22 December 2008



I don't know what to say but I can't let a whole month go by without a post. Truth is, I get this way sometimes. I want to write, I feel better when I do, but I'm unsure how I feel about... almost everything. And therefore I don't know what to say. I don't even know if I'm happy. I think I am, though, and therefore I assume if I'm happy I must have reason to be, and if I have a reason to be happy, then it would be a foolish thing indeed not to be happy. So I'm happy.

But I don't know if I actually am or if it just logically makes sense that I should be.

And that's pretty much how I feel about everything of late. Goodness me I hope there are jobs out there come January. I'm driving temp for FedEx, which I sort of like, but don't. There's actually nothing about the job I dislike apart from the amount of sitting involved, but it's sitting broken up by frequent short walks, which is good, and better than many other jobs that involve a lot of sitting. So I like the job. Except that it's temporary and amounts to underemployment. So I shouldn't be that happy about it, or, at any rate, I'm not, even though I actually like it. See? I'm confused. Mainly that's what it is, I'm confused.

I need to meditate more. I also need to row more. There are dozens of things I want to do more of, but somehow I don't do them. Am I sitting listlessly in front of the computer all day, or dozing on the couch? No, I don't think so. But I feel like I have enough time in a day to do much more than I do.

Buddha said, life is dissatisfaction. We are always dissatisfied because we are not enlightened and freed from craving. Is productivity a normal craving to have? Perhaps only in America. I feel more released from material craving than I have in the past, which I would like to take for a sign of maturity but is really a result of simply not having the money to spend on things. I've gotten used to saying, well yes I'd like to have one of those, but I'm not going to buy one because I can't. It's actually rather refreshing. I need to apply the same feeling to food, though, because we eat out too often and spend too much when we do eat out. We could really get by with simply eating out less often, or with being more conscientious when we do eat out. Do I need a beer? No. I want one. Well, wants are grand and all, but not financially responsible.

Anyway. Just some rambling. I'll try to drop by and ramble more often, how's that?

12 November 2008

Well, shit

The kittens have entered estrus (that is to say, they're in heat). Orange Pop does not appear to be bothering them, which I find remarkable and, probably, not actually the case. But a neighbor cat across the street has been coming around and they are fighting back. Thing is, I'm pretty sure neighbor cat is dad... which means if he does get any of them preggo, hey, we've got inbred kittens. Great.

I would like to do something; I would like to have already done something but I'm too broke to get four female cats fixed. I'm not even sure I could get Mama in the car; the kittens I could handle, and I've figured out Orange Pop (put food in there. No problem), but regardless we are too broke to pay to get all these cats spayed and/or neutered and get them their shots. And yes, if I had a goddamn job we wouldn't be that broke so please feel free to blame me for that because it helps a lot, really, it does, really solves the fucking problem.

My neighbors can't be bothered to get their cats fixed, so our feral colony is going to grow. Yaay! No, not yay. If kittens appear they WILL go to the human society as soon as I can get rid of them. We are not starting a club here.

There used to be a Trap-Neuter-Release organization here in town, Greenville Concerned Citizens for Animals, but they can't afford to help any more because of lack of donations, so anybody from Greenville who wishes to criticize us for not getting the cats spayed or neutered already can go pound salt as far as I'm concerned; I can't afford to do it.

We could just take them all up to the humane society, all five, and leave them there. Let them take care of the lot of them. We wouldn't have to deal with so many cats, and Tribble, who is spayed, could be an indoor-outdoor without having to run the gauntlet on the porch. I think she would appreciate that. Is that appropriate? Is it what we should do? What's to say the feral colony down the road would end up on our doorstep because we don't drown stray cats? Then the problem just reasserts itself.

Jackson is going to the vet this afternoon and I'm going to discuss it with them, but they're not running a charity either. Who's going to spay four cats and neuter a fifth for no recompense? And really, does taking them all up to the humane society fix anything? Mama is not fit to be a housecat, she's to skittish around people. Orange Pop would probably get adopted out because he's pretty friendly, but this is his home; he lived next door for most of his life, I'm sure, and I suspect he'd try to come back. The kittens are another matter, they're pretty friendly, and I suppose they could be adopted out, but I doubt it... and I hate to think they'll just end up getting euthanized, but really, at any shelter, that's more likely than not, sorry to say.

Well. Not that anybody here has any suggestions, I just needed to vent after chasing Real Pop off the porch for the third time. Can't wait to get a bunch of inbred kittens. Ooh boy.

07 November 2008

Predictions Follow-up 1

Well, some races are yet to be decided still, so I won't have a full scorecard available for a while... though I'll post one sooner than that. But I think I can generally say that I did pretty bad. Obama won, at least, which means that on the whole I think the country did all right, better than me certainly. But most of the close races I managed to pick incorrectly. I'll be running through the actual list here shortly.

04 November 2008

Political Post V: Predictions

You may recall that I ran predictions in 2006, and I plan to do so again, even though I didn't do so great that year...
I'll start with this nifty little graphic I whipped up in about five minutes on Photoshop:

That's my prediction for the presidential race. That amounts to an electoral college vote of 291 to 142, with 105 tossups. I feel pretty good about that map (not least because it indicates an Obama victory). The tossups are another matter.

Now then, having stated the forgoing, here are my predictions, by closing time:
1900 EST:
Kentucky: Mitch McConnell (R) re-elected, defeating Bruce Lunsford; in the second House district (hereinafter referred to by state postal abbreviation and the number, i.e., KY-2), David Boswell (D) defeats Brett Guthrie.
South Carolina: John McCain held to less than 55% of the vote. In SC-1, Henry Brown (R) survives a challenge by Linda Ketner, but is held to less than 52.5% of the vote.
Georgia: First tossup. Barack Obama takes Georgia, though the networks won't call that until after eight-thirty. Also, Jim Martin and Saxby Chambliss will go to a December run-off, neither one managing to win 50% of the vote today. In GA-8, Jim Marshall (D) wins re-election; in GA-12, John Barrow (D) also wins re-election.
Indiana: Second tossup. Actually supposed to be closer than Georgia, but I believe John McCain will win with less than 52% of the vote. Mitch Daniels (R) re-elected governor. IN-3, Mark Souder (R) defeats Michael Montagano. In IN-9, Baron Hill (D) defeats Mike Sodrel; for the first time since the districts were redrawn, this district will be represented by the same guy twice in a row.
Virginia: In VA-11, Gerald Connolly (D) defeats Keith Fimian. In VA-5, Virgil Goode (R) defeats Al Weed but is held to less than 55%. In VA-2, Glenn Nye (R) defeats Thelma Drake by less than 1%. For the Senate, it's Mark Warner (D) in a walk.
Vermont: Vermont is quirky. If no candidate for governor gets at least 50%, the state legislature (both houses meeting in closed session) elects a governor (by secret ballot). Because there are three viable candidates this year, it's possible incumbent Jim Douglas (R) won't get 50%, even though Douglas will win a plurality. The Democratic candidate, Gaye Symington, is the former Speaker of the House, and the legislature leans Democratic by a 116-56 margin (with 6 members of the Vermont Progressive Party and 2 independents. I told you Vermont was quirky). Independent candidate Alfred Pollina started the race as the nominee of the Vermont Progressives, but decided he'd rather go alone. He still manages a quarter of the vote in most polls. It's possible for Douglas to win outright but I'm betting against it. As for who the legislature will elect, well, we won't know until January. I'd guess Symington but I'm not calling that a prediction.

1930 EST:
West Virginia: No surprises. No incumbent loses in the House.
Ohio: I'll go ahead and call Ohio for Barack Obama, though this is a tough one. In OH-1, Steve Chabot (R) holds his seat against Dave Driehaus. In OH-2, Mean Jean Schmidt (R) will hold her seat against Victoria Wulsin; this was probably the Dems' last chance to oust Schmidt on their own, and they'll have to count on a GOP primary opponent to knock her off in 2010 or beyond. In OH-15, Mary Jo Kilroy (D) defeats Steve Stivers. In OH-16, John Boccieri (D) will barely edge Kirk Schuring to become the first C-130 driver in Congress.

