Saturday, March 31, 2012

Loads of Fatuous Nonsense on CNN and MSNBC

George Zimmerman should be arrested, charged, and tried in a court of law for the February 26 shooting death of Trayvon Martin. We may, unfortunately, have to wait until after the Florida grand jury meets on April 10 to see that happen.

In the meantime, we are seeing loads and loads of fatuous nonsense, particularly on CNN and MSNBC. A couple of days ago racial tensions boiled over between CNN's resident ponce Piers Morgan and MSNBC's resident hip-hopper Touré.

Piers Morgan's crime was interviewing the brother of an accused killer without benefit of sufficient cultural context on what is really going on and at stake for America. This sort of brow-beating has become de rigueur on MSNBC where a lynch mob mentality is developing. CNN has not been immune from the hysterias, employing questionable audio enhancement to turn an under-the-breath muttering into a clear racial slur.

Over at the Time website, Touré had some advice for young black boys caught in Trayvon Martin's situation:

If you feel you are being profiled and followed or, worse, chased by someone with a vigilante streak — if you are hunted in the way it seems Trayvon was, by someone bigger than you who may be armed and hopped up on stereotypes about you — then you need to act. By calling the police. That is the exact time to snitch. I know there are times the cops will be your enemies, but sometimes calling 911 and letting the threatening person know that you’re doing so could save your life.
That's right, the hip-hoppers advice is to call 911 and "snitch" on your pursuer.

One of the things that has turned out to be incorrect in this case was the initial reports of the indifference of the Sanford police to this killing. In fact, George Zimmerman was brought to the police station in handcuffs and interrogated by a white lead investigator who recommended he be charged with an unjustified homicide.

Yes, We Have a Form for Dealing Marijuana Illegally

The nanny state has forms even for illegal activity. If you want to deal Marijuana illegally in Massachusetts, you'll need to complete Form CST-1, Marijuana and Controlled Substances, Stamp Order Form:

"Pursuant to Chapter 64K of the Massachusetts General Laws, a tax shall be imposed on a dealer of marijuana and controlled substances. A dealer is a person who, in violation of Massachusetts law, manufactures, produces, ships, transports, or imports into the Commonwealth or in any manner acquires or possesses more than forty grams of marijuana, or seven or more grams of a controlled substance which is not sold by weight."
The form has a place for your name and address, but you might want to read the not-so-fine print:

"For mailing purposes only. You are not required to identify yourself on this form. Completion of this section is optional."
And put your checkbook away:

"Pay by cash, certified check or money order only. Personal checks will not be accepted. Send cash at your own risk. Make certified checks or money orders payable to Commonwealth of Massachusetts."
Does that make the Commonwealth your coconspirator? Better hurry, the Massachusetts Department of Revenue is running out of stamps.

Hat tip: Universal Hub.

Mitt Romney Gets the Lavender Sock Mob Endorsement

"You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em" was the theme of former President George H.W. Bush as he endorsed Mitt Romney for President. President Bush also knew when to show 'em:

You got to admire the confidence of a man who can proudly wear multi-colored socks.

Say what you want about his "no new taxes" pledge, President Bush ushered in the propserity of the 1990s. And we should not fault him for stopping short of Baghdad knowing what we know now.

Al Gore Kicks Out the Worst Person in the World to Get in Bed with Client 9

This falls into the "if a tree falls in the forest" category. Worst Person in the World Keith Olbermann is out at the Al Gore network Current TV. Al Gore and his partner Joel Hyatt explained their decision in moralistic terms:

"We created Current to give voice to those Americans who refuse to rely on corporate-controlled media and are seeking an authentic progressive outlet. We are more committed to those goals today than ever before.

Current was also founded on the values of respect, openness, collegiality, and loyalty to our viewers. Unfortunately these values are no longer reflected in our relationship with Keith Olbermann and we have ended it."
Keith Olbermann had a rejoinder.

"It goes almost without saying that the claims against me implied in Current's statement are untrue and will be proved so in the legal actions I will be filing against them presently."
Keith did, in the same statement, prove the charges against him:

"Editorially, Countdown had never been better. But for more than a year I have been imploring Al Gore and Joel Hyatt to resolve our issues internally, while I've been not publicizing my complaints, and keeping the show alive for the sake of its loyal viewers and even more loyal staff."
Keith's show has only been on current TV since last June, about 9 months, so for Keith to be having disputes with Al Gore for "more than a year" means that they have never gotten along.

Nevertheless, Al Gore managed to seize the moral high ground and low ground at the same time. He replaced the Worst Person in the World with disgraced former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. Yes, that's Client 9 from the March 2008 prostitution scandal. His three years of stardom are already up, as is his short-lived CNN show.

American Glob thinks this was all about ratings but that presupposes a fact that is not in evidence. Current TV is watched only by people with just enough juice in their remote to wander onto it by mistake but not enough to change the channel.

Update: American Glob says it is all about ratings which would make the pious "respect, openness, collegiality, and loyalty" talk a bunch of hooey.

Update: A special commentary over at The Other McCain: "Good on ya, Keith. We’ve always thought of Al Gore as a greedy, dishonest two-faced swindler, and look forward to you proving this in court."

Update: In releasing his statement on TwitLonger, Keith violated one or more of its terms of service:

Adult Content
Crude or indecent language, including adult stories
Sexual tips or advice
Sexual fetish content (e.g. foot fetish content)
Information on adult toys or products
Links to external sites containing adult content

Content which advocates against an individual, group, or organization

Content is not permitted that may be construed as biased against individuals, groups, or organisations based on criteria such as race, religion, disability, sex, age, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or political affiliation.
I, for one, do not want to hear any more from Keith about Al Gore's sexual fetishes. If only he had stuck to reading Thurber.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

It's the Economy, Not Entitlements, Stupid

A nationwide survey by Suffolk University asked the big question, "What do you think is the most important problem facing the country today?" The answer should not surprise you.

