Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Your Answers, Plus...

We had an unusual situation at home last week. We were actually both watching the same thing, on the same TV. To make this happen we had to bring in a folding chair from the garage.
Oprah was on, scheming with her huge staff how to surprise her unsuspecting guests, a group of military spouses, with a pile of gifts. I chose the moment to ask one of my annoying questions (which usually focus on the tie being worn by whoever's on screen). "Who would you rather have for a neighbor?" I asked. "Oprah or Mitt Romney?" For once I didn't get the "Who cares?" answer from Mona, who instead blurted out "Oh, Oprah!" as if there could have been no other possible answer. Sorry, Brother Romney.

Last week, I asked for your answers on several election-related questions. I didn't get 400 answers or 4,000. I got, ah, four. No one seemed to have trouble voting, not even daughter Anna in Columbus, OH, who I thought might have a problem. No one but me saw Romney's post-election "gift" remarks as a window into a cynic's soul. Anna nominated her brother Jake as a future candidate, while other nominees were reasonably familiar - Christie, Huntsman, Hillary. And most found it necessary to hook up their votes with at least one group that they weren't too comfortable with. Maybe I'll do this again - and maybe I'll get 4,000 responses. 

A friend who doesn't live too far away had a disturbing thing happen in the wee hours of Thanksgiving Day. The police knocked on his door at about 3 AM. They had a question for him. Did he know a certain man? No, he didn't. Well, replied the cops, he's in you yard, and he's dead. Sure enough, there he was. The good news, if you can see it this way, is that there were no signs of violence, and the man's wallet was still in his pants. The bad news? Well, just having him there would be bad enough, but now someone has to try to figure out how he spent his last moments in the yard of someone he didn't know. The last I heard, indirectly, is that he was a heavy drinker. So - there's one more reason to lay off the stuff.

If you live in Poweshiek County in central Iowa, yours is the opportunity to view something not everyone gets the chance to see. Grinnell College, located in a town with the same name, is a pretty well known college, though the enrollment is less than 2000. They have students from everywhere, a large endowment and a first-rate academic reputation.
And they have something else. Over the years they have taken to a style of playing the game of basketball that's used almost nowhere else. Without going into detail, lots of players get playing minutes in this system, and it generates LOTS of points, although not always enough to win the games. In fact, it's pretty common for the Pioneers to rack up 100 points in a forty-minute game, sometimes more.
Last week, though, they rewrote the record book, or at least part of it, defeating visiting Faith Baptist (who must have had their faith tested) by a whopping 179-104. A previously unheralded Grinnell player, Jack Taylor, launched 108 shots and finished the game with 138 points. That means he shot the ball an average of three times each minute he played, making 52 of them. What's more, Taylor's not a big man by any stretch, coming in at 5'10". I am not making any of this up, because it would be unbelievable if it weren't true. An unknown player at a college not renown for athletics who has no doubt never dunked, now has scored more points in a single game than anyone, ever, for any team. Young Mr. Taylor even got a mention in this blog. Wow.         

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Answer My Questions....Pleeeze!

I admit it. The election to me was a pretty big deal. Big enough that I don't want to lay off writing about it yet. At the same time, this blog edition is unlike its 300 plus predecessors in that I'm asking questions this time and inviting your answers.
But first, a few little-noticed election facts. If, on election day you found yourself driving North out of Utah County in Utah (the Provo area) towards Salt Lake City (Salt Lake County), your chances of being an Obama voter are roughly quadrupled when you cross the county line. But it's not because Obama did so well in Salt Lake County. In fact, he came up just short of 40% there. But it was Democratic heaven compared to Utah County, where he got just under 10% of the popular vote. He did better in a few counties than others, of course, but carried exactly zero counties in the Beehive State.
Iowa was once dependably Republican, at least until the Civil War vets died off, and even then it usually was marked by big rural GOP vote surrounding a few Democratic pockets in certain cities. Now it looks more like the results of some political tectonic event. Every county bordering the Mississippi River in eastern Iowa was blue this time around. And every county allowing you to sink your feet in the Missouri River in the west edge of the state went red.
California and its vast ocean of voters was almost the complete opposite from Iowa. Almost every Pacific-bordering county was Democratic, and the big majority of counties bordering on its desert east were Republican. Of course, both states went Democratic overall - Iowa by 6% and California by a full 20%, so longitude doesn't explain everything.