2000 EST:
Alabama: In AL-2, Montgomery mayor Bobby Bright (D) will defeat Jay Love in an open contest, but it will be very close, and contest has had unpleasant racial tinges; let's hope Montgomery stays quiet whoever wins. In AL-5, somebody named Parker will win. I'll go with Parker Griffith (D) over Wayne Parker, but I would not be surprised if I'm wrong.
Mississippi: I think the GOP will hold both Senate seats here, sorry to say; Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker will both hang on, though Wicker will win by less than 5%. African-American turnout will be lower here than in any other Southern state, which is why Wicker will win. In MS-1, Travis Childers (D) will barely hang on to his seat against Greg Davis.
Oklahoma: Nothing of interest will happen.
Tennessee: No surprises here, either. The real surprise would be Obama losing by less than 10, but I'm not even sure that's going to happen. Tennessee should be more competitive than this and I'm wondering if this is an actual realignment year for the state.
Connecticut: I'd like to point out that I expected governor Jodi Rell to be nominated for VP by the GOP back in 2006, and continued to expect it right up until Sarah Palin in all her Caribou-Barbie (thanks Smittywife!) glory got the nod. Rell actually deserves a place on the national stage, an intelligent Republican woman and quite popular in her Democratic state. I hope and expect to hear more from her in the future. Anyway, in CT-4, Chris Shays, the last House Republican in New England, will somehow manage to hang on, just barely. But he'll run for Chris Dodd's Senate seat in 2010 and the district will go to the Dems.
Delaware: Jack Markell (D) defeats Bill Lee for governor. And somebody has to get appointed to Joe Biden's Senate seat. I won't guess at who, but there is a chance, I suppose, that Biden might manage to convince GOP Congressman Michael Castle to switch parties and accept the appointment. I doubt it though. Castle will probably defeat whoever does get the appointment in the 2010 election.
Washington, DC: No surprises here.
Illinois: In IL-10, Dan Seals (D) will unseat Mark Steven Kirk in his second try. IL-11 is a toughie; Debbie Halvorson (D) should defeat Marty Ozinga for the seat, but she is tied to the unpopular (widely suspected of corruption, as if such a thing could occur in Illinois or, heaven forbid, Chicago) governor. Plus Ozinga has that cool last name going for him. I'm going say IL-11 will go to Marty Ozinga in a very tight race. In IL-14, Bill Foster (D) will hold the seat against Jim Oberweis. In IL-18, Aaron Schock (R) will defeat Colleen Callahan to become the youngest Congressman (at 27). As a caveat to the above, Democrats expect to flip at least two Illinois House seats on Obama's coattails, with IL-10 and IL-11 their top targets. I can see that in IL-10, which is going to go huge for Obama, but Dems would do well not to forget their late leader Tip O'Neill's injunction that all politics is local. It's not, always, but in this case I think voters are going to peg Halvorson as part of the problem in Springfield and deny her the promotion she's seeking.
Maryland: In MD-1, Frank Kratovil (D) will defeat Andy Harris. Harris knocked off the incumbent in the GOP primary, and the incumbent turned around and endorsed Kratovil. If Kratovil does win, the GOP is going to hold an inquest and burn the Club for Growth at the stake; we can only hope.
Massachusetts: No surprises. John Kerry will win another Senate term for some reason, mainly because the state GOP is actually dwarfed by both the Libertarian and Green parties. I just made that up but it sounds plausible, which is scary. You might suspect that eventually, what the Democrats in control of everything in Massachusetts, eventually the people will get sick of it and vote in a Republican just to be contrarian (channeling favorite son John Adams perhaps). Won't be this year, though.
New Jersey: Frank Lautenberg (D) will hold on to his Senate seat. The real reason the Senate is the "deliberative" body is because all the octogenarians (Lautenberg is 82) move and talk so slowly. I'm kinda pleased about the 27-year-old Congressman (even if he is a Republican, and thus probably a prick), but could we maybe elect a few Senators who were at least in their 40s? Anyway, NJ-3 will go to Democrat John Adler over Chris Myers, and in NJ-7 Democrat Linda Stender will defeat Leonard Lance.
Maine: Susan Collins (R) holds her Senate seat. In ME-1, Chellie Pingree (D) will defeat Charlie Summers.
Florida: Oh God. What will go wrong in Florida this year? Something, I'm sure. I expect Floridians will pass the "defense of marriage" act by a narrow margin, for starters. I think the state will go to John McCain, too, but narrowly, by like half a percent. Won't be called until after nine. There will be recounts in several counties, possibly Hillsborough among them. Not everything will go wrong, though. I do hope in Hillsborough County that Phyllis Busansky will defeat Buddy Johnson for elections supervisor. I am even more hopeful that Bev Harris will defeat the disgusting Doug Belden for tax collector. But it's Hillsborough, and both the idiots will probably be re-elected. Grr. The House should be interesting, though. Until very recently, Florida's retiree mentality extended to Congress, where the districts were so gerrymandered that once elected House members could expect to keep their jobs for 10 or 20 terms until they died in office or were too feeble to continue on; that still goes on in some places, but this year incumbents are going to get the boot. In FL-8, Ric Keller, one of those few Republicans I still trust, will nonetheless be defeated by Alan Grayson. In FL-13, Vern Buchanan (R) will defeat Christine Jennings in their rematch; you may recall this one went on until January last time with Jennings claiming the machines in Sarasota County failed to register hundreds or thousands of votes. She was probably right and, if she'd won, she'd be a shoo-in for re-election. But I think voters will give Buchanan the benefit of the doubt this time... although that said he may be indicted before he can run again in 2010 for shady dealings at his (sound the horns of sarcasm) chain of car dealerships. In FL-16, Tom Rooney (R) (not Ed Rooney, my apologies) will defeat incumbent Tim Mahoney by better than 5%, possibly better than 10. FL-21 and FL-25 are represented by Cuban-American brothers Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart, both Republicans. Both are facing well-funded Cuban-American challengers with strong name ID, and both will be in the closest races they've ever run, as Cuban-American voters start focusing on the economy here at home and less on the Castro embargo. I expect at least one of them to lose; I'll put my chips on Raul Martinez to defeat Lincoln in FL-21, but Mario Diaz-Balart will cling to victory over Joe Garcia. Both of them are tossups so really I'm just flipping a coin here. In FL-22, Ron Klein (D) will easily defeat Allen West. In FL-24, crapulent jerk Tom Feeney (R) will finally get his due as he goes down to defeat against Suzanne Kosmas. That'll teach these bastards to draw districts for themselves when they're in the state House. Finally, in FL-12, incumbent Adam Putnam (R) will defeat Doug Tudor, probably by about 10. I could be wrong; a lot of my friends are fighting hard for Tudor, but the district is just so damn Republican. Also, Putnam will probably run for the Senate seat Mel Martinez is going to abandon in 2010. Putnam intends to run for President, and needs either a Senate term or time in the Governor's office, or both. I will be shocked if Martinez actually runs for re-election in 2010, and I fully expect Putnam to contest the seat, and possibly win. He'll have competition (Connie Mack IV, FL-14; Jeff Miller, FL-1; state house speaker Marco Rubio; Atty Gen Bill McCollum; state senator Jeff Atwater) in the primary but he could win it if the Dems put up a lousy candidate, which they generally do.
Pennsylvania: In PA-3, Kathy Dahlkemper (D) will defeat incumbent Phil English. In PA-10, incumbent Democrat Chris Carney will hang on against Chris Hackett. In PA-11, incumbent Democrat Paul Kanjorski should hang on against Lou Barletta, who is perhaps a bit too conservative for the district, but it's been a bad year for Kanjorski and he's been on the defensive a lot so it wouldn't be a big surprise if he lost. In PA-12, incumbent Democrat John Murtha is going down against Bill Russell. No matter how much you believe it to be true, you simply cannot call your constituents racists and get away with it. Note that if both Murtha and Kanjorski lose, Pennsylvania would probably be the only state in the country where the GOP actually nets seats.
New Hampshire: Jeanne Shaheen (D) will defeat John Sununu for his Senate seat, but she will do so unimpressively, by less than 6%, and she'll face a real fight in 2014. In NH-1, incumbent Democrat Carol Shea-Porter will edge Jeb Bradley in their rematch.
Missouri: John McCain will narrowly carry Missouri. Jay Nixon (D) will be elected governor. Kansas City mayor Kay Barnes (D) will narrowly defeat Sam Graves in MO-6. In MO-9, Republican Blaine Leutkemeyer will defeat Judy Baker.

2030 EST:
Arkansas: Nothing unusual here, although McCain will probably win by less than 10%.
North Carolina: Okay, these predictions are little better than coin flips at this point, this state is so close; since our local television stations also reach Asheville, we're getting all the advertising from all the races. Ugh. I'm going with Barack Obama, Kay Hagan (D) (Senate), and Pat McCrory (R) (Governor). In NC-8, it'll be Larry Kissell (D) over Robin Hayes by a nose. In NC-11, smelly jerk Pat McHenry (R) will defeat wounded veteran Daniel Johnson by claiming he read the Quran or something equally ridiculous. Really, McHenry is one of those I'd just like to be rid of. There are so many, in both parties. Why do these jerks get elected?