37% Economy in general
22% Political gridlock in Washington
13% Unemployment
9% Federal budget
6% Healthcare
4% Lack of money
2% National security
7% Don't know

The do-nothing buggers in Washington are sandwiched between the economy in general and unemployment in particular. That's not all that's on our minds:

Yes No Undecided Survey Question
14% 83% 4% Is the recession over in the United States?
36% 54% 10% Do you feel the country is headed in the right direction (yes) or is on the wrong track (no)?
65% 28% 7% Do you think that reducing the national debt will directly contribute to improving the economy?
30% 64% 5% Do you agree (yes) or disagree (no) that making changes or cuts to entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are necessary to reduce the national debt?
78% 19% 4% Should the United States explore options to increase its domestic oil production, even if that includes more offshore drilling?
60% 30% 10% Should the federal government eliminate tax breaks and subsidies for oil companies?
68% 27% 6% Can federal money spent helping to develop alternative energy technology significantly contribute to creating jobs and fixing the economy?

We all agree that the recession is not over and most think the country is on the wrong track. The national debt is a big concern but cutting entitlements is not the way to fix it. Drill, baby, drill, but stick it to the oil companies and keep the ethanol flowing and plug-in hybrids humming.

What about Obamacare, the signature healthcare program that may or may not be Constitutional? Ho hum sighs America:

Repealed Modified Left Alone Undecided  
34% 32% 23% 11% Do you think that the near-universal health care bill passed in Washington in 2009 should be repealed, modified or left alone?
Better off Worse off No diff Undecided  
20% 33% 40% 7% Do you think you are better or worse off as a result of the national healthcare reform law, enacted in March 2010?

Washington doesn't get it. Whether it's Obamacare for working people or Ryancare for seniors, all they want to talk about is healthcare, healthcare, healthcare. It's always been the economy, stupid. Now get started paying down that debt.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Stand Your Ground Puts Police in Fear of Lawsuits

The real problem with Florida's Stand Your Ground self-defense law may be that it gives killers the right to sue police departments.

776.032 Immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action for justifiable use of force.

(1) A person who uses force as permitted in s. 776.012, s. 776.013, or s. 776.031 is justified in using such force and is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force, unless the person against whom force was used is a law enforcement officer, as defined in s. 943.10(14), who was acting in the performance of his or her official duties and the officer identified himself or herself in accordance with any applicable law or the person using force knew or reasonably should have known that the person was a law enforcement officer. As used in this subsection, the term "criminal prosecution" includes arresting, detaining in custody, and charging or prosecuting the defendant.

(2) A law enforcement agency may use standard procedures for investigating the use of force as described in subsection (1), but the agency may not arrest the person for using force unless it determines that there is probable cause that the force that was used was unlawful.

(3) The court shall award reasonable attorney's fees, court costs, compensation for loss of income, and all expenses incurred by the defendant in defense of any civil action brought by a plaintiff if the court finds that the defendant is immune from prosecution as provided in subsection (1).
That section (3) is quite the trial lawyer's dream. If I'm standing over a dead body when police arrive and mutter the magic words "self-defense," the mere act of detaining me or taking me down to the police station could subject the police department to civil liability. The hassle and inconvenience of having to face trial and defend my actions could be my payday.

Let's say I'm the victim not the killer. If Florida thinks so little of my right to life that my killer can't even be detained or arrested, why would I ever want to go to Disney World?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Don't Bet on Obamacare Being Declared Constitutional or Unconstitutional

After listening to the oral arguments before the Supreme Court of the United States (Scotus), I think it's quite possible that Scotus could rule as follows:

(1) The individual mandate as a federal requirement to buy health insurance is possibly unconstitutional as a regulation of commerce but the penalty tax that enforces the mandate is possibly saved by the Congress's power of taxation.

(2) The issue of the Congress's power of taxation is blocked from consideration by the anti-injunction act and can't be litigated until after the penalty tax is assessed and paid.

In other words, Obamacare may be halfway unconstitutional. Scotus might say it is inclined to find the mandate is unconstitutional, but since their constitutional rulings should be as narrow as possible, they can't issue that ruling until the penalty tax can be properly considered.

And when would that be? The penalty tax does not take effect until January 1, 2014. Income tax returns for 2014 are not due until April 15, 2015. It has taken two years for the current case to make it to Scotus, so a refund case might not get to Scotus until April 2017. That would be after the next election in 2016 so we don't even know who will be President then. Republicans are promising to repeal the law long before then. That would make the constitutional challenge moot.

So how will they settle the bets on Intrade? Currently, Intrade is quoting a 55% chance on Scotus to rule individual mandate unconstitutional before midnight ET 31 Dec 2012 and a 61% chance on Scotus to rule individual mandate unconstitutional before midnight ET 31 Dec 2013.

Can Congress Stick You for $695 a Year?

If you cut through all the long-winded legal arguments, the Obamacare individual mandate comes down to Internal Revenue Code section 5000A:

(a) Requirement To Maintain Minimum Essential Coverage.

An applicable individual shall for each month beginning after 2013 ensure that the individual, and any dependent of the individual who is an applicable individual, is covered under minimum essential coverage for such month.

(b) Shared Responsibility Payment.

(1) In general. If a taxpayer who is an applicable individual, or an applicable individual for whom the taxpayer is liable under paragraph (3), fails to meet the requirement of subsection (a) for 1 or more months, then, except as provided in subsection (e), there is hereby imposed on the taxpayer a penalty with respect to such failures in the amount determined under subsection (c).

(2) Inclusion with return. Any penalty imposed by this section with respect to any month shall be included with a taxpayer's [income tax return]...
If you don't have the MEC (minimum essential coverage), you have to pay the SRP (shared responsibility payment). The statute goes on and on with lots of other rules, prorations, limits, exceptions, and exemptions, but the bottom line is that the SRP penalty amount will be $695 a year (indexed annually for inflation) or 2.5% of income, whichever is greater.

Now, I have little doubt that the U.S. Congress can stick you for another 2.5% of income tax. They do that sort of thing all the time, raising and occassionally lowering the income tax rates. But can they stick you for $695?

Obviously, Congress could stick you for the $695 if they were sufficiently clever about it. They could have raised the income tax rates by 2.5% and then let people who have bought MEC subtract the $695 from their taxes. They wouldn't have to make Section 5000A(a) mandatory to do that. The individual mandate could be optional, so long as 5000A(b) was there to collect the money if you don't get the MEC.

