29 January 2008

Canada Cares

I got exit polled today. By the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. I think that's funny. I'll have to check out the CBC's web page tonight to see if their exit polling shows an unusually high vote for Edwards...

Smitty Votes

Today is Florida's unprimary. The GOP will at least seat some delegates at their convention but for Democrats the vote today is just for kicks and nothing else. And there's a property tax amendment on the ballot, cleverly scheduled to suppress turnout and ensure the yes votes win. I'll be voting no.

I'll als be voting for Edwards. If you are undecided and are voting today, let me briefly offer my thoughts.
I like Sen. Obama; he is the only one of the candidates I've met and he strikes me as a decent person, more than I can say for nearly every other federal-level politician I've met (the exception being Lindsey Graham). I will not be upset if he is nominated.

I will be upset if Clinton is nominated. Whether she can win a general or not I don't know, but if she does win, we'll be in for four solid years of people trying to destroy her, and whatever you think of her, or her husband, or the "vast right-wing conspiracy" against them, four years of attack-and-parry will not help this country. Do not vote for Sen. Clinton.

I support Edwards even though I disagree with some of his policies, because I believe he has more detailed, better though-out plans, and has shown in the primary season so far the sort of attitude I get from the aforementioned Sen. Graham: he speaks his mind. He tells you that you may not like what he has to say, but it's what he believes and he's not out to tell you what you want to hear. I like and value that more than almost any other quality. I belive he would fare better in a debate against Mitt Romney or John McCain than would Sen. Obama, and although all the grandiose plans in the world may, and often do, come to naught after the election, the simple act of having them is more impressive than all the flowery language in the world (something Obama is very good at, by the way). To me, Edwards is the most genuine candidate in the Democratic field (Huckabee is the most genuine candidate period, but I genuinely can't stomach the thought of him in office), and he will get my vote today.

So there you have it. Floridians, I don't care how you vote, but please do get out there and vote today.

28 January 2008


Today I have the unusual circumstance of it taking longer to type this post than it did to handwrite it on Sunday. I'm using Smittygirl's computer and its outmoded QWERTY keyboard instead of Dvorak. And while I can get 45 wpm on one of these things, I can't do it without looking at the keys, which means I have to read what I wrote, then type, then read some more, and so on. The things I do for you, dear readers.

When I moved from Valdosta (Ga) to Del Rio (Tex) in 2002, I did all of the packing and loading myself, with the assisstance of my father and my friend Ichabod. Ichabod and I then made the 4 day drive to Del Rio--including the worst stretch of highway driving (on US 90) I have ever experienced in this country when I-10 was closed west of Baton Rouge--and, after finding a place to live, did all the unloading and unpacking ourselves (with the help of our roommate EP).

When we left Del Rio, as we were all headed to different places, we had the government pay movers to come out, pack, load, and ship everything for us, in my case to Tampa. (It's much nicer that way.)

I am embarrassed to admit that one of the boxes I had the movers load onto the truck was one I had never actually unpacked. In the entire year I lived in Texas, I never unpacked that box, but rather than just pitch it and be done with it, I had it loaded onto a truck and shipped to the next house.

That box and its contents are gone now, but it's only been since I began preparing for Smittygirl to move in that I actually started going through stuff, and found that box and got rid of it. I cite this story as an example of just how much excess stuff is in my house and in my life.

This post could turn philosphical very quickly, so let me truncate that part of it and just say that regardless of how big or small a place we live in, nearly all of us Americans have too much stuff, and want more stuff; but the truth is that beyond a certain basic level, stuff will not make us happier, better, or more attractive, and in the long run all of us would be better off if we just got rid of a lot of our stuff and spent our money on experiences and activities with our loved ones and friends.

Living by that bit of wisdom is as much of a resolution as I have for 2008. And it has become of some immediate interest as Smittygirl and I look toward the near future. We are moving soon, and I will be selling this lovely downtown Tampa condo with the nice view and the recently remodeled kitchen (over 900sf, new air conditioner, and two parking spots guaranteed--unheard of for a 1/1.5 in downtown!!! Call now!!!). And so the question arises, how much of the stuff in this house are we actually going to pack, store, ship, and unpack into our new home?

Smittygirl is already talking about ditching half her clothes, and I could stand to do the same. Between us we have enough towels for a family of 8 plus guests; only last weekend did I finally go through the stack of sheets on the spare sofa and put most of them in a donation pile; why did we have three sets of twin sheets when we don't own a twin bed? I have this huge collection of old winebottles I'll be happy to restart. And the paper...my God, the paper! I could create a small forest with the amount of paper junking up this house and I'm not including books. We threw out two trash bags full of junk from the desk a few months ago, and the desk is still too cluttered to be usable.