2100 EST:
Arizona: Yes, John McCain is going to win his home state. Whether he does so in 2010 remains to be seen. In AZ-1, Ann Kirkpatrick (D) will defeat Sydney Hay. In AZ-3, GOP Incumbent John Shaddegg will hold on against Bob Lord. In AZ-5, Dem incumbent Harry Mitchell hangs on against Dave Schweikert. In AZ-8, I'm going to pick Republican Tim Bee over incumbent Gabrielle Giffords.
Colorado: Mark Udall (D) for the Senate in a landslide over Bob Schaffer. In CO-4, GOP incumbent Marilyn Musgrave scrapes by over Betsy Markey.
Louisiana: Mary Landrieu (D) holds her Senate seat against John Kennedy. In LA-4, they're holding the primary, because they delayed the scheduled primary for Hurricane Gustav. Networks may not cover it at all. The real election is December 6. In LA-6, incumbent Dem Don Cazayoux won a close race earlier this year to fill an open seat. He will not be re-elected, because he is facing two strong competitors, including former primary foe Michael Jackson (no, not that Michael Jackson) running as an independent. Jackson could easily win 20% of the vote, preventing Cazayoux or GOP competitor Bill Cassidy from breaking 50%. Cazayoux could win a runoff, but it's tough to say; there will be a runoff in LA-6 though. And finally we have LA-2, home of rotten blight Bill Jefferson, the man with the money in the freezer and the biggest embarrassment to the Democratic party currently in office (not that there aren't others). Jefferson will actually be re-elected again, like last time mainly because of race; his only real opponent, fellow democrat Helena Morena, is white, in a district that is nearly 2/3 black. Race does play a role in Louisiana politics and Moreno will not unseat Jefferson. The House of Representatives could refuse to seat him, though, and I wish they would... but I doubt it.
Michigan: In MI-7, GOP incumbent Tim Walberg is going down to challenger Mark Shauer. There's not much else going on. Chuck Todd notes that whatever happens in Michigan, state GOP director Saul Anuzis may run for chairman of the Republican National Committee, on a platform to move the GOP's center of power out of the South and away from the culture-warriors. I wish Mr. Anuzis well in what will be a difficult but very important quest.
Minnesota: I'd be a fool to even try to call the Senate election in Minnesota, and since I'm sure I'll be wrong whatever I say, I'm going to predict that Dean Barkley, of the Independence Party, will win, with about 38% of the vote. Minnesota does not require a runoff. In MN-6, Elwyn Tinklenberg (D) will relieve us of Michele Bachmann, thank goodness. In MN-3, I'm going to go along with the Barkley pick and say voters just want change, and they'll elect Ashwin Madia (D) over Erik Paulsen.
Nebraska: It would be a surprise in Nebraska if someone other than a Republican won something. There won't be any surprises in Nebraska.
New Mexico: Tom Udall in a landslide for the Senate over Steve Pearce. Martin Heinrich (D) over Darren White in NM-1. Ed Tinsley (R) over Harry Teague in NM-3.
New York: Oy vey. So many races. NY-29 has Eric Massa (D) over Randy Kuhl. NY-26 will see Chris Lee (R) over Alice Kryzan. And in NY-13 Mike McMahon (D) will win so big people won't remember the other guy's name (it's Stranriere or something).
Rhode Island: No surprises, Democrats walk.
South Dakota: The real race in SD is over a ballot initative about abortion, referred to as IM 11. It bans abortion in all cases except rape, incest, and to preserve the life of the mother (which as I once pointed out in a long post on the subject is so rare that we could assert it would never happen in a state as small as South Dakota). A similar but more restrictive measure failed in 2006; if this passes (I haven't seen polling, so I'm going to say IM 11 will fail), it sets up an immediate challenge to Roe v. Wade. Hm. Interesting, no?
Texas: The only interesting race in Texas is in TX-22, Tom DeLay's former seat, which went to Democrat Nick Lampson in 2006 because DeLay's stench was still on it (and the GOP picked an amazingly bad write-in candidate). Lampson's a good guy but the seat is going back to GOP; Pete Olson will win it.
Wisconsin: In WI-8, Steve Kagen (D) will hold his seat against John Gard.
Wyoming: Believe it or not there's a race in Wyoming for the open House seat. If the incumbent were running for re-election it would be an easy Dem pickup (the incumbent is an idiot) but as an open seat it will probably stay in GOP hands; Cynthia Lummis to win over Gary Trauner, but not by much.

2200 EST:
Iowa: No terribly close races here, but with Obama winning the state in a landslide there could be an upset in IA-4. I still expect GOP incumbent Tom Latham to hold it against Becky Greenwald but we could get a surprise.
Kansas: In KS-2 I think Lynn Jenkins (R) will unseat Nancy Boyda.
Montana: What the heck, Democrats are going to win everything else on the ballot (governor, Senate, House), so Barack Obama will win Montana, too.
Nevada: I think Dina Titus (D) will knock of Jon Porter in NV-3; he's just not personable, and right now Nevadans are wishing they'd elected Titus governor in 2006 instead of scandal-prone Jim Gibbons. Nevada is going for Obama and the novelty of voting for a Democrat will probably extend down the ballot.
Utah: No surprises here.

2300 EST:
California: CA-4 is a tossup; Democrat Charlie Brown could have beat the incumbent, so the incumbent retired and now Brown faces Tom McClintock, who moved up to the district just to run. McClintock is probably ahead. But I'm feeling generous because I watched the Peanuts Halloween special a few days ago and I want Charlie Brown to win. In CA-11, Dem incumbent Jerry McNerney will narrowly hold on to the seat he took from known jerk Richard Pombo in 2006 (his opponent is Dean Andal). The rest of the state holds no big surprises.
Hawai'i: Although reliably democratic at the Presidential level, Hawai'i does sometimes have interesting races down the ballot. Not this year, though.
Idaho: Actually there's a close house race here. The Senate race to succeed Larry Craig (he of the Minneapolis Airport bathroom incident) will go to Republican Jim Risch. But in ID-1, GOP incumbent Bill Sali has failed to endear himself to voters, and even got caught on tv heckling his opponent during a post-debate interview earlier this year. Sali is going down; Walt Minnick will become a one-term house member.
North Dakota: I'm inclined to give this state to John McCain, but who can tell? It's a tough state to poll. Still, it'll probably stay red, but don't go expecting North Dakota to always be reliable for the GOP the next few cycles.
Oregon: As much as I hate to do it, I predict Gordon Smith will lose his Senate seat to Dem challenger Jeff Merkeley. I like Gordon Smith; he has a very good last name, and he's a centrist like me. In a different reality, I could have called him "friend." Anyway, in OR-5, Kurt Schrader (D) will defeat Mike Erickson.
Washington: In WA-8, GOP incumbent Dave Reichert, long popular in the district, will hold on for the second time against Darcy Burner. He won't hold the seat for long as the demographics are trending the Dems' way, but he's well-liked by his constituents and hasn't given them any reason to fire him, which should allow him to ride out any wave. As for the governor's race... 129 votes separated Christine Gregoire (D) from Dino Rossi (R) in 2004. This race might be just as close. To Gregoire's shame she has done little in her term to convince voters that they made the right choice in 2004, so even though Barack Obama will win the state by 10+ points, I predict Dino Rossi will eke out the narrowest of victories.

And finally, at 0100 EST, tomorrow:
Alaska: Mark Begich (D) will oust felonious jerk Ted Stevens at long last, purging the Senate of one of its worst members. Meanwhile, Ethan Berkowitz (D) will defeat Don Young in the House. Furthermore, I predict these predictions won't be proven until the morning.

Well... That's a lot of predictions. 105 of them (or so, I may have miscounted). We'll see how it goes. Based on my numbers, the electoral college vote would be 344 to 194, for Obama. Polls start closing in Kentucky and Indiana in less than 3 hours, and coverage begins at 7. You still have time to vote if you haven't, and you'd better.

Political Post IV

So, what about the big race?

Well. Here's the way it's going to go. Polls close in waves, starting at 7 pm eastern. I'll list all times as eastern because that's where I live but you can do the math if you live elsewhere. I'm also supporting Obama, so I'm discussing this from the perspective of looking for an Obama win. The converse of what I say, though, works if you're hoping for a McCain victory: if I say Obama needs to hold a given state, that means you can hope he doesn't.

At 7, six states will close their polling: Vermont, Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Indiana. Vermont is guaranteed for Obama, Kentucky for McCain. South Carolina is about 95% likely to go for McCain as well. That leaves three states. Obama needs to win Virginia here; if he doesn't, it's going to be a rough night (although he can still win the electoral college, but barely). Georgia and Indiana could both be quite close. Indiana is polling almost dead tied right now, while Georgia is polling McCain by a few points. Some commentators are assuming Obama's support in Georgia is being underestimated. I myself agree, although I also don't think Indiana is as close as the polls say; the governor's race is not close, only two house races are close, and at gut level I think Indiana undecideds are going to be more comfortable with McCain.

Here's what to watch for: if Indiana stays close, so close that the networks don't call it by 7:30, or if Obama wins, it's going to be a good night for Obama. He should hold Ohio and Pennsylvania easily in that case, and with both those states the electoral math becomes quite easy.

Likewise, if Georgia stays close or goes to Obama, his strength in southern states has been underestimated. That could imply things down the road in Arkansas, Missouri, North Carolina, Louisiana, and might impact the Mississippi Senate race. (Similarly if Obama is closer than expected in South Carolina—say, within five or six points—then regardless of what they say about Georgia he's outperforming the polling down south and could win a few unexpected states.)

But Virginia is the key state at 7. If it's an easy call for Obama (an easy call means the networks call the race within 15 minutes after poll closing), the electoral math gets easier and, more importantly, it means the polling showing an Obama lead in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania may be accurate. With Virginia, we can assume Pennsylvania will certainly go to Obama and probably Ohio. Virginia thus indicates that Obama is probably doing fairly well. That said, if it's a tough call or it goes to McCain, it will be a tough night.

At 7:30, polls close in Ohio and West Virginia. West Virginia is expected to go to McCain although most pollsters have said they have difficulty polling the state and it could be up for grabs. Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller will win a landslide which may help Obama, or it may not help him at all. Tough to say.

