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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Third Party Suppression

I want to share a video that I saw thanks to my following of the Cedar Rapids Activist Blog. First, allow me to give you a little back story for those of you that may not be from the immediate Eastern Iowa area. We are now in Iowa's 1st congressional district where two years ago, Ben Lange lost to incumbent Bruce Braley by a margin of less then 2%. This time the newly rezoned 1st district is a tightly contested race between, you guessed it, Bruce Braley and Ben Lange.

Hughes best publicity comes directly from Hughes
Some people have already observed the absurdity of being left with the same choice that they had two years ago. That somehow you are unhappy with the decision that you made and instead want to go back to the decision that you decided against last time. It makes my head hurt a bit.

To the point, a pair of third party candidates have stepped up to offer a true alternative, including Greg Hughes. The issue is that it has been frustratingly difficult for this candidate to get any attention from the prominent local newspaper, the Cedar Rapids Gazette. Who also owns one of the networked local stations KCRG (ABC). So Mr. Hughes grabbed his amateur camera crew and went to go get some answers as to why. The response they got was that the Hughes ticket has not picked up the support of a strong polling data, which a quick check og Gallop, RCP, and even The Gazette itself did a very winded article last week on the race where they failed to give any instance on how close or far ahead any one candidate is.

Without any Further ado, I present to you Greg Hughes attempt to confront an Editor at the Cedar Rapids Gazette for their lack of interest in what amounts to allowing for a new choice from the same election two years ago;


You can argue the distraction of having a third party candidate at the presidential debates or the amount of time that someone should be alotted when they don't have a realistic chance to win, but this appears to be that arguement at it's worst. The media is not seeking an alternative to the choices made two years ago, they are not supporting there decision to not consider him viable with any polling data, then they give him the runaround, avoiding invites to cover his rallies and promising to call but failing to come through. It seems a simple and basic function of the press to at least present the basic arguments of an alternative being available before you simply dismiss them. 

I have already printed off a copy of the ballot for this election and intend to vet all the candidates before making my decisions (which will be revealing in an upcoming post), and I challenge all of you to do the same. At the very least, third party canidates are wonderful for exposing topics that may not otherwise be given the attention they deserve, such as Hughes' attention on Judges who have disgraced their position. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

NFL Wk 9 Update: ESPN vs. ABC's

Well well well, It looks like the experts might actually start to know what they are talking about. growing their lead by a couple games this round.


Experts are at 68-49, ABC's are 63-54

57.6% to 53.4%, or a 5 game lead for the experts. this means that the experts have correctly predicted a winner more times then the Chicago Cubs won a game this past season, but in fairness, so have the ABC's. The only thing we can determine from this statistic is that the Cubs didn't win very many games.... I just made myself sad.

Here are the current weekly results

Week Expert W Expert L % Correct Random W Random L % Correct
1 8 8 50.0% 10 6 62.5%
2 8 8 50.0% 10 6 62.5%
3 8 8 50.0% 7 9 43.8%
4 10 4 71.4% 10 4 71.4%
5 9 5 64.3% 4 10 28.6%
6 3 11 21.4% 7 7 50.0%
7 11 2 84.6% 6 7 46.2%
8 11 3 78.6% 9 5 64.3%

As you can see though, one outlying week and this lead could all be undone.

Predictions for Next week based on power rankings;

Chargers over Chiefs
Broncos over Bengals*
Ravens over Browns*
Packers over Cardinals*
Bears over Titans
Dolphins over Colts*
Redskins over Panthers*
Lions over Jaguars*
Texans over Bills*
Vikings over Seahawks*
Buccaneers over Raiders
Giants over Steelers
Falcons over Cowboys*
Eagles over Saints

*Denotes ABC's method predicts opposite

As you can see, with 9 disagreements next week, the current lead could change fast, or be all but put out of reach of the ABC method.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Football Experts vs. the ABC's

The experts are up by 3 games, read on to understand what I mean...

If you came to this page looking for the latest insight into who should start week 8 in your fantasy league, I have to apologize, as that what I'll be discussion here has very little to do with that.

What this post is about is how I was enamored the other day when I was looking at the NFL Power Rankings posted on the ESPN website. And how, after flipping through the weeks a couple times, I drew the conclusion...

These guys have no idea what they are talking about...



I approach these rankings in a pretty simplistic way, the better of a team you are, the higher you go up on the rankings scale. Pretty simple concept, right? I also make the leap of logic that, more times then not, the team that is rated higher in the preceding week should probably win the following week if they play a lower ranked team. Sure, there will be upsets, that's why you play the game, but I figure if ESPN is going through the effort of recalculating these things like a Garmin every week, and since when the #1 power ranked Texans fell to the Packers in week 6 the Packers didn't just automatically become the #1 team, there are many factors that are weighed into this system, by experts, that should give you a good indication on who will win in the following week.

I put this logic to the test.

Drafting up a pretty simple excel spreadsheet, I input the players rankings for each week, then entered in the win/loss results from each week, drafted up a simple equation that determined who was higher ranked between the two teams, and tallied up how often the ranking systems 'predicted' the winner the following week.