So I am afraid, at the end of the day, the arguments that the individual mandate is unconstitutional come down to whether Congress made a bad job of it when they passed Obamacare. Of course, we know they did. What kind of a name is Section 5000A for the Obama Presidency's signature piece of legislation? A is for afterthought or maybe just athought, as there seems to have been an absence of sufficient thought. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, if that's the best you can do, you're fired.

Case closed.

The Grow Lab Supply Store is Open for Business

GYOstuff has opened a store at 2400 Massachusetts Avenue in North Cambridge specializing in hydroponics, organics, and indoor gardens under the trademark Grow Your Own®.

And what can you grow with hydroponics? Tomatoes to be sure. Sweet peppers, hot chilies, lettuce, spinach, squash, eggplant, cucumbers, broccoli, beans, snow peas, strawberries, herbs and flowers of all types. And then there is this plant, which has leaves that look very much like marijuana but probably isn't:

It's a Cambridge Local First business. The hours are convenient if you don't get up too early or have to work too late. You can also come in on the weekend.

Sunday-Wednesday 10AM – 6PM EST
Thursday-Saturday 10AM – 7PM EST

This of course is what comes of decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana in Massachusetts. You're legal if you're caught with less than an ounce of pot. There is still a potential civil fine of $100 but no criminal charges. And where do you get your less than one ounce of pot?

Maybe it's not a bad thing. You can't buy good tomatoes. If you want the really delicious heirloom tomato varieties that stay ripe for just a day or two, you need to grow your own.

Monday, March 26, 2012

My First Volt May Be a Zipcar

My Jeep is in its 20th year and I am starting to think about getting a Chevy Volt to replace it. Off to Clay Chevrolet on the auto mile in Norwood. Time for a test drive.

The 2012 Volt has a battery-powered electric engine and a backup gasoline-powered electricity generator. The round circle above and behind the right front wheel is where you plug it in. The gas tank is in the rear on the other side.

The dash tells you how much battery charge and gasoline you have left, as well as your remaining driving range. The Volt has a total range of around 375 miles using battery and a 9 gallon gas tank.

I don't really like the look of the center dash console. The salesman Scott spent 10 to 20 minutes explaining all the environmental control and On Star options.

Here's the sticker. That 94 MPGe is sure impressive, but what exactly is an MPGe? I get that the "e" is for electricity. On gasoline, it gets 37 MPG, which is pretty good.

The car gets a 10 on the cleanest for global warning score, but only a 6 on the smog rating. That's probably based on the coal-fired power plants needed to charge the batteries. It will also run on wind, solar, or nuclear.

Here's the charging station at the dealer. The Volt takes 4 hours to fully charge at 240 volts, 10 hours at the normal household current of 110/120 volts. You can install a 240 volt home charging station.

We've now got a charging station at the local grocery store. You can charge up your car while you shop in the Porter Square Shopping Center or sit in the Porter Square Books reading On the Road and sipping lattes.

The charging station takes up 2 parking spaces near the store. The 2 behind are handicap spaces. It's possible the parking commissars let them convert 2 handicap spaces as I don't remember being able to park there. It would be fun to park up front.

What does my Jeep think of all this? Actually, I might drive the Jeep out to the family farm in Iowa this summer. With only 46,000 miles on the engine, it might last another 10 years even as the body starts to rust out. And it will get more chances to do Jeep things in rural Iowa that it does here in the 30th densest city in the U.S. (some would say Cambridge is the most dense but that's another story).

My 1993 Jeep Cherokee. I will never sell or trade it.

Simple dials on the console, old-style steering wheel before air-bags, hand-cranked windows, no power locks, and a cassette player, which I can plug a CD player or iPod into.

Will the Volt be so current in 20 years? And what would it cost me to put the Jeep out to pasture?

Item Cost
Chevy Volt MSRP $39,145
Destination freight charge 850
Bose stereo speakers 495
Floor mats for front, back, and cargo 200
Massachusetts sales tax (6.25%) 2,531
Federal tax credit for plug-in hybrids -7,500
Total cost $35,721
Monthly payment (4.5% for 5 years, $0 down) $666

The thing is, most days I don't really need a car. I live and work in Cambridge, and the one mile walk to work is just 20 minutes. The grocery store is just 3/4 mile away. Lots of weeks my Jeep stays parked Monday to Friday. Sometimes it stays parked all weekend. Carrying groceries back from the store is a drag, but I can carry one or two bags with panniers on my bicycle.

That means I have lots of options to paying $666 per month for a Volt. For example, there are two Zipcar spots just two blocks from my building.

OK, a Kia wouldn't be my first choice even if the bike rack tries to make it look cool. But it's only transportation for an hour or two. They already have some Prius hybrids and Zipcar is piloting plug-in hybrid electric vehicles in San Francisco. So one way or another, a Volt may be coming to a parking space near me soon.

Method of Transportation Per Month Per Year 5 Years
Chevy Volt cost per month $666 $7,992 $39,960
Avis weekend rentals (@ $70) 10 114 571
Cab rides (@ $15 increments) 44 533 2664
Zipcar hours (@ $7.75) 85 1,020 5,102
Subway and bus rides (@ $1.70) 392 4,701 23,506
Walking and bicycling ~ ~ ~
Apple iPads (@ $730) 1 11 55
Trips to Iowa or Oregon (@ $1,000)   8 40
Trips to Europe (@ $3,000)   2.7 13

Let's say I mix and match. One Avis weekend rental, 4 cab rides, 8 hours of Zipcar, and 5 subway or bus rides works out to $200 per month. That leaves me money for an iPad, a few trips to Iowa and Oregon, and maybe a trip to Europe.

I should include the cost of fuel in my calculations but for me that is almost irrelevant. I put $195.46 of gasoline in my Jeep in 2011, $386.2 in 2010, and $289.99 in 2009. That's $16 to $32 per month.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Louisiana Leaves Romney Just Short of Halfway

The scoreboard hasn't changed much after Rick Santorum's no surprises win in Louisiana. Mitt Romney still has just short of half the delegates he needs to clinch the nomination. Everyone else is still just competing for bragging rights.