Ohio is the big one at 7:30. If we've already got Indiana for Obama, we should expect Ohio to go that way as well; if we've already got Georgia for Obama, Ohio frankly doesn't matter all that much. If all we have is Vermont and Virginia, winning Ohio means we can breathe a little easier; if all we have is Vermont, Ohio needs to go to Obama to allow any victory at all.

At 8:00, polls close in 16 states, and I submit to you that 8:15 is the earliest we might know who's been elected (barring an unforeseen landslide, which will be apparent before 8 if Obama has both Georgia and Indiana). Alabama, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Tennessee will go to McCain; Connecticut, Delaware, DC, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey will go to Obama. That's all but assured; if any of those states flip to the other candidate it's clear there's a rout going on. That means that at the 8:00 closing there are only five states that matter.

Maine should go to Obama, but Maine divides up its electoral votes by Congressional district, and at one time McCain was actually close in the first district. That was a while ago and they're not contesting the state, but Maine bears watching all the same.

New Hampshire is polling strongly for Obama right now, and the Senate race should go to the Democratic candidate as well. New Hampshire is something of a must-win for McCain; if he doesn't have NH there's just not much chance he can win. It is by no means a must-have for Obama, but the state could be an interesting bellwether of the climate, if it's still a very tight race. If it falls to Obama he should be relatively safe, but if it goes to McCain he still has some life left.

Missouri is polling very tight right now, one of the three closest in the country (the others being Indiana, which closed at 7, and North Carolina, which will close at 8:30). Like Indiana, I have this gut sense that undecideds will be more comfortable with McCain and he'll eke out a narrow win—but in this case the governor's race looks like a win for the Democrat and there are a few close house races. Missouri used to be the classic bellwether, always voted for the winner in every election. Could do that again. Thing is, Missouri is not important for Obama's electoral math, whereas it's huge for McCain. If Missouri stays close late or goes to Obama, Obama fans can be comfortable.

Pennsylvania is the must-win for Obama is this group. There are very few maps where Obama wins without Pennsylvania (and he's got to have Virginia to do it). This is a key state here; unless Obama already has other unlikely states (Georgia, Indiana, Missouri), losing Pennsylvania almost assures a McCain win.

Finally we have Florida, which may or may not be close. Obama doesn't need Florida to win, but he can wrap it up right here at 8:00 with victories in Florida and Pennsylvania. If he wins both of those, he only needs the Kerry states to win. Doesn't even need Colorado or New Mexico, states he's ahead by larger margins in.

Remember I said we could know by 8:15 who's going to win? This is how: if Obama has Florida and Pennsylvania, Obama will be the next President. If McCain has Pennsylvania, McCain will be the next President. If Obama has Pennsylvania and Missouri and either Georgia or Indiana, Obama will be the next President.

Anything else and it's tight, although if Obama has Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, is still his to lose (just not guaranteed or anything).

At 8:30, polls close in Arkansas and North Carolina. Arkansas should be an easy win for McCain, but North Carolina has so many close races it'll take up every minute of news time until 9. Obama does not need North Carolina to win, but McCain does; that said, North Carolina is perhaps Obama's best chance to win a traditional southern state (if we assume Virginia, like Florida, has a mixed-enough population to not be considered traditionally Southern, a notion I would agree with). If Obama has done better than expected in Georgia and South Carolina, he should carry North Carolina.

At 9:00, polls close in 13 states. Wyoming, Texas, and South Dakota should be easy wins for McCain. He should also win Arizona and Louisiana, but recent polling numbers don't look so good there. He should also win Nebraska, although like Maine, Nebraska divides up its electoral votes by congressional district. The Omaha district (I think it's number 2 but it doesn't matter) was actually being contested by the Obama campaign a while back, although recent polling, like that in Maine, seems to indicate that the entire state will be voting the same way. If Obama can win Omaha (that looks funny) the possibility for an electoral tie is reduced to zero… and Obama's probably having a really good night.

Obama should have an easy time in Michigan, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin. He also ought to walk in Minnesota, but Colorado could be close. Still, the 9:00 closings probably won't bring any big surprises. If the candidates win the states they're supposed to it's probably a good night for Obama. Note that if Obama already looks like he's walking to victory—he has Florida and Pennsylvania and one of the tossup states—he could conceivably contest in Arizona or Louisiana. Especially if he's won Georgia already, Louisiana might go to him as well.

There will then be a long break before the next poll closing at ten. Networks will probably dig down to find House and Senate races of interest, close governor's races, and of course any states that are too close to call early on might report a winner. But if Obama has already clearly won the thing (remember that he's got 77 electoral votes coming from the West Coast and Hawai'i) he may very well have the electoral college locked up by nine-thirty. In which case, you should definitely keep watching, because the networks will be desperate to keep their viewers so they'll have to come up with crazy shit to keep you tuned in. That always makes for good TV—remember, it's live!

If we're still undecided by ten, we have five states with poll closings at that hour: Kansas and Utah are slam-dunks for McCain. Iowa should be an easy Obama victory. That leaves Nevada, which is leaning Obama, and Montana, which doesn't get polled often but seems to be trending in his direction of late. If McCain and Obama are still very close, Nevada would be a good pickup for Obama (he's way ahead in early voting, or so they say). But if he manages to win Montana, he's probably already got the thing wrapped up.

California, Hawai'i, Idaho, North Dakota, Oregon, and Washington close at 11, and if you're still awake, the only state that's even close here is North Dakota. Idaho will give four EVs to McCain come hell or high water and the other four states will go to Obama sure as the sun shines in the day. If North Dakota actually turns out to be the linchpin here… damn, that would be a weird night. But if that's the case you'll still be watching TV.

Alaska doesn't close until 1 AM. There's no reason to stay up; you can find out whether Ted Stevens got the boot (let's hope) tomorrow morning. Before the Palin pick, it actually seemed like Alaska might be in play this year, but it's going to go to McCain. We'll know the winner before Alaska's polls close... that must really annoy Alaskans.

02 November 2008

Political Post III

Ah, the Senate. Supposedly the "deliberative" body of Congress, responsible for approving judicial nominees, home of the filibuster, and of people like Robert Byrd who've been there for so long more than half of their constituents were born after they started serving. Damn.

Presently, the Senate has 49 Dems, 49 GOPers, and two independents who usually caucus with the Dems (although don't bet on what Joe Lieberman might do; I won't include him in the Dem figures, but I will include Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who is a near-certain Dem vote on most issues). Normally there would be 33 seats up for election this year, but in Wyoming and Mississippi, sitting Senators either passed away (WY) or resigned (MS) and replacements were appointed by the governor, necessitating new elections. Consequently there are 35 seats in play this year, 12 of which are held by Democrats and 23 by Republicans. Six are open.

Of the 29 incumbents running for re-election, the following are certain to hold their seats:
Alabama – Jeff Sessions, R
Arkansas – David Pryor, D
Delaware – Joe Biden, D
Iowa – Tom Harkin, D
Illinois – Dick Durbin, D
Kansas – Pat Roberts, R
Maine – Susan Collins, R
Massachusetts – John Kerry, D
Michigan – Carl Levin, D
Mississippi – Thad Cochran, R
Montana – Max Baucus, D
New Jersey – Frank Lautenberg, D
Oklahoma – James Inhofe, R
Rhode Island – Jack Reed, D
South Dakota – Tim Johnson, D
South Carolina – Lindsay Graham, R
Tennessee – Lamar Alexander, R
Texas – John Cornyn, R
West Virginia – Jay Rockefeller, D
Wyoming – Mike Enzi, R
Wyoming – John Barrasso, R

Taking into account the current makeup of the Senate (including seats not in play this year) and the sure-bet incumbents, we have a Senate makeup of 48 Ds, 36 Rs, and the 2 Is; I'll call that a 49-36-1 split. That's a tough road for the GOP to travel, and they're not going to keep the Senate as close as it is right now.

Of the open seats (ID, CO, NM, NE, VA, MN), four of them appear to be in the bag: Idaho and Nebraska will elect new GOP Senators (Jim Risch and Mike Johanns respectively) (49-38-1), while Virginia will elect Mark Warner and New Mexico will elect Tom Udall, and both seats will flip from GOP to Dem (51-38-1). So control of the Senate is effectively already guaranteed for the Democrats. The question has been, can they get to 60 seats and ensure a filibuster-proof majority. So the remaning ten seats are the ones you want to watch. Three are likely GOP victories (GA, KY, MS). Three are likely Dem victories (NH, LA, CO). The other four are real tossups and anybody could win (NC, MN, OR, AK). I'll break them down poll closing time:

Georgia: Incumbent Republican Saxby Chambliss would win easily in any normal year, but this isn't normal. Chambliss leads by a point or two in recent polls, but turnout will be key. If Martin loses but keeps Chambliss under 50%, the two will face a run-off. If Martin wins this race, it's a runaway night for the Democrats. That said, this race could be one of the closest of the night, so don't expect it to be an early call and a clear indicator of trends.

Kentucky: Incumbent Republican Mitch McConnell should win this race, but challenger Bruce Lunsford has outperformed everyone's expectations. Polls are mixed and turnout will be a factor, but no poll has showed Lunsford in the lead yet. Obama is performing poorly in the state and will have no coattails to speak of, so Lunsford must count on depressed GOP turnout and an anti-Republican and anti-incumbent wave that has not yet materialized in Kentucky. The polling shows a very tight race but don't be surprised if this one goes to McConnell by five to ten points; a Lunsford victory implies a Democratic tsunami.