Yes, there's a bit of work to do. I only wish I was getting paid for it...

23 January 2008

Mystery Box

I received the box from the service company today, to pack up this poor lonely computer and send it off to be poked at. I do hope they fix it and don't find any reason to wipe the hard drive... but just in case they do, I have copied most of my important files to the external drive. I'm looking to see if there's a way I can upload the entire hard drive to google, but doing it as an attachment to a mail message is impossible; I'd have to go file by file. In any event, the blog will go on hiatus yet again, but perhaps when it returns I'll have all sorts of exciting news, maybe a new job! Who knows? I may borrow Smittygirl's desktop and post from time to time if I need to, too.

22 January 2008

Wide Open Races

There were several political events of some note while I was on hiatus, such as the New Hampshire Primary (remember when that used to be in March?), the Nevada Caucus (where?) and the South Carolina primary (hey, I'll get to vote in that next time around). The talking heads have talked around these so much you'd think there'd be nothing left to say, but the truth is they've really not said much of anything. I'll say something after the jump.

The reason being, talking heads are only happy when things are following a clear, pre-determined path, or are clearly deviating from the pre-determined path in such a way that the talking heads can make witty observations about why that's happening, what went wrong, or claim they made a clever prediction that this was really what would happen all along.

None of the pre-established storylines for this campaign season have been followed, though. Instead what we have is this:

On the GOP side, at least three candidates, and possibly more, have a realistic and plausible shot at winning the party's nomination, and it is a near certainty that all three of them, and possibly at least one other, will win more states and more delegates within the next 15 days, preventing the picture from getting a whole lot clearer.

On the Dem side, both the long-established front-runner and the hot challenger have managed to underperform or overperform in at least one contest since Iowa. South Carolina votes this weekend and the assumption is that Obama will win it, but by how much? Edwards partisans have been reduced to claiming their man won last night's rather tetchy debate and state residents will have to "reexamine" him as a candidate. A third of voters don't know who to vote for, and another third say they might change their minds. Nobody knows what will happen, and as on the GOP side, both Clinton and Obama will win more states in the next 15 days.

So, five states down the primary/caucus calendar, we don't have any real idea whatsoever who is going to win either of these races.

It's been ages since that was the case. 1988 was the last time there was a real fight for both nominations, but Bush had better organization than any of his opponents and walked away with too many Super Tuesday victories to be overcome. Al Gore waited until everybody else but Jesse Jackson had already dropped out to start harping on how unelectable Dukakis was (the first time "electability" became a major issue), and was too late to change the race dynamics.

Things are a bit different this time. Everyone is waiting for February 5th, this year's version of Super Tuesday, when no less than 24 states will hold primaries or caucuses (idiots have taken to calling it "super duper Tuesday," but we are not idiots here at Smitty's World). This is nearly a national primary; previous super Tuesday contests have rarely seen more than 10 states (although there were 16 in 1988) and never have they included states as large as California, New York, and Illinois.

This should, obviously, favor candidates with the most money, the most name recognition, or the best organization. But there's a problem. On the Dem side, Clinton has the best organization but Obama has the most money and both score almost equal in name recognition. On the GOP side, McCain and Giuliani have the best name recognition, but Ron Paul has the most money and Mitt Romney has the best organization. And people like Mike Huckabee and Fred Thompson more than they like any of the others. The media have been no help, either (not that they ever are), because they're fragmented and confused in part, but also because they like a good story, so they've been pimping Huckabee and trying to destroy Clinton, publishing stories claiming that the other candidates all hate Mitt Romney and pretending that John Edwards still has a good shot at winning. They've done nothing but muddy the waters. And the polls have been awful; average error is above 6%, in some races the difference between first and third place.

This has been a real popcorn voting season and it looks to get better. Over half of all the Democratic delegates will be awarded on the 5th, and 2/5ths of the Republican ones. If one candidate sweeps the voting it will be a done deal, but at least at this point, 14 days out, it seems unlikely any candidate in either party can do that. There are two contests between now and then, a Democratic primary in South Carolina on Saturday that Obama is expected to win—which is to say, if he doesn't win it, people will assume his campaign is doomed—and the Florida primaries on the 29th, which are meaningless for Democrats but should be interesting for the GOP, especially if Rudy Giuliani is able to pull off a victory.

There. An entire political post without a single mention of issues or anything of substance. I almost feel like a real pundit.

The Next Hiatus...

…may actually be coming rather soon, although it's hard to say for sure. The hinges on this laptop have both broken, and as a result the screen is, shall we say, flaccid. It's very annoying and very difficult to use, but it was not the reason for the recent hiatus. It may, however, be the reason for the next one, as I think I may get someone to come out here and fix the thing. It's tough to say.