# of delegates secured so far NYT WSJ CNN CBS MSNBC RCP
Mitt Romney 568 568 568 554 490 565
Rick Santorum 273 273 261 241 203 256
Newt Gingrich 135 135 137 128 137 141
Ron Paul 50 50 71 42 34 66
Jon Huntsman 2 2 0 2 0 0
Total 1028 1028 1037 967 864 1028
% of delegates secured so far        
Mitt Romney 55% 55% 55% 57% 57% 55%
Rick Santorum 27% 27% 25% 25% 23% 25%
Newt Gingrich 13% 13% 13% 13% 16% 14%
Ron Paul 5% 5% 7% 4% 4% 6%
% of remaining needed to clinch:        
Mitt Romney 46% 46% 46% 45% 46% 46%
Rick Santorum 69% 69% 71% 68% 66% 71%
Newt Gingrich 80% 80% 81% 77% 71% 80%
Ron Paul 87% 87% 86% 84% 78% 86%

That's it for March, there are no more primaries until April when 8 states vote. Rick Santorum has a decent shot at 2 of them, Wisconsin and his home state of Pennsylvania. Mitt Romney probably has a lock on the other 6.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Murder, Manslaughter, or Justifiable Homicide

President Obama has weighed in on the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida.

"When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids."

"If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon."

The alleged actions of George Zimmerman are highly questionable. It appears that while on a neighborhood watch patrol he chased down the teenager Trayvon Martin and shot and killed him, even though Trayvon was armed only with an Arizona iced tea and a bag of Skittles.

The news media lynch mob forming outside George Zimmerman's house has focused on the harmlessness of the bag of Skittles. But that can or bottle of Arizona iced tea could pack quite a wallop. Nonetheless, it seems to me that when you shoot someone you need to take care that the person needs shooting, whether or not the kid bears some resemblance to a hypothetical son of the President of the United States.

What crime was committed here? That's for a Florida jury to decide, and whether that's to be a state or federal jury may come down to a racial slur allegedly uttered by George Zimmerman while on the phone with a 911 dispatcher. CNN put its best audio enhancer on the case:

But what exactly did he say? I think you can hear that several ways:

(1) Fucking coons
(2) Fucking cunts
(3) Fucking goons
(4) Fucking guns

We'll probably find out that "Fouk King Koontz" is a common Peruvian phrase that George Zimmerman learned from his mother. Or that Trayvon heard the word "coons" or "cunts" and in a rage attached Zimmerman. My point is that we only think we know exactly what happened.

The Sanford police were wrong not to book George Zimmerman. I think we're talking about manslaughter, not murder, here. But that's still a serious crime, and no need to make a federal case out of it. I'll stand my ground on that.

Because if the killing was justified, where does that lead? I should be in reasonable fear of my life whenever I'm approached by a neighborhood watch captain. And I would have every right to shoot him before he shoots me. I would have every right to shoot anyone else who approached me on the street who I think might be a neighborhood watch captain. That guy in the Prius looks kind of twitchy...

The other aspect of this case involves cell phones. While all this was going down, George Zimmerman was on his cell phone with 911. And Trayvon Martin was on his cell phone with his girlfriend. The 911 operator was telling Zimmerman not to pursue Martin. Martin's girlfriend was telling him to get out of there. Damn good advice all around.

I have some personal experience in a situation similar to George Zimmerman's. I was sitting on the back porch having a few beers at an acquaintance's house with a few of his neighbors when some teenagers tried to break into the garage of the house across the street. They didn't realize we could see them. We gave chase and they fled through the backyards and across the next street over, where we broke off pursuit. The important principle in that situation is to not run so fast that you catch the perpetrators.

One of the others guys I was with, who lived in the neighborhood and was incensed these kids were breaking into garages as they had been making trouble all summer, picked up a baseball bat left on the porch from a game earlier in the day as he took off in lead pursuit. I realized even in my semi-inebriated state that my job, if we were so unlucky to catch anyone, was to make sure he didn't bean them with that bat.

I was also in Trayvon's situation once. My youngest brother gave my youngest sister his Ford Mustang and it fell to me to teach her how to drive a stick shift. She was living in Arlington, Virginia and we found a subdivision where she could practice. Well, after we had been around the subdivision a couple of times a gray-haired lady appeared behind us in a Buick and began to tail us around. I couldn't figure out why until at a stop sign she gave me the "I know you're casing my neighborhood" look over the top of her steering column, from the classic scrunched-down over-seventy driving position.

Fortunately, we were able to exit the subdivision before the old lady opened fire. In that situation, you don't get out of your car to explain yourself. You don't stand your ground. You just leave, as quickly as possible.

Update: In my first draft I wrote that the "important principle in that situation is to not run so fast that you catch the perpetrators." Before publication I changed "is to not run" to "is not to run" because of concern for irrational prejudice against split infinitives. There are some prejudices that as a country we just need to get over.

The Republican Bragging Rights Primary

The Republican Presidential Primary may be all over except for the shouting and etch a sketching. But there is also the question of bragging rights. That is, who gets the most votes in the remaining primaries matters, even if it is only for the history books.

Second place rarely gets you the VP slot, the exception being George H.W. Bush in 1980. More frequently second place leads to first place in the next contested primary. Third place gets you nothing, except for Earl Warren who way back in 1952 got the U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justiceship.

For Mitt Romney the question is whether he finishes with a middling 7 or 8 million votes or can push that up to a more respectable 9 or 10 million votes. Also, with not quite half the vote in, it looks to be a close question whether total Republican turnout in 2012 will top 2008.