The results were very interesting

After week 1, they where 8 for 16, or 50%. Fair enough, new season, getting a feel for who's out their etc. Week two the same, 8 for 16. And once again in week 3. So, after 3 weeks, the power rankings predictions are holding true at 24 of 48 or an even 50%. Then whatever makes these experts started to take hold, or maybe reducing the schedule to 14 games helped out, either way the Power Ranking record went to 10 and 4 in week 4, and 9-5 the following week. Week 6 was a step in the wrong direction as they went 3-11, wiping out most of the positive gains the prior 2 weeks. But rebounded with a strong week 7 at 11-2. Again raising the question if these ranking experts are just over burdened with the number of games played week to week.

In review, after seven weeks, using these power rankings, ESPN is touting a little better then random guessing 57-46 or 55.3% winning percentage.

Better then random guessing... how can we test this?

I came up with a hypothesis  put together a random listing of teams and declare it the power rankings for the year, and see how it fairs against the 'experts' listing.

But how to generate said list. I could just make a list and make you take my word that it was random, but I needed something slightly more verifiable. In this mindset, I just took a list of the NFL teams and sorted alphabetically. Hence, with no further ado, I present my 2012-13 NFL power rankings based on absolutely nothing except he Alphabet;

1. 49ers 2. Bears 3.Bengals 4.Bills 5. Broncos 6.Browns 7.Buccaneers 8.Cardinals 9.Chargers 10. Chiefs 11. Colts 12. Cowboys 13. Dolphins 14. Eagles 15. Falcons 16.Giants 17. Jaguars 18. Jets 19. Lions 20. Packers 21. Panthers 22. Patriots 23. Raiders 24. Rams 25. Ravens 26. Redskins 27. Saints 28. Seahawks 29. Steelers 30. Texans 31. Titans 32. Vikings

Not a bad listing, got some good teams at the top, and some bad ones on the bottom, but also the Browns making the playoffs well ahead of the Texans, along with a dozen or so other improbables, pretty random.

So how do the power rankings hold up in the random scenario?

a pair of 10-6 weeks to kick things off, followed by a 7-9 and then another 10-4, so after 4 weeks, the random selection was 3 games over .500 and 3 games ahead of the 'experts'. A bad week 5 at 4-10 put them just under the power rankings, but rebounded in week 6 with a 7-7 showing, leaving it at 48-42 after 6 weeks, which was 2 games ahead of the experts. But alas, week 7 was much kinder to the experts then the random's 6-7 record. Here is the full table;

Week Expert W Expert L % Correct Random W Random L % Correct
1 8 8 50.0% 10* 6 62.5%
2 8 8 50.0% 10* 6 62.5%
3 8* 8 50.0% 7 9 43.8%
4 10* 4 71.4% 10* 4 71.4%
5 9* 5 64.3% 4 10 28.6%
6 3 11 21.4% 7* 7 50.0%
7 11* 2 84.6% 6 7 46.2%

*=Weekly Winner (Tie week 4)

Leaving the expert Power Rankings with a record of 57-46, and the random one at 54-49 so far on the season.

I'll post some updates to this little experiment weekly, here are the predictions for week 8

Expert predictions based on ESPN power rankings;

Vikings over Buccaneers*
Chargers over Browns*
Bears over Panthers
Seahawks over Lions*
Packers over Jaguars*
Colts over Titans
Dolphins over Jets
Patriots over Rams
Steelers over Redskins*
Falcons over Eagles*
Raiders over Chiefs*
Giants over Cowboys*
Broncos over Saints
49ers over Cardinals

*Denotes that 'random' guess picked the other team to win

If you've read this far, and like what you see, don't be afraid to 'like' or 'G+' or 'tweet' this with your friends to encourage me to keep up with this little experiment through the football season. Quick buttons are on the right margin. Thanks Everyone!



The Third Debate

It's been a couple days, and I've already been asked "What did you think of the last debate?" or "Where is your blog post about the third debate?" Here is my short answer;

It didn't matter...

Sure, I tuned in hoping to see some sparring and some red in the face back to back. But Romney did something that some people predicted and many people already in his corner. He played it safe. Why? Not because he was afraid of looking like a fool or putting his foot in his mouth, but because the foreign policy debate is transcending a 90 minute forum. In the papers yesterday it was discovered that Obama knew exactly how the attacks in Benghazi went down hours before he went into the Rose Garden and spewed some crap about a YouTube video and showing respect for others religion.

In this sense, it was a boring debate.

Which is fine, the truth of the matter is that between game seven for the Nation League Pennant and Monday Night football playing all at the same time on cable, there where millions of people that just decided to skip this debate. The conditions were right to not have a terrible impact on the election. A better question, that I've been asking for weeks, is when, where, and how did Obama get this narrative of blaming the death of Americans on an act of free speech. If Romney had jumped in with this question, I'm sure Obama would have been ready with some deflection of "We spoke on the intel that we had at the time, and as Candy pointed out in the last debate, I did identify this as a terrorist attach...". Or some sort of statement that skirts the edges of truth on the latter point and now with these emails being exposed blasts the truth to bits on the former point.


This debate didn't matter. Romney supporters liked Romney, Obama supporters liked Obama, and the four or five people that are undecided were busy watching the Bears and Lions game. I recommend watching the news to get the real story of where this countries foreign policy has gotten us in the past four years.

To make it up to some of you that came here for some quick wit or a good laugh and feel a bit cheated, I did come up with some whimsical titles for ya, enjoy!







Friday, October 19, 2012

$5.7 Trillion Timebomb

The Republicans have sworn to never raise taxes, the Democrats believe in a balanced approach and asking the rich a little bit more. What is a compromise that finally makes both sides buckle? The very one that they already passed into law.

Nobody Wins...

