances against Castro's communist (and post-Soviet authortarian) regime, we've never attempted genuine diplomacy and dialog. Instead we've forced embargoes, sanctions, denials, covert ops, basically every hardliner stance we could think of. We'd also tried invasion once. We'd also tried exploding cigars and Nair assaults on Castro's beard (I'm not kidding!).

The problem is that all our efforts are wasted: other countries do not observe the sanctions and embargoes, so Cuba stays afloat (barely) financially. Castro and his buddies, meanwhile, use our bullying ways to act defiant and manly, and they get to look good while they do it. And what's worse, we know it's working for them, and not for us.

But we can't change, can we? Even with all the expert advise, all the obvious clues, we can't change our behavior towards Cuba because no one in D.C. wants to upset 200,000 plus Cuban exiles sitting in South Florida... even though a growing number of them think the sanctions and embargoes need to go.

There's also the issue of all the land, property and businesses that Castro seized from the Cuban exile community. A lot of the older exiles who originally owned that stuff insist on getting them back. Unfortunately, it's not just Cuba owning those properties now, other nations have invested and bought them up, so the issue of ownership has gotten waaaaay more complicated. Even Castro's departure isn't going to fix that...

So, what will happen with Cuba? Not much is going to change, not right now. Our politicians will continue to demand political reform, and that Cuba hold open elections, etc. The Cuban leadership will mock, snerk, and insist on their sovereign right to laugh in our general direction.
The older Cuban exile community will continue to sulk; the younger community will head out to dance clubs. The Cubans at home will live with censorship, meager income, low standard of living and high standard health care.

Oh, and everyone is still waiting for the upcoming Batman film. That's about it.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Winners and Losers of Super Tuesday

Winner: John McCain. He jumped from a slight lead to a massive lead in the delegate counts. Between both parties, McCain is the one certain frontrunner. Momentum is his, the aura of inevitable victory is his. He is now bound to get more party support, more voters flocking to his banner. And the early math regarding the remaining states suggests he has smooth sailing from here on in. What really clinched his victory, nicely enough, was an early loss on the day: West Virginia. In that state, they hold a convention rather than a primary, and the first round of convention voting went 40 percent Romney, 31 percent Huckabee, 10 percent McCain, and laughable for Ron Paul. A supposed (rumor alert) quick round of phone calls later, and nearly all of McCain's votes went to Huckabee, giving him enough votes to beat Romney. As a calculated move, it was brilliant: it kept Romney, McCain's major rival, from winning a solidly conservative state that could have improved Mitt's "Conservative" appearance, while giving a real Conservative Huckabee a victory in a state that didn't have many delegates riding on it. No wonder it left Romney's people sputtering and screaming conspiracy: it hurt them more than it hurt McCain.

Loser: Mitt Romney. Yes, he won states. But he won the states he was expected to win (Utah, Mass., even Colorado). And he lost the states he needed (California, Cali, Hollywoodland, the Big One). What really hurt him was that he lost big in the solidly Red States, ahem, the big Southeast states. He didn't even place second in Alabama or Georgia or Tennessee. Having already lost South Carolina and Florida, Romney is not impressing anyone where the Republicans maintain their voting base. And this is despite nearly all of the major "conservative" pundits like Limbaugh and Coulter trying to prop Romney up (or to tear McCain down). There are a lot of GOP voters who aren't buying what Romney is selling.

Winner: The Democratic Party. Okay, the general election isn't even here yet. There's 5-6 more months to go before the convention. There's still two heavy-hitting candidates punching each other for the title belt in a fight that's gotten messy and could get worse. But the good news is that the voters are turning out in droves for the Democrats. If you look from state to state that had shared Primaries between the D and the R, there was double the turnout for the Dems than for the Reps. And the Republicans have more at stake than the Democrats: The Republicans still have 3 major choices to choose from (let's face it, Ron Paul is one step away from calling up Ross Perot about borrowing the Reform Party for a few months). You'd think with the Dems' choices down to two, there would be fewer voters taking a stake: You'd think with the Republicans still campaigning hard with three choices there'd be more voters wanting to have their say. But this is in conjunction with the census numbers of registered voters showing a 50-35 Democrat-to-Republican body count: there are simply now more registered Dems than Republicans. And the Democrats are more enthused with their choices: most voters don't have a problem with their opposite candidate winning (71 percent of Obama's will vote for Hillary if they must; 72 percent of Hillary's will voter for Obama if he wins). Compare that with the Republicans, who are splitting rather nastily between McCain and Romney and Huckabee.