Year Candidate Votes  
2012 Mitt Romney 4,070,110 +
2012 Rick Santorum 2,758,186 +
2012 Newt Gingrich 2,182,075 +
2012 Ron Paul 1,068,148 +
2008 John McCain 9,838,910  
2008 Mitt Romney 4,681,436  
2008 Mike Huckabee 4,281,900  
2008 Ron Paul 1,163,078  
2000 George W. Bush 12,034,676  
2000 John McCain 6,061,332  
2000 Alan Keyes 985,819  
1996 Bob Dole 9,024,742  
1996 Pat Buchanan 3,184,943  
1996 Steve Forbes 1,751,187  
1992 George H.W. Bush 9,199,463  
1992 Pat Buchanan 2,899,488  
1988 George H.W. Bush 8,253,512  
1988 Bob Dole 2,333,375  
1988 Pat Robertson 1,097,446  
1980 Ronald Reagan 7,709,793  
1980 George H.W. Bush 3,070,033  
1980 John Anderson 1,572,174  
1976 Gerald Ford 5,529,899  
1976 Ronald Reagan 4,760,222  
1968 Ronald Reagan 1,696,632  
1968 Richard Nixon 1,679,443  
1968 Jim Rhodes 614,492  
1964 Barry Goldwater 2,267,079  
1964 Nelson Rockefeller 1,304,204  
1964 Jim Rhodes 615,754  
1952 Robert Taft 2,794,736  
1952 Dwight Eisenhower 2,050,708  
1952 Earl Warren 1,349,036  
1952 Harold Stassen 881,702  

+ 2012 results are incomplete with more voting to come.

In 1952 and 1968 when fewer states held primaries, it was possible to win the nomination without the highest popular vote. But it's been 44 years since the last brokered convention.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Shake That Etch A Sketch to the Tune of Stuck in the Middle with You

The great Etch a Sketch controversy has Mitt Romney drawing fire from both the left and the right. I say we just put the last 4 years on the Etch A Sketch and skate it.

The lefty clowns at DemRapidResponse have this:

And the clowns at Media Matters offshoot American Bridge 21st Century have this:

Meanwhile, joker Newt Gingrich has a new prop:

And another joker Rick Santorum has one too (at the 1:40 mark):

I'm sure Mitt Romney just wants to sing out, "Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle with you."

Some more of those lyrics Mitt might like to sing:

"Well you started out with nothing,
And you're proud that you're a self made man,
And your friends, they all come crawlin,
Slap you on the back and say,
Please.... Please....."

Update: Eric Fehrnstrom strikes again via The Looking Spoon.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Santorum Campaign Enters Maybe Could Purgatory

Maybe Rick Santorum's loss to Mitt Romney in Illinois doesn't finish off the Santorum campaign, but it could be the beginning of the end. Yes, there are several states he maybe could still win and then he maybe could prolong his campaign into late May or June before he is mathematically eliminated. He maybe could even stop Romney from getting a majority of delegates and force a brokered convention.

Illinois is a state Santorum maybe could have won, if he had not taken a couple of days off for a lame-brained campaign swing through Puerto Rico. But more importantly Illinois illustrates Santorum's demographic problem. He can win rural Republicans but he can't win suburban Republicans, let alone win the independents that Republicans will need for the general election in November.

So even if Santorum maybe could force a brokered convention, it's not likely the convention would choose him. Santorum may get a bump from a win in Louisiana this Saturday and there will be a lot of mainstream media attention on Wisconsin on April 3rd. But his prospects for Maryland and Washington, DC that also vote on April 3rd look bleak, and Rick Santorum needs every win he maybe could get to maintain the pretense he maybe could still win.

The scoreboard:

# of delegates secured so far NYT WSJ CNN CBS MSNBC RCP
Mitt Romney 563 563 562 534 485 560
Rick Santorum 263 263 249 228 193 246
Newt Gingrich 135 135 137 120 137 141
Ron Paul 50 50 69 42 34 66
Jon Huntsman 2 2 0 2 0 0
Total 1013 1013 1017 926 849 1013
% of delegates secured so far        
Mitt Romney 56% 56% 55% 58% 57% 55%
Rick Santorum 26% 26% 24% 25% 23% 24%
Newt Gingrich 13% 13% 13% 13% 16% 14%
Ron Paul 5% 5% 7% 5% 4% 7%
% of remaining needed to clinch:        
Mitt Romney 46% 46% 46% 45% 46% 46%
Rick Santorum 69% 69% 71% 67% 66% 71%
Newt Gingrich 79% 79% 79% 75% 70% 79%
Ron Paul 86% 86% 85% 81% 77% 85%

On most scorecards Mitt Romney has just short of half the 1144 delegates he needs to clinch the nomination and it's still two weeks away from the April 3rd halfway mark in the delegate selection process.

However, it does appear Romney's earliest clinch date is now May 22. The earliest date all of his challengers can be mathematically eliminated is April 24. The problem for Rick Santorum and the other challengers is that they may feel they can't quit on their supporters while there is any slender hope of winning, and that means another month or two of purgatory. Because in a field of three or four, winning 66% or more of the remaining delegates is just not realistic.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Alewife Bike Path Connection Doesn't Quite Connect

In theory it's a great idea. A single bike path from the Charles River in Watertown to the Mystic River in Medford. But despite the maps, it doesn't quite connect.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Mitt Romney Spears Rick Santorum in Secret Service Code Name Primary

GQ is reporting the code names adopted by the Secret Service protection details for Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney.

Rick Santorum's choice was Petrus, a tasty fish that lives off the coast of South Africa.

Mitt Romney's choice was Javelin. You can spear a fish with a javelin, so we'll award this round to Romney. The Javelin was the name of an American Motors car made from 1967 to 1974:

And what is Newt Gingrich's Secret Service code name? Bankrupt is my guess.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Elizabeth Warren Cheats on People's Pledge with The Road We've Traveled

The People's Pledge in the 2012 Massachusetts election for U.S. Senate was a simple idea:

If an independent third party group spends money on TV, radio, or online supporting a candidate, that candidate has agreed to pay 50% of the cost of airing that ad to a charity of the other candidate's choice.
The first test of this promise came a couple of weeks ago when the Coalition of Americans for Political Equality PAC was found to have spent $673.99 online in support of Republican Scott Brown. Scott dutiful sent a check to the Autism Consortium, which he rounded up from $337 to $1,000. Promise kept.

This weekend saw the online release of the 17 minute infomercial The Road We've Traveled about what President Obama's administration says it has accomplished in its first term. It premiered at house parties all across the state of Massachusetts. Fellow traveler Elizabeth Warren features prominently.