New Hampshire: Incumbent Republican John Sununu seems unlikely to hold on to his seat against popular former governor Jeanne Shaheen. Polling over the past two months puts Shaheen ahead by about seven points with little change in the race. You could actually argue that Shaheen is underperforming (polls last year had her up by 20 points) but the seat seems safe for her nonetheless. Should she lose this race, the notion of a "Democratic Wave" will be bunk, and everything will be up for grabs.

Mississippi: Don't be confused when you see Thad Cochran win re-election here by 30+ points; it's the seat formerly occupied by Trent Lott that's a real contest. Lott retired last year, dissatisfied with life in the Senate and eager to return home to a still-Katrina-ravaged house, and his seat was filled by former Congressman Roger Wicker, R. Wicker hasn't had much time to ingratiate himself with the rest of the state outside his former district, and faces a stiff challenge from former governor Ronnie Musgrove. Musgrove could be leading this race now and it's tough to say why he isn't; of the three likely GOP victories among these ten seats, this one makes the least sense to me. Musgrove should be barely ahead, really. Polling has been thin (four since September 1, fewer than landslide states like Michigan and Massachusetts) and, with one exception, shows a race within two points. The state is a sure thing for McCain and to some degree Musgrove is relying on a large black turnout for Obama who will support him as well; that could be dangerous in a state that's not a real contest and where black turnout is historically lower than in other Southern states. This is one of the ones I'll really be watching; if it's a big Dem year Musgrove should win it, but if Wicker keeps the seat it can't be considered a surprise. The only surprise would be a ten point margin for either side. This race will be very close.

North Carolina: Incumbent Republican Elizabeth Dole is in a near-tossup race with challenger Kay Hagan. Recent polling averages put Hagan slightly ahead, but the race is close and both candidates still have money to spend. Turnout will be huge (it's supposed to rain on Tuesday), and it's tough to say whether this race or the Presidential race will be clear first; for my money, it's unlikely the two races will be split. Advertising, which we unfortunately get to watch here in SC, has turned incredibly nasty of late (mostly on Dole's part), so it could be interesting to see whether that has any effect on either turnout or the eventual victor. But I expect this race to go on long past the 8:30 closing time.

Louisiana: Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu is the only Dem incumbent who could lose her seat. I say "could," but really, it seems pretty unlikely now. The GOP targeted the race earlier this year and it seemed close, but in the last few weeks the GOP has pulled ad money from their candidate in the face of polling showing Landrieu with a 10+ point margin. Still, Louisiana has lost a lot of its Democratic population and Landrieu shouldn't be considered a sure thing. If she loses, it's likely already been a pretty good night for the GOP, but this is still one to watch.

Minnesota: Don't believe anything about this race until the votes are counted. Minnesota has the strongest third party in the entire country, the Independence party (which refers to being independent of the two other parties, not a preference for an independent Minnesota), built largely by Jesse Ventura. The Independence candidate, Dean Barkley, has already been a Senator once before (for about two months after Paul Wellstone's death) and is polling at 15%. Tellingly, his support has grown substantially in just the past two months—just like Jesse Ventura's did when he ran for governor in 1998. The incumbent, Norm Coleman (R), polls within a point or two of Democratic challenger Al Franken—the one from Saturday Night Live. Franken could have this thing in the bag by now if he wasn't Al Franken, but he is prickly and cold, bland on the stump and unimpressive in small groups. In short, Franken is a lousy candidate being buoyed by a good Democratic year and discontent with the incumbent. In most states, we'd assume the 15% support for the third party candidate would diminish by election day, but this is Minnesota and it's not impossible that Franken could turn off enough people to lose this. The question would be, could Barkley sneak in and win? Remember, Jesse Ventura was behind in the polls by ten percent or more on election day 1998. Undecideds broke for Ventura, and people who were uncomfortable with their choices from the other two parties did the same. This is exactly the same situation we have here: Coleman isn't even all that popular with Republicans in the state, and Franken isn't exactly loved by anyone but dedicated Air America Radio listeners (of which there are about three dozen nationwide). The two parties have dumped money into the race to tear down the two candidates, while Barkley's ads have relied on the same off-kilter sense of humor that won Ventura's ads much praise a decade ago and have cast him as the only candidate not concerned with destroying his opponents' reputation (the major parties have, predictably, ignored him). With only a week to go Barkley is still more likely to be a spoiler than a Senator, but the race is impossible to predict.

Colorado: Democratic Congressman Mark Udall should win this race comfortably against former Republican Congressman Bob Schaffer. Again, if Schaffer wins it's already been a remarkably good night for Republicans, but this race has the potential to surprise. Note that Mark Udall's cousin, Tom Udall, is all but certain to win the open Senate seat in New Mexico.

Oregon: Incumbent Republican Gordon Smith should have been safe, and would be in a non-Democratic year. Smith is a moderate who plays well with Democrats, supports environmental causes gay rights issues favored by a majority of Oregon voters, and has even said nice things about Barack Obama, but if the Democratic wave materializes Smith is likely to be swept away by challenger Jeff Merkley. By the time this race is called we'll have a good idea of what the Senate looks like already, and the tossup nature of the race may no longer be an issue: if it's a good Democratic night, expect Merkley to win comfortably; if the wave is small or nonexistent, Smith should survive.

Alaska: Perhaps the worst thing you can do a week before the election is be convicted on seven counts of felony corruption, but that's what incumbent Republican Ted Stevens has done. John McCain has already called on him to step down, but if he does, who runs in his place? Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, the Democrat, was already running even or slightly ahead in this race and it seems unlikely that Alaska voters will rally 'round the corrupt old man they were already thinking of dumping now that he's been declared guilty. You'll be in bed by the time polls close in Alaska, more than likely, and we'd like to believe that no voters anywhere would happily return a corrupt convicted felon to office… but this has been a year when lots of things we'd like to believe have nonetheless been at issue. Begich should win this one but it could be a squeaker and until we have post-conviction polling available it's hard to say for sure.

Political Post II

Every seat in the House is up for election, all 435 of them. Maybe 67 or so are actually in question. The GOP will hold 125 of their seats for sure, and the Dems will hold 200 of theirs. Another 26 GOP seats and 17 Dem seats should be safe (151-217, if you're keeping track; 218 is a majority). I won't list all 67 races that are of interest here. Instead I'll point to about a dozen interesting ones and a handful of potential bellwethers.
The one current Democrat incumbent who seems certain to be unseated is Tim Mahoney of Florida, who you may recall won in 2006 because Mark Foley liked to flirt with little boys. Mahoney's district leans Republican anyway, and then last month it came out that he had been having an affair with a secretary or something. We can assume he's toast; even a very strong Democratic wave shouldn't be enough to re-elect him. His opponent is Tom Rooney (yes, that's the name of the principal in Ferris Bueller's Day Off).
Don Young, Alaska's only House member and a 17-term incumbent (that means he's been in the House longer than Smitty has been alive), looks likely to be forced into retirement at last. Young has long been critical of the existence of ethics regulations and is known as a scrapper (if you like him) or an arrogant jerk who can't work well with even his own party (if you don't like him). Young is involved in a mysterious scandal in Alaska with an oilfield services company and it seems like the folks up there are finally tired of dealing with him. His opponent is former state representative Ethan Berkowitz.
New York 13, which is basically Staten Island, is another interesting case. Long a Republican sure-thing, incumbent Vito Fossella was caught out in an affair and then got a DUI conviction all within a few weeks. He wisely offered to step aside, but the local GOP couldn't settle on a candidate, and when they finally did, he died. Meanwhile New York City Councilman Mike McMahon has been the Dem candidate since last year. The current GOP candidate, Bob Stranriere, isn't a Staten Islander, having just moved in earlier this year to contest the seat. The county GOP committee tried to throw him off the ballot last month, and Staten Islanders care more about being represented by a Staten Islander than about the party label. McMahon should have an easy victory but it's certainly been an interesting race.
Pennsylvania 12 incumbent John Murtha, a Democrat and former Marine, should have been a sure thing, until last week when he went on record as saying that, "No question, western Pennsylvania is a racist area." Whether he's right or not will have no impact on the race, but no one who calls his own constituents racists is likely to do well in voting. His opponent, Bill Russell, has plenty of cash on hand and has been replaying Murtha's statement in television and radio ads. Murtha may still hang on—he's been there for years and is generally well thought of—but he's been at the center of a number of controversies over his career and this direct insult to the people who are supposed to vote for him may be the last straw. I haven't seen any polling but the CW has Russell turning the race around. This is one to watch, though it may not imply a good night for the GOP if Russell manages to oust Murtha.
In a similar vein, Minnesota 6 incumbent Republican Michelle Bachmann, in her first term, has become sort of a GOP version of Cynthia McKinney. In addition to calling several of her colleagues un-American, she has asserted publicly that Barack Obama holds "anti-American views" and has thrown out the notion that supporters of Obama may indeed be anti-American themselves; she even suggested opening a Congressional inquest in the anti-American views of other members of Congress… which makes her, to use a tired phrase, Joe McCarthy with lipstick. Minnesota is strongly in the Obama camp, and even in Bachman's GOP-leaning district those are not the sort of comments that endear you to your voters. Democratic challenger Elwyn Tinklenberg has pulled into the lead in some polls on the race and may very well be able to get past both the GOP lean of the district and his funny name to send Bachmann back home to face her not-so-anti-American constituents. Any sizable wave may carry Tinklenberg along, and as with Cynthia McKinney this is one incumbent members of both parties can look forward to being rid of.
New Jersey 5 is probably not that competitive, but the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has continued spending money here so it could be one to watch (if Sen. Frank Lautenberg were more popular he might be able to drag this district along, but it won't happen). The Democratic candidate here is Dennis Shulman, a psychologist, a rabbi, and blind; he'd be the first rabbi in Congress and only the second blind Congressman ever (the first served in the 1920s). It would be neat-o for that reason if he won, but the odds don't favor it; still, if Shulman manages a victory, it's probably going to be a big night for the Democrats.
In New Mexico 1, the Democratic candidate is Martin Heinrich, currently an Albuquerque city councilman. He should win by five to ten points. The interesting thing to note is that Heinrich was voted the Hottest Man in U.S. Politics in 2006. Note that another former Hottest Politician is going to be at the top of the ballot this year on a GOP line; keep an eye on Heinrich. Pretty people sometimes get plucked from obscurity (and they aren't all idiots.
Pennsylvania 3 is currently held by the GOP, but recent polling has shown the incumbent rather far behind his challenger, Kathy Dahlkemper. What's interesting about this race? Dahlkemper is the director of the Lake Erie Arboretum. She'd be the first arborist to serve in Congress. As a tree guy myself I appreciate that. Incidentally, if you ever find yourself in the Erie area, the Arboretum is worth a visit. The first tree at the arboretum was planted in 1998 (with more planted every year thereafter), so if you go now, you'll see a lot of little trees. And then if you go again thirty years from now… well, that'd be pretty neat.
Also watch for Indiana 3 and Illinois 18. These are the only two House candidates this year younger than Smitty. The Republican candidate in Illinois 18, Aaron Schock, is 27. It's an open seat but should be an easy GOP win. The Democratic candidate in Indiana 3 is Mike Montagano, who is 26. This race is said to be a tie, but it will take a good Democratic wave for a 26-year-old attorney to oust an incumbent.
Another big one would be South Carolina 1. What? Am I serious? South Carolina? Yep. Because we always assume SC will go Republican the state doesn't get polled much, and there's been talk that Obama could surprise—although the surprise would be in the form of losing by less than expected. But if there a huge surge in black turnout, he might be able to drag SC-1 into the democratic column even while losing. The incumbent, Henry Brown, is not unpopular, but the district is more competitive than most in this state. The really intriguing bit is that his opponent, Linda Ketner, is openly gay. That she might win a seat in Congress from South Carolina indicates that we may have the state pegged wrong. Let's hope.