Loser: Obama's Momentum. Statistically, it was a draw between Hillary and Obama last night. They mostly split the states down the middle, almost Solomon-like. Hillary could claim victory because she won more of the larger states (Cali, Mass) and got more delegates. And Obama could claim victory for winning in states he wasn't polling in two weeks earlier, as well as winning in states where Hillary's chances are not that good (the South outside of Arkansas and Florida). However, Obama did poorly in California, and worse yet did poorly in Massachusetts. The entire Kennedy clan was backing him, fer crissakes: when was the last time that state didn't answer fawningly to the Kennedys' whims? As for the Big Mo, Clinton still looks formidable, and while Obama's caught up to her in the polling numbers she still gathered more numbers to herself (taking more of Edwards' lost support than Obama has). Obama still has a major obstacle (or twelve) to overcome. It's now down to Ohio and Texas, and who can win those states...

Loser: The Kennedys and their home state. My God. Massachusetts voted for Clinton. What the hell is wrong with that state?!?!

Loser: the Conservative Mainstream Media Elites. They don't like McCain. It's that obvious. They also can't understand why most Republican voters are backing McCain, which is risky (for them and their wallets). Ann Coulter's always been more on the fringe, having alienated a few too many fellow Conservatives, but Rush Limbaugh is starting to look waaaay out-of-touch with the average Republican. What do you think could happen if the voters keep siding with McCain come November? Will the talking heads swallow their pride and calmly back the party's candidate, or will they continue to blast him and end up alienating their own audiences?

Loser: the people who want a One Day Primary. Dammit! Are we the only ones who notice how convoluted and inconsistent the whole damn mess is?!?!

Monday, February 04, 2008

Remember all that stuff about primaries I whine about?

"...Never thought they'd go the distance..." - Lex Luthor in Superman II

We live in interesting times. For one thing, this is February and the Primaries aren't over yet.

I've complained before about how by the time the voting gets to Florida, there's no choices left. Well, this time we are heading into Super Tuesday (the mass bulk of Primaries across 21-22 states) and both parties still have a few knock-down drag-out fights to go. Something we've haven't seen in decades.

For the Republicans, there's still four candidates: McCain now the media front-runner, Romney the last of the 'conservative' standard-bearers (and to call him the standard-bearer means the conservatives in the party are seriously screwed), Huckabee the Socio-Religious Spoiler, and Paul the Clueless Geek Who Knows the Party Hates His Guts But Is Sticking Around to Cheese People Off. For the Democrats, it's come down to two: Hillary Clinton, She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed, and Barack Obama the Boy King of Destiny.

That we still have so many candidates left in February shouldn't really be a surprise: for one, there were so many candidates in both parties to begin with (roughly 10 for Republicans, roughly 8 for Democrats) that the natural weeding process of the strung-out Primary system got strung out further. The second thing, for the first time in a long time, the individual states holding their own early voting did not agree on a single front-runner, splitting enough delegates between the surviving candidates that some of them could well survive into the conventions. Neither McCain nor Romney have delivered a death-blow to the other, with Huckabee holding his own: Hillary and Obama are almost neck-and-neck.

Of course, by the end of the evening tomorrow the math may straighten itself out, and a front-runner on both sides could emerge. But does this all contradict my earlier rants about how screwed up the Primary system is?

No. One of my strongest concerns is that not all of the states are getting a fair chance to choose a candidate they like, simply because there has still been drop-outs in this year's race. Possibly strong candidates like Edwards and Thompson, or Dodd and Biden, all of whom didn't attract enough support in the first few voting states... but for all we know they could have done well if they held on to campaign in upcoming states like California (who's to say that Fred!'s Hollywood ties wouldn't have helped him out?). The later states voting are stuck with fewer choices... and the rumblings from the Republicans about McCain suggest there's enough dissatisfaction about the choices that *are* left to cause problems down the line.

Another problem rearing its' head is that each state's Primary, and also their Caucus, do not follow uniform delegate distribution. Nevada, for example, had a complex math for dividing up Democratic delegates that Obama actually ended up with 1 more delegate than Clinton who actually won the overall state. Penalties on Michigan and Florida meant their delegates aren't being counted for the Democrats. Florida's Republican Primary became a Winner-Take-All whereas all other states are dividing up delegates by percentages. The delegate selections are uneven, and in some cases unfair.

There's been a few more blog postings out there about how screwy this Primary season has been. Sadly, the blogs I've seen still think the 'Solution' is to have regional primaries, rotating between regions. That doesn't resolve the issue of front-loading, essentially the issue of candidates dropping out before EVERY state and EVERY voter gets a say. And it doesn't fix the problem of having inconsistent Primary voting methods and delegate distribution.

We still need a One-Day Primary. All states, all voters, getting a chance to choose all at once. Also making sure the rules are uniform across all states and all primaries (no more Caucuses, those things get too complicated). And making sure the delegate selections directly reflect who wins what and where. We need to make sure the system allows every voter an opportunity to have their choice count.