That's the same candidate Elizabeth Warren who signed the People's Pledge. Now she's featured in an online infomercial that at 1,183,470 views and counting will undoubtedly help her raise money nationally and persuade voters in Massachusetts.

I don't know how much was spent producing and airing this infomercial, and how much more will be spent as the 2012 campaign continues is purely speculative, but it could easily be more than $1,000,000.

Some lucky charity picked by Scott Brown should soon be getting a big check from the Elizabeth Warren campaign. But my guess is that someone who cheats so brazenly on the spirit of the People's Pledge won't be writing that check any time soon. This independent voter will see if she keeps her promise.

In Puerto Rico, Rick Santorum Is Lost in Translation

The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico) is an unincorporated territory of the United States. It does not vote in U.S. Presidential elections, but is invited to send delegates to the national political party conventions.

Puerto Rico is considering on the ballot next November whether to keep its commonwealth status, apply for full statehood, or seek independence from the United States. Into that fray jumped Rick Santorum.

Can you be any more condescending than to say things like this:

"The people of the island are given the gift of English, it is the language of success in the United States, it is the language of commerce in the largest economy in the world, and we are not doing anybody any favors in not following the law, which is that this is a society that will speak English in addition to speaking Spanish."
"E Pluribus Unum" means you have to learn English, candidate Rick Santorum lectured Puerto Rico last week. That Latin phrase along with the Spanish phrase "Isla de Encanto" appears on the back of the U.S. quarter for Puerto Rico.

I guess Rick Santorum wants to recall and recast all those Puerto Rican quarters with the phrase "the island of enchantment". In fact, he should recall and recast all U.S. coinage to replace "E Pluribus Unum" with "Out of Many, One". Or is it "One Out of Many"? Certainly any particular coin is just one of out the many minted, but I thought the phrase celebrated the union of differences not sameness. I know what "E Pluribus Unum" means, I don't know what it means in English.

We'll see what the Associated Free State of Rich Port decides in November. If I were them, I'd be asking the question, "What is wrong with the status quo?" That's the question you should always ask before passing any laws.

I would never give the English the satisfaction of making English the official language of the United States of America. Our language is American, OK. If you don't capisce then, oy, hasta la vista, baby. I'll give you to the count of three Mississippi.

Update: Cero para Santorum en Puerto Rico knocks out the ding he put in Romney last week. Here's the scoreboard:

# of delegates secured so far NYT WSJ CNN CBS MSNBC RCP
Mitt Romney 521 521 518 493 423 516
Rick Santorum 253 253 239 218 184 236
Newt Gingrich 136 136 139 120 137 141
Ron Paul 50 50 69 42 34 66
Jon Huntsman 2 2 0 2 0 0
Total 962 962 965 875 778 959
% of delegates secured so far        
Mitt Romney 54% 54% 54% 56% 54% 54%
Rick Santorum 26% 26% 25% 25% 24% 25%
Newt Gingrich 14% 14% 14% 14% 18% 15%
Ron Paul 5% 5% 7% 5% 4% 7%
% of remaining needed to clinch:        
Mitt Romney 47% 47% 47% 46% 48% 47%
Rick Santorum 67% 67% 69% 66% 64% 68%
Newt Gingrich 76% 76% 76% 73% 67% 76%
Ron Paul 83% 83% 81% 78% 74% 81%

Update: A further analysis indicates that Santorum's earliest elimination date is April 24 and Romney's earliest clinch date is May 15. May 15 is also the earliest date Romney could be eliminated whereas Santorum can't clinch until June 5.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

St. Patrick's Day Shenanigans

Friday, March 16, 2012

President Obama Touts the Anemic Jobs Recovery

I have to give President Barack Obama points for this, not many politicians would publish something so truthful about their time in office.

Who do I blame for that big jobs hole, the Great Recession of 2007-2010? It's a bipartisan list:

George Bush - Recession proved too big for the buck to stop with one President.
Henry Paulson - Collapse occured on his watch as Treasury Secretary.
Dick Cheney - He reinvented deficit spending with his trademark recklessness.
Don Rumsfeld - Cost of bailing him out of Iraq was the catalyst for the fall.
Nancy Pelosi - Power of the purse could not have been in worse hands.
Barney Frank - His blustering lack of financial industry oversight was criminal.
Chris Dodd - He was paid off and moved to Iowa to campaign for President.
Harry Reid - Signed all the checks and didn't provide any balances.
Ben Bernanke - Saw this coming all the way and failed to act.
Alan Greenspan - Cheap money was the bad wiring that sparked the fire.

That's 4 Republicans, 4 Democrats, and 2 central bankers.

We must remember that the cause of the Great Recession was essentially a systemic problem with a few big over-extended Wall Street investment firms, which dragged down the otherwise sound U.S. economy. The resulting financial crisis had its biggest effect in housing, where crazy lending fueled a bubble that was bound to burst. And automotives, where most consumers cannot buy the product without credit.

Public anger directed at the 2008 bank bailouts is misplaced, in my judgment, mistaking the symptom for the disease. The real failure was letting the financial system get to the point where bailouts were so desperately needed. Action should have been taken in the summer and fall of 2007. Preventive steps could have been taken in 2005 or 2006.

Barack Obama the candidate seemed to get it when he campaigned against the Bush deficits in 2008. But we now have a situation where the U.S. debt has been run up to $49,500 per person and $137,000 per taxpayer, twice where we were in 2004, 2.5 times where we were in 2000. Paying off that debt, hell just paying on the interest alone, is going to be a drag for the next 30 years.

Addendum: It wouldn't be fair to the politicians not to also comment on the private sector firms:

Sowood Capital - This hedge fund you've never heard of closed shop after losing 50% of its $3 billion capital in July 2007. It should have been the canary in the coal mine.

Bear Stearns - Its failure due to subprime lending losses in early 2008 was just the tip of the iceberg. Shareholders got 7.5 cents on the dollar.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac - These GSEs were designed to buy off politicians and leave the tab to taxpayers, history lessons from Newt Gingrich notwithstanding.