Here are your questions. No one's name is required. Just reply at the bottom by question number. I promise not to sell results to any fundraisers.
   1 How hard was it for you to vote?
     a Doesn't apply. I voted early or by mail.
     b Went to the poll on Election Day, but was in and out pretty quickly.
     c Went to the poll and was in line a long time.
     d Something else applies. Go ahead. Tell us.
   2 What was your main election news source this time around?
     a Our local paper.
     b TV "news channels" like Fox or MSNBC
     c Twitter
     d Talk radio
     e Other (dreams, prophetic declarations, smart neighbor, etc.)
   3 The #1 issue that caused you to vote the way you did.
     a The economy, stupid.
     b War and Peace
     c Health care
     d A common trait with one candidate
     e Other (gender stuff, pulling with or against the poor, aspirations for a higher tax bracket, etc,)
   4 Were there any groups on YOUR side of the vote with whom you are NOT comfortable?
     a Tea Party
     b Radical Muslims
     c birthers
     d mis Amigos Latino. Tu sabe, gringo?
     e Nope, not as long as they carry guns.
     f Card-carrying pacifists
   5 Your opinion please, on Mitt Romney's comments to supporters last week regarding "gifts" by the president to certain groups that decided the election?
     a Agree completely
     b Borderline bitter, but forgivable given the length and divisiveness of the campaign.
     c Reveals the real Mitt as much as the "47%" comments. The biggest elitist since Dewey. Good riddance to him AND his sons, although Ann is OK. Ryan gets sent to train for his next marathon by taking long runs on icy freeways.
   6 Haven't thought about this much, but _____________ might make a good candidate in another four years.
     a Chris Christie
     b Marco Rubio
     c Hillary Clinton
     d George P. Bush (Jeb's son)
     e Steve King (the congressman, not the novelist)
     f Somebody else. Who? Remember, this is all FREE.
Hey, six questions is lightweight enough, don't you think? Pleeze (!) give it a whirl. I promise to report the results as gathered from the world. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

On Deck!

The most casual readers anywhere will have no problem finding answers (though they may contradict each other) to the question now robbing Republicans of a good night's sleep - "How could we have lost? We had the skills. We had the know how. Gosh knows we had the money. We sent those same bozos back a decade in 2010. What went wrong!!" Maybe we should give it a rest for awhile.
Even so, there are some funny moments along the way we could cite. On Tuesday before any returns were in, former White House aide David Gergen cut loose with the most graphic image of the evening: "The issue of immigration," he said on CNN, "is like the chicken bone in the throat of the Republican Party." Yikes.
Karl Rove gets the "Are you dumb enough to believe THIS?" award for accusing the Obama campaign of "suppressing the vote by saying the other guy only cares about himself." Maybe we should excuse Rove, since it isn't often a man takes over $300 million of other people's money, makes big promises about the wins he's going to rack up with it, but then turns it into nothing more useful than a bonfire made of yesterday's newspapers.

Around here, the Yurok Tribe is a pretty substantial organization, and the tribal members have elections of their own. But, sad to say, no one uses Indian names anymore. This year's tribal council chairman election winner - Thomas O'Rourke. Who would have thought that a Native American tribe could have an Irish faction? And the guy he defeated? Raymond McQuillen. Well, this country DID elect Obama as president - twice.

Now, to the matter of the title subject. Like any good boy, I have weekly jobs that need doing. One of these is to take the family leaf blower and clean off the back deck. This deck is on the house's North side. It looks onto a wonderful tree-filled ravine, but the sun never gets through and it never gets warm, and so, beautiful or not, we just don't use it much.
But used or not, it has to be cleaned. Our rainy season has just begun, and when the deck is wet, it is VERY slippery. Can you see what's coming here? I was anxious to finish in time to get to work on this blog before the election, and was, I guess, in too big a hurry. Anyway, I slipped and fell - hard!  on my side onto the wooden deck, where, I can say, there isn't much "give".
Anyone know the symptoms of bruised ribs? Pain from coughing, from sneezing, from reaching with the wrong hand, from trying to get out of the car too fast and even from making certain motions in an effort to change sleeping positions? My tumble was on Monday, and it's now Sunday. I haven't played tennis now in over a week.
I could go on, but then I would risk something else - becoming a BORING old guy who thinks anyone cares about his aches and pains. Maybe it's too late already. Anyway, I'll mention it when I'm playing again.