Nobody wanted it, most people agree it could bring our already sluggish economy to a screeching halt, yet there is little in the way of stopping it from taking full effect. Picture this, a double barreled shotgun, in the right chamber you have a bill that was passed in August that concentrates cuts on the Pentagon while exempting Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare beneficiaries. It was considered a victory by republicans at the time, putting additional pressure on the Democrats to bend to demands made for more across the board budget cuts, while still preserving the wide spread pledge made to Grover Norquist of no tax increases.

But, 12 years earlier, the left chamber of this proverbial shotgun was loaded by George W. Bush by a republican congress. In order to pass his tax cuts using the 51-vote budget reconciliation process, he had agreed to let them sunset in 2010. At the time, a victory by Democrats who declared these tax cuts a payout to the rich that would ultimately hurt the lower classes  A last-minute deal extended them until the end of 2012 as part of a deal to avoid tax hicks so early in a recession recovery.

Let's fast forward to the far off time of January 1st, 2013. The elections are over, a decent chunk of congress is already packing up their bags having lost their seats, the White House lease may be up and an eviction notice on the door at a time when Congress would have to act to avoid both of these barrels from being fired at the same time. Resulting in a recoil of both a $3.8 Trillion dollar tax increase, and a $1.9 Trillion dollar defense spending cut. Most of that will effect the contract defense industry.

Some have speculated that this has backfired and is playing right into the Presidents hand, that now Republicans will have to agree to a deal, less they have to explain why there are both tax hikes and defense cuts occurring as they stand by, two staple issues for conservatives. While playing into a narrative that the right is doing nothing but obstructing and delaying.

What's at stakes for the Democrats  Well, as in 2010, they don't want to he seen as allowing taxes to go up on the working and middle class during a recovery that most people are laying at the feet of the donkies. Which could change dramatically should republicans win big next month. They may feel that there is a window that they could successfully pass the buck to the right.

Sens. Orrin Hatch (Utah) and Jeff Sessions (Ala.), possible feeling this scenario playing out, pressed  Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Monday to lay out a precise timeline for when the government expects to near the debt ceiling and what "extraordinary measures" can be taken to prolong the deadline. But, even this action is little more then an attempt to understand how bad of a situation the government is finding itself in.

You may be asking; Almost $6 Trillion in revenues and tax cuts over the next 10 years? Wouldn't that make a huge impact on the deficit and debt, couldn't this be a welcome reform? Prehaps, if it didn't spiral us into another recession, how much debt would we eliminate of our current $16 trillion. A trillion? Two trillion? maybe five Trillion? Well, the CBO projects we will still add almost $4 Trillion of debt even if all these things occur in the wake of a healthy recovery. I can think of no better case that we need reform, not more taxation.

Then why is this gut check being avoiding during our election cycle? Why is nothing trying to be done to avoid this time-bomb before it's too late? We are expected to hit our $16.4 Trillion dollar debt limit right about the same time as these 'triggers', all these factors together could be devastating to the economy and our defense. Where are the republicans? Well, wouldn't it be interesting that the party that has cried foul at excessive debt and running with the mantra "Government Doesn't Create Jobs!" would be the ones fighting for jobs paid for with government contracts and against triggers that are specifically designed to eat away at the deficit. Or perhaps our friends on the left. Allowing a raise on taxes to the 98% that they caved in to save two years ago, and having to be held accountable for the tens of thousands of people getting blindsided by layoffs after Obama's administration tried so hard to postpone the news until after the election. Would more be gained from saving jobs and tax rates, or by letting the right look all the worse for letting these events happening.


It's the worst of the game of politics we've seen in some time. Nobody truly want's these cuts and hikes.

Mark my words, something will be done, a deal will be struck. It will cut billions in new spending that will be labeled as cuts, the tax cuts will be extended for a year or two, that will not benefit any new growth. Let me ask you, if you knew you where getting a pay cut next year would you spend spend spend, or save save save? Temporary tax cuts don't work. And now ten years into this tax cut, people would have to go through a transition that would impact the economy negatively if these cuts expired. These rates or the old higher rates, we need to remove this storm cloud hanging over us.

These looming landmines and these conditions are not conducive to a growing economy, and these types of issues probably aren't going to be solved on day one of any new administration or congress. I am disappointed that these questions are not being brought up at the Presidential debates and wish the media would make up for this fact by asking what the respective plans would be to stop pushing these issues down to the next election and to the next generation. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Obama's Green Policy in Iowa

My blood boils a little bit when I hear Obama talk about all the great things that he has done for the Green Energy Industry, especially for wind, here in Iowa. His words took my blood pressure to new heights when he invoked my home state in one of his debate answers tonight;

"So, I’m all for pipelines. I’m all for oil production. What I’m not for is us ignoring the other half of the equation. So, for example, on wind energy, when Governor Romney says “these are imaginary jobs.” When you’ve got thousands of people right now in Iowa, right now in Colorado, who are working, creating wind power with good-paying manufacturing jobs, and the Republican senator in that — in Iowa is all for it, providing tax breaks (ph) to help this work and Governor Romney says I’m opposed. I’d get rid of it."

What is the reality on the ground? Well, first of all, a couple quick jabs. The obvious question is that how can Obama be all for pipelines when he has stonewalled the XL pipeline around every corner. Simply saying that you are in favor of something is a long way from being in favor of something. And I'm sure the discussion of what Obama has done for Oil production on our continent will be vetted out in the wake of tonight's debate.

