Friday, February 29, 2008

Hillary about to join Rudy on the sidelines


What a difference 6 months makes. Rudy and Hillary were both the expected party nominees just a few months back. The primaries were just a formality that had to be gotten out of the way, right?

Now here we sit on the verge of "Super Tuesday II", which will likely be the knock-out blow for Hillary, just as Super Tuesday I was for Rudy. What happened?

The commonalities between the two seem to be overconfidence, leading to complacency, and lack of fight.

Rudy knew he had strong support in big states. He counted on that to such an extent that he decided to save the money others were spending on the early, small states and start his campaign in Florida. Of course he totally discounted the "bandwagon" factor. People like to vote for winners. By the time Florida came around, McCain, Romney, Huckabee all had wins under their belts. Rudy had none. He was also very non-confrontational in his approach to his opponents. All of this served to keep him largely out of the news. Rudy became an interesting sidenote and wasn't even a contender come Florida.

Hillary and company were certain that they would have the nomination in the bag by Super Tuesday I. There was no need to go directly after Obama. Why take the chance of making yourself look mean. After all, he's got no shot. They grossly underestimated their opponent, and by the time they realized it, Super Tuesday was upon them. There was no strategy for a post-Super Tuesday competitive campaign because there wasn't supposed to be one. Now they had to try going on the attack. The problem is, since they hadn't been attacking the whole time, starting in now smells like desperation. As the line from "Wall Street" states "A desperate salesman is a dead salesman."

On the bright side for the pair, both Hillary and Rudy "Love NY". Now they'll have lots more time to spend there.

The moral of the story? Never take victory for granted and show the people you're ready, willing and able to fight for your agenda. People don't necessarily want leaders that start fights. But they sure want to know that you can win them. If you can't put away McCain, Romney, Huckabee, Edwards and/or Obama, how are you going to fare against Putin, Ahmadinijad, Kim Jung Il, Yugo Chavez and George Soros?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Nutritional Spin

There is a myriad of advice and proclamations having to do with diet and health out there today. Much of it is contradictory. While some doctors are recommending "heart healthy" diets that are low in fat and high in carbohydrates, others are saying that such a diet is a recipe for heart attacks. It's not as if food was just invented last year. How can there be such diametrically opposed views among "experts"?

First of all, when you watch commercials and listen to statements from researchers, listen for the qualifyers. My favorite was from a commercial for a product containing lycopene, the chemical that turns tomatos red. There pitch went something like this "Emerging studies suggest that lycopene may help reduce the risk of some forms of heart disease." I've bolded the qualifyers in case you didn't catch them. What this statement actually tells you in terms of facts is that there does exist a chemical called lycopene and someone is in the process of studying it. As it turns out, when the study emerged, the data showed lycopene to do little more than turn tomatos red.

Other qualifyers that can tip you off to the fact that what your about to hear is completely worthless include: "tied to" "linked" "may play a role in" "some experts believe" and the word "studies" being used without referring to a specific study.

It may surprise you to learn that there is no evidence that overall cholesterol levels have anything to do with heart disease. Cholesterol is in the membrane around the little buggers that transport triglycerides, which largely come from processing carbs. These cholesterol coated carriages come in a variety of shapes and sizes depending on what you eat and how much of it. It's the size and density of these vehicles that determines whether or not they are dangerous. But I digress.

The reason for the wide divergence of opinion is elementary, in fact, something you'd expect to find in elementary school: the desire to be accepted. It happens in many sciences unfortunately. A strong personality champions a hypothesis which becomes the generally accepted conclusion. If you want to seem smart among your peers, you now have to demonstrate your understanding and grasp of the now "conventional wisdom". To suggest that it is complete BS is heresy and will not advance your career. Fortunately there are a few brave souls that buck the trend and dare to speak the truth on behalf of the objective evidence. Normally, they are not recognized until after their deaths, if at all. More commonly the scientific community comes around to the truth very gradually and acts as if they worked it out for themselves through decades of hard work and study. In reality they fight change tooth and nail until the truth becomes too overwhelmingly obvious to deny.

I'm not going to proclaim to you what is truth and what is not. I'd just like you to be more aware of the way data is being presented. How many outs did the "expert" leave him or herself? Find objective data. Decide for yourself if it makes sense. If you're eating a diet high in carbs and your overweight, guess what? Fat wasn't the problem. Your not lazy, it's not lack of will power, it's bad information.

Do some research (obviously you have internet access) analyze your own experience, use your head. A bunch of letters after someone's name doesn't make them right, and the lack of them doesn't make you wrong.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The NY Times McCain Story - More trouble for the Times

Maybe it was supposed to tweak McCain into showing his temper. Maybe they thought if they threw the allegation out there it would somehow get legs. Maybe they just hoped there was some truth to it, even though they never uncovered any.

In any case, the fact is the NY Times ran a story about about an allegation of an inappropriate relationship between McCain and a young lobbyist without any evidence, based on anonymous "former aides" and put it on the front page. It's very telling that the notion that the NY Times published a completely bogus, politically motivated story isn't even considered improbable. They've done it before. The Times is no longer regarded as a source of objective, accurate information.