31 October 2008

Political Post I

Hey there. I know I've been neglecting the blog, and I have pictures to post and all, but finding gainful employment comes first. Sorry for the layoff but, hey, I'm laid off. Give me time.

I would normally preview the upcoming election on this blog, so I'm going to. For the next four days I'll cover some different races by category, things to watch for, and so on. Then, on Tuesday, I'll post predictions in the morning, so you can see how far off I am while watching the coverage Tuesday night.

Now, if some huge event occurs in the next couple days, it could throw all these predictions and comments off. So, you know, if nothing happens we're good. Anyway. Caveat lector.

Normally I'd start with governors, and I intend to, but really, only one of them is particularly close, that in North Carolina, and we have close Senate and Presidential races there to watch instead. Governors races are less impacted by events nationally than other races so the contest in North Carolina may not be a good indicator of which way the wind is blowing on election night. Furthermore, unless you live in North Carolina, the choice of governor there won't much impact you, the way the races in the House and Senate may.

That being said, there are some races with potential interest. The North Carolina one, between Lt Gov Bev Perdue (D) and Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory (R) is the closest one in the country. Perdue was supposed to win easily as recently as this summer but McCrory has fought hard and turned the race into a toss-up; if the "wave" on election night is more about change than about electing Democrats (which I suspect will be the case), McCrory stands a good chance of earning a narrow victory here as he's been working to paint Perdue as an establishment hack.

There's also the Missouri governor's race. Jay Nixon, the attorney general, has been in office since 1992 and has run for governor at least twice already. The sitting governor, Matt Blunt, a Republican, was already polling behind Nixon last year, so he decided not to run for re-election. The sacrificial lamb is Congressman Kenny Hulshof, who has run a decent race but won't be able to keep the seat in the GOP's hands. It's Nixon's time--the only question is, by how much will he win, and, given how close the presidential race is in Missouri, will Nixon have any coattails for Obama? Tough to say. If Nixon wins big, though--and the networks should call this race before the presidential one--it could mean good things for Obama. A close result here and McCain will probably carry Missouri.

The other two races have more esoteric interest. Joe Biden is running strong for re-election in Delaware, but if he is elected Vice President, the next governor of Delaware will get to name his replacement. I don't know Delaware law; some states require the governor to name a person from the party of the departed Senator, others give the governor wide discretion to name whoever he or she wants. If the Delaware governor's race went to GOP candidate Bill Lee, things could get interesting. The race isn't thought to be very close (Democratic candidate Jack Markell is expected to win handily) but there's been no recent polling so it might be worth looking for this one.

Finally we have the gubernatorial contest in Indiana, where former Bush budget director Mitch Daniels, the GOP incumbent, is in a race with former Congresswoman and USDA bigfoot Jill Long Thompson. Polling on the race has been mixed and more than likely Daniels will win safely, but if Thompson manages a victory here, and if McCain wins the White House, Thompson might get a few looks as a potential presidential candidate in 2012. She is 56 and more Janet Reno than Sarah Palin, but she will have experience at all levels of government, a charming and normal family history, moderate views on most issues, and she's attacking the GOP incumbent for raising taxes. Interesting profile, indeed, and it's not hard to imagine her whispering campaign getting an early start. Unfortunately it is hard to imagine her winning this race.

Tomorrow: the House.

08 October 2008

"He doesn't trust me any more."

A teenage girl referring to the boyfriend she cheated on?

No. Me referring to our adopted orange and white cat. Our only tom, he was scheduled to go into the humane society this morning to become and orange and white not-tom. It's tough to bribe him since he's not supposed to eat, but I tried. He let me pick him up and carry him to the car, but he didn't like going in the car. I tried again, in the backseat this time, but he got his head out the door before I could close it and I couldn't get him back in. I tried baiting the back seat with cat treats, which only got the kittens in there (great, another place they think they own). Orange Pop went and hid, and every time I followed after him he ran farther away. Into the poison ivy (oh to be covered in fur and not care about poison ivy).

Now he is here:Note the zoom inset. He's way up there in that dead tree.

I can't get him down. He managed to avoid his appointment with the surgeon today but what do I do about the future? We NEED free spaying for the females. They trust me enough to get in the car, and I can get them wherever they need to go. But I can't afford $70 per cat! HELP US!!!!

07 October 2008

House Stories Part II

Today I will return to the theme of "What a difference a can of paint can make." Or in this case about six cans. In one room.

When we bought the house we knew several of the interior rooms were due for a change. The bathroom was the worst, and the laundry room was bad, but there were two rooms with mainly cosmetic problems. The first was what you may think of as the guest bedroom, or the second bedroom (or someday off in the misty future the kid bedroom, but not any time soon). We've been referring to it as the "Green Room," and these pictures will show you why. First, the before pic:

Damn. That, that is a color, right there. And not a good one. Who in the hell paints a room canary yellow with a royal blue chair rail? Did you notice that even the floor register in the lower left corner (not actually connected to any ductwork or any actual central climate control system) is yellow? What where they thinking? And there is no baseboard in this room. At all.

From hundreds of miles away, we could see that paint job; it kept us awake at night. We picked out some colors and sent the paint chips up to our housepainter (Mike Henderson, highly recommended) and said, "Go. Make it better." And so he did.

Evidently he used six cans of paint in that room because the yellow kept showing through. Dang.

Then there was the living room. In this house, when you walk in the front door, the first room you enter is the living room. First, the pano:

And next, a shot of the fireplace area:
I would like to point out here the lack of any crown moulding, the spiderweb between the fireplace and the door (that door goes out to the side porch, which you saw in exterior shots in the previous post), and the lovely stains on the carpet. Lots of stains on this carpet; this room wasn't the worst. You can see the beautiful canary yellow room through that door there, and the blue room behind is the dining room. We didn't care for the paint color here, which I would describe as somewhere between "Damp Sand" and "Dead Body." It made the whole room lifeless...

And now, for the after shots. The new color, best seen in this photo, is "Ripe Wheat." I like that name better than "Dead Body." Note also the new crown moulding, and the repainted door (I don't miss the three mysterious brown spots).

Here is a picture of the fireplace. The mantle block was repainted, too, which is nice, and all the trim around the doors and windows. They did a very nice job and, but for the still-crappy carpet, the room seems nice and new. This picture doesn't do the paint color justice, but there are more pictures for later down the road.