Countrywide - Passed out loans to politicians so it could pass out liar loans to borrowers and pass these off to unsuspecting investors.

Lehman Brothers - Its bankruptcy in September 2008 triggered the biggest selloff in history. Over the ensuing six months, stock markets around the world lost $33 trillion.

AIG - Regulators forced out the CEO in 2005. The insurance company still had to be rescued by taxpayers in 2008 with shareholders getting 1 cent on the dollar.

Merrill Lynch - It's forced sale by Henry Paulson to Bank of America for a sweetheart price got the BOA CEO fired for excessive patriotism.

Madoff - A handy scapegoat whose unrelated Ponzi scheme was just a drop in the bucket. He was sentenced to 150 years in prison.

Citigroup - Too big to fail but not too big to flail. The TARP bailouts were essentially designed to hide that Citigroup was insolvent, and maybe still is.

Chrysler - Holds the distinction of being bailed out twice, by George Bush in December 2008 and by Jimmy Carter in 1979. It's now owned by the Italian company Fiat.

General Motors - Lost money in 2007 only to see its sales plunge 45% in 2008. Steve Rattner, Obama's car czar who "saved" the company, has since been dogged with "unrelated" corruption charges.

MF Global - New Jersey Democrat Jon Corzine caught short speculating on European bailout prospects with other people's money in October 2011, way after Dodd-Frank was supposed to prevent such things.

It is surprising looking back at this list how few of the firms were banks. Investment banks, yes, but traditonal banks, no. Only two nonfinancial firms got bailouts. It is a testament to the culpability of the politicians that nobody, besides Bernie Madoff, has gone to jail.

Has Gillian Anderson Committed a Hate Crime?

Let's look at this quote from Gillian Anderson's recent interview about her high school lesbian relationship in Out magazine:

"If I had thought I was 100% gay, would it have been a different experience for me? Would it have been a bigger deal if shame had been attached to it and all those things that become huge life-altering issues for youngsters in that situation? It's possible that my attitude around it came, on some level, from knowing that I still liked boys."
Now back that up, Scully.

Are you saying that you avoided "huge life-altering issues" because you didn't let one or more lesbian relationships become your whole identity? This brings a whole new dimension to "It Gets Better". There, the truth is out.

Hat tip to Stacy at The Other McCain.

Update: I saw two lesbians in the parking lot at the supermarket tonight driving a new Honda CR-V with a custom Obama-Biden wheel cover on the spare hanging from the rear hatch. I think at least one of them was not 100% gay.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Should We Start Taking Rick Santorum Seriously?

Betteridge's Law of Headlines states, "Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word 'no'".

Seriously, Rick Santorum is running second in the Republican Presidential primary race and is on a roll after his wins in Kansas, Alabama and Mississippi. In Republican politics, he has lots of good potential outcomes to smile about:

(1) Win the nomination for President.
(2) Finesse a second place finish into the VP slot on the ticket.
(3) Wrangle a cabinet post such as Secretary of Labor.

So I hate to point this out but Santorum has failed to cross the Biden line. The Biden line is based on the fact that Vice President Joe Biden is a joke who can't be taken seriously and the observation that any national politician who lags behind Joe Biden on Facebook also cannot be taken seriously.

Sarah Palin 3,306,278
Mitt Romney 1,529,718
Ron Paul 908,793
Mike Huckabee 660,192
Michele Bachmann 455,142
Donald Trump 375,625
Herman Cain 375,453
Joe Biden 317,461
Newt Gingrich 295,967
John Boehner 289,931
Marco Rubio 255,286
Scott Brown 241,115
Rick Perry 180,571
Rick Santorum 179,140
Rand Paul 170,229
Gary Johnson 153,095
Bobby Jindal 151,482
Jim DeMint 150,118
Tim Pawlenty 100,243
Paul Ryan 90,734
Allen West 84,618
Scott Walker 76,484
John Thune 75,080
Chris Christie 56,580
Bob McDonnell 53,363
Mitch Daniels 53,044
John Kasich 39,138
Jon Huntsman 37,461

That's a telling list. The polarizing Sarah Palin is still more liked than Mitt Romney. But Rick Santorum? If you were picking a VP running mate and didn't want a controversial figure like Sarah Palin, Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann, Donald Trump, Herman Cain, or Newt Gingrich you also have choices like Mike Huckabee, John Boehner, Marco Rubio, Rick Perry, or even Rand Paul to pick from before Rick Santorum.

What's going on here? The viral Santorum First Love video Game On has hit 940,970 views on YouTube. So it isn't the case that Santorum supporters don't have access to the internet. Over 2,282,245 voters and counting have been willing to pull his lever in the privacy of the voting booth. But clicking the like button on Facebook would expose that you are a Santorum fan to your friends, and not that many people are yet willing to come out of the closet of the voting booth to do that for Santorum.

This does not mean Rick Santorum cannot earn the right to be taken seriously, just that he hasn't earned it, yet.

Update: It was unfair to omit Jon Huntsman in a discussion of who isn't ready to be taken seriously. And I should admit that not all of these guys are national figures, John Kasich is doing pretty good for Governor of Ohio.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Newt Gingrich from Sea to Shining Sea Sinkhole

Newt Gingrich put all his hopes on marching across the Southern tier of states from sea to shining sea. He won in neighborly South Carolina (January 21) and then in his home state of Georgia (March 6). He hoped to win Alabama and Mississippi (March 13). Then Louisiana (March 24) and Texas (May 29) would fall to Newt's advance, followed by New Mexico and California (June 5). That would have cut quite a swath across America.

But Newt's March to the Sea has fallen into a sinkhole. With the Santorum wins in Alabama and Mississippi, he's now on Newt's flanks going into Louisiana. It's game on for Rick Santorum.

Newt Gingrich shows no signs of dropping out of the race. Whether he does or not, he has about run out of Southern states he can win. Forget Louisiana, those Cajuns are Catholic and will likely vote for Santorum. Forget Texas, it will vote its pocketbook and that's not $2.50 gasoline. There's Arkansas and Kentucky coming up on May 22, but that's more than two months away. The last remotely realistic chance for Newt Gingrich just disappeared into that Alabama and Mississippi sinkhole.