This incident just reinforces that notion. The story will turn from focussing on McCain to focussing on the behavior of the Times and its editors. The more they try to defend their indefensible methods and practices, the more they will be regarded as a partisan rag. It's a shame that an institution with such a long, rich history is transforming itself into the "National Enquirer" of daily newspapers. Maybe someday a white knight will come along, clean house and turn it into a legitimate news source again.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

McCain should hold his fire on Obama

The pundits keep saying that the Republicans would much rather run against Hillary Clinton and that would be an easier race to win. I think they've got that one exactly wrong. In fact, they should lay off Obama until he secures the Democratic Party's nomination.

Obama is not nearly as adept as Clinton at changing positions with the polls and simply denying that he said what he said. He has staked out some major policy positions that he wont be able to easily wriggle out of. Defeat in Iraq, universal health care, higher taxes and a total of over $800 Billion in new spending may play well to the left during primary season, but the general public isn't going to like it much at all. Americans may not be ecstatic about being in Iraq, but they'd like surrender much less. Nobody wants higher taxes and more government spending and turning over 7% of the nation's economy to government control is not something the public is clamoring for.

The "fairy tale" as Bill Clinton put it, is that the electorate will be satisfied with charisma and charm come November and not pay much attention to policy. Ask McGovern, Mondale and Dukakis if that's really the case.

For now, the GOP should let Obama do his thing and take Hillary out of the game. After that, I think the Democrats, contrary to popular belief at the moment, are going to suffer their biggest general election defeat since Mondale won only one state.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Vampire Movie Instructions

I want to be a fan of vampire movies, but the writers keep ruining the story with unbelievable twists. Clinging to the mythology rather than updating them to conform with something at least remotely credible spoils the plot. Let me offer some instruction for all the aspiring screen writers out there.

First, vampires have very long life spans, say around 1,000 years. This is because they are immune to most diseases and have very rapid cell regeneration capability. This gives them the appearance of being immortal. They are sensitive to sunlight, but don't explode or burst into flames when exposed to it. They prefer the dark. If sunlight were fatal to them, all our hero would have to do is find their lair and bulldoze it during the daytime. Not very exciting. Silver is toxic to them, hence the silver bullet thing. The wooden stake through the heart works, but our hero finds out during the course of his adventure that any stake through the heart will do, wooden or otherwise. Holy water doesn't work. Our hero discovers that the source of the holy water that started this myth happened to have very high silver content. The cross or crucifix thing doesn't work at all.

Vampires eat a lot of raw red meat. Blood is very nutritious and a big part of their diet. Most vampires go about their lives without bothering anyone. They work at night and stay inside most of the day in their dimly lit homes. A few socio-paths among their ranks do feed on humans. These are the ones our hero goes after. There has to be some explanation for why vampires haven't overtaken the human population. For one the gestation period for vampires might be very long, or they're not very fertile. The myth of people turning into vampires after being bitten wont fly. The vampire population would have exploded too fast. If you get bitten by a vampire, you just die. Maybe to make it more dramatic you die slowly and go insane in the process.

The movie has to be entertaining of course, so our hero wants to perpetuate the traditional myths to add an aura of the supernatural to his endeavors. He has a crucifix that emits a laser that simulates sunlight when the button on the back is pushed. He keeps a supply of silver laden "holy water" on hand and although any stake through the heart will do, he still uses wood. Then of course, he has his silver bullets, but also carries a silver knife, for close quarters combat.

The vampires have another big advantage over humans in that their metabolism is much faster. This means they perceive our movements almost as if we were in slow motion and that they move and react much faster. This also means they need a considerable amount of downtime every day to rejuvenate, especially after a very active period. When sleeping their metabolism slows to almost zero, giving them the appearance of being dead.

Our hero is a bounty hunter by trade and is called upon by law enforcement to help them with serial killings that have the markings of vampire attacks, or when people start going insane and dying of a mysterious ailment (after a vampire bite). Officially the perps are simply termed homicidal lunatics as the police and law enforcement officials don't want to alarm the public or turn them against law-abiding vampires.

Alright, there you go. Now make me a movie I can enjoy from beginning to end.

Huckabee - Right and Wrong

Mike Huckabee is dead on right on several points. I fully agree with the Fair Tax proposal to eliminate and replace the income tax. His notion that the government is an obstacle to small business rather than an enabler is also right and it's a situation that's critical to our economic future.

The problem is that his presentation is weak. He may believe passionately in what he says, but it doesn't come out in his voice. Romney has the same issue. He often says the right words and sports the right look, but he doesn't make the sale. When Reagan spoke, there was no ambiguity. There was no doubt in his mind that he believed everything he said and that he was willing to go to the wall for it.

McCain may not always say the right things, but he says them well. He sounds like a guy who has made up his mind and will champion his positions. I wouldn't put him in the Reagan class, but he scores better than his rivals.