This morning we stepped out onto the porch as Smittywife was leaving for work, and we just paused. And the wind blew through the treetops. Rustle, rustle. Whoosh.

Ahhh... There's just a hint of color on the leaves on our oak trees this morning, and I'm sure it wasn't there yesterday. The leaves are rustling in the wind so nicely (punctuated by the occasional drop of an acorn striking the ground at terminal velocity... be careful where you park if you come by), and the temperature has settled nicely into the 60s and 70s. It's autumn! Hooray!

02 October 2008

At Last! The House Series Has Begun!

Question: What is the cheapest, fastest, and easiest way to improve the look of a house?

Answer: Turn on the light! Ha ha ha ha!! Oh, man. Gets me every time. But seriously, most decorators and other types will tell you that a good quality paint job will do a lot to brighten and improve any room, or indeed a whole house. This is evidenced by today's selection of photos.

In the initial photos, shown below, you can see how really crapulent the paint job was when we bought our house. It had probably been painted sometime in the 1980s, I'm guessing, which is rather a long time ago. The paint was peeling of sheets in some cases, badly flaked everywhere, and had to be stripped and entirely redone. Not a job I was looking forward to doing my self--stripping and painting Dutch Clapboard is not exactly a giddy thrill.

Fortunately I never intended to do the job myself, but after fainting dead away in the middle of walking the dog when I was given the first quote for the place--just shy of 10 grand--we set about looking for somebody who would do a competent job cheaply. Thank goodness we found one (thanks to the Simpsonville Lowe's). His name was Mike Henderson--and I recommend Mike Henderson as a great inexpensive housepainter in the Greenville area. (That should show up on Google eventually.)

There was more wood than paint showing through in some areas, as you can see. Though the green parts had clearly been painted more recently, I suspect people just kept slapping new paint over old peeling paint on the siding, not taking any time to do it right, because it's hard to do it right. That's why you pay somebody.

And so we did. I think you can see from the After pictures below how much better the place looks. Yes, there are a lot of paint shavings on the ground now, and I need to come up with an effective way to clean those up. Any suggestions would be appreciated... I'm not looking forward to just taking a flat-bladed shovel to the entire area around the house, but it's my only idea so far.

30 September 2008

Six Short Book Reviews

I've been meaning to review these books forever and haven't got round to it and at this rate I won't for ages. So here's the abbreviated version in order of the first read. As always any of these are available for checkout from the Smitty Library.

1. An Embarrassment of Mangoes, by Ann Vanderhoof.
Wonderful book. Enjoyable to read, will whet your appetite for a Caribbean vacation. Great recipes, although we haven't actually tried any of them yet (but I really want to, especially now I know the DeKalb Farmer's Market in Atlanta has callaloo). Ann Vanderhoof has done what we all want to do--leave the rat race behind and take a vacation forever (or a year, in her case)--so obviously she has more money than the rest of us, but she never ever writes like it, and the book is just a pleasure. Highly recommended.

2. The Diamond Age, by Neal Stephenson.
A reread. I love Snow Crash and, the last time I read it, I still loved it. I like this book a great deal, but it runs out of steam 3/4 of the way through and enters a territory of great weirdness where it starts to get difficult to follow and even, frankly, to suspend disbelief for. Still contains wonderful moments of philosophy and lots of solid factual grounding, and still mostly a very fun read. But not as much fun as I remembered. Definitely worth looking at, but it shows the direction Stephenson has taken generally (i.e. increasingly hard to read).

3. Whatever You Do, Don't Run, by Peter Allison.
Subtitled "True Tales of a Botswana Safari Guide." Lots of fun. Not quite as funny as you might expect from the cover blurbs and actually surprisingly touching at times, nonetheless a light, quick read, perfect for a bedside book as it consists of a collection of short episodes. I greatly enjoyed this book, and I don't think you need to have gone on safari to enjoy it yourself. It may make you want to pick up and go, though. I suspect Mr. Allison has three or four more books of stories in him and he is a fine storyteller. Smittywife needs to read this before it goes into the lending library circulation.

4. Airline/Transport Pilot Oral Exam Guide
Technical book of very limited interest. Will be out of date soon anyway, and since none of the airlines are actually hiring I won't need to take the test. Useful for brushing up on things before my interview, though.

5. Emergency Sex, by Kenneth Cain, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson.
Absolutely my highest recommendation; the best book I've read this year. The authors were UN Peacekeepers during the 1990s and into the early 2000s and these are their tales. If you are at all aware of the existence of other countries you should read this book. If you are a firebreathing conservative and think the UN should be shut down, you should read this book. If you are bleeding-heart liberal and think the UN should take over the world, you should read this book. If you think it matters at all how the US is viewed in the other countries, you should read this book. If you don't think it matters how the US is viewed in other countries but are aware that other people have opinions, you should read this book.
You should read this book. It is gripping. It is well-written. It matters.

6. The Power and the Glory, by Graham Greene.
Interesting. On a lot of "Best Books" lists, which is why I read it. I will pick up The Quiet American and The Comedians on the basis of this, but I can't say I was exactly swept up in it or transfixed by its brilliance. Greene knows how to build a novel and is a good writer; if the subject matter, faith (in particular Catholicism) and keeping faith when there is no Earthly reason to do so, is of remote interest to you, this is one of few novels on the subject that doesn't preach to you (there's plenty of preachy junk out there for you if you want that). But it never really answers any questions, for the protagonist or for the reader. Valuable, but not one you need to put at the top of your list.

Short Short Book Reviews

I've been meaning to review these books forever and haven't got round to it and at this rate I won't for ages. So here's the abbreviated version in order of the first read. As always any of these are available for checkout from the Smitty Library.

1. An Embarrassment of Mangoes, by Ann Vanderhoof.
Wonderful book. Enjoyable to read, will whet your appetite for a Caribbean vacation. Great recipes, although we haven't actually tried any of them yet (but I really want to, especially now I know the DeKalb Farmer's Market in Atlanta has callaloo). Ann Vanderhoof has done what we all want to do--leave the rat race behind and take a vacation forever (or a year, in her case)--so obviously she has more money than the rest of us, but she never ever writes like it, and the book is just a pleasure. Highly recommended.

2. The Diamond Age, by Neal Stephenson.
A reread. I love Snow Crash and, the last time I read it, I still loved it. I like this book a great deal, but it runs out of steam 3/4 of the way through and enters a territory of great weirdness where it starts to get difficult to follow and even, frankly, to suspend disbelief for. Still contains wonderful moments of philosophy and lots of solid factual grounding, and still mostly a very fun read. But not as much fun as I remembered. Definitely worth looking at, but it shows the direction Stephenson has taken generally (i.e. increasingly hard to read).

3. Whatever You Do, Don't Run, by Peter Allison.
Subtitled "True Tales of a Botswana Safari Guide." Lots of fun. Not quite as funny as you might expect from the cover blurbs and actually surprisingly touching at times, nonetheless a light, quick read, perfect for a bedside book as it consists of a collection of short episodes. I greatly enjoyed this book, and I don't think you need to have gone on safari to enjoy it yourself. It may make you want to pick up and go, though. I suspect Mr. Allison has three or four more books of stories in him and he is a fine storyteller. Smittywife needs to read this before it goes into the lending library circulation.

4. Airline/Transport Pilot Oral Exam Guide
Technical book of very limited interest. Will be out of date soon anyway, and since none of the airlines are actually hiring I won't need to take the test. Useful for brushing up on things before my interview, though.

5. Emergency Sex, by Kenneth Cain, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson.
Absolutely my highest recommendation; the best book I've read this year. The authors were UN Peacekeepers during the 1990s and into the early 2000s and these are their tales. If you are at all aware of the existence of other countries you should read this book. If you are a firebreathing conservative and think the UN should be shut down, you should read this book. If you are bleeding-heart liberal and think the UN should take over the world, you should read this book. If you think it matters at all how the US is viewed in the other countries, you should read this book. If you don't think it matters how the US is viewed in other countries but are aware that other people have opinions, you should read this book.
You should read this book. It is gripping. It is well-written. It matters.

6. The Power and the Glory, by Graham Greene.
Interesting. On a lot of "Best Books" lists, which is why I read it. I will pick up The Quiet American and The Comedians on the basis of this, but I can't say I was exactly swept up in it or transfixed by its brilliance. Greene knows how to build a novel and is a good writer; if the subject matter, faith (in particular Catholicism) and keeping faith when there is no Earthly reason to do so, is of remote interest to you, this is one of few novels on the subject that doesn't preach to you (there's plenty of preachy junk out there for you if you want that). But it never really answers any questions, for the protagonist or for the reader. Valuable, but not one you need to put at the top of your list.

26 September 2008

College Football!

Okay, so this isn't what I said I was going to post about but I MUST talk about this!

USC lost to Oregon State last night. Lowly Oregon State, which, before last night, was considered in the bottom half of Pac-10 teams.
Why was everybody so freaking in love with USC before last night? Do they not watch what is happening out there on the West Coast? The freaking Mountain West and the WAC have both been beating up on the "better" tier of teams from the Pac-10. And what has USC done so far this year? Let's see, they flattened a Virginia team that's not even favored to beat perennial doormat Duke tomorrow. Then they took ten days off and beat up on Ohio State at home in LA--that's The Ohio State University, the football program that has made an utter laughingstock of the BCS championship the last two seasons and barely held off Troy last week. We already know Ohio State is grotesquely overrated, they should never have been ranked 5th when they played USC, and they shouldn't be ranked 14th now. They aren't even the second best team in a weak Big Ten, and might not be third best. And why is any of this a surprise????