When I bought this machine 25 months ago I bought the 3-year extended warranty, mainly because I'd had such bad luck with my previous laptops. This one has been trouble-free up until this little incident. Well, the extended-warranty company, Service Net, didn't want to fix it. What did I pay $380 for if they won't fix it when it breaks? The first person I spoke to said they would only fix mechanical issues and this wasn't mechanical because the computer still worked. She also said the warranty didn't cover "physical" damage.

That's like your insurance company saying they won't pay you for your stolen car because the car still works… you just can't use it.

After reading the warranty contract info word for word I determined that A) there was no definition of "mechanical" in the contract, B) the word "physical" never once appeared in the contract, and C) the contract limitations failed to cover hinges specifically or movable apparatus generally.

I called back. I got another person, who said it certainly seemed the hinges would be covered, and I talked with a technician who said he would write up a trouble ticket and they would send someone out. Then I waited. Finally last night I got a call from somebody—four days after they were supposed to have called to set up the appointment—saying that they wouldn't cover the hinges after all because they were "cosmetic" (another word that does not appear in the contract limitations, or anywhere else). I said that was hardly the case and clearly nobody there actually knew what a laptop was. He put me on hold, came back and said they could only cover a hinge if the screen didn't work or failed to stay open.

Many of you have laptops. If both hinges broke, would the screen stay open? Would anyone—even a very dimwitted person—with even a casual knowledge of laptops, say the kind you'd get from visiting a Best Buy once in your entire life, not understand that when the hinges are broken, it means that the screen won't stay open?

He promised he'd find somebody to agree to fix it and call me back, which he did, and today I'm supposed to get another call to set up a time for a technician to visit and fix the thing.

This may or may not actually happen, but if it does… well, I'll let you know what happens. I'll even take some pictures.

18 January 2008

Coming Soon

Smitty's hiatus from blogging will end on Tuesday the 22nd. Thank you for your support.

08 January 2008


Hello dear readers. I'm going to be taking a break from blogging for a few days. You could argue I've already started the break, and I wouldn't challenge that notion. I have other things I need to concentrate on right now, but don't worry, I'll be back in a little while.

04 January 2008

The well is dry

My prediction yesterday regarding the caucuses was in fact entirely correct, except in reverse order. Edwards could have survived a second place finish with Clinton in first, but I doubt sincerely he can survive the finish he had--especially given the closeness to Clinton. Perhaps if he was five or six points up on her and closer to Obama, then maybe. But he'll stick around through the 5th. If he hasn't embarrassed himself before the 29th of this month perhaps I'll actually go vote for the man.
Thompson finished stronger than I had anticipated, in fact stronger than I think he had anticipated. But he's not long for the race, and I frankly don't think he ever really wanted to do it all that much. Can't blame him. Ron Paul managed 10%, which is good and, if you think about it, if Ron Paul could get 10% in a general election that would be enough to swing the election. I really think he's doing his fans a great disservice if he doesn't run as an indy or something.

All of the foregoing aside, I would like to remark again upon the absolute ridiculousness of the fact that 225,000 people in a rural state have as much power to decide who will be on the November ticket as they do. Frankly Iowa and New Hampshire should give up their electoral college votes. They can have the primaries, and let the rest of us decide the final.

On a personal note, I got a class I flight physical today. I have the certificate and everything. Easier than I expected, although I did sit in the waiting room for a full hour after my appointment time. That annoys me. It's like to go to the doctor anymore you have to take half a day from work. And this was true in the AF, too--regardless what time I made an appointment for it was a guaranteed 30 minute wait before the tech would take your vitals, and then you might be sitting in the little exam room for another fifteen or more. Ugh. The airlines don't even overbook that heavily. Anyway, now I get to complete and file my application. Which company should I apply to? All of them? I'm going to go with "all of them."

03 January 2008


It's only a few degrees warmer here in Tampa than it is Iowa today. But whereas our own Democratic primary in 26 days will be utterly meaningless, the caucuses (caucusses? Caucasus?) in Iowa will have meaning far beyond their intrinsic worth or value and indeed far beyond what any reasonable country would allow them to have. The Iowa caucuses are a fine way to pick the future governor of Iowa, but their relative importance in picking the future president is extreme to the point of absurdity. The post following the jump, however, isn't absurd in the least.

I remember reading a few days ago a bit of a column from the New York Times political blog, exerpted onto the Economist political blog, that went something along the lines of: the 24-hour media environment of the last decade has caused most voters—including Iowans—to act like pundits, not voters. They examine candidates for their electability, not for their actual opinions or plans. In other words, voters decide whether a candidate can win the next election without really examining their platform.