Now, the meat of the statement. Of course a Senator Grassely is in favor of tax cuts for Wind Energy. He's a republican, he is in favor of almost all tax cuts. He made this public statement in the early parts of August of this year, because he know that a major wind power manufacturer was on the ropes. Ironically is a company that also had a large presence in Colorado, I'm referring to Clipper Wind. A company that just laid off 32% of it's workforce here in Cedar Rapids.

Demand for wind turbines, blades, towers and other equipment has fallen steeply in recent months due to the low price of natural gas and the impending expiration of the Federal Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit at the end of this year.

The American Wind Energy Association said earlier this month that wind power installations have declined between 73 percent and 93 percent in the years after previous expiration of the production tax credit. Congress has restored the tax credit on previous occasions, but not before widespread industry layoffs.

It begs the question why these extensions are held hostage during an election cycle, or did I just answer my own question?

I don't blame Obama for the failure of the industry per se. Though we lost our 2008 top world ranking to 
China under Obama in total wind power production. I do make a point that this tax credit is constantly kicked down the road with no talk of extending it much beyond the next election cycle at the same time it is held out infront of the American people as a standard for what these policies can do to restore American industry. While the white house tries to champion how it is dulling out green energy dollars and credits and talking about the great manufacturers that swing states like Iowa and Colorado have, those companies are laying off hundreds and the industry is dying right before our eyes. 

Romney's plan is to stop these stupid games with picking industry winners and losers. They are not working. Rather, implement a lower rate for all industry and give each of them a fair chance to make it on their own. Give less of what they earn to the government rather then dull out billions of taxpayer dollar and cross your fingers that lightning will strike  Why should a companies ability to petition for federal aide be the new determinant in who has the best business model? That's like saying a promotion should go to the employee who asks for the most raises at work. Does that sound like a recipe for a healthy, solid industry? A quick look at how successful US green energy companies are doing against international competition should give you a quick answer.

Debate 2 Cheat Sheet

IT could be a pretty lady, a train wreck, or a squirrel, something will distract all of us at some point during tonight's debate. Save yourself some embarrassment by using my cheat sheet guide to tonight's debate.


President Obama
Governor Romney
Question
What he will say
What he won’t say
What he will say
What he won’t say
What will you do for the working classes tax burden?
“I Believe in a ‘middle out’ approach that strengthens the middle class by reducing their tax burden.”
“My temporary tax cuts for the middle class weren’t paid for, as a result, I’m shaving years off the solvency of Social Security and Medicare. “
“My tax plan to reduce the rate by 20% will not add to the deficit. And I have 6 reports that support this.”
“The only way this plan won’t result in a deficit is if it stimulates a 4+% growth in the economy, a rate we haven’t seen since the 90’s”
What is your plan to strengthen the Economy?
“We must invest in infrastructure, and make sure our schools and police departments are adequately funded.”
I've been saying this for 4 years, my budgets have assumed record growth as a result, I've never been right."
"Removing needless obstructions to small business that are the life blood of our economy."
Specifics... Specifics... Specifics...
How will you keep America Safe?
“Let me be perfectly clear, the US will not tolerate any attempts of violence on us or our allies.”
“We will continue with drone strikes that are causing hundreds of deaths in collateral damage.”
“I will not cut the Military by $2 Trillion Dollars over the next 10 years.”
“These cuts were part of a deal to begin to rein in spending, and I have no plan to make up the difference, other then to grow out of it.”
What could have gone better in Benghazi?
“We could have improved relations with the Muslim people.”
"I will never say where Ambassador Rice and I got our initial story from that this attack was a result of a YouTube video."
"I will stop the culture of America apologizing for everything that America has done."
"...which does nothing to address the current problem which has no easy solution, but whatever Obama is doing ain't working."
How will you address Healthcare?
"I will continue to close the doughnut holes in Medicare, and help ensure our seniors get the care that's been promised to them."
"The Medicare surplus will be dried up by 2016, The CBO has added trillions to the cost of ObamaCare, and I have no plan other then to keep borrowing money to continue this program."
"My plan will keep the parts of ObamaCare that are popular while infusing the private sector to hlp control costs."
"You'll be dealing with insurance companies until the day you die and then some. Why don't you like me plan?"
Why should American’s Vote for you?
"Because we can not return to the policies that got us into this mess in the first place. We must continue to move Forward."
Any answer that actually makes you want to vote FOR me.
"The President said in his own words that if he didn't have this figured out in 3 years, it would be a one term proposition."
Any answer that actually makes you want to vote FOR me.


Friday, October 12, 2012

The Hot Air from Delaware

"Well, we weren't told they wanted more security there. We did not know they wanted more security again. And by the way, at the time we were told exactly — we said exactly what the intelligence community told us that they knew. That was the assessment. And as the intelligence community changed their view, we made it clear they changed their view." -Joe Biden 10/11/2012

One can make statements that are analyzed by experts and nit picked apart. I have 6 reports that say this, well, I have 3 reports that say differently. You promised this, No! I just proposed a plan that said it would happen. This is in many regards the core of what politics is about, proposing your side of an argument and make it sound like fact. However, what Joe Biden said last night on prime time television make me throw up my arms are scream "LIAR!"