Monday, November 05, 2012

I Never Make Predictions...

Sure, you can get the big election picture from all kinds of places, many of them with (as people say)  a hidden agenda of some kind. But it's here that you learn tiny bits of stuff that I somehow think are revealing.
For instance, there's the matter of surrogates out speaking for the candidates. Chief among all surrogates would have to be ex-presidents, right? Bill Clinton, in fact, has been working his magic pretty hard lately, filling four speeches in a single day last week in Ohio. The guy still puts out a good speech, too. Where was Mr. Obama's predecessor. Mr. Bush? He was giving a speech, too - about investing - at a big conference held - in the Cayman Islands. I wonder what teensy fraction of the 1% his counsel was aimed at? Lots of money represented there, but not many votes.

Back on land, there's the city of Youngstown, Ohio. The place has a mixed reputation over a long period of time, but if you subscribe to the local newspaper there's somebody on your side, because the paper carries the courageous name of the Daily Vituperator. Beware, evildoers!

I think it was Yogi Berra who said "I never make predictions, especially about the future." And it's true I seldom explain what hasn't happened yet, but near Election Day, everybody becomes a pre-analyst, and so I can be one, too.
I think President Obama will squeak through this election for a second term as president. When explaining this event to their grandchildren, our children will give the short version as something like this: In order to get the nomination, Mitt Romney had to show he was to the right, or at least as far right as the group of second raters and FOX News wannabes competing against him. Then, when he tried to pivot back from the right window back into the middle of the House, he found it locked and could only look through to see Obama standing in the center with altered healthcare and  a wet wrapped body with the initials ObL.
Last week's hurricane enters in here, too. Some people just can't, or won't think it will be worth getting to vote at the polls tomorrow. That hurts turnout, and so will the haze of confusion created by Red State legislatures determined to make the electorate both as narrow and as friendly as possible.  Mitt Romney could win the popular vote.
On the other hand, since living near the Atlantic Ocean does not make you more liberal, there will be votes lost to both sides, with non-seaside voting in the Democratic-leaning northeast enough to keep those states blue. And the courts have ruled pretty heavily against the voter ID laws that have sprung up like weeds in certain swing states. Perhaps voters will show up despite these requirements that the GOP can only pretend are legal.
Here's another factor we have to file under "unintended consequences". The hurricane has actually given the president the chance to show our government in all its clunkiness, responding properly and actually cooperating with state officials like the short but round Governor Christie of New Jersey, who has said only good things about working under tough circumstances with Mr. Obama. Romney, through no fault of his own, was left to collect canned goods while pretending to not campaign. Didn't it seem odd to see guys in suits and ties loading up a truck with cans of chili and plastic water bottles?           
Finally, there's a factor that's usually overrated - endorsements. Romney got one he didn't expect. The Des Moines Register broke a forty-year string of Democratic enthusiasm to endorse Mitt, reportedly because of some little snit between its editors and the Obama camp. The Register's nod used to be a big deal in Iowa. But I've been gone for seven years now, so I can't say if it's still big.
And anyway, how does it match up against Colin Powell, who has now backed Obama twice, and the gazillionaire mayer of New York City, Mr. Bloomberg, one of only a remaining handful of real influential independents? Who does that leave? Trump? FOX News? Pat Robertson? Billy Graham? I'm running away from that group as fast as possible, and that goes double for reptiles like Huckabee, Ralph Reed, Tony Perkins and any number of oddly rich evangelical pros. The Mormons, thankfully, don't make any endorsements.
I can't predict every state, though I know a couple of people who do exactly that. Let's just call it Obama with 280 or so in the Electoral College. Close, but a unanimous decision.