"Who is getting the biscuits tonight?" That's the question put by Evi L. Bloggerlady. While Mitt Romney lost the main events to Rick Santorum, Mitt picked up more loose change in Hawaii and American Samoa after everyone in the continental U.S. had gone to bed. Biscuits for breakfast taste just as good.

The scoreboard:

# of delegates secured so far NYT WSJ CNN CBS MSNBC RCP
Mitt Romney 495 495 498 468 419 496
Rick Santorum 252 252 239 217 184 236
Newt Gingrich 131 131 139 117 136 141
Ron Paul 48 48 69 41 34 67
Jon Huntsman 2 2 0 2 0 0
Total 928 928 945 845 773 940
% of delegates secured so far        
Mitt Romney 53% 53% 53% 55% 54% 53%
Rick Santorum 27% 27% 25% 26% 24% 25%
Newt Gingrich 14% 14% 15% 14% 18% 15%
Ron Paul 5% 5% 7% 5% 4% 7%
% of remaining needed to clinch:        
Mitt Romney 48% 48% 48% 47% 48% 48%
Rick Santorum 66% 66% 67% 64% 63% 67%
Newt Gingrich 75% 75% 75% 71% 67% 75%
Ron Paul 81% 81% 80% 77% 73% 80%

Like this stubborn goat, Newt Gingrich just won't give up the fight.

ABC May Need a Good Christian Bitch Slapping

Am I angry that ABC is airing a show on Sunday nights called GCB, a thinly veiled acronym for Good Christian Bitches, the title of the book on which the new series is based. The B does not stand for Belles.

No, I'm angry that GCB is the midseason replacement for Pan Am, a show that I was actually looking forward to watching every Sunday night. That was a great show, and I hope it finds a place on the schedule.

Here's what you missed on Pan Am:

You've got to love Kelli Garner as Kate Cameron who just picks up the pistol and shoots the commie spy. Oh, the lost innocence of being a stewardess in the early 1960s. If you're not shooting a commie, your copilot's girlfriend is planting you with a lesbian kiss.

ABC might as well have called the new GBC series Desperate Dallas Baptist Housewives. ABC clearly is looking for a show to fill the shoes of Desperate Housewives, which is in its 8th and last season. I never cared for that show either.

As far as GCB, what can you say about a show that takes the beautiful Kristin Chenoweth and turns her into a woman who looks like her plastic surgeon messed up the last operation.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Nobody Buys the Elizabeth Warren Burger

From the Massachusetts GOP:

Would you like a burger topped with red peppers, onions, feta cheese, and Dijon mustard. No? You are not alone, patrons at Mr. Bartley's Burgers in Harvard Square are forsaking the Elizabeth Warren burger.

In a revealing quote from Bill Bartley, owner of the iconic “Mr. Bartley’s Burgers” located just steps from Harvard University, “Nobody buys the Elizabeth Warren burger,” he said. “You can’t give them away.”

The Scott "What The Truck" Brown burger sounds quite tasty: bacon, American cheese, grilled onions, jalapenos, & french fries.

Some would blame the feta cheese and mustard. I think it's the elitist multimillionairess who insists she's somehow not wealthy, fostered the occupy movement, and has thrown rocks at people who actually hire people to work in this country.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

American Pie Reunion Coming April 6

Ever since my sister dragged me against my will me to see Porky's at the drive-in movie theater I have had a soft spot for a genre that is as wholesome as American Pie. Now there is to be an American Reunion on April 6:

For mature audiences only:

American Pie:

American Pie 2:

American Wedding:

More where that came from: click here or here.

Red Line Verbal Beat Down Gets Physical on YouTube

I didn't see that coming either.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Game On: Santorum Wins Kansas as Romney Picks up Loose Change

It's game on for Rick Santorum as he handily wins Kansas.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney effectively cancelled the Kansas win by picking up delegates in the Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. territories that were famously part of Barack Obama's 57 state strategy in 2008. Well, if you spotted some loose change on the sidewalk you'd pick it up too.

Here's the delegate scoreboard:

# of delegates secured so far NYT WSJ CNN CBS MSNBC RCP
Mitt Romney 454 454 458 428 377 446
Rick Santorum 217 217 203 179 146 199
Newt Gingrich 107 107 118 97 112 117
Ron Paul 47 47 66 39 31 61
Jon Huntsman 2 2 0 2 0 0
Total 827 827 845 745 666 823
% of delegates secured so far        
Mitt Romney 55% 55% 54% 57% 57% 54%
Rick Santorum 26% 26% 24% 24% 22% 24%
Newt Gingrich 13% 13% 14% 13% 17% 14%
Ron Paul 6% 6% 8% 5% 5% 7%
% of remaining needed to clinch:        
Mitt Romney 47% 47% 48% 46% 47% 48%
Rick Santorum 63% 63% 65% 63% 62% 65%
Newt Gingrich 71% 71% 71% 68% 64% 70%
Ron Paul 75% 75% 75% 72% 69% 74%

In Newt Gingrich fantasyland, MSNBC has him in second place while everyone else has him in a distant third. Santorum can effectively eliminate Gingrich with wins in Alabama and Mississippi on Tuesday, March 13. Ron Paul could overtake Gingrich, especially if Paul has seeded the caucus state delegate lists the way he claims.

Doing the math, the earliest any candidate can clinch is May 8 when Indiana, North Carolina, and West Virginia hold their primaries. Even if Santorum were to start winning everything, he can't clinch until the Texas primary on May 29. Unless someone drops out, it's all but certain this will go to June 5 when the big delegate-rich prize California and four other states hold their primaries.

Update: The scoreboard now reflects that MSNBC has dropped Newt Gingrich to third. My calculations show that he can't be definitely knocked out of contention until April 3 at the earliest, at that point there would not be enough delegates left to put him over the top. Of course, Newt can prolong that by continuing to win some delegates here and there.

Ron Paul can also campaign until April 3 without being mathematically eliminated. Ron Paul's support does not depend on electability so his chance to overtake Gingrich will come after Gingrich is no longer remotely viable.