I know, I know, Paul Ryan lies and misrepresents too. He says "The President said unemployment won't go over 8%..." which he never actually said he just put a report on the table that said it and said "Here is my plan". Joe Biden says "Your tax plan will cost $5 Trillion..." again, Mitt never said anything of the sort, but the Tax Policy Center had a report that said Here is Mitt Romney's Plan. We can chase our tails on these half truths and reports and who is calling what a Fact and who is calling what a Liar, odds are the other side has something to point to that contradicts the other and makes their side cheer and scream "Atta Boy!"

Even the moderator Mrs. Radditz said right before Joe's comment "And they wanted more security there.". I have found transcripts here, here, here, here, and none of them have a '?' after that statement. Watch the video, it was a statement by the moderator, NOT A QUESTION.

Why was this not a question, because just two days prior, under oath, before congress;

We felt great frustration that those requests were ignored or just never met,” Lt. Col. Andrew Wood, a Utah National Guardsman who was leading a security team in Libya until August.

AND

In those conversations, I was specifically told [by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Charlene Lamb] ‘You cannot request an SST extension.’ I determined I was told that because there would be too much political cost. We went ahead and requested it anyway.” The top regional security officer in Libya over the summer, Eric Nordstrom, testified.

AND

Emails that there was denials in security requests. This is not a discussion of whether or not it would have made a difference, it is a question of was there requests made.

AND

Common sense, there are dozens of events that took place in Benghazi this summer that you think would make most people go "Hmmm... maybe we shouldn't pull our military forces out a month before 9/11."



Deep Breaths...

Ok, Fine, so Joe doesn't work at the State Department, these e-mails and requests don't need his signature to be enacted. Obama must have been so engrossed in those PDB's that Joe could never snag them away from him. They probably don;t bother putting things like online threats, Car jackings, IED's being left at our embassies front door, and our allies getting rocketed and them leaving the area in those things anyway, it's probably loaded up with Fantasy Football numbers and Golf Course weather reports instead. I guess that means that our new foreign policy reads a little something like this;

In the event of an attack on US citizens or our interests abroad, someone should probably tell somebody. If in the event that somebody doesn't get back to them, someone else should really be held accountable, should that person be at that time indisposed, then let it be determined that, in the best interest of the United States, the Commander in Chief shall take it upon himself to fly out to Vegas, and let it ride on lucky 17.

The entire reason that this has become the political topic it is, is because of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan” — Obama Deputy Campaign Director Stephanie Cutter 10/11/12.

"I have seen that report, and the story is absolutely wrong. We were not aware of any actionable intelligence indicating that an attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi was planned or imminent. That report is false." Press Secretary Jay Carney 9/14/12.

"I have a sense that the liberal community is going to be very satisfied with what Joe Biden delivered tonight. He was detailed, he was passionate, he made people believe that he cares about the country and had confidence in which way this administration wants to take the country." MSNBC News Commentator Ed Shultz 10/11/12.

"The men and women who risk their lives in the service of our country are heroes. I know and served with many of our security professionals in Libya and around the world. They are my friends and colleagues. And I trust them with my life." Under Secretary of State for Management Pat Kennedy 10/10/2012.

Shameful, absolutely shameful.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The USS Cole Connection

On October 12th, 2000, at 11:15 a.m., as the Cole was preparing to get under way, a fiberglass fishing boat approached its massive prey. Some of the sailors were standing watch, but many were below decks or waiting in the chow line. Two men brought the tiny skiff to a half amidships, smiled and waved, then stood at attention. The symbolism and the asymmetry of this moment were exactly what bin Laden had dreamed of. "The destroyer represented the capital of the West," he said, "and the small boat represented Mohammed."

USS Cole, October 12th, 2000
Within Hours of the attack, Barry Mawn, head of FBI's New York office, called headquarters and demanded that the New York Office gain control of the investigation . "It's al-Qaeda," he told FBI deputy director Tom Pickard. He wanted O'Neill, the chief of the FBI's counter terrorism section, to be the on scene commander.

As he had during the embassy bombings investigation, Pickard declined, saying that there was no proof that al-Qaeda was involved. He intended to send the Washington Field Office instead. Mawn went over his head, appelaing the decision to FBI director Louis Freeh, who immediately agreed that it was a New York's case. But the question of sending O'Neill was controversial.

-From The Looming Tower, by Lawrence Wright

These three paragraphs tell a lot, the first describe how a simple attack on a single target can represent so much to a cause hell bent on defeating a culture and nation in the name of their religion. The second can show  the capacity our country has to leap into action and start finding answers, and the third demonstrates the reluctance that is inherent in individuals to consider the worst explanations.

There are many similarities that can be drawn between the assault on the USS Cole and the Benghazi embassy, it appears to be a concise targeted attack against an object that was meant to represent the greater United States, carried out by a common lackey used to call people to there cause. I believe in the months to come as more details are unearthed the intent behind both these attacks may turn out to be very correlated. In the first weeks though, one thing has become brazenly apparent, that this administrations response, when compared to the response from October 12th, 2000, has been found wanting. Consider this following transcript from CNN with about 8 hours of the attack happening;


The president (Clinton) met with his top national security team for a little more than an hour here at the White House security room -- the Situation Room -- receiving updates from agencies around the government and around the world on developments today. When the president came into the Rose Garden to speak to the American people today, he concerned himself first with that suspected terrorist attack on the U.S. Naval vessel on a refueling stop in Yemen -- Mr. Clinton voicing prayers for those killed, injured, and those still missing.

And he promised an aggressive investigation was already under way.