The article didn't extend this far, but as I see it this is a creation of the lousy state of most primary campaigns and the available candidates. Since we know we're not really going to like any of the choices all that much, all we can do is decide which party we expect to hate less, and then figure out which member of that party is most likely to beat the other guy. Do we care whether we actually agree with their platform? No, because we know they won't really do it anyway. But by God we know the guy from the other party is even worse.

The Economist made a deft point that voters are acting like they're responsible for reporting on and analyzing the race, instead of actually voting in it—they've (we've) forgotten that we in fact control the process, which is much more important than simply reporting on it.

This affects the candidates, too. How many times have you heard (if you've been paying attention, which I can't blame you if you aren't) each candidate (except maybe Kucinich) talk about how he or she is the most electable? How many times has Hillary had to address the "electability" issue? What the hell kind of an issue is electability? Don't we care a bit more about issues like, you know, the war? The economy? The Supreme Court? The gradual destruction of our constitutional form of government in favor of a strong executive/elected king? Don't these things matter? Isn't the right way to go about this to determine which candidate has the best positions and let electability take care of itself?

Well, we clearly don't feel comfortable doing that, probably because the best candidates have, over the last fifteen or twenty-five or hundred years or so, not actually been elected most of the time. Or even when they have, they generally don't do what they said they would, they don't keep their promises—often they don't even try—and we've been betrayed so often that even if we trusted the best candidate to always get elected, we wouldn't trust him or her to do a good job once in office.

In other words, the system is fucked, and so are we. So we treat the entire process like it’s a horse race, and then we all turn around and complain that that's all the media reports on. It's a closed loop.

I'm as guilty of it as anybody else, I'll admit that. But this year—with numerous caveats, which I'll get to in a later post—I've been supporting a candidate in my primary (Democratic) who I don't actually think is the most electable. I like John Edwards. I like the fact that he's neither a Bush nor a Clinton nor someone who once worked for one of them. I don't think he's all that electable, but this year that may not matter. I'm not even real sure I'm with him on most of the issues.

I've tried taking the various "select a candidate" quizzes available on line (one such is this here), and frequently they match me up with Barack Obama and Maurice Gravel. I met Mr. Obama. I liked him. He seems like a nice guy. A bit light on experience, but what the hell is experience anyway? One of the most experienced presidents of recent years was Richard Nixon, and he was a smashing success wasn't he? Lincoln had less federal experience than Barack Obama or John Edwards when he ran, and he was pretty good. So screw the experience question; as long as you don't plan to hire Dick Cheney I don't really care.

So that's it. I don't know who's going to win tonight, but I know it'll be all over the television. I know all candidates in both parties will try to spin the results, so the only way to figure out how the results will affect each candidate will be to see what happens over the weekend. And I'm supporting Edwards. I refuse to send any money to any candidate who won't campaign here, and I won't vote in the primary on the 29th anyway because the stupid party won't count my votes. But I've decided to support the candidate I like best instead of the one I think has the best chance of winning. It's the candidates we like best who stand the best chance of winning, right?

So that's it for my Iowa Caucus post. Right? Well… no, you know me better than that. All of the foregoing aside, here are my predictions and the open questions:
Win: Clinton
Place: Edwards
Show: Obama
First Loser: Richardson

Win: Huckabee
Place: Romney
Show: McCain
First Loser: Thompson

Who'll drop out afterwards: Biden (D), Thompson (R)
Who'll get the momentum going into New Hampshire: Clinton (D), McCain (R)

Open questions

1 - What will become of all Ron Paul's money? He has more money than any GOPer but Mitt Romney (who's fabulously wealthy) but he still hasn't cracked the polls. He could surprise tonight with a strong showing, but that seems unlikely; flawed as polls are they surely would have shown something happening. I'm betting Ron Paul will end up pulling out of GOP race after New Hampshire and committing to either an independent or libertarian party run—and with his millions of dollars he could make a real dent.
2 – Will there be room for Clinton, Obama, and Edwards after New Hampshire? Edwards is in third there, and even if he finishes as I've predicted (which would be good), Clinton will get the bigger benefit by bolstering her "inevitable" credentials, which, sadly, matter (everyone wants to back a winner). If Obama comes in third and Edwards is first, Edwards becomes the anti-Hillary candidate and can probably win the thing. The same is true for Obama in reverse; the difference is I think Edwards' money will dry up very quickly if he doesn't do better than third in both Iowa and New Hampshire. I'm sure he'd stay around through February 5th, but if he doesn't win Iowa I don't think he has a chance. The same is not true of Obama and Clinton.

So there you have it: a free man's opinion.