Conventional wisdom is that the public is "sick and tired of the infighting". The public may even believe that. But the fact is, even if they don't want you to start fights, they want to know you can win them. We don't vote for pacifists, not since Carter. Huckabees mistake was in deciding to stay "above the fray". He never mixed it up. We don't know if he can win a fight because he works so hard to avoid them. Someone who shares your ideas, but wont fight for them is useless. Staying in the race doesn't constitute fighting. Challenging your opponent head on where you have differences does. Most people don't even know where Huckabee disagrees with McCain because all he ever does is praise him. Even when asked directly by a FOX news reporter what their differences were, he responded by saying what a civil and respectful campaign they were both running. McCain hasn't had to challenge Huckabee, because he's so far behind, it's irrelevant.

Being a leader is more than having good ideas. It's about advancing them, championing them, making them real. Huckabee has shown no capacity to do that.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Conservative temper tantrum - thowing the country under the bus

Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and others are so upset that things aren't going their way they've suggested that they'll sit out the election if McCain is nominated or even vote for Hillary.

Some on the right have even said that McCain is just as liberal or more so than Hillary. That's ridiculous. McCain has made some calls I don't like, but he's no socialist by comparison to Obama or Hillary. To suggest that a socialist agenda is preferable to McCain is to suggest a total lack of understanding of economics and the consequences of a sharp turn toward collectivism.

The gameplan on the right is to let the left have their candidate, hope they do poorly and then say "I told you so." It's no different from the Democrats strategy on Iraq. They have been promoting failure because it suits them politically. The talk show host crowd is doing the same with McCain.

Romney has been no champion of individual rights and less government either. The talk show crowd has supported nobody up to now. Their influence is waning because instead of focusing on the primary ideas of individual freedom, less government, low taxes, they've been obsessed with gay marriage, prayer in school and "the war on Christmas". I personally don't care if a gay person fails to pray in school while not celebrating Christmas. I'm much more concerned about the former set of issues. Rush and company may wind up going the way of "the Buchanan Brigade", becoming interesting, but irrelevant.

Monday, February 4, 2008

The iShoes, If you liked "It" you've gotta love these

They can move you along as fast as a Seguey (13.5mph) at 1/10th of the cost and a tiny fraction of the size and weight. Best of all, they wont cause anyone to have to “rethink cities”. They’re the iShoes. A motorized pair of shoes with a hand held remote control.

The shoes were created by Ilya Kaganovich, a young inventor and graduate from the University of Minnesota with help from his brother, Boris Kaganovich, an aerospace engineering student. They strap on to your normal shoes and are battery powered. Smaller than a skateboard, the iShoes can be removed and tossed into a case, backpack, or hung up upon arrival at your destination. They weigh about 12 pounds and can be recharged in two hours.

The iShoes use Colson Performa Wheels. From a Colson press release:

“After testing many wheel products, Kaganovich selected the Colson Performa Wheels for their durability in all weather and road conditions. The Performa products are designed with resistance to chemical agents and water, which ensured they could handle the punishment and temperatures of the road as well as its material makeup. The Colson wheels also provide the iShoes a maximum hard-tread surface but with the cushion ride of soft rubber, all in silent-running motion. Available in colors, the Performa line allows flexibility for future iShoes style changes and customization. ...

...Powered by a fully rechargeable, on-board Nano battery, the iShoes have a unique recharging braking technology that further extends the ride.”

Price: $499/pair from www.theishoes.com

Friday, February 1, 2008

Snipes vs the IRS - Snipes 1, IRS 0

In the truest tradition of the Amercian Action Hero, Wesley Snipes took on the most feared element of the US government, and won. He didn't take the stand, or even put on a defense, yet he was cleared of all but three misdemeanor charges of failure to file. The government charged Snipes with several counts of fruad, which were dismissed. The issue was Snipes failure to file income tax returns over the past several years even though he made over $38 million.

The evidence was all on the government's side, but the jury sided with Snipes. I've said many times that great civilizations fall when the general public no longer feels any great compulsion to defend their government. This government has gotten too big, too intrusive and too arrogant. The jury let them know that in no uncertain terms.

Snipes allegedly owes $11 million in taxes, which the IRS must now sue him for in a separate case. Snipes alleges the income tax is illegal and unconstitutional and I'm sure he'll play this thing out in the courts as far as the government is willing to take it.

This could all be solved, of course, with a national sales tax, coupled with a constitutional amendment banning the income tax. There is a huge movement against this, because there is a huge industry that relies on our 70,000 page tax code. A sales tax would be a half page form that any sixth grader could correctly fill out. Another downside to the status-quo proponents is that a sales tax would make it abundantly clear just how much of our money is going to the government. To fund it at current levels, the sales tax would need to be around 22%. Sound huge, but guess what? You're already paying that, it's just buried in withholding taxes.

Thank you Mr. Snipes and esteemed members of the jury, for putting this issue on the front page.