Sound familiar? It shouldn't. Obama did not use the word terror, he pinned responsibility for the attacks on a Youtube video all the way to the UN, he waited weeks before dispatching the FBI, and once his early morning speech in the Rose Garden was completed, he hopped on a plane to Las Vegas.

Nothing like a re election campaign as an excuse to skirt out of a lot of meetings about investigating, and diplomacy, those things are so boring...

Members of the State Department testify to Congress

Though the timeline of events outlined on the call was similar to the last official account of the incident, which was given on Sept. 12, some stark differences and new details were revealed.

The biggest difference was a clear statement that there were no protests before the attack. Also it was revealed that former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods died from a mortar attack and that officials still do not know how Stevens, who was suffering from severe smoke inhalation, made it from the compound to the hospital.

...Though some administration officials had initially said that the attack grew out of protests over an anti-Muslim film, the senior State Department official told reporters today that "nothing was out of the ordinary" on the night of the attack.


Yes, there are many correlations that you could draw from these two terrorist attacks. No, there are very few that you can draw from the way that our country has responded to them. Tomorrow will be the one month mark since these deadly attacks, and we are still feuding over verbiage and getting stalled as we try and point the finger and anything except the smoldering pile of ash that seems so clearly labeled to so many, and nothing but a bump in the road to some greater goal for others. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Colorado goes to Romney

But probably not the way you thinking...

Last week an aggressive Mitt Romney, on a stage at the University of Denver, became the source of an outpouring of good news for the challenger, and upsetting news for the incumbent. As it turns out, this is not the first time this election that some bad news has come out of the Centennial State for the President.

Back in August, A presidential election prediction model developed by two University of Colorado professors points to a big win for GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney in November.This model, the only of its kind to use more than one state-level economic indicator, has correctly predicted the winner of every presidential election since 1980.

Bicker/Berry Model
It not only predicts Romney winning the electoral college, but by a 320-218 margin and winning 52.9 percent of the popular vote when only the two major parties’ candidates are considered. This s accomplished by having Romney win every state currently considered by pollsters to be a swing state, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, Virginia, Colorado, New Hampshire and North Carolina. Leaving Nevada and Iowa as the only swing states still going to Obama.

What is striking about our state-level economic indicator forecast is the expectation that Obama will lose almost all of the states currently considered as swing states, including North Carolina, Virginia, New Hampshire, Colorado, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida,” said Kenneth Bickers of CU-Boulder.

Bickers and Berry, the professors that built this model, cautioned that their model used economic data from June, 2012. They intend to update their calculations when new data become available in September.

Well, October is here and the September data is available. Now, an updated version of their study has come to the same conclusion — but it intensifies the numbers behind a predicted Romney win.

Since the debate last week, polls have shown a statistically dead-heat race (Obama is currently at 48.2 percent, with Romney capturing 47.3 percent of likely voters in the most recent Real Clear Politics average), an updated election model shows an even larger gap between the Electoral College votes that Romney and Obama are projected to win. According to Bickers and Berry, Mitt Romney is now projected to take 330 of the 558 votes, according to their model, while Obama is expected to capture only 208 of them.

Is it time to announce a winner this election? Absolutely not! Obviously the polling is still unfavorable, though much closer. And with three debates remaining and a lower, though questionable, unemployment rate, the case is being made that this election could go any which direction. And to make a nod to the elephant in the room, this election will not follow so many of the rules created by previous rules, and I think the reason is pretty obvious. I'll take a lot of flack for saying this, but I must. Romney may not be able to defeat Obama because of the fact that Romney is a Mormon. </sarcasm>

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Cubs Payroll Situation

Well, the battle for the division title was lost sometime in April, Playoffs in May, and just a few weeks ago, the battle for staying under 100 losses was, well, lost. But let us not swell on the past/present, let us look forward.

Hoyer has the cash, what will he do with it?
The good news is, that Jed Hoyer is already on the record that Cubs have some holes to fill, and that the Free Agency market will be looked at to do this at least short term. Let's start by taking a look at the payroll situation.

For the first time in several years, the cubs payroll situation is looking very favorable to a big free agency splash, with only about $60 million on the books already for 2013, the downside there is that it's tied up between only 6 players, 2 of which have yet to play at Wrigley. But even if you tender about 15 players from the current roster for about $25 million or so, it would still leave about $20 million that could be used to shop for some more talent, namely in the rotation.

Lineup

The fielding and Lineup appear to be pretty close to set with Castillo and Jackson proving that the can continue to grow at the Major League level, and Rizzo, Barney, Castro showing they are capable of holding their own. The worries start with tring to improve from 23rd in the league in HR's, 26th in Average, and 29th in RBI's. The only real question is who will start at 3rd. My vote would have to be Ian Stewart given another chance. With Vitters having too many defensive Jitters (sorry, couldn't help myself) and Baez still two years out from getting a major league shot, giving Stewart one more chance to be the .250/20HR/80RBI type player, that the office was hoping for when they parted with Colvin, makes sense for the short term.

Andruw Jones as a Cub?
With the starters firmed up, you have to look for some depth on the bench to shore up some situational hitting. LaHair could help, but with him pushing 30 and not winning a starting job at first, I'd say he may be too good of a trading chip to pass up. My Memory goes back to a Darryl Ward, someone who added a lot to an offense with a limited number of at bats. Merhaps bringing backa  Xavier Nady (.184/4HR/13RBI) to bring in a backup option for first and a decent sized bat off the bench. I'm not sold on a Valbuena or Clevenger to offer much off the bench, though we need them nearby to back up their key positions. LEt me give yo uanother thought to chew on, keep LaHair (.291/15HR/39RBI v. RHP) and put him in left field for a traded Soriano, then grab a free agent/retiree like Andruw Jones (.202/10HR/24RBI v. LHP) and run a big bat platoon while beefing up your bench and adding a good plus defensively.