I still don't understand why everybody lost faith in Georgia after week 1, or why ESPN commentators were as recently as yesterday afternoon announcing that the national championship would be played between USC and a team from the Big 12. Where is the SEC love, people? I hate the SEC, but even I can admit that the SEC championship this year will almost assuredly be played between two teams both of which are better than whatever teams show up in the BCS Championship game from any other conference. If anything, BYU looks like a better pick for the BCS than USC, and they have since week 1. Just because USC plays in LA and the team's stars look good in photo spreads and Pete Carroll gives his local brand of kool-aid away free at pressers does not mean they are the top team in the country.

Thank you, Oregon State, for clarifying what was already clear and making plain what was already obvious.


25 September 2008

Um... The House Comes With These... Things

Many older houses come with animals inside. Ours is absolutely infested with spiders. Not the bad kind of spiders, but kind of creepy all the same. They're getting better, though, now that we live here. A friend of ours bought an older home a few years ago and found a squirrel nest in the attic big enough to stable a pony in. We were spared that particular annoyance, thank goodness.

But our neighbors moved out a few days after we moved in, and they left some things behind. (They also stole some things, including the refrigerator, out of the house they were renting, and left the garage piled floor to ceiling with kitchen garbage. In bags, but still, piled floor to ceiling with garbage.) They left behind their indoor-outdoor cat, a white and orange tabby tomcat. He is going to the humane society soon to become a regular plain cat instead of a tom cat, because he is the only male cat in the area and we can't afford to spay a bunch of cats.

Because a bunch of cats is what we have. There is a mama cat (Mama Cita, for now), who is a standard brown tabby. And there are these things. Three tabby kittens, very similar in appearance, and shockingly similar to Tribble. We have been calling them Dasher, Vixen, and Blitzen (that's in order, left to right, in the photo below) for the last couple days, although last night I decided maybe we should give them names of minor characters from Star Trek series (to go along with Tribble).

They're very nice kittens. They stayed reasonably still for this photo, which Tribble generally doesn't do unless she's asleep. In the background you can see the tom cat, who I've been calling Creamsicle (the obvious choice) although Smittywife suggested Orange Pop, since he's the dad and all. (But he's fathered his last kittens.) I like both names. Perhaps I'll let the humane society choose when they receive him for surgery.

We're keeping them as outdoor-only cats, although they have become rather too comfortable at the house and like to sit in the windowsills and look in at us. I think we shall have to start giving them their food in the garage or something so they don't get so comfortable at the house. Creamsicle/Orange Pop sits on the porch and just stares. It's toughest for him, because I know he was used to coming inside before. The kittens and Mama Cita have only been outdoor cats. Once there's money coming in, I'll get them all spayed, but none of them have had any shots and they probably have some fleas, so it won't be cheap to take them in (the Humane Society will give them their shots and everything at $10 a shot; it's a lot cheaper than taking them to a vet, but considering that they're not even really our cats... four cats times $49/each to spay, times $10 per shot (2 shots per cat), I mean, I just want to prevent future kitten outbreaks, not spend $300 turning them into pets. Maybe there's a charity that will pay for this for us...). In any event, neutering Orange Pop should at least prevent future kitten outbreaks for a while; that is the hope.

Anyway. Just wanted to post that adorable picture. There will be house pictures galore coming soon!

24 September 2008

Wow. A Whole Month.

So it's been 33 days since my last post. I can't say I didn't warn you, but then, even the warning was rather sunnier than this.
I have lots of updates I want to post. We have a new house, of course, and we've done SO MUCH work to it. I can't wait to start posting before and after pictures and show off what we've done. I need to organize (and download from the camera) a lot of those pictures. But I want to start with a nice short post every day, or at least four or five days a week. That seems like a fair goal. So this little post will have to stand for today. But soon, I promise you, there will be pictures. Many pictures. Yaay!

22 August 2008

A period of wandering

Tribble appears to have been involved in precipitating the events that led to the ultimate demise of my laptop recently. I can't blame her much since it was such a piece of junk already, but in any event, posting has lagged recently at least in part because I don't have my computer right now. The no-computer problem will likely remain a problem for a couple of months at this point, barring unforeseen offers of well-compensated employment, but I will endeavor to make reasonable efforts to keep this space updated, or, barring that, to keep a record of things that should be posted on the blog because of general interest--things like photos of the work proceeding apace at the new house, for example, musings about the nature of moving, and information regarding the holy trinity of employment, continuing education, and the sale of a condo. Big news, in other words. The book reviews will have to wait and political coverage will probably be pretty limited, but the payoff will come in pictures of house renovation, which I think personally will be much more interesting.

If you are so inclined I would request your continued prayers and thoughts for us as regards the sale of this condo and the search for employment. We definitely need them.

06 August 2008


Did you know, it's hot in a house without air conditioning (or electricity of any sort) in the middle of the afternoon when it's 98 degrees outside? It is. In case you were wondering. I've been working on a few little projects, which I'm attempting to document with photography, but you'll have to wait to see them because Smittywife hasn't seen the projects yet, doesn't even know what they are (though she may suspect). So she gets to see them all first. Then I'll post. Rest assured I am staying busy, though not exactly in the way I expected when I came up here.

For no reason at all, I'm going to post a picture. It's a dam somewhere in the Western U.S. I flew over it a number of years ago on the way to Hawai'i.

05 August 2008

Live on Location

This week, Smitty's World will be coming to you on location from Anderson, South Carolina. If I remember to post, that is. I'm getting some work done on the new house to make it move-in ready, so we can get up here soon and I can get a job. Yaay, job.

Speaking of jobs, today is a grim anniversary indeed for Americans. On this date in 1861, the United States government, in an effort to pay for the Civil War, first instituted an income tax. Boo! Hiss! The tax was to total 3% of all income over $600. My how inflation has changed us, huh; in 1861 $600 would buy you a quarter section in the Midwest, a house from the Sears catalog to put on it, and enough seed to plant your first crop of corn.

The tax was rescinded in 1872, although Congress passed and rescinded various income taxes several times before the Supreme Court, God bless them, determined that an income tax was unconstitutional in an 1895 case. This led to the wretched and unspeakable 16th Amendment, passed in 1913, authorizing Congress to levy a tax on incomes "from whatever source derived."

I've always wondered whether money launderers and other criminals who, of course, never report the proceeds of their crimes to the government, might not be prosecuted and punished for tax evasion in addition to whatever property crime they may have committed.

03 August 2008

An August 3 Celebration

Let's see. About, oh, 516 years ago today, a fellow by the name of Cristoforo Colombu (or Christopher Columbus to us Anglophones) departed Portugal on his first voyage to what would turn out to be the Americas. Not that he was the first person to site the Americas, nor even the first European to do so, nor even did he realize he'd landed someplace that was not actually Asia. But he was indeed the first European to deliberately sail west from Europe with the goal of bumping into land and actually succeed at doing so, and he initiated modern trans-Atlantic travel. Think of it as an advance Columbus Day, and celebrate it however you would like. Why not look at some old maps for a while?

01 August 2008


Hi there. Sorry about the loss of the daily updates for the last few days. Smittyworld has been undergoing a lot of deep thought and potential changes and things like that, and I don't always feel comfortable talking about financial and employment issues here, at least not right now. It's more a thing Smittywife and I talk about. And I don't have any other deep thoughts right now; the sort of life changes we're pondering have a way of pushing most other issues to the side. I'd get back on the daily celebrations, I really would, but I'm going to be heading to South Carolina next week and probably won't be posting every day anyway. I have a great one for the 14th of August, so I should write a few more. And if anything really exciting happens I promise I'll post about that.
Of course, the whole point of the daily celebrations, really, was to give me something to post while my emotional status was otherwise too occupied to warrant meaningful posts of any other sort. So I should really get back to them for the time being.
So... August 1st. Let's see. Well, this is the 8th month of the year. Halloween is starting to mingle with back-to-school in the stores, and the craft store we favor (Jo-Ann etc) is already chock-a-block with Christmas. I don't want to celebrate the too-early celebration of holidays, though.

But how about this. Today marks the anniversary of the opening of the very first Scout Camp, held the week of August 1, 1907, on Brownsea Island in England by Sir Robert Baden-Powell. Baden-Powell was a military scout for much of his career, and published some of the first books on Scouting as a profession, as well as Scouting for Boys, the book that started the youth Scouting movement. The camp that opened on August 1st is now recognized by all worldwide Scouting organizations (including the Boy Scouts of America, the organization that granted Smitty the rank of Eagle Scout) as the true beginning of the youth Scouting movement. That's worth celebrating; Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are great organizations, and both Smittys were a part of their respective Scouting group. We hope to have our kids involved in Scouting some day, too. When there are kids. Which won't be for a while.

Today is also the birthday of the Jeep; the first one rolled off production lines on August 1st, 1941. I think the best drink to celebrate the Jeep would be a Mudslide.