Pitching

With Garza and Samardzija returning for opening day, the rotation already looks far better. I also believe that the Ace of the Future could rest with one of those arms. Either of these guys is a 15 game winner with a modestly improved defense. The issue being those three through five spots in the rotation. The aggressive move would be to go after Zach Greinke for $15+ million a year for 10 years or some absurd number like that and hope for a return of a ace trifecta a la the era of Prior/Maddux/Wood. Surely if you have kept up with this article so far, you believe that about as much as you believe the Baltimore baseball team is named after a cookie. Here are a few real options to add something to a struggling rotation;

Most likely is an option heavy contract with some front heavy signing bonuses to an Ervin Santana (9-13/5.16 ERA) or Fransisco Liriano (6-12/5.34 ERA) or maybe even a Edwin Jackson (10-11/4.03 ERA) Proven veterans who are coming off less then stellar years that may still have a lot to offer a younger club. Sropping any one of these guys into the 3 or 4 role would add a lot, I'd even drab two.

That just leaves the bullpen, and here we have quit the laundry list of needs, the biggest improvement the Cubs could hope for is for Carlos Marmol to open the season locating his pitches, and to drop his 7.2 BB/9 IP down to the 4-5 range as in previous years. With Shawn Camp (3-6/3.59ERA) eligible for free agency, it may cost the Cubs a shiny penny to keep him, but I feel he has proven himself a wise investment. And with Russell sticking around, you may have a pretty decent base to build around. A set up man like a Jonathon Braxton (4-5/2.48ERA) would be a dream pick up, considered a bit inconsistent as a closer but finished the year stong as a set up guy for the Reds, grabbing 10 holds. He would also give us an alternative if Marmol begins to go a bit wild again and make things interesting for a closer competition in 2014. As usual, there are a million options to add some solid arms to a bullpen and usually a few pitchers in your own system that could give you 40 to 50 IP without embarrassing themselves. Mark Lowe (0-2/3.43ERA) could be a good pick up, or maybe a Juan Carlos Oviedo (1-4/4.06 ERA) to add some options in getting through innings 6 to 9.

A New Survey

What is the Cubs biggest need right now?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Debate Recap

I had a good night sleep, I woke up, took a quick shower, and noticed an odd growth on my leg, but I digress. It's time to take a few minutes and reflect on how the debate went last night.

Overall, I think it is pretty obvious that Mitt Romney carried the night, in the first 15 minutes Obama I believe used his infamous "Uhh..." thinking sound about 300 times, but there was a reason, at least in part, for this. Mitt Romney never gave Obama the ammunition he needed to attack his plans. He still hasn't, not really. When Obama started a line of attack about Romney's plan to cut taxes by $5 Trillion taxes, Romney was able to counter by saying that wasn't his plan at all, and then go into a fairly simple argument about cutting loopholes and broadening the base that would result in roughly the same revenue. This was a narrative of Romney's plan that hasn't really been put out there and it made it difficult for Obama to really pick it apart.

"...I'm not looking for a $5 trillion tax cut. What I've said is I won't put in place a tax cut that adds to the deficit. That's part one. So there's no economist that can say Mitt Romney's tax plan adds $5 trillion if I say I will not add to the deficit with my tax plan..." - Romney

As a more than likely Romney voter, it did disappoint me that we got little more then a taste as to what ta loopholes Romney would cut to make his across the board cuts feasable. He hinted at lowering the standard deduction, at reducing exemptions for higher wage earners, and putting the focus on making things easier on small businesses, but it's a long way from specifics. I would venture to say he doesn't want to be hindered by campaign promises while tackling this issue, but the same could be said for campaign assurances that he is trying to pass of as his plan currently.

This sums it up, Obama still ahead, but Romney won the Debate
Make no mistake though, the dance the Romney did around details of his plan paled in comparison to Obama's plan which has been heard before, in many cases been tried before, and worst of all sounds near impatient when he tries to make the case that his current policies are actually working. At one point he tried to make the case he was emulating the plans of the late 90's where we had massive expansion, jobs were plentiful, and the deficit disappeared  The obvious flaw with this narrative is that we are NOT having massive economic expansion, jobs are very scarce, and we have spent record amounts of money in the process. In my eyes, it makes the President come across as arrogant and pompous.

"...Bill Clinton tried the approach that I'm talking about. We created 23 million new jobs. We went from deficit to surplus. And businesses did very well. So, in some ways, we've got some data on which approach is more likely to create jobs and opportunity for Americans..." - Obama

The simple fact of this debate is, that Obama looked tired and week compared to a Romney that looked energized, ready, and eager to tackle these problems. I was a bit frightened toward the end that Romeny started to have a bit of that 'foaming at the mouth' aspect too him by interrupting and talking over Jim, but then this happened;

OBAMA: Now, the last point I'd make before ...

LEHRER: Two minutes -- two minutes is up, sir.

OBAMA: No, I think -- I had five seconds before you interrupted me, was ...

Then he proceeded to speak for another minute or so. Suddenly, my mind went from a tired and un-engaged Obama to a frustrated Obama, the body language shifted back to Romney's favor, and no amount of Big Bird tweets would correct it.

To address the elephant in the room, let's call him Snuffleupagus, the Big Bird joke was brought up back in January. My personal thought is most people that are acting like this is a slip are just a little behind on the times. I'd also note that many people are talking about the tragedy of loosing Big Bird, not if the government should be financing a broadcast channel that gets next to no ratings.

In other news, Jobless Claims are back up from the prior week, Unemployment is still over 8%, Labor participation is at 30 year lows, and we are still spending $8 Billion dollars a day we don't have.

Fast Facts;

Obvious Looser of the Debate
Mentions of the word(s):
Tax - 109
Jobs - 41
President - 97
Governor - 76
Please - 5
Sorry - 5
I wouldn't be a perfect President - 1

Number of tweets under #Debates/#Debates2012: 10.3 Million

Balance of time: Romney - 38 1/2 Minutes, Obama - 43 Minutes

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Benghazi is Still Smoldering

Do you ever have that feeling like you are screaming at a wall? Let's take a closer look at what is happening here. After the events of September 11th, the anniversary of a historic terrorist attack, a confusing narrative was started between the white house and the state department. The White House and the intelligence department, and the White House and the American People.

When did the U.S. know this was a terrorist attack?

On September 14th, White House press secretary Jay Carney, while tearing into Romney's apparent lack of fact based statements replied to a question as to if any warning had been given that the embassies may be attacked, Carney replied " I have seen that report, and the story is absolutely wrong. We were not aware of any actionable intelligence indicating that an attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi was planned or imminent. That report is false."

He noted, however, that the administration did not hesitate to establish a narrative based on what he referred to as their “hunch” that an anti-Islam YouTube video was responsible.

On September 19th, a week later the director of the National Counter terrorism Center, Mathew Olson, told Congress the attack was the work of terrorists. Jay Carney soon had to reverse course a well, saying it was “self-evident“ that ”what happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack,” despite denying that very claim a week before. Funny how such big tough sounding words come back to bite you, eh?

However, less then one day later, Obama was being interviewed at a UniVision forum, he said “Well, we’re still doing an investigation, and there are going to be different circumstances in different countries,” Obama said. “And so I don’t want to speak to something until we have all the information. What we do know is that the natural protests that arose because of the outrage over the video were used as an excuse by extremists to see if they can also directly harm U.S. interests.”

Sure, continue with an ongoing investigation, but natural protests? That's like calling a mugging a friendly game of checkers. Looks like someone missed his morning meeting again. How is it that the Director of Counter Terrorism, who may know a thing or two about identifying acts of terror, is calling the kettle black, but this president still gets the words stuck in his throat?

Did our Embassy call for help beforehand?

On September 18th, Secretary Carney was asked, "On September 10th, you put out a press release saying that the President had a meeting with senior officials to figure out the security posture around the 9/11 anniversary... So in retrospect, given the tragedy, did the administration drop the ball on what you promised on September 10th that you had improved security at these installations?

Secretary Carney responded  "They were numerous steps taken, as there have been every year on the anniversary of 9/11, and as there have been at different times on the calendar when it is judged by the experts that taking additional steps, security steps, is the right thing to do. As for specific measures taken at specific facilities, diplomatic facilities, I would refer you to the State Department."

October 3rd, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, the chair of the subcommittee on national security, homeland defense, and foreign operations, wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, asserting that “multiple U.S. federal government officials have confirmed to the Committee that, prior to the September 11 (2012) attack, the U.S. mission in Libya made repeated requests for increased security in Benghazi. The mission in Libya, however, was denied these requests by officials in Washington.” A probe is being conducted and Secretary of State Clinton has committed to assisting with the probe.

I guess delegation has it's place, so either the State Department didn't really care that the President said to beef up security or the President has an odd interpretation of what beefed up security means. Either way, there is a mountain of evidence piling up that the State Department and the White house knew that there was a threat, and it was ignored.

How is the Investigation Going?

One of many CNN photos taken just days after
Not Good, not good at all. It took weeks to even acknowledge that this was not just some Occupy Wall Street protest gone bad, then, when the FBI was finally sent to investigate over a week after the accident, they have not made much headway, namely because it is deemed unsafe to conduct an investigation. It's funny because declaring Benghazi unsafe didn't stop a CNN news team from taking some pretty horrifying pictures from inside the compound, or finding Ambassador Steven's journal that is already revealing some harsh truths;

A source familiar with Stevens' thinking told CNN earlier on that, in the months leading up to his death, the late ambassador worried about what he called the security threats in Benghazi and a rise in Islamic extremism.

How in the heck can CNN get photographs and items from a building within 48 hours and still not get anyone in there to conduct a proper investigation? How will the President deal his promised justice?

What does all this mean?

Well, for starters, it makes it a little too easy for the narrative of a cover up to be pressed. Even The Daily Show is laughing at this administration for it's inability for the right hand to know what the left is doing. Joe Biden once said that this President was going to be tested, and when that happened we would find out that he had steel in his spine. The only problem is, it appears he is firm and hard against any criticism from his own countrymen then against those who would do one of it's citizens harm. It appears that it's little more then hoping that this story would just go away and not be a campaign issue. That a proper response of beefing up security at other embassies and sending in a real investigative team would be viewed poorly by our new middle eastern friends. All I know is, I am